Arizona is diverse, with ecosystems ranging from the desert surrounding the Chandler area to an alpine ecosystem found in the high peaks around the northern town of Flagstaff. No matter what adventure or experience you’re looking for, you’ll find just what you want when you take these five day trips from Chandler, AZ.
Visit Saguaro National Park in Tucson
You can’t help being in awe when you see enormous cacti scattered throughout Saguaro National Park outside the southern Arizona town of Tucson. Many people view the giant saguaro as an iconic symbol of the American West, and you’ll see plenty of these stunning cacti when you spend time at this national park.
Start your visit to Saguaro National Park by stopping at the Rincon Visitor Center on the eastern portion or the Red Hills Visitor Center on the west entrance. You can get basic information about flora and fauna and pick up hiking and biking maps to help you explore the area. Getting to Saguaro National Park only takes about an hour and a half, making it an easy day trip from Chandler.
Location from East Tucson: 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail
Location from West Tucson: 2700 N. Kinney Road
Admission: Individual permit, $15; vehicle permit, $25; motorcycle permit, $20. These passes are valid for seven days. A Saguaro National Park annual pass costs $45 and is valid for 12 months. Saguaro National Park offers free admission days, which you can confirm by visiting the park’s website.
Go Horseback Riding in Cave Creek
Head north from Chandler and drive about an hour to start your equestrian adventure at Cave Creek Trail Rides. As you ride through the Tonto National Forest on a horse suited to your riding levels, the trail guides will share their knowledge of this part of central Arizona’s history, flora, and fauna.
Whether a beginner rider or a seasoned one, you’ll enjoy the area’s stunning beauty and the fun and professional trail guides. On your way home to Chandler after your trail ride, stop at a family-friendly restaurant in the Gilbert area to refuel and relax with a meal.
Location: 37019 N. 32nd St. in Cave Creek
Rates: Vary by trail ride
Spend the Day Underground at Kartchner Caverns State Park
Pack a lunch, headlamp, and hiking shoes to enjoy a day trip to the spectacular Kartchner Caverns State Park, about 2 1/2 hours south of Chandler. In 1978, two explorers discovered the cave and its formations. After realizing how precious and unique the caverns were, the property owners agreed to sell the land in 1988. Kartchner Caverns became an Arizona state park and opened to the public.
When you visit the caverns, you take a guided tour through either the Rotunda/Throne Room with delicate formations and 45,000-year-old bat guano or the Big Room Tour with its colorful and almost whimsical natural creations. After your tour, when you come back topside, find a shady spot to enjoy your picnic and reminisce about the marvels you encountered in the underground world of Kartchner Caverns State Park.
Location: 2980 S. Highway 90 in Benson
Admission: Cave tours are $23 for adults, $13 for children 7-13, and $5 for children younger than 5. Children younger than 5 are not allowed on the Big Room tour. Vehicle entrance fees are $7.
Step Back in Time at Wupatki National Monument
See how the ancient Sinagua people of Northern Arizona lived in the 12th century when you visit the ruins at Wupatki National Monument. You’ll drive about 200 miles north toward Flagstaff and head east past Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument before arriving at the beautifully preserved and restored ruins at Wupatki.
These free-standing dwellings, made from local red rock sandstone, stand magically against the backdrop of the San Francisco Peaks and the deep blue sky often found in Northern Arizona. You’ll want to hike the trails leading to the three main pueblos and listen to the wind whistle through the unique geologic blowhole. You can learn more about the Sinagua people and their lifestyle at the visitor center.
Location: 25137 N. Wupatki Loop Road
Contact: 928-679-2365 or 928-856-1705
Days and hours: Sunrise to sunset every day except for specific seasonal exceptions
Admission: $25 for seven days for Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument
Ride the Verde Canyon Railroad in Clarkdale
Enjoy the scenic 130-mile drive north to the charming town of Clarkdale and ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad. This fantastic and historic train ride carries you through the Verde Canyon, where you’ll pass by striking red rock bluffs with views of the Verde River below.
During the spring, keep an eye out for bald eagles nesting in the towering cottonwood trees, and in the fall, enjoy the changing colors of the trees. This four-hour journey begins at the train depot in Clarkdale, where you can shop in the gift shop, have a bite to eat, or learn about the area’s history before boarding the 10-car train. The passenger car accommodations include living room-style seating, an open cash bar, snacks available for purchasing, and large viewing windows.
You can also move around to the open cars for an outside and intimate view of the Verde Canyon. During your journey, you will hear narration describing the history of the area, the train, and the railroad line paired with fun classic railroad tunes. The train ends at the historic site of Perkinsville, then returns through the canyon to drop you off at the Clarkdale train depot.
Location: 300 N. Broadway in Clarkdale
Rates: Varies by train ride experience
That’s a wrap for our team at Crème de la Crème of Chandler, Arizona, and our recommendations for day trips from Chandler. Which day trip is the family’s favorite? Would you consider spending a few days in the area to see more? We’re always looking for recommendations for other great day trips from Chandler. If you have a suggestion, send us a message and let us know.