Most Scenic Route from Phoenix to Seattle

Choosing the most scenic route is essential if you plan a road trip from Phoenix, Arizona, to Seattle, Washington. Long journeys are wasted if they do not come with an incredible experience. There are a lot of wondrous and glorious places and things to be seen and experienced along the way. 

You are spoilt for choice on routes to take. There are all sorts of detours and tempting trails to take. We have picked some of the best without going completely off route. This journey would take 21 hr 37 min over 1,408 miles on a direct route via US-93 N and I-84 W and drove nonstop. That is no fun. 

Our suggested route the travel time is 55 hours 20 minutes of driving over a distance of 3,006 miles. We recommend taking 7 days to get through it. You can travel in less time if there are multiple drivers involved.

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Day 1

Phoenix to the Kaibab Plateau

441 mi — about 7 hours, 59 mins

Phoenix, AZ to Apache Trail

38 miles — about 46 minutes

We start off the first day by enjoying a scenic route within reach of Phoenix. The first leg of our journey starts by heading towards the Apache Junction. It spans 38 miles and will take about 46 minutes. The Apache Junction is a small town located in Maricopa County. It has a population of around 48,000 people. 

Apache Trail

16 miles — about 20 minutes

Driving the trail spans 16 miles and will take about 20 minutes. The Apache Trail is a paved highway that runs parallel to the Salt River. It is part of State Route 87. It was built in the 1930s as a link between Phoenix and Tucson. The Apache Trail is also known as the Apache Trail Scenic Byway. It is one of the most popular drives in the state. 

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Apache Trail to Queen Creek Old Tunnel

47 miles — about 1 hour 3 minutes

The drive from Apache Trail to Queen Creek Old Tunnel takes about 1 hour 3 minutes through 47 miles. Drive southwest on Apache Trail/AZ 88. Continue on Apache Trail. Queen Creek Old Tunnel Road is a dirt road. It is a short but interesting drive. The tunnel was built in 1883 to provide water to the mining industry. It is now used primarily for recreation. 

This is a great place to stop and enjoy some trails before continuing onto the next part of the road trip.

Queen Creek Old Tunnel to Oak Creek Canyon

182 miles — about 3 hour

This part of the journey sees you heading north towards Flagstaff. You will spend most of it on Route 17. Highlights to keep an eye out for along the way include Black Canyon City. The Agua Fria National Monument is another place worth stopping at. It is home to the world’s largest collection of petroglyphs. You also have the Coconino National Forest to explore. The forest is home to a number of unique animals such as bighorn sheep and mountain lions. 

Oak Creek Canyon

26 miles — about 33 minutes

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Oak Creek Canyon is another glorious place to visit. It is a beautiful canyon that is surrounded by mountains. It is a destination that should not be missed. Fortunately, this is along the way. You have an incredible 26 miles of it to take in. 

Oak Creek Canyon to Kaibab Plateau

131 miles — about 2 hours 15 minutes

Experience a bit of route 40 before carrying on to route 89. This part of the journey sees you drive through Flagstaff. It is a city with a lot to offer. There are plenty of shopping and dining options. If you want to see more of the area, check out Grand Canyon West. Here you can go hiking or horseback riding. It is also a nice spot to camp overnight. 

Kaibab National Forest is also within reach if you want to add a detour. It is home to number of wildlife including elk, deer and bears. The Kaibab Plateau is also a must-see. It is home to many Native American ruins. These are remnants of ancient settlements. They date back thousands of years. 

You also have the Coconino National Forest to drive through. There are a lot of fun things to do here. One of them is the Lake Powell Recreation Area. It has a marina where you can rent boats and other equipment. Another option is to hike around the lake. It is a great way to get exercise while enjoying nature. This leg of the road trip continues into day 2.

Day 2

Continue Oak Creek Canyon to Kaibab Plateau

37 miles — about 46 minutes

This sees us finish the last part of the route to the Kaibab Plateau. You should arrive in less than an hour.

Kaibab Plateau

60 miles — about 1 hour 15 minutes

This is a sensational 60 mile drive. You will be flanked by the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Saddle Mountain Wilderness. The drive starts at a little town called Jacob Lake, which is often referred to as Gateway to the Grand Canyon. You can get supplies and good food here before carrying on.

Take a well-earned break to enrich yourself with a dose of The Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center. It is a fantastic place to learn all there is to know about the park. You can also take a walk around the rim trail. This is one of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of the area. You can even take a helicopter ride over the plateau. It is a spectacular view.

The Lindbergh Hill is along the way. It is named after Charles Lindbergh who was born in nearby San Francisco. He became famous for his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. A museum commemorating him is located here. It is a worthwhile stop. 

Kaibab Plateau to Zion Canyon Loop

147 miles — about 3 hours 9 minutes

Take in the Grand Canyon Highway as you head towards Zion Canyon Loop. It is a 3 hour drive with greenery and terrain to be experienced. You pass through the towns of Page and Springdale. Both are small but interesting places. They are both close enough to make a quick pitstop. 

Zion Canyon Loop

75 miles — about 1 hour 45 minutes

We now enter the Zion National Park. This is a wonderful place to spend time. It is known for its amazing scenery. You can explore the Zion Lodge. It is a historic building that is open to visitors. You can also stay overnight here. Activities in the area include a picnic, camping, boating, or fishing.

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Courtesy of John Harwood under Creative Commons

Day 3

445 mi — about 8 hours 9 mins

Zion Canyon Loop to Huntington-Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway

249 miles — about 3 hours 53 minutes

Say goodbye to Zion Canyon Loop as you head up towards the heart of the State of Utah. You will start off on route 15 through Manderfield before getting onto route 70 through Joseph, Elsinore and Richfield. Castledale is also en route. 

Huntington-Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway

74 miles — about 1 hour 32 minutes

You will be turning from Huntington to head into the Northern end of Manti-La Sal National Forest. While in Huntingdon, you can make a worthwhile detour towards Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. This quarry is home to the densest collection of dinosaurs found. There are 30 full sets of bones to be seen as well as other animal skeletons. You also have access to several hiking trails. 

Huntington-Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway to Nebo Loop Byway

47 miles — and a drive time of about 1 hour 10 minutes
Finish off the day by heading towards Nebo Loop Byway.  You will drive through Salt Lake City, Ogden and finish the day at Twin Falls. 

Day 4

464 mi — about 8 hours

Continue Huntington-Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway to Nebo Loop Byway

30 miles — about 34 minutes

Start the day with a relatively short drive to finish off the route. This will take you to the Nebo Loop Byway.

Nebo Loop Byway

35 miles — about 44 minutes

The Nebo Loop Byway leads you past the most beautiful views of the Wasatch Mountains. You can see Mount Timpanogos. It is an active volcano. It has been dormant since 1816 but it still erupts every few years. It is a great place to see wildlife such as elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and black bears. You can also spot wild horses.

Nebo Loop Byway to Sawtooth Drive

296 miles — about 4 hours 31 minutes

Enjoy some Idaho terrain as you make your way towards Sawtooth Drive.

Sawtooth Drive

103 miles — about 2 hours 9 minutes

Make your way from Boise, through the Sawtooth Mountains, to Shoshone. Boise has a desert feel to it. The town itself is very spread out. However, there are many restaurants and shops. You can find anything from clothing to electronics. If you want to get away from everything, then this is the place to go.

The Sawtooth Mountains are one of the most popular places to visit in Idaho. They are located just north of Shoshone. In fact, they are considered part of the Sawtooths National Recreation Area. The mountains were formed due to volcanic activity. The lava flows created the peaks. You can hike along the trails or even climb them. You can also enjoy camping, fishing, hunting, swimming, horseback riding, or skiing.

Shoshone is a small town with a population of around 7,000 people. There are two main attractions in the city: First, you can visit the Shoshone Museum. This museum features exhibits that tell the history of the area. Second, you can check out the Shoshone County Courthouse. This courthouse was built back in 1908. It is made entirely of brick. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Day 5

414 mi — about 7 hours, 59 mins

Start by finishing off what is left of Sawtooth Drive with a 144 mile drive which will take about 3 hours 1 minutes.

Sawtooth Drive to Hells Canyon Scenic Byway

131 miles — about 2 hours 4 minutes

You will now head towards Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. This will take you into Pacific Standard Time (1 hour behind). 

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway

139 miles — about 2 hours 53 minutes

This drive takes you through the deepest canyon in North America. Hells Canyon is more than 6,000 feet deep. It is deeper than any other canyon in the world. It is so deep that if you dropped a rock into it, it would never hit bottom.

Hell’s Canyon is not only the deepest canyon in the United States, it is also the largest. It covers over 100 square miles. It is surrounded by mountains that reach up to 11,500 feet high. The highest peak is called Mt. Mazama.

Day 6

441 mi — about 7 hours, 52 mins

Finish off the last bit of the Canyone Scenic Byway using the map to guide you. It is 55 miles and about 1 hour 8 minutes. 

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway to Mount Hood

 250 miles — about 4 hours 6 minutes

You will be heading North East towards Portland on route 84. Along the way are Pendleton, Boardman and Arlington among other cities. This route runs along with the Columbia River. There are plenty of lovely towns and villages to explore as you head towards Mount Hood.

Mount Hood 

80 miles — about 1 hour 41 minutes

Enjoy a fantastic drive through Mount Hood National Forest. This is where you will see some of Oregon’s finest scenery. You will pass many lakes, waterfalls and forests. 

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There are several ways to get to Mount Hood. One option is to travel via I-84. Another option is to follow US 26. Both routes run alongside the Columbia River.

Mount Hood to Columbia Gorge

50 miles — about 51 minutes

Head north on Mount Hood Highway towards Columbia Gorge. This is a familiar route, as we are heading away from the Portland direction. 

Columbia Gorge

5 miles — about 6 minutes

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Columbia Gorge is home to many beautiful sights. You can go hiking, biking, boating, canoeing, rafting, kayaking, climbing, fishing, golfing, or simply relaxing. This is a very short drive, which will be continued on the final day of the scenic drive. Take it all in and enjoy as many stops as possible.

Day 7

414 mi — about 7 hours, 14 mins

You will be starting route 82 today before getting onto route 90. Some of the highlights along the way include Sunnyside, Yakima and Easton. You will edge through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This is one of the most popular areas for mountain bikers. 

Columbia Gorge to Seattle, WA

268 miles — about 4 hours 11 minutes

The final part of your journey sees you leave the wilderness and enter the cities as you approach Seattle. Mercer Island is a great place to stop at. There are lots of things to do here including shopping, dining and sightseeing. 

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of scenic roads to be enjoyed along the way. Take your time to really enjoy this road trip and the beautiful scenery along the way. There are many twisty roads that we encourage you to drive cautiously. Take loads of photos