Veronica Samuels

If you thought the drive from Phoenix to Tucson was just another stretch of asphalt through the desert, buckle up, because it is one of those memorable journeys – part road trip, part epic adventure, and entirely too much fun.

This isn’t just any drive; it’s the Phoenix to Tucson Express, an expedition filled with mystery, history, and a dash of the unexpected.

I-10 E is one of my favourite routes in Arizona, and each time it feels refreshing, as I stumble on someplace new or glimpse at untouched corners.

There I was, for the nth time, on a weekend, in my trusty four-wheeled steed, embarking on the Phoenix to Tucson express.

This route feels more like a pilgrimage to the heart of the desert, a quest for beauty in the vast expanses of Arizona.

The Phoenix to Tucson drive is where the wild, wild west meets Instagram-worthy pit stops and where “Are we there yet?” turns into “Let’s take a long way around.”

Whether you are looking for a fun family getaway, planning your Phoenix to Tucson drive, or a weekend road trip, check out this detailed exploration of the journey from Phoenix to Tucson, AZ.

Grab your sunglasses, cue your favourite playlist, and hit the road.


First things first, let’s talk numbers. 

The distance from Phoenix to Tucson is about 116 miles on the I-10 E.

It’s a journey that’s just long enough to contemplate life’s mysteries, like why we drive on parkways and park on driveways.

And, oh, it takes about 2 hours assuming the traffic is normal and not killing your mood.


I recommend renting a car as this is the best way to get from Phoenix to Tucson, which means you can also squeeze in a quick and short road trip.

Having your vehicle allows you to see everything this area offers also giving you the flexibility to stay as long as you like at each destination.

Scottsdale to Tombstone
Phoenix to Tucson

I like Discover Cars and believe me, as a frequent traveler regularly renting cars from them, I recommend them for easy and quick online booking.

Thanks to their long list of car rental companies, you can easily compare the car types and prices before picking. They also sometimes offer pick up as well.

Check prices and book your car here at Discover Cars.

If you don’t have a car, I highly recommend this tour from Phoenix to Tucson, perfect for conveniently exploring Tombstone with expert guides.


There are three possible routes from Phoenix to Tucson, AZ, depending on how long you want to drive, the number of detours you are flexible about taking, and the duration of the trip!

Route 1: I-10

The most direct and quickest route between Tucson and Phoenix is via Interstate 10. 

Traveling via I-10 E is a straight shot from Phoenix to Tucson, with the beauty of the desert zipping by your windows.

This route takes about 2 hours to reach Tucson from Phoenix without stops.

Get on I-10 E from W Jefferson St and drive for about 10 minutes for 2.5 miles.

Then continue on I-10 E to N Freeway in Tucson. Take exit 255 from I-10 E.

Continue on AZ-77 N/W Miracle Mile to W Jacinto St to arrive at Tucson from Phoenix. 

This route is your go-to for efficiency and speed, perfect for running late to a concert or meeting friends for dinner. 

But remember, with great speed comes great responsibility—traffic, that is. It’s the path most traveled, so expect company.

Route 2: I-10 E AND AZ-79 S

Now, for those who like a sprinkle of adventure with your travel, mixing I-10 E with AZ-79 S is like adding a dash of paprika to your avocado toast and one of the routes worth taking from Phoenix to Tucson.

This detour whispers tales of the old Wild West, where the landscapes are so stunning that you’ll half expect a tumbleweed to roll past, even if it’s just in your imagination.

Phoenix to Tucson drive

It’s a bit longer, but hey, who’s counting when you’re having fun?

It takes about 3 hours depending on where you take your exit.

ROUTE 3: US-60 E/Superstition Fwy and AZ-79 S

If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path to drive from Phoenix to Tucson, this route is for you.

For the ultimate adventurers, the path less taken—US-60 E combined with AZ-79 S offers a blend of abundant natural beauty and many extraordinary Arizona hidden gems. 

If you want to avoid driving, there are other options to get between Tucson and the Old West, but they are not straightforward and also time-consuming.



The quickest way to reach Tucson from Phoenix is flying between the cities, but airport transfers might add to your journey time, as usual.

The nearest airport in Phoenix from where you can fly to Tucson is Sky Harbor Intl.

The nearest airport to Tucson is Tucson (TUS) Airport which is 7 miles away.

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, and United offer direct connections between Phoenix and Tucson.

✅From Tucson airport, I recommend booking this airport transfer🤩 to Tucson city(which drops you at downtown Tucson, so perfect for exploring if you wish to start right away).

Don’t go through all the hassle of waiting in a long taxi or shared shuttles queues. Your driver will be waiting for you at a scheduled time and you will travel comfortably to your destination. Check out more details here.


Greyhound is one of the buses connecting Phoenix and Tucson.

There are regular buses from Phoenix to Tucson. Depending on the route, it takes between 1.5 to 2.5 hours to travel from Phoenix to Tucson by bus.

Scottsdale to Tombstone distance

Buses leave from Phoenix Bus Station and arrive at Greyhound US1001 towards Houston Bus Station (Greyhound).


Now, what’s a road trip without some epic stops along the way? These are the places where memories are made, folks.


Imagine a place where you can scream, “I’m the king/queen of the world!” and only the cacti will judge you. That’s Picacho Peak State Park, among the best reserves to experience the wilderness of the Sonoran Desert.

Picacho Peak is a beacon for hikers, history buffs, and nature lovers, and also offers some of the most incredible Tucson sunset views.

Standing at 3,374 feet, this volcanic mountain is not only a geological wonder but also a site of the westernmost battle of the Civil War.

Climbing Picacho Peak is like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books; every turn offers something new.

The park offers several trails, from the accessible Nature Trail to the challenging Hunter Trail.

A short 40-minute drive from the Tucson area, you can plan an afternoon hike along the Sunset Vista trail, which takes you through the desert landscapes dotted with many cacti and wildflowers surrounded by rocky mountains. 

Scottsdale to Tombstone

The views start appearing once you reach the two prominent mountain crests. 

Enjoy splendid sunset views in Tucson between Picacho Peak and the smaller mountains painted with golden, pink, or purple skies forming a magical backdrop.


  • Famous for – Ancient historic site
  • Best time to visit – Spring
  • Facilities – Visitor Center, picnic grounds, guided tours
  • Managed by – National Park Service
  • Entry – Free admission

One of the popular day trips from Phoenix and Tucson is a visit to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument northeast of Casa Grande, which preserves a group of Hohokam structures dating to the Classic Period.

This collection of ruins dating to the 14th century from an ancient farming community of Sonoran Desert Peoples.

It is one of the most sophisticated communities known for their wide-scale irrigation farming and extensive trade connections, is one of the top Arizona National Monuments to learn about the settlers in Arizona many hundred years ago.

Archaeologists have classified the ruins as a meeting place or a waypoint in complex irrigation systems. 

But since little documentation has been discovered so far, the complete history of the ruins remains a mystery.

Other highlights are an informative visitor centre, where you can learn about the Hohokam culture, a collection of Sonoran Desert plants and a shady picnic area.


Downtown Tucson offers a blend of culture, art, and cuisine that’s as rich and diverse as the landscape of Arizona itself.

Downtown Tucson is where culture, history, and cuisine collide in a spectacular explosion of experiences. 

It’s where you can eat, shop, and explore to your heart’s content.

Phoenix to Tucson

From the historic Hotel Congress, known for its 1930s charm and its role in the capture of the infamous John Dillinger, to the bustling Mercado San Agustin, Tucson’s first marketplace, downtown is brimming with places to explore. 

Foodies can embark on a culinary adventure, sampling everything from authentic Mexican cuisine to innovative farm-to-table dishes.


The Thing is an Arizona roadside attraction extensively advertised by signs along Interstate 10 between El Paso, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona. 

This quirky roadside attraction is part museum, part oddity collection, featuring a bizarre assortment of artefacts, from historical curiosities to the downright eccentric. 

The main attraction, however, is an object, supposedly a mummified mother and child, which is believed to have been made by exhibit creator Homer Tate for sideshows.

It’s a peculiar detour that embodies the spirit of roadside Americana.


✅Tucson Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours(5/5 25+ reviews🤩) – Join Secret Food Tours on a food tour through downtown Tucson. You’ll dine in several locally owned restaurants, trying some of their signature dishes. 

At the end of your Downtown Tucson food tour, you’ll have sampled some of this city’s most delicious dishes and gained a better understanding of its culture and history. Check out the details here to book.

Historic Bike Tour in Tucson(2.5 hours)(5/5 400+ reviews🤩 – Explore Tucson’s colourful history and discover fun facts about bank robbers and its early Spanish settlers on a guided bike tour.

Cycle through Barrio Viejo and see colourful adobe homes and fascinating shrines. Get a great view of the Santa Cruz River as you cruise through Barrio Kroger Lane. Choose from a morning or afternoon departure. Book here.

✅Tucson – Behind the Scenes Tour(3.5 hours)(4.8/5 60+reviews🤩) – Explore Tucson with a guide who will take you behind the scenes for a closer inspection of this beautiful city. 

You will travel by private car to each location, and then do some gentle walking. Other stops include Barrio Historico, El Tiradito Shrine, and more. Check out more here.

✅Mural Bike Tour(2.5 hours)(5/5 60+ reviews🤩)- Explore the landscape and culture of Tucson through the lens of its public murals on this guided bike tour. 

You’ll ride 8 1/2 miles on flat terrain to see roughly 35 of the city’s best murals. 

On the way, get to know a handful of exciting neighbourhoods, including buzzy downtown, quiet Dunbar Spring, artsy Armory Park, quirky 4th Avenue, and colourful Barrio Viejo, representing a wide-ranging swath of Tucson’s culture and diversity. Check out more here.

✅Mt.Lemmon Half-Day Rock Climbing or Canyoneering in Arizona(4 hours)(4.9/5 60+ reviews)🤩

Get your rock climbing or canyoning adventure on when you do this half-day tour exploring Mt. Lemmon in Arizona. Trips start conveniently near Tucson. 

All levels are welcome, and highlights include rock climbing, rappelling down waterfalls, and improving skills if you’re already an accomplished climber or canyoneer. 

All gear is included, and safety inspected, so you don’t need to organize any of that. Check out more here.


✅ Casitas at Sabino Springs – Situated in Tucson in the Arizona region, with Arizona National Golf Club nearby, Casitas at Sabino Springs features accommodation with free WiFi and free private parking, as well as access to a hot tub. Check out more.


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