Arizona is a big state, so don't expect to see it all in 7 days. If you want to take in some of my favorite spots in just a week, you'll need to do a lot of driving and get up early most mornings. (As an added incentive for early rising, let me tell you that sunrises at most of the destinations listed in this itinerary are absolutely awe-inspiring.) This itinerary is best from fall through spring. During the summer, Phoenix is just too hot for hanging out or playing golf (unless you do your swimming at night and tee off at dawn). In the hot months, you may want to head straight to Sedona after touching down in Phoenix, and, if your return flight isn't too early, it's possible to spend your last night in Sedona or Prescott and still have a fairly short drive to the airport in Phoenix.
Day 1 and 2: Phoenix
Head straight for the pool at your resort -- after all, lounging in the sun is one of the main reasons to be here. If you've got time, visit the Desert Botanical Garden around sunset. This garden has an amazing variety of cacti and is an excellent introduction to the Arizona desert. Head to Scottsdale for dinner, and, if it happens to be a Thursday night, check out some of the art galleries, many of which stay open late on Thursday. The next morning, if you’re a golfer, hopefully you’ve made a reservation well in advance for an early round of golf. Otherwise, visit the Heard Museum, which is one of the nation's premier museums of Native American art and culture. Grab a bite to eat at the museum's excellent cafe and then stroll down to Heritage Square to see what’s left of Phoenix’s historic core. After lunch head north to Sedona, and, if you leave Phoenix early enough, take the scenic route through Wickenburg, Prescott, and Jerome. If you take this route, stop in Wickenburg at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum or in Prescott at the Phippen Museum. If you time it just right, you can catch the sunset over the Verde Valley from the artsy historic town of Jerome, which is perched high on the slopes of Mingus Mountain.
Day 3: Sedona
Sedona may be touristy, but the red-rock cliffs, buttes, and mesas that surround the city make this one of the most beautiful places in America. To get out amid the red rocks, take a jeep tour or hike the 4- to 5-mile loop trail around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. Although this trail sees a lot of hikers, it is just about the best introduction to the amazing hiking that can be done in the Sedona area. Head to Crescent Moon Picnic Area or Airport Mesa for the sunset. Enjoy a Mexican or Southwestern meal at one of Sedona’s excellent restaurants.
Day 4: Grand Canyon
With a 3-hour drive ahead of you, get an early start. Drive north to Flagstaff by way of scenic Oak Creek Canyon, then take U.S. 89 from Flagstaff to the east entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. It's worthwhile to make the short detour to see the Sinagua pueblo ruins at Wupatki National Monument. Also be sure to stop at the Cameron Trading Post to see the gallery of Native American artifacts in the historic stone building across the parking lot from the main trading post. If you've developed a taste for fry-bread tacos, be sure to have lunch here. Entering Grand Canyon National Park, stop at Desert View, just inside the entrance, and also Lipan Point. Once you reach Grand Canyon Village, take a short hike along the rim or down into the canyon (remember, you have to hike uphill to return!). Catch the sunset over the Grand Canyon, then settle into your hotel. (If you couldn’t get in-park reservations, stay in Tusayan, just outside the park’s south entrance.) Inside or outside the park, dining options tend to be modest.
Day 5: The Painted Desert & Petrified Forest
The next day, get up early to catch the sunrise, then retrace your drive to Flagstaff and on east on I-40. (Winslow makes a good lunch stop.) An hour’s drive east of Winslow, spend your afternoon tramping around the one-of-a-kind landscape of the Petrified Forest National Park, which preserves both the petrified forest and parts of the Painted Desert. Drive north to Chinle, on the Navajo Nation reservation, to stay overnight.
Day 6: Canyon de Chelly
Staying in Chinle, you’ll be ready first thing in the morning to visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument, which is still inhabited in summer by Navajo families who farm and raise sheep much the same way that their ancestors did hundreds of years ago. Make reservations in advance for one of the truck tours of the canyon. If you don't have reservations, you may be able to hire a Navajo guide to take you into the canyon by jeep or on horseback. Alternatively, drive one of the rim drives. I recommend the South Rim Drive because it provides an opportunity to hike down into the canyon on the White House Ruins Trail. Drive back to either Holbrook or Winslow to spend the night.
Day 7: Return to Phoenix
From either Holbrook or Winslow, it’s about 3 hours’ drive back to Phoenix, passing through the Apache National Forest, a green contrast to the deserts, mesas, and canyons you’ve been visiting. Stop off in Camp Verde to see more cliff dwellings at Montezuma Castle National Monument, then shoot down I-17 to reach your Phoenix hotel for your last night. After this whirlwind tour of Arizona’s highlights, you’ll probably want to park yourself by the pool for the rest of the day!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.