May 31, 2022 - Things to Do

6 Arizona road trips for beating the summer heat (and the crowds)

Animated gif of a thermometer in the shape of a cactus rising to 120+ degrees, and then back down.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

When school lets out and temperatures top 105 degrees, desert dwellers start looking for weekend reprieve from the grueling Valley heat.

Yes, but: While Flagstaff and Sedona are classic summer destinations, they quickly get crowded on the weekends.

  • Here are six other northern Arizona spots that are just as cool (temperature-wise and otherwise) to try out instead, in order of distance from the Valley.

99 miles: Prescott

A glass of wine and beer on the rooftop of the Raven Cafe overlooking a Prescott sunset.
The rooftop of the Raven Cafe at sunset. Photo: Jessica Boehm/Axios

Prescott, the former territorial capital of Arizona, is built around a quintessential small-town, courthouse square and famed for its Whiskey Row of western saloons — many of which are still cash only.

103 miles: Cottonwood

Now boasting almost a dozen tasting rooms on Main Street, Cottonwood has blossomed into a mecca for Arizona wine lovers.

111 miles: Jerome

Jerome is a former copper mining town that juts out from the side of Cleopatra Hill, nicknamed the "Wickedest Town in the West" and known for its ghost-story lore.

  • Average June temperature: High of 87, low of 64.
  • Where to stay: See if you can spot a ghost in the supposedly haunted Jerome Grand Hotel or try one of these Airbnbs.
  • 1 fun thing: Check out the Jerome Sliding Jail, a tiny lock-up cell from the early 1900s that slid 225 feet down the hill after dynamite explosions from local mining operations unsettled the ground.
  • 1 yummy thing: The Haunted Hamburger offers some of the best burgers in the state and boasts a panoramic view of the Verde Valley.

130 miles: Pine/Strawberry

Picnic tables, yard games and children in front of the Strawberry Inn.
The Strawberry Inn has become an Instagram favorite because of its small-town charm. Photo courtesy of Monika Cheang.

These two tiny towns have charming downtowns with mom-and-pop restaurants, bars and shops surrounded by cozy cabins.

175 miles: Williams

Williams is known as the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon" and was the last town on Historic Route 66 bypassed by Interstate 40. It's in Arizona's high country — about 30 miles west of Flagstaff.

  • Average June temperature: High of 81, low of 49.
  • Where to stay: We recommend staying walking distance from downtown to fully enjoy all the town has to offer. Here's a list of some nearby Airbnbs.
  • 1 fun thing: Take the family on a drive through Bearizona — a wildlife park with bears, wolves, goats, jaguars and more.
  • 1 yummy thing: Grab a slice of pie for breakfast (or dessert, if you insist) at Pine Country Restaurant.

184 miles: Pinetop-Lakeside

These cabin-heavy towns, surrounded by lakes and hiking trails, are a nature lover's dream.

Sound off: What other Arizona road trips would you like to see us profile in future Axios Phoenix newsletters? Email us at [email protected].


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Phoenix.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Phoenix stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Phoenix.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more