California is blessed with nine national parks, which is the most of all the states in the U.S., and you will pass by several of these parks on your San Francisco to Phoenix road trip as you drive through the states of California and Arizona. San Francisco is located in the coastal area of Northern California between the deserts and grasslands to the south and the mixed forests and temperate rainforest regions in the north. Your journey will consist of about two days of driving, and you will pass by numerous large urban areas and wild natural preserves on this drive that could easily become a trip of a lifetime.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California, just east of Los Angeles and Palm Springs, and it is named for the Joshua Tree, a yucca plant in the agave species. This tree has been a longtime source of food and utilitarian uses for the indigenous peoples of the region, and today it is one of many intriguing sights to see at the park. The trees bloom in the spring, and they are pollinated by the yucca moth. Joshua Trees do not have growth rings and may not even grow at all in very dry years, but many of them are hundreds of years old. Joshua Tree National Park contains the two ecologically different biomes of the Sonoran and the Mojave deserts. The Sonoran Desert is a low desert with low humidity and minimal vegetation, while the Mojave is considered a high desert with a higher humidity level and more vegetation. This includes plentiful sagebrush, creosote bushes, and Parry saltbush.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is home to the Saguaro cactus, the largest cacti in the world. These plants resemble what many people think of when imagining a cactus with their distinctive uplifted arms. However, these cacti are actually only found in a small area of the U.S., and the Saguaro National Park provides an important service in helping to preserve this species for all to enjoy. Visitors to the park can also view petroglyphs made by the Hohokam peoples, which can be reached via the Signal Hill Trail in the Tucson Mountains area of the park.
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Red Rock Canyon State Park lies along the juxtaposition of the southern portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the El Paso Range. The park is famous for the numerous cliffs, canyons, and buttes that feature a wide range of colors and shapes. If the winter months are rainy, visitors are treated to a spectacular display of wildflowers in the spring. While in the park, you will have many opportunities to see roadrunners, hawks, lizards, mice, squirrels, and other species of wildlife. The park also has several paleontological digs, old mining sites, and petroglyphs.
Mount San Jacinto State Park, CA
Mount San Jacinto State Park is located on the summit of Mount San Jacinto, the second-highest mountain range in Southern California; it reaches an elevation of 10,834 miles above sea level. The Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile trail that extends from Mexico to Canada, passes through Mount San Jacinto. Many people take the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway to the top for an unforgettable trip up the mountainsides, exiting at Mountain Station, where there are amenities, a ski center, and access to a trail system.
Lake Havasu State Park, AZ
There are a variety of recreational activities available for the whole family at Lake Havasu State Park, home to Lake Havasu, a large reservoir formed by Parker Dam on the Colorado River. There are white sandy beaches, several boat ramps for both motorized and non-motorized boats, and plenty of places to fish. You can explore the Mojave Desert by taking the Mojave Sunset Trail through the desert or visit the Arroyo-Camino Interpretive Garden to see displays of native plant and animal species.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge spans the Golden Gate Strait, a waterway that lies between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. The bridge serves as a connecting link between San Francisco and Sausalito, and it is 2 miles in length. This architectural marvel attracts more than 10 million visitors each year who come to see the 746-foot-tall towers, enormous main cables, official International Orange colors, and Art Deco architecture. All the while, you are treated to beautiful views of the Pacific, San Francisco Bay, and the Marin Headlands as you pass over the bridge. Be sure to stop by the Visitor Center to see fascinating displays on the bridge's history.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Your road trip from San Francisco to Phoenix will take you by the San Jacinto Mountains and the nearby city of Palm Springs. Here, you will be able to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tram to the top of Mount San Jacinto. The ride begins in Chino Canyon at Valley Station and ascends 2,643 feet to an elevation of 8,516 feet at Mountain Station. The tram has rotating cars that fully rotate two times during a ride of 12 minutes. During the ride, you will pass through five biomes that start with the Sonoran Desert and end with the alpine woods of Mount San Jacinto. Once you disembark at Mountain Station, you will find two restaurants, a natural history museum, observation decks, a gift shop, a ski center, and an extensive system of hiking trails.
Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden is located in Papago Park in Phoenix and has an amazing collection of more than 4,000 plant species, of which one-third are native plants of the Sonoran Desert. There are approximately 50,000 plants, and there are numerous specimens of cacti and agave. You will see non-native plants from countries like Australia and South America, as well as native species from California. In the summer, there is a butterfly exhibit.
Fresno is located in the San Joaquin Valley, and it makes for a great place to stop and take a break from your San Francisco to Phoenix RV road trip. You will enjoy exploring the Forestiere Underground Gardens with its subterranean passages and above-ground courtyards, Shinzen Japanese Garden in Woodward Park, and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Yosemite National Park is a short distance away and is well worth adding to your road trip itinerary. If you stay at the Kings River RV Resort, you will be able to boat, fish, and swim from this convenient location. There are numerous dump stations in this region if you need one for your RV.
Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs is a resort city in the Sonoran Desert that enjoys a reputation of having some of the best high-end lodging, spas, hot springs, and golf courses in Southern California. Everyone loves shopping in the city, and nearby Coachella Valley offers numerous recreational activities. Happy Traveler RV Park is right under the San Jacinto Mountains and is conveniently close to downtown Palm Springs. Dump stations are easy to find in the Palm Springs area as well.
Quartzsite is a very popular RV destination, and it is one well worth including on your road trip itinerary from San Francisco to Phoenix. There are always interesting gem shows, swap meets, and exhibits throughout the year to see. In January and February, there is a two-month-long combination gem show and swap meet that draws people back every year. Quartzite is also an access point for the Arizona Peace Trail, a system of off-road loop trails that extends for 750 miles through Mojave, Yuma, and La Paz counties. The La Paz County Park features sites on the river and is close to Quartzite. At this point in your road trip, you may need to use one of the numerous dump stations that are available around Quartzite.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from San Francisco to Phoenix, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in San Francisco or Phoenix.