Take a Break from Spring Training with these 5 great Road Trips

Your ultimate Spring Training road trip travel guide

The Phoenix area transforms into baseball-fan heaven this month with spring training underway as players prepare for the 2020 Major League Baseball season. Visitors can attend more than 200 Cactus League baseball games.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you need to take a break from the stands, consider a side trip out of town. Here are four worthwhile Arizona destinations that can be reached from the Phoenix area in less than three hours and one that’s somewhat further afield.

Apache Trail

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Apache Trail, named for Native Americans who used it, served as a stagecoach route through the rugged Superstition Mountains. Day trippers can enjoy the scenery on paved roads if they mosey five miles up Arizona 88 from Apache Junction to Goldfield Ghost Town, a restored 1890s mining town. It re-creates the era through its attractions including a mine tour, narrow-gauge railroad, and a zip-line ride.

Goldfield Ghost Town © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you drive 13 miles northeast on Arizona 88, you’ll find Tortilla Flat, an old stagecoach stop that’s now a saloon that uses saddles for its bar-stool seats. Visitors can take a scenic cruise on nearby Canyon Lake aboard the Dolly Steamboat. The captain will point out bighorn sheep grazing on the hillsides and bald eagles soaring above.

Distance from Phoenix: 35 miles

Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On paper, Picacho Peak isn’t very impressive. It’s hardly the highest peak in Arizona. In fact, based on a U.S. Geological Survey search, there are at least 2,500 other summits ahead of Picacho. Nevertheless, it’s a peak worth bagging, if for no other reason than to conquer the most recognizable landmark between Phoenix and Tucson.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Hunter Trail is one of five routes to the top. With your first step from the trailhead, you’ll start a gradual climb up a rocky slope dotted with saguaros, creosote bushes, and paloverde trees. This time of year, you’ll see wildflowers, too, including Mexican goldpoppies, lupines, globemallows, desert chicory, and brittlebush.

Distance from Phoenix: 75 miles

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Boyce Thompson Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you haven’t checked out Boyce Thompson Arboretum, a 392-acre state park near Superior (it’s only about an hour’s drive east of Phoenix near Superior), you should. Featured are plants from the world’s deserts, towering trees, captivating cacti, sheer mountain cliffs, a streamside forest, panoramic vistas, many natural habitats with varied wildlife, a desert lake, a hidden canyon, specialty gardens and more.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you take a hike through Boyce Thompson, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of a desert. You can explore tree-lined paths, a man-made lake, and a mountainous desert landscape all without leaving the Main Trail. Along the side trails visitors can also get glimpses of life in the historic Southwest.

Distance from Phoenix: 55 miles


Watson Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An hour and a half north of Phoenix, Watson Lake sparkles amid Prescott’s Granite Dells, an exotic collection of massive boulders that rise directly from the water and adorn the shoreline. Watson Lake Park is a good starting point for exploration of this North Central Arizona city. The park includes picnic tables, horseshoe pits, playground equipment, and hiking trails.

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A mile-high city, Prescott is nestled in the Ponderosa Pines of Prescott National Forest. Fill your lungs with that amazing pine scent as you enjoy Prescott’s natural surroundings, including more than 400 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails.

Distance from Phoenix: 100 miles

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the 1800s, Navajo clans sought refuge from U.S. soldiers in the distant reaches of Canyon de Chelly. The canyon, in northeastern Arizona, is deep, remote, and beautiful. Pueblo ruins still stand under red cliffs while modern-day Navajos farm the bottomlands along shallow creeks.

White House Ruins, Canyon de Chelly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors can drive along the canyon rims and stop at overlooks or take a hike to White House Ruin but tours into the canyon led by Navajo guides give a better understanding of its past and present. Tour options include hiking, horseback rides, and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Distance from Phoenix: 310 miles

Worth Pondering…

This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaros standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite.

—Dorothy B. Hughes

3 Arizona Destinations to Explore During Spring Training

In Phoenix for Spring Training! Spend some downtime exploring the Arizona outfield with these incredible day trips.

If you’ve come to Phoenix for spring training, or simply to escape the winter, you may not have thought about exploring the rest of Arizona.

If you return home after seeing seven games in seven days, but nothing of Arizona you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of the season!

But even the most diehard of spectators will find pockets of downtime. So it’d be a big swing and miss if you didn’t sneak off and explore the surrounding area: Seriously, the unreal landscapes, cultural riches, and award-winning eats add up to a stellar bonus vacation.

Here are some of Arizona’s can’t-miss destinations, and what you can do there in just a day.


Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Back in the day, men went where the precious ore was, no matter how precarious the landscape. Today, Jerome still clings for dear life to Cleopatra Hill, having successfully transitioned from mining town to tourist-friendly destination with restaurants, galleries and, best of all, a great view at every hairpin turn.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Must see: Imagine a dark and stormy night where a bolt of lightning illuminates a large building looming over a small town! That’s the Jerome Grand Hotel, a former hospital now home to guests (and a few spirits, if legends are to be believed).

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist activity actually worth doing: Jerome is supposedly among Arizona’s most haunted towns (its largest public venue is called Spook Hall). Take a tour and learn all about those who are living the afterlife.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: One of the best views also comes with a burger and a beer. Head to Haunted Hamburger and take a seat on the back porch.

How much time to allot: It’s a four-hour round trip, so six hours should do (seven if you eat, eight if you take a ghost tour).


Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If Arizona has a classic small town, this is it. From historic bars and hotels to a downtown centered round a formidable courthouse, Prescott is a casting agent’s dream with it comes to finding a charming village.

Whiskey Row, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Must see: Stroll along Whiskey Row (Montezuma Street), which earned its moniker at the turn of the 20th century. There may be fewer bars, but the historic charm remains, particularly at the Palace Restaurant and Saloon. In July 1900, as flames approached in a massive fire that would destroy much of Prescott, patrons dragged the bar to safety, and then returned for the liquor.

Sharlott Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist activity actually worth doing: As you enter the Palace Saloon and smile at workers in 1880s costumes, belly up to the historic bar and order a shot of whiskey, as countless cowboys have done.

Watson Lake and Granite Dells, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: Duck into Matt’s Saloon and see if you can find the photo of Bruce Springsteen. The bartenders have an interesting tale of how The Boss stopped by September 29, 1989, and left a huge tip for a server in need.

How much time to allot: Six hours. Half of that time will be spent driving there and back.


Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Long ago this once-sleepy town was regarded as the gateway to, well, just about anywhere else. But thanks to its thriving wine scene and quaint Old Town packed with tasting rooms, Cottonwood has become the darling of the wine set.

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Must see (and drink): The best wine tour in the area is right along Main Street. Five winery tasting rooms are within a block of one another. Each offers unique, locally made wines. You may be surprised how well “Arizona” and “fine wines” go together.

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist activity actually worth doing: Climb aboard a steed (well, a very gentle horse) for a ride along the Verde River in Dead Horse Ranch State Park. It is best if you experience this authentic old-west trek before you hit the tasting rooms.

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: If you have a designated driver (or you can pace yourself) take a ride to sample the offerings of nearby winemakers. Page Springs Cellars and Alcantara Vineyards have indoor and outdoor seating with views of the vines. The Southwest Wine Center, in a sleek, modern space on the Yavapai College campus, pours wines made entirely by students, right down to the labels.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

How much time to allot: That depends. Are you drinking and driving? Stay overnight. If you’re bringing along a designated driver, plan on seven or eight hours. With a 3½-hour round-trip drive, you’ll have plenty of time to sample all your favorite vintages.

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

Ah, Arizona! Check Out These Other Diamonds during Spring Training

If you’re in Arizona for spring training, you’re missing out on other cool sights. Check out these other diamonds across the state.

Cactus League Spring Training, a seasonal rite in Greater Phoenix, roars to life every March with the iconic sounds of cracking bats, snapping mitts, and happy fans.

For baseball lovers, it doesn’t get much better than this: sunny weather, affordable tickets, and unparalleled proximity to the best players in the game.

Baseball may have lured you here, and odds are good that your days and nights are planned around the sport. Good for you. But you’re missing out on diamonds of another kind. We’re here to help with some of Arizona’s can’t-miss destinations, and what you can do there in just a day.

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Odds are high you’ve never been this close to America’s greatest natural wonder. You’ll have 81 chances this year to see the Cubs play in Chicago, or Brewers in Milwaukee, or … you get it. But this could be your best shot to see a marvel a billion years in the making.

Must see: Stroll along and stare at the canyon for 30 minutes or so before visiting the historic Kolb Studio. This 1905 Victorian house seems to defy gravity from its perch on the South Rim. The story of photographer brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, who explored the canyon with cameras in tow, is a stunning as the views.

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Head down the Bright Angel Trail for the customary below-the-rim experience. Just keep in mind it will take you twice as long to hike up as it did to walk down. 

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: Buy a Grand Canyon pass online ($20), then park in Tusayan outside the front gate and take the free shuttle to the visitor center. Grand Canyon is busy during spring break, and the shuttle bypasses the long line of cars waiting to get in and searching for a parking spot.

How much time to allot: Eleven or 12 hours. The round-trip drive will take about eight hours, giving you three or four hours to enjoy the views.


Hiking Cathedral Rock at Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With buttes, towers, and spires sculpted of rock in countless shades of red, Sedona occupies the perfect setting for a mythical city. And in a way Sedona is just that, if you believe healing energy whirls from spiritual vortexes. (Be sure to pick up a $5 daily Red Rock Pass; many sites require it for visits).

Must see: The Chapel of the Holy Cross protrudes from the red cliffs less than 4 miles south of Sedona’s “Y” intersection. The main stained glass window is held together by a giant cross and overlooks the Verde Valley.

Oak Creek at Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Take a jeep tour. Excursions rumble you across suspension-challenging terrain to breathtaking views. Costs roughly range from $75-$150 for 90-minute to 2-hour tours.

Insider tip: If skies are clear and you have the time, stay for sunset when rocks glow as if illuminated from within. Airport Mesa is the most convenient (and popular) overlook. For a quieter, more intimate experience, head to Red Rock Crossing and watch the dying light set Cathedral Rock on fire.

Red Rock Country near Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

How much time to allot: At least eight hours (10 if you add a jeep tour). The round trip from Phoenix is four hours, giving you four (or six) hours to explore. If you’re going on a Saturday, you might want to build in another hour for traffic.

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will

Catch Cactus League Spring Training

10 stadiums. 15 MLB teams. 75-degree temperatures.

Follow your favorite baseball teams to Arizona for Cactus League Spring Training and catch all the big league action you can handle. While you’re here, spend some time playing the Arizona outfield with all the incredible dining, shopping, outdoor activities, and incredible sights within easy driving distance of the Phoenix Metro area.


Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tempe’s casual cool attracts those who enjoy the exciting feel of a college town. Stroll historic Mill Avenue in downtown to find great nightlife, shops, and restaurants. Explore aquariums and museums, paddleboard or kayak on Tempe Town Lake. “A” Mountain is just a few minutes away from the lake.

Desert Botanical Garden © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Or enjoy the sunshine with a hike around Papago Park, just north of “A” Mountain and Tempe Town Lake. A desert preserve Papago is home to hiking and biking trails and attractions such as Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo, Pueblo Grande Museum, and Arizona Heritage Center.

Scottsdale / Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For the see and be seen scene, Scottsdale is the place to be. You’ll find luxurious resorts, chic nightlife, eclectic shopping, and award-winning dining, all with a splash of Southwestern charm. Scottsdale also has wonderful hikes and a booming art scene, so there’s no lack of entertainment even if you’re not a baseball buff.


Usery Mountain Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mesa is quickly becoming a foodie destination with its innovative, local cuisine. And when you’re not watching a game or munching goodies, swing away at one of the area’s many golf courses or explore miles of desert mountain trails in nearby Usery Mountain Regional Park, one of 13 Maricopa County Regional Parks. The spectacular desert mountain scenery here is breathtaking.

Glendale / Goodyear

Sports fans may recognize Glendale as home to Arizona’s NFL and NHL teams. This sports mecca entertainment district is like a mini urban amusement park, with restaurants, wine bars, and outlet shops.

Apache Junction

Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Apache Junction is a suburban desert community nestled in the shadows of the Superstition Mountains, It is the easternmost community in the Phoenix Metro area.  Each winter the city welcomes an estimated 35,000 snowbirds.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, a few miles east of Apache Junction. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Starting in Apache Junction, the Apache Trail offers magnificent views of the Superstition Mountains with forests of saguaro and several blue lakes.Visit the old-west style settlement of Tortilla Flat.


Phoenix is a hotspot of urban action and family fun. Head downtown to discover hip restaurants and eateries, concerts with the biggest artists and up-and-coming bands, family-friendly museums, and so much more. Or tackle an urban hike-with sweeping city views-on Camelback Mountain or South Mountain.


Lake Pleasant Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Peoria is only about a half-hour northwest of Phoenix yet it’s flown under the radar until recently. Relaxed and family friendly, the Northwest Valley offers plenty of shopping, growing arts scene, and natural beauty. The cool blue Lake Pleasant is located in a Maricopa County regional park. The recreation area has campsites, hiking trails, boat ramps, and a Discovery Center where you can learn more about the area’s plants and wildlife.

Surprise / Litchfield Park

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you’re up for a little adventure, trek through trails in the nearby White Tank Mountains. Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park has Arizona’s largest collection of exotic and endangered animals, with more than 600 separate species, rides, a petting zoo, and daily shows.

Wildlife World Zoo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will