San Diego to Sedona Road Trip

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  • Yuma, AZ
  • Gila Bend, AZ
  • Peoria, AZ
  • Cordes Lakes, AZ
  • Rimrock, AZ
  • Tips
  • Roadside assistance
  • Cheap insurance
  • FAQs
The San Diego to Sedona drive will take you through the desert along the Mexican border, skirting Phoenix. The driving time from San Diego to Sedona, Arizona is about seven hours. Sedona is famous for red rock formations and a creative, meditative culture.
Your route begins on I-8 east and then turns north following the Gila River. Whether you like ghost towns or national parks, you’ll find something incredible on this road trip. If you’re concerned about a flat tire or getting stranded in the desert, add Jerry’s roadside assistance to your car insurance.
Ready? Let’s hydrate and hit the road.
Kayakers glide on a glassy blue Pacific Ocean with San Diego in the background.
San Diego, California
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Yuma, AZ

An easy 2 ½ hour drive from San Diego, Yuma is a natural stopping point on the first leg of your journey. You can marvel at the Colorado River, stretch your legs at the dunes, and fuel up with snacks for the rest of your trip.
Why you should go: Known as the sunniest city on earth, Yuma boasts a ton of outdoor adventure opportunities. West Wetlands Park is a casual place to explore the Colorado River, and the dunes of the Sonoran Desert are stunning. The city proudly displays its wild west history, too.
What you should do: North of town is the Castle Dome Mines Museum & Ghost Town, a fascinating recreation of an old mining town. The must-see attraction is the Yuma Territorial Prison Park which is a prison that housed wild west criminals in the late 1800s.
Red rock formations reach for the blue sky in the Sonoran Desert, Arizona.
Sonoran Desert, Arizona

Gila Bend, AZ

After nearly two more hours on the road, Gila Bend is the perfect place to pull over and get outdoors. The town is named after the spot where the Gila River makes a ninety-degree turn north. Plus, there’s a burgeoning solar energy industry here.
Why you should go: The area around Gila is beautiful, and the town is a living tribute to survival in the desert. There’s also a fascinating story about a pioneer massacre that occurred here—and old cemeteries that mark the occasion.
What you should do: Check out the Painted Rock Petroglyphs (the turn-off is before town). If you want a serious desert encounter, you have two options. You could continue 15 minutes east on I-8 to the Sonoran Desert National Monument or go one hour south on US-85 to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Margie’s Cove Trail is a good option for a desert hike that’s not too far off your route. For food, try Space Age Lodge for a quirky experience.
A mountain range sits across a desert expanse with trees and shrubs in Gila Bend.
Gila Bend, Arizona
Key Takeaway Arizona is full of history, including Wild West historic sites and ancient indigenous artwork.
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Peoria, AZ

If you need a quick stopover but want to avoid the crowds of Phoenix, Peoria is a good choice. Since it’s suburban, you can easily find the goods and services you need. But since it’s on the outskirts, you’ll enjoy plenty of access to outdoor recreation.
Why you should go: There’s nothing particularly special about Peoria, but it offers a reliable place to rest if you need a respite from driving. The old town area has plenty of quaint buildings, and you’ll be surprised at the plethora of cool coffee shops.
What you should do: For outdoor adventuring, try the Peoria West Wing Mountain Preserve or the Sahuaro Ranch Park. You can also visit the Agua Fria River. Why not squeeze in a round of golf? If you’re ready to eat, try Driftwood Coffee Co. or Ruby’s Food Truck.
Two palm trees stand above a row of Spanish-style houses obscured partially by greenery.
Peoria, Arizona

Cordes Lakes, AZ

It’s time to head north on I-17! One hour from Peoria is Cordes Lakes, on the edge of the mesa and in direct proximity to some impressive sites. The town is tiny but mighty, so be sure to plan your visit accordingly.
Why you should go: Although Cordes Lakes is in the middle of the desert, it boasts numerous rivers and springs in the nearby hillsides. If you’re ready for a refresh after driving in the dusty desert, you’ll get it here. Arcosanti is a must-see for its stunning architecture (and good food!).
What you should do: Explore the mesa and visit Agua Fria National Monument and Pueblo La Plata. The Badger Springs Trailhead is a great place to start your exploration. The Arcosanti is just north of town, and the FORM live music venue is worth a visit, too. If you just need a quick bite, try the 50s Diner Backseat Bar & Motel RV Park.
Bright green trees stand by a body of water in Yavapai County, Arizona, home to Cordes Lake.
Yavapai County, Arizona, home to Cordes Lake

Rimrock, AZ

If you’re a hiking fiend, then make another stop in Rimrock. The town is near several nationally recognized sites that are well-suited for a brief afternoon stroll.
Why you should go: Go for the indigenous structures and art on display, or if you want to catch your breath beside a creek for a quick picnic.
What you should do: Montezuma Well and Montezuma Castle are close by, and you absolutely must make the short drive to visit these incredible monuments. Visit Beaver Creek, where V Bar V Heritage Site is a stunning display of rock art from the 1100s. The Beaver Creek area is perfect for a relaxing rest beside running water. If you’re hungry, El Patio Bar & Grill offers a nice view of the hills and a good selection of Mexican food.
The flat exterior of Montezuma Castle in Rimrock camouflages into the mountainside where it's housed.
Montezuma Castle, Rimrock, Arizona
Key Takeaway Drive safely in the desert by bringing extra water and refilling your tank frequently.
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Tips for road-tripping in Arizona

High temperatures and dusty road conditions can be hard on your vehicle. Make sure to check your fluids (especially coolant) before you hit the road. Fill your tires to the recommended amount, too, as underinflated tires on hot pavement can be dangerous.
Arizona has a “move over” law, which says that you should move over (if possible) when you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. This allows them plenty of space to perform their work safely.
Finally, we recommend packing extra water if you are road-tripping in Arizona. You never know when you’ll get stranded, or if you might pass someone who needs assistance! Water could save your life in the desert, and it doesn’t cost you anything to pack a few extra bottles.

Why you need roadside assistance

You can’t fix everything yourself. Sometimes, you just need someone to bring you a spare tire or pull your vehicle out of a ditch.
On a road trip, however, your usual network is out of reach. If you can’t call your parents or your best friend, who will you call when you need help?
Jerry’s roadside assistance membership is only $6.99 and it covers most of the disasters that might befall you on a road trip. From winching to fuel delivery and lockout assistance, Jerry is about to be your new road trip bestie—and don’t worry, Jerry doesn’t backseat drive.
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Finding cheap car insurance

If you want to save money on car insurance, the Jerry app is a good place to start. A licensed broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding the cheapest quotes from the top name-brand insurance companies and buying new car insurance. Jerry will even cancel your old policy for you.
And to ensure you always have the lowest rate, Jerry will send you new quotes every time your policy comes up for renewal, so you’re always getting the coverage you want at the best price. This level of service is why Jerry earned a 4.6/5 rating on the App Store and made it the top insurance app in the country.
“Very simple to navigate, and Jerry saved us over $1000 a year.” - Satisfied Jerry User

FAQs

How to drive in the desert in winter

Follow these three tips: 1) Keep your gas tank as full as possible, 2) Pack emergency supplies like food and blankets, and 3) Make sure your tires are properly inflated and drive cautiously.

Where to camp near Sedona

There are a lot of great camping options near Sedona. Chavez Crossing Group Campground is suitable for tents, trailers, and small RVs. Lo-Lo-Mai Springs Campground offers rustic cabin rentals as well as tent sites. You can also find dispersed campsites in the area if you are car camping.
A tar-streaked highway curves around some brush and leads deeper into the Sedona Desert, towards plateaus.
Sedona Desert, Arizona
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