Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” This couldn’t be truer than when you’re taking a ride with your sweetheart. Laughing together, telling secrets, and watching the world as you whiz by. In Arizona, there’s definitely no shortage of scenic drives for Valentine’s Day. Home to four types of deserts, Arizona is surrounded by mountains and unique landscapes to take your breath away around every corner. We’ve put together a few scenic drives near Phoenix for you to take with your Valentine that provide plenty of intrigue for both the journey and the destination that you’ll love. No matter what route you choose, the best scenic drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, Benson, Monument Valley, Lake Havasu City, or any other beautiful points of interest in our great state are made better with your significant other. Create a romantic playlist, pack up a picnic basket with your favorite goodies, and hit the road for a scenic view with your beloved this Valentine’s Day.
Romance on the Rails – Verde Valley
All aboard the road to romance with a scenic drive past Phoenix through Verde Valley. Sure, you could take the quickest route by jumping on Interstate 17, but for a more scenic view, with a bit less traffic, take the AZ-87 north, where your eyes will be rewarded with rolling hills and at higher elevations, tall pine trees in the Tonto National Forest. Your drive will take you through Payson, Pine, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, and finally Clarkdale where you’ll board the Verde Canyon Railroad train for the annual Chocolate Lover’s Special tour departing Friday through Sunday on Valentine’s Day weekend. The tour will tickle your senses with gorgeous sights into the red rocks of Sedona, the soothing sound of the train as it click-clacks down the track, and champagne with unlimited chocolate confections to tantalize your taste buds. Plan to arrive a bit early and spend time getting familiar with the area by driving around Clarkdale, to Jerome, and by taking the Cottonwood Historic Road where you’ll see the Tuzigoot National Monument overlooking the Verde River. You’ll be captivated by the historic sites of mines and ancient Indian dwellings, desert landscape, and nearby Black Hills and Mingus Mountain views.
Get Starry-Eyed – Canyon Lake
Get a close-up view of the stars with one of the best Arizona scenic drives near Phoenix, by taking the Apache Trail to Canyon Lake. Take the US-60 to Apache Junction, travel north on Idaho Road where you’ll reach the Apache Trail, a 40-mile route that takes you through the breathtaking Superstition Mountains. You’ll be amazed at the beautiful scenery along the way and the ride is pretty exciting too with hairpin turns and long, shallow curves. You’ll get an up-close look at the history and stunning views of the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. Once you reach Canyon Lake, enjoy a quiet picnic while spying Big Horned Sheep and other wildlife. As the day unwinds, hop aboard the Dolly Steamboat for a romantic Twilight or Astronomy Dinner cruise upon the lake. The “Mark Twain” styled steamboat replica is 103-feet long and takes you on a two and a half hour cruise through Canyon Lake on a six mile tour. Dine on a chef-prepared meal while taking in a beautiful Arizona sunset or under the stars from the top deck of the Dolly.
Be Wined and Dined – Sonoita
Travel the southern route and head down to Tucson to join a winery tour. Take the route off the beaten path for a more charming view by avoiding Interstate 10 altogether. From Phoenix, take the US-60 through Gold Canyon and take exit 212 for AZ-79 toward Florence/Tucson and turn right onto the AZ-77 through Oracle to Tucson. This route has less traffic and the stretch between Florence and Oracle Junction will have you falling in love with the tranquil Arizona desert again. Along the ride you’ll pass a monument dedicated to an old cowboy with the Tom Mix memorial, a true desert view with miles of Saguaro cacti and cholla, as well as some quirky attractions not too far off the highway. When you arrive to Tucson, seek out one of the many winery tours. Most tours include round trip transportation aboard limousine style busses, tastings at three different vineyards, lunch, and a special souvenir wine glass to commemorate your trip. As a passenger aboard a luxury bus, as you travel further south on Highway 83 to Sonoita, you’ll be able to enjoy the ride and take in the sights. In an area that lies in transition from the Sonoran desert to the Chihuahuan desert, you’ll get a view of the unique landscape including native flora and fauna. Sonoita’s high desert grasslands and rolling hills, at an elevation of 5,000 feet and temperatures in the high 80’s in the summer make this region of the state not only beautiful, but ideal for growing grapes destined for wine.
Sweet and Spicy – Sedona
For the ultimate day of romance, see the stunning views of Sedona by taking this scenic drive from Phoenix to Sedona. Take Interstate 17 north to the AZ-179 State Highway, travel through the Village of Oak Creek and into the magnificent Red Rocks of Sedona. The vivid multi-colors of the rock formations are everchanging from the light even minute to minute. With varying trails for all levels of hiking, shopping, adventurous Jeep tours, and fine dining, you and your sweetheart will have plenty of options for making the day special. When you arrive to Sedona, stop for lunch at The Hudson for stunning views of the Red Rock Mountains while you savor Chef Jeff’s famous spicy Corn Chowder. After lunch, take a nice easy hike on the Teacup/Sugarloaf Summit Trail. You’ll begin your romantic hike with a leisurely stroll along the Teacup Trail before reaching the Sugarloaf Summit where you’ll have a slight climb of just a little more than a quarter of a mile. The less than 2-mile hike can be completed in as little as an hour and a half. After your hike, enjoy a sweet treat at Uptown Massage for the Lover’s Special: a special Chocolate Massage for Two. The 90-minute massage will relieve any stress and tension with the incorporation of chocolate body butter amid views of the red rocks. The extra sweet experience continues after the massage, as you’ll receive a small jar of the body butter to take home along with a package of Love Truffles to share with your sweetie. Top off your memorable day with dinner under the stars at any one of Sedona’s finest restaurants.