Getting ready to do a Phoenix to Tucson drive? Whether you are heading to Tucson from Phoenix, or going to Phoenix for the weekend from Tucson, make the journey part of the destination! There are some really cool things to do in between.
Skip some of the I-10 and take the scenic route. Enhance your trip by making a stop or two, as there’s plenty to see and do on the relatively short drive between the two cities.
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It’s just 113 miles from Phoenix to Tucson and while most people will hop on I-10 and make the drive in under two hours (assuming traffic is decent!), I always recommend getting off the interstate and doing some exploring!
Whether you want to go on a short hike, learn more about the history of the area, visit a quirky bar featured on Bar Rescue, or just appreciate the beauty of the desert, there’s a stop for you between Phoenix and Tucson.
Picacho Peak State Park
Let’s start this list of stops between Phoenix and Tucson with the most famous one – Pichacho Peak State Park. The 1,500-foot Picacho Peak was actually formed by volcanic flow. It’s a historically significant point as well, as it was the place of the westernmost battle in the Civil War and the only one that took place in Arizona. The first known explorer to pass by Picacho Peak was the Anza Expeditions in the 1700s, so there’s lots of history at the site!
Today, Picacho Peak State Park is a popular destination for camping and has quick hiking trails. It makes a great stopping point to get out and stretch your legs and go on a quick hike (the Calloway Trail is just .5 miles and gets you to incredible views!) or you can even turn your Phoenix to Tucson trip into an overnighter by camping here as well.
If you are visiting Phoenix or Tucson in the spring, this is a must-stop to see the super bloom!
Location: Between Casa Grande and Tucson near Interstate 10.
Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch
For a rather unusual pitstop, stop by the Cogburn Ostrich Farm just past the Picacho Peak State Park – especially if you’re with kids, as they’ll love the petting zoo! As you may have guessed, Rooster Cogburn is home to a herd of ostriches, as well as other animals like stingrays, lorikeets, goats, deer, donkeys, and diving ducks.
The farm has been featured on several shows like “Extreme Roadside Attractions”, “Chef vs City”, and “Amazing Animals” so you know it’s worth a visit!
Location: 17599 E Peak Ln, Picacho.
Casa Grande, a small city of 55,000 people, is the unofficial halfway point between Phoenix and Tucson. In the town, you can find the Casa Grande Neon Sign Park, which is precisely what it sounds like – a park displaying old neon signs of now-defunct businesses. You can see the signs lit up until 11 pm but try to pass by around sunset for the most Insta-worthy photos.
Location: 408 N Sacaton St, Casa Grande.
Casa Grande WAS also home to another unusual landmark, the Domes of Casa Grande. This was originally the site of a tech company that was in the process of building futuristic headquarters before they were abandoned. They were full of graffiti and illegally used for parties – there were even rumors that they were haunted.
BUT in January 2023, the domes were destroyed so you can no longer see them.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
In the town of Coolidge, you’ll find one of the most significant national monuments in the Southwest, the Casa Grande Ruins. The ruins, which are a 4-story adobe building, were built in the 12th century by the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People.
The exact purpose of the building, whether it was a meeting point in the trade route, a gathering place, or something else is unknown. Today, it’s considered a sacred site by the descendants of those who built it, and ceremonies are held there.
Visitors can stop by the Casa Grande Ruins for free to learn more about it.
Location: 1100 W Ruins Dr, Coolidge.
Gallopin’ Goose Bar & Restaurant
For a little taste of the Wild West on your road trip, stop by Gallopin’ Goose (formerly Gallopin’ Goose Saloon). The bar-restaurant was featured on the hit show Bar Rescue and it is also where famous country singer Waylon Jennings got his start.
Today, the bar serves up your typical bar fare (think burgers, fried appetizers, fish and chips, and a variety of sandwiches) in a Wild West-inspired setting, making it a great rest stop on your journey. Order some bar grub and a drink and just take a moment to relax.
Location: 1980 S Arizona Blvd, Coolidge.
San Tan Mountain Regional Park
Not far from Phoenix, you’ll find the San Tan Mountain Regional Park. home to the Instagram-famous crested saguaros. (They supposedly look like a “hang ten” sign.) This is also a great place for hiking and mountain biking, with several trails available.
The shortest trail is .8 miles and several are under 2.5 miles, so you can easily make this a quick adventure stop and continue on with your trip. Horseback riding is also an option if desired.
Location: 6533 W Phillips Rd, Queen Creek.
Pinal County Historical Museum
Located in the town of Florence, the Pinal County Historical Museum is the place to go if you want to learn more about Pinal County and the surrounding area. You’ll find historical artifacts like an opera coach from the 1880s, mining gear, Native American art, and more.
Location: 715 S Main St, Florence.
Tom Mix Memorial
Not necessarily a place to stop, but rather something to keep your eyes open for: the Tom Mix Memorial on Highway 79, almost exactly between Phoenix and Tucson. Tom Mix was a famous actor in over 300 silent movies and early Westerns. He died in a car accident driving between Phoenix and Tucson when he swerved to hit a barrier and was knocked in the head by his suitcase.
A memorial in the form of a stone statue of Tom and his best friend, Tony the Wonder Horse, now sits along Highway 79 in his honor.
Location: Rest stop on State Route 79 about 17 miles south of Florence.
Queen Creek Olive Mill
What began as a 100-acre olive grove has become a top agritourism destination in the Southwest. Queen Creek Olive Mill offers Olive Oil 101 classes, farm-to-table dining, and several different restaurants. It is a very popular family outing and there are tons of events and plenty of food to try!
Of course, there is also an opportunity to buy their very own olive oil. If you love food, this is definitely a must-visit on the way to Tucson.
Location: 25062 S Meridian Rd, Queen Creek.
Wild Horse Pass
Wild Horse Pass is located on the Tribal lands of the Gila River Indian Community and is a destination in itself. There’s the Gila River Resorts & Casinos where you can try your hand at gambling, the Koli Equestrian Center where you can head out on a trail ride, the 5-star Aji Spa for ultimate relaxation, and premiere shopping.
You may even spot one of the 1500 wild horses roaming the land (hence the name!).
Location: 5040 Wild Horse Pass Blvd, Chandler.
Just before you get to Tucson, you’ll come across Sanctuary Cove, located next to the Saguaro National Park. Sanctuary Cove is a non-denomination religious non-profit. It’s a nature preserve home to many stunning cacti and a lovely 1.8-mile loop trail.
It’s open every day of the year and free to visit, though they do ask for a donation. They also have a meditation labyrinth and a stone chapel open to guests. It’s a great place to appreciate the desert landscape.
It is also a very popular wedding spot!
Location: 8001 N Scenic Dr, Tucson.
If you want my FULL Phoenix and Tucson Phoenix and Tucson Activity + Day Trip List with day trips and things to do in Phoenix and Tucson, it is available for $4.99.
The journey between Tucson and Phoenix isn’t long but anyone who has made the drive more than twice will surely admit that it can be boring. And with so much to do between the two cities, why not take the opportunity for a scenic drive and visit some of these beautiful places and tourist attractions? It will definitely make the drive far more exciting! Start planning your trip today!
How about you? Have you done this drive and have more to add? Do share!
Author Bio: Andi Fisher
I lived in the Phoenix area for 2 years and spent a lot of time in Tucson as well. I go back every year to explore more!