Arizona is widely known for its majestic scenic drives that are too hard to ignore. If you are cruising through any of these roads, we’re sure you’ll be distracted by the sheer beauty of the area. However, that beauty also comes with a bit of a challenge. In this case, it takes the form of dirt roads, harrowing turns, and curves, as well as extreme weather conditions. Take your driving abilities to the test by taking on the terrifying drives in Arizona.
P.S. We know. The photos of the roads look too lovely to even be considered deadly. But you should totally be careful!
1. Coronado Trail/ Route 191
Can you navigate a road with an estimated 460 turns or curves? That’s plenty. The Coronado Trail Scenic Byway is a stretch of the U.S. Route 191 just between Springerville and Clifton in Arizona.
Expect the road to be really narrow and winding. It’s also dipping from one curve to the next so your full concentration should be on the road when driving. While the twists are pretty exciting, don’t forget that you’re not in a Fast and Furious film. Don’t drive too fast or you’ll end up regretting taking one of the most terrifying drives in Arizona.
You can find the highest point of the road 4 miles south of Hannagan Meadow, in Greenlee County. Its elevation is 9,383 feet or 2,860 m above the sea level, making it one of the highest mountain roads of Arizona.
Note: This road is sometimes closed during the winter season due to snow.
2. Interstate 10
Back then, Interstate 10 always made the news because of the alarming number of fatalities per 100 miles of road. It even placed fourth in the list of most dangerous roads in the country (especially during summer months).
Many people use I-10 if they want to cool down and spend days lazing around on the beaches of California. This road connects Tucson to Phoenix, with its stretch leading to California.
Note: Studies show that Interstate 10 is a safe highway and is designed to meet safety standards. However, safety is simply dependent on smart driving.
3. Apache Trail/ State Route 88
Check out the majestic canyon views from the window! Oh, wait. If you are behind the wheels, then never mind! You should keep your eyes on the road because the curvy and narrow dirt road can be dizzying and challenging even for the experienced drivers.
The 40-mile Apache Trail is truly one of the most terrifying drives in Arizona. The track goes through the Superstition Mountains and follows the canyon between Apache Junction (Greater Phoenix area) and Roosevelt Lake. Expect driving through a mostly unpaved road starting from the east of the town of Tortilla Flat to Roosevelt Dam, as well as steep cliff drops along the way. While we understand that there are many photo-worthy moments when taking this scenic drive, your driver better not be distracted. The drops are a harrowing 1,000 feet or 304.9 m in some areas.
Groups traveling this road in Springtime will appreciate the desert and lake views, particularly the blooming wildflowers of Arizona.
Note: The Apache Trail is not recommended for large vehicles including SUVs, RVs, and caravans. If you plan to take this scenic road trip, you better pan about 6-8 hours to complete the journey. This is a modern driver’s dream complete with challenging turns, sweeping curves, and beautiful views anywhere. It is also closed indefinitely.
4. Catalina Highway
Now, let’s talk about this scenic highway in the southwest. The 27-mile Catalina Highway is the only asphalted road that provides access to Mt. Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range.
Your eyes will feast on the outlandish rockscapes, amazing canyons, and expansive forest lands. It’s simply breathtaking. While the gorgeous views are there for you to marvel at, the road is pretty steep so driving can be unnerving. There’s a big possibility you’d get stuck behind someone driving extra carefully or at about 15 miles per hour up the mountain.
The Catalina Highway also has other names. For some, it’s the Mount Lemmon Highway, General Hitchcock Highway, Arizona Forest Highway 39, or Sky Island Scenic Byway.
Note: The road is usually open all year round. It also helps to know that the peak receives about 200 inches of snow annually, so the road will only be tougher and get more slippery.
5. State Route 89A
Brave a series of switchbacks and hairpin turns in this 23-mile road that also offers spectacular scenery. The challenge in Route 89A begins in Sedona at an elevation of 4,500 feet and climbs up to Flagstaff at 6,900 feet.
Many Sedona residents regularly drive this road to get to concerts, work, shopping, or simply to get out of Verde Valley. So basically, they already memorized the turns and twists of the winding road. At times, they may be frustrated by the tourists driving below the speed limit. This results in some impatient drivers speeding through the passing lanes to move at a more comfortable speed. Impatient and drunk drivers, including speeding, make this one of the terrifying drives in Arizona.
Note: If you want a more relaxed experience, you can drive this road during the warmer weather.
6. State Route 77
The State Route 77 traverses much of the state’s length from north of Holbrook to its junction with Interstate 10 in Tucson.
Don’t get us wrong. You’ll see beautiful landscapes along the way. But some areas on the road can give you a white knuckle experience especially when you drive through the Salt River Canyon. You will need to navigate through some hairpin curves and narrow lanes. It can be pretty scary.
Note: You can always pull over the rest areas to take a break and take in the view.
7. U.S. Route 93
The major highway you take when traveling from Phoenix to Las Vegas, with its south terminus at US 60 in Wickenburg, Arizona, is known as the U.S. Route 93. This road is one of the most terrifying drives of Arizona due to the federal crash data and fatalities that happened there. According to the consumer website Value Penguin, there were 70 recorded deadly crashes on the highway which resulted in 90 fatalities.
Further study shows that U.S. 93 is also the fourth worst highway when it comes to emergency medical service wait times. The median EMS wait time is clocked at 21 minutes.
Note: The Arizona Department of Transportation concluded that 94% of all crashes on U.S. 93 are caused by driver behavior. With this said, remember to practice safe driving habits.
Which among these terrifying drives in Arizona gave you the most unforgettable experience?
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