If you want to visit some of America’s greatest desert attractions, then you may decide to take a Palm Springs to Sedona road trip. While the trip itself will only take a little under six hours of net driving time, you’ll be able to spend days exploring the great national and state parks in this region. There are also plenty of attractions and lovely towns that you’ll want to add to your road trip itinerary from Palm Springs to Sedona.
Channel Islands National Park
Before you set off on your road trip from Palm Springs to Sedona, you should take advantage of your proximity to the West Coast and visit Channel Islands National Park. This unique national park includes a handful of channel islands off Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. You can go hiking and backcountry camping on the islands. Water sports like kayaking, canoeing, diving, and snorkeling are also popular here.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is about as different of an environment from the Channel Islands as two areas can possibly be. Unlike some similar designations, Death Valley’s name is not a whimsical label that’s meant to make the place seem more intense than it is. Death Valley is one of the most extreme and least hospitable environments on earth, yet its extreme qualities draw numerous adventurers to visit it yearly. If hiking to and through places with names like Badwater Basin and Desolation Canyon appeals to you, then this is likely the right park for you to visit. Not all trails here are hard, however; you’ll have plenty of desolate beauty to take in here even if you’re not a hardcore adventurer.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is less extreme than Death Valley, but it still has some great classic desert scenery. Its main draw is, of course, the Joshua trees that give the park its name, but there are plenty of cacti, yuccas, and rugged desert vistas to see. Biking, hiking, climbing, and camping are all popular here. The stargazing is also great thanks to the dark skies of this park. Whether you want to stroll around a quarter-mile loop or go on a multi-day adventure trek, you can do so at Joshua Tree National Park.
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is a popular destination for visitors to Sedona, so you should take advantage of your closeness to this iconic marvel. Millions of people visit the canyon each year in order to explore its numerous unique wonders. Visitors often choose to explore the canyon area by hiking, but horseback riding and biking are also common. You can even raft down the Colorado River for a unique water adventure.
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is also relatively close to the Sedona area. You will, of course, want to visit this national park in order to see the famous petrified wood that gives it its name, but you’ll also be entranced by the gorgeous painted desert around it. Native American petroglyphs and ancient ruins are also present at this park. Most of the park’s designated paths are short and simple, so this is a great place to go if you want to explore a rugged environment with relative ease. If you’d rather engage in more rigorous adventures, you can go your own way and explore the marvels of this place yourself.
Mount San Jacinto State Park
Mount San Jacinto State Park is one of the first stops on your Palm Springs to Sedona RV road trip. It’s part of the San Jacinto Mountains in California, and it is home to San Jacinto Peak, which is nearly 11,000 feet above sea level. You can explore this lovely wilderness area on foot or on horseback. Geocaching, picnicking, and camping are also popular here.
Salton Sea State Recreation Area
Not too far down the road is the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. It’s one of the lowest places on earth, but it’s a great place to go to have some high times. Swimming, fishing, and boating are some of the favorite activities of visitors. More than 400 species of birds call the Salton Sea home, so bird-watchers love coming to this park.
Picacho State Park
Picacho State Park is just on the California side of the California/Arizona border. You can boat and fish on the Colorado River, explore the red-rock cliffs, and hunt for artifacts left over from the Gold Rush. You can even bring your four-wheeler to Picacho State Park to do some off-roading.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Dead Horse Ranch State Park is one of multiple state parks that are close to the Sedona area. Its location on the lovely Verde River makes it an excellent place for boating, fishing, and hiking. The trails here take you through multiple different landscapes, so you can see several different ecosystems.
Red Rock State Park
Red Rock State Park is less than 20 minutes from Sedona, making it a logical stop on your Palm Springs to Sedona road trip. It’s located in a bend on Oak Creek, and it’s not far from the Village of Oak Creek. It’s aptly named as there are plenty of gorgeous red rocks for you to explore.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is located in Palm Desert, which isn’t far from Palm Springs. In addition to having many exotic animals and plants on display, they have a variety of attractions in the park. You can hop aboard the Endangered Species Carousel, feed the giraffes, and explore the hiking trails.
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
A couple of hours before you reach Phoenix, you'll have the chance to explore the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. More than 80% of this park is wilderness, so it’s a great place to hike, camp, hunt, and watch for wildlife. Bighorn sheep, mule deer, diamondback rattlesnakes, and many other animals all call Kofa home.
Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park
Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park is just one of many places you can explore in Phoenix. It’s conveniently close to your route, so it’s a logical destination to add to your road trip itinerary from Palm Springs to Sedona. More than 6,000 animals—600 of which are exotic or endangered—call this zoo home. The four-building aquarium and the new 15-acre Safari Park are also fun.
Agua Fria National Monument
About an hour outside of Sedona is the Agua Fria National Monument. The canyon of the Agua Fria River and a couple of mesas provide a home to coyotes, bobcats, eagles, and a dormant volcano. You can also view multiple prehistoric petroglyphs here.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Forty minutes up the road from Agua Fria is the Montezuma Castle National Monument. If you’re into visiting ancient cliff dwellings, it’s a must-see. You’ll be able to gaze up in wonder at this 20-room home carved out of the limestone cliff itself.
Palm Desert is about 30 minutes down the road from Palm Springs. It’s located in the Coachella Valley, and it is a desirable destination for those who prefer to winter in warmer climates. Local attractions include the El Paseo Shopping District and the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.
Blythe is the last city you’ll hit as you prepare to cross the Colorado River from California into Arizona. It is part of the Colorado Desert. Some places to visit are the Blythe Intaglios and the Hauser Geode Beds.
Phoenix is easily the biggest city you’ll pass through on your road trip from Palm Springs to Sedona. Naturally, there are plenty of dump stations and campgrounds you can use in this large area. Some of Phoenix’s top attractions are the Musical Instrument Museum and the Desert Botanical Garden.
Camp Verde is a popular spot that’s roughly 40 minutes south of Sedona. There are multiple campgrounds in the area, and it’s close enough to Prescott to take advantage of their dump stations. Places to go in the area are Out of Africa Wildlife Park and Fossil Creek Wilderness.
Lake Montezuma is the next town up from Camp Verde, so it’s close enough to Camp Verde and Prescott for you to use their dump stations and campgrounds if needed. In addition to Lake Montezuma itself, you can also stop by Sycamore Park and the Montezuma Well.