A trip from San Diego to Phoenix takes you on a unique journey through the southwestern United States, through forests, mountains, big cities and seemingly endless deserts.

Of course you can fly from San Diego to Phoenix, but if you are looking for a trip where you can see everything, this is a trip for you.

The journey of 355 miles takes about 5 hours and 30 minutes. This can be done in one go, but if you choose a more scenic route and divide it into 2 or 3 days, you can judge which parks, forests and cities you will definitely pass.

If the trip you want to make seems interesting to you, here you will find everything you need to know and some places and sights not to be missed.

How far is Phoenix from San Diego and how long is the journey?

In this context, the journey from San Diego to Phoenix is not very long, the shortest distance is 355 miles. This route takes about 5 hours and 30 minutes after the I-8.

Route Distance Driving time
Fastest route
(via I-8)
355 miles 5 hours 30 minutes
Trajectory
(via I-10)
420 miles 6 hours 30 minutes

The pit stops you need to make are not included, so you’ll have to spend an hour or two on them.

Don’t forget, depending on when you leave San Diego, there may be traffic jams.

If you leave during rush hour, you slow down your work considerably, just as if you leave on Friday or Saturday and have to compete with other drivers on weekends.

However, if you want to take a much more scenic route of 420 miles, just add an extra hour to your route.

You can still cover this distance in a day, but you’ll miss so many great sites that you’ll drive past them.

And anyway, what’s the point of taking a scenic route if you don’t stop to see the whole landscape?

Best drive from San Diego to Phoenix

The fastest route from San Diego to Phoenix is the I-8, which runs directly along the border between the US and Mexico. If you follow this road, you still have the possibility to spend the night in a number of national parks, such as Cuyamaca Rancho National Park.

However, the longer journey offers you many more opportunities to explore city life and tourist attractions. This car will take you north on the I-15 to Los Angeles, through several parks and forests, then east across the desert to Phoenix.

San Diego to Phoenix Road Route

If you need to get to Phoenix fast, take the I-8 from San Diego and drive through California and Arizona to exit 115.

Take exit 115 direction AZ-85 to I-10. Hook it on the right side and follow the I-10 until the end of the journey to Phoenix.

If you choose the scenic route, leave San Diego in a northerly direction on the I-15.

Continue on this highway to the I-215, follow this road until you collide with exit 29. Turn right to get to the SA-60, which once leads to the I-10. From there, follow the I-10 to Phoenix.

Best ports of call between San Diego and Phoenix

If you want to get away from a long journey and relax on the road, here are some great ways to spend the night on the road.

Temecula Research

If you’re a wine lover, you’ll love Temecula. This town is popular with tourists and is also known for its nearby vineyards.

On a sunny day warm balloons rise above a Temekul vineyard with the silhouette of the mountains in the background.
Hot air balloons are a great (and very romantic) way to see the vineyards of Temekula.

Janaya/Shutterstock.com

Book a room at the Ponte Vineyard Inn where you can enjoy a quiet and picturesque environment.

The on-site restaurant serves meals in the open air so you can enjoy the time you need to eat. Surrounded by beautiful vineyards, the hotel is just a 10-minute drive from the Temecula Creek Inn Golf Course.

During your stay in Temecula you should take the time to explore the old town of Temecula and pamper yourself in one of its spas.

You can also sign up for one of the many wine tours and visit various wineries in the area, such as Wilson Creek Winery.

If you want to ride in style, why not take one of these horse-drawn carriage rides offered by the Temecula Carriage Company?

Relaxing in Palm Springs

This popular resort in the Sonora Desert is a great place to rest and relax before walking to Phoenix.

The beautiful L’Horizon Resort & Spa is the ideal holiday destination in Palm Springs. Spend the day pampering yourself at the spa and relaxing by the pool before having an intimate meal at the restaurant. The rooms here are really great – look!

During your stay in Palm Springs, visit the Palm Springs Art and Air Museums to learn more about the city’s history and culture.

If you choose this trip in April, you also have the opportunity to visit the nearby Coachella Valley for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

The city has many other tourist attractions and Palm Springs is very close to Mount San Jacinto, which you can visit by taking the Palm Springs air tram route.

Sightseeing on a drive from San Diego to Phoenix

Although the trip itself is relatively short, you don’t have to worry. There’s no shortage of things to see and stop along the way – maybe twice!

A children's trail with bright green bushes around the dirt road and views of the mountains in the early morning light with a thin white cloud in the blue sky
Stretch your legs from San Diego to Phoenix on various walks in Mission Trails Regional Park

Gloria V. Möller/Shutterstock.de

  1. Itinerary Regional Park: Why don’t you stop at Mission Trails Regional Park on your way out of San Diego? Explore one or two trails and fish from Murray Lake in the park.
  2. Escondido: Just 15 miles from the coast, Escondido is also close to the San Pasquale Valley, where you can visit the Safari Park of the San Diego Zoo. Don’t forget to drive to the coast while exploring Escondido to see the beautiful Californian coast.
  3. Perris Parachute jump: If you’re not afraid of heights, visit this favorite place for paratroopers. You can jump alone, in tandem, indoors or outdoors with a parachute. It is the ideal place to have a truly unique experience in life.
  4. Los Angeles: Explore this city known for its art and culture. Discover some of the many attractions of this huge city, such as the famous Hollywood board, the Venetian beach or the Universal Studios.
  5. Moreno valley: East of Los Angeles, you’ll find a much smaller Moreno Valley. But don’t worry, there’s still a lot to do. Visit the Aviation Museum Walk, where more than 70 different aircraft can be seen. If you’re a racing fanatic, visit the Perris Auto Speedway.
  6. San Gorgonio mountain: This mountain, also known as Old Grayback, has the highest peak in Southern California.
  7. Palm springs: Nurtured green lawns, palm trees, endless swimming pools, spas and golf clubs in the middle of one of the hottest deserts in the world.
  8. San Jacinto Mountain Park: If you decide to stay in Palm Springs, you should take a look at this park. You can take the air tram from Palm Springs to the top of the mountain, but the park itself offers many other hiking trails that you should not miss.
  9. Yeshua Tree National Park: This park with its strange Yeshua trees from another world and its rugged landscape will surely take your breath away. It is the ideal place to camp, because the night offers incredible opportunities to look at the stars.
  10. Kofa National Park: The shelter was established in 1939 to help protect desert sheep born in the area. The hut itself currently covers 665,400 hectares and offers many hiking trails for visitors.
  11. White Tank Mountain Regional Park: You’ll find this abandoned park near Phoenix. This park of 30,000 hectares is the largest in the Marikopa district.

Magnificent views of the sunrise with a thick sea of grey clouds in the morning sky and the golden sun illuminating the mountains with golden shadows and saguaro cacti on the sand in Coffa National Park, Arizona
Discover Coffa National Park and see the sheep that walk there.

Sierralara/Shutterstock.com

Best time to travel from San Diego to Phoenix

Since a large part of your trip is in the desert, you should be aware that Southern California and Arizona are generally very hot and dry in summer.

Temperatures in Phoenix can rise rapidly to over 100°F during the summer months. Of course you can participate in this summer trip (I cancelled it once in August), but you have to make sure you stay wet and bring lots of water with you.

Another thing to consider in Phoenix during the summer is that many of the city’s attractions will keep you out – exploring the Sonora Desert, visiting the city’s botanical gardens and Papago Park will keep you in the heat, so be careful.

If you’re looking for milder weather, head to Phoenix between November and April. In spring the desert flowers bloom and the weather is mild, which makes walking and hiking in the open air much more fun. If you arrive in April, you will also have the opportunity to visit the Coachella Music and Arts Festival before coming to Phoenix.

Keep in mind, however, that the weather in spring can be somewhat unpredictable. Despite the fact that you drive in the desert, you can get caught in the rain and the temperature can fluctuate quite a bit.

Winters in Phoenix bring you temperatures around the mid-60s, much more pleasant than summer. Keep in mind, however, that winter is the busiest tourist season in Phoenix. While the rest of the United States has to deal with rain, snow and cool weather, snowbirds will descend on Phoenix to enjoy the warmth.

I would like to remind you once again that regardless of the season you choose, you should bring enough water and make sure that the air conditioning in your car works properly. San Diego can have perfect temperate weather all year round, but the Sonora desert can get very hot.

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