Known as the Valley of the Sun, Arizona feeds your soul with breathtaking and diverse scenery, sustains your body with an array of Mexican and Southwest cuisine, and soothes your weary muscles at an upscale spa after a day hiking. A road trip through Arizona is an eclectic drive that combines the ruggedness, luxury, serenity and activity of the old and new West.

Starting your trip in Phoenix at a few key sites will set the stage for a greater understanding of what you will see on your drive north. A visit to the internationally acclaimed Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix to explore traditional and contemporary Native American art offers a foundation for the legends that surround the history and culture of this desert state.

The Phoenix Zoo area of the city is also home to the Desert Botanical Garden, which provides a glimpse of many different types of cacti and desert flowers of the Sonoran Desert. When leaving Phoenix, amateur photographers will be guaranteed a sure shot if they schedule a visit to Apache Junction in the Superstition Mountains for a hike that treats its visitors to a panoramic view of the city below.

Head north and stop in Scottsdale for lunch at one of the upscale restaurants or hotels that provide a mix of luxury and western hospitality. Then, stroll the streets of Old Town Scottsdale, a neighborhood in downtown that maintains its western roots in dining, shopping and casual laid-back atmosphere.

Next, visit Taliesin West, noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona home and studio, which is housed over 500 acres in the McDowell Mountains in northeast Scottsdale. Taliesin West offers multiple public tours daily and provides a chance to experience the 1930s property that merges indoor and outdoor spaces in an unforgettable structure. Also located here is Acrosanti, Wright's exploratory architectural laboratory still operating today.

Making your way north up I-17, you are welcomed into Sedona like a motherly hug with red rock formations surrounding and captivating you with their simplicity, complexity and just plain beauty. Plan on spending a day just driving the main road through town and stopping along this route north to the Chapel of the Holy Cross (a church built into the side of a red rock formation), Bell Tower and the famous three-rock formation.

Don't miss the opportunity to climb a vortex from Airport Mesa Road; hike, bike or slide down the 30-foot-long natural water slide in Slide Rock State Park; and take in a great meal by a bubbling creek in Oak Creek Village. This area is one that offers enough outdoor activity and in-town experiences to warrant a multiple-night stay.

Heading north on Highway 89A from Sedona to Flagstaff is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the country and is also known as the first scenic route in the state of Arizona. You don't know which way to look, but any direction offers amazing viewing.

Check out the abundant pine forest, unusual in Arizona, that lines the creek bed that is rumored to have natural healing powers the canyons stretching north from Sedona; and the viewing area for Oak Creek Canyon, which highlights the multicolored, narrow, steep and dramatic rock formations. On a recent visit, cliff climbers could be seen navigating the treacherous points and peaks here.

Arriving in Flagstaff has delights of its own. Historians will enjoy the variety of museums and sites recalling the state's old western days, and the theme is carried through the historical downtown areas shops, art galleries and restaurants. The acclaimed Route 66 evokes the nostalgia of bygone days of the rugged pioneer Wild West.

And, of course, Flagstaff is in the world's largest ponderosa pine forest, which offers endless year-round outdoor activity for enthusiasts. Continuing about 80 miles west from Flagstaff will put you at the Grand Canyon and close to multiple national parks and monuments ... but that's another article.