The Valley of the Sun is surrounded by desert beauty, making it a stellar place for a quick road trip. We spoke to Michelle Caldwell, chief concierge at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician, to find out Scottsdale’s best drives.
TRIP 1: The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician to the Apache Trail
Distance: 101 miles
Enjoy the ancient lore and mystery of the Apache Trail. This fun drive will take you on winding roads along the Salt River and through the majestic Superstition Mountains. The Apache Trail (AZ 88) offers beautiful views along with insight into Arizona’s mining history, beginning with Goldfield Ghost Town. Along the way, you’ll see the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert, large saguaro cacti and plenty of rolling hills.
Where to stop off: Historic sites such as Goldfield Ghost Town, Superstition Mountain Museum, Weaver’s Needle, Lost Dutchman State Park, Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat
Where to eat: The Mammoth Steakhouse & Saloon at Goldfield Ghost Town and The Mining Camp (open mid-October to mid-May)
Best view: There are views at each and every turn; however, the overlook at Canyon Lake is breathtaking.
Best landmark: The entire Apache Trail is one big landmark from beginning to end.
Bonus tips: Gas up before getting into the area, take your time and enjoy! Don’t miss the famous stagecoach stop of Tortilla Flat, which has been in existence for more than 100 years, offering weary travelers food and rest. Sidle up to the bar and enjoy a delicious burger or its “Killer Chili” before cooling off with several scoops of its famous prickly pear ice cream. Make sure to put your name on a dollar bill and add it to the wall before you leave.
TRIP 2: The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician to Bartlett Lake
Distance: 92 miles
If you are looking for something quick, scenic and fun, this drive is the one for you. The beauty of large saguaro cacti, rolling hills, granite mountain outcrops, desert flowers and mountain views surround you. The higher elevation (the road takes you as high as 3,200 feet) provides stellar vistas before dropping down to Bartlett Lake. On the way back, pass through the town of Carefree, where you’ll find the third largest working sundial in the Western Hemisphere.
Where to stop off: Pinnacle Peak, Sears Kay Ruin, Bartlett Lake, Cave Creek Museum, Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse and Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
Where to eat: Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse for delicious barbecue and bull riding; Tonto Bar & Grill; and El Encanto
Best view: Pinnacle Peak, just after turning onto Bartlett Dam Road
Best landmarks: Pinnacle Peak, Sear Kay Ruin and Bartlett Lake
Bonus tip: Go later in the afternoon for amazing sunset views.
TRIP 3: The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician to South Mountain Park and Preserve
Distance: 42 miles
If your desire is to be on top of the world, then a drive up South Mountain is calling. South Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the largest parks in the United States, covering more than 16,000 acres and consisting of three mountain ranges — the Ma Ha Tauk, Gila and Guadalupe — stretching diagonally from northeast to southwest. Along the way, you’ll spot city and desert panoramas, and hiking trails that lead to petroglyphs. The twisting, winding road is a blast to drive as you climb higher and higher to the top.
Where to stop off: South Mountain Environmental Education Center, Dobbins Lookout, Ponderosa Stables and Mystery Castle
Where to eat: Rustler’s Rooste to try the rattlesnake
Best view: Dobbins Lookout at the top of South Mountain
Best landmarks: Dobbins Lookout and Mystery Castle
Bonus tips: South Mountain Park and Mystery Castle can close without warning, so call or check their websites before going. Take a picnic lunch and plenty of water.
Experience these Scottsdale road trips in a Porsche when you stay at The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician between November 1 and December 13, 2014 — take one of four Porsche vehicles out for a two-hour spin during the Scottsdale stop of Porsche Destination Drives.
Photos Courtesy of iStock and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc.