Cedar Rapids to Phoenix Road Trip Guide


Cedar RapidsCedar Rapids, Iowa, is just perfect for visitors and residents to find plenty of fun things to do with family. Surrounded by lots of landmark areas, this city is home to exciting attractions that you definitely want to visit while you’re here.

You can make your way from The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art to NewBo City Market, Brucemore (National Historic Site and Cultural Center), The National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library, and wrap up the tour at The African American Museum of Iowa. By the time you finish this, you’ll be well-grounded in the history of the state. Thereafter, you can enjoy live music and concerts, watercraft activities, sports activities, festivals, and many more.

Continue the fun experience with your family by embarking on this RV road trip that will take across five states (Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico), and in the process offer you unforgettable sights to see. As you cover ground on the 1,524-mile journey, keep your eyes peeled and your camera/binoculars at the ready.

Phoenix is a beautiful blend of lush desert landscapes and architectural masterpieces, so the fun really doesn’t end when you arrive. Instead, it’s the opposite due to the miles of hiking trails, iconic sunsets, bubbling areas, and cultural pieces.

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Max RV length
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Road trip length: 7+ days
Recommend rig: any
audience: family

Point of Interest

Rathbun Lake

Before you leave Iowa for good on this road adventure, make your first stop at Rathbun Lake, a US Army COE lake in Appanoose County, Iowa. This 17-square-mile lake features 150 miles of shoreline, indicating that there’s plenty of space for you and your family to settle in and enjoy the outdoors here.

As the second largest lake in the state of Iowa, Rathbun Lake is a popular destination for a wide range of activities such as hunting, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, and auto touring. But that’s not all; there are miles of bike paths that you can explore to see the spectacular wilderness that surrounds the lake. A private resort is available where you can get different types of bikes such as mountain bikes, tandem bikes, as well as bikes for adults, children, and families.

More than 700 campsites are available here so you have excellent RV and tent camping options for you and your family. The campsites are available by reservation.

Pony Express Lake Conservation Area

Your drive through Missouri would be otherwise short if you don’t take advantage of nature’s beauty at the five-square-mile Pony Express Lake Conservation Area in Osborn. This facility, managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation is a public fishing site and recreation destination for guests that like wildlife.

Things you can do as soon as you arrive at the park include hunting deer, rabbit, quail, dove, squirrel, as well as turkey. Waterfowl hunting is also a common sport here. If you fancy angling, some of the fish species you’ll catch in Pony Express Lake are catfish, black bass, sunfish, and crappie. You could also stretch your legs on the hiking trails within the Conservation Area. There are a number of campsites on the shore of the lake that are open all year and accept tents. Parking spaces available in the Conservation Area for RVs and trailers.

Kansas Museum of History

The ideal place to learn all there is to know about Kansas when you arrive is the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka. This award-winning museum is definitely worth the stop as it features lots of memorable items and antiques that the people of Kansas hold dear. Your journey through the state is not complete if you don’t add this museum to the list of places you visited.

A few of the special items on display in the museum are Santa Fe’s oldest surviving locomotive, Carry Nation’s hammer, White’s printing press, Custer’s boots, and the 1914 Longren biplane. More things you’ll discover here include forts and trails, stories about the Kansas trains and towns, as well as good food. A store is available in the museum where you’ll get good Kansas souvenirs too.

Step out of the museum to hike the Kansas Historical Society Nature Trail before you head for Topeka / Capital City KOA Journey to spend the night in your RV.


As you make your way out of Kansas into Oklahoma, a brief stop at the small city of Mullinville will be good for you and your family. Here, you will be able to easily drive around, see the residents, and few attractions in the town and take photographs of sites of interest.

Three places you should visit here are the Fromme-Birney Round Barn, Veterans Memorial, and the Political Art of M.T. Liggett. The Fromme-Birney Round Basin was built in the early 1910s by a local carpenter as a horse barn and hay storage. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Veterans Memorial honors past and present residents of Kiowa County who have and currently serve in the armed forces. About 1,800 veterans’ names are etched on the memorial wall.

By far the most popular attraction in this city is the M.T. Liggett Political Sculptures which stretch about a quarter-mile in the city. Keep your camera close for this.

Optima National Wildlife Refuge

Your short drive through Oklahoma should include a visit to Optima National Wildlife Refuge where you’ll get the chance to watch wildlife and hunt game in a beautiful range of flora and fauna habitats. Sited in a central mixed-grass prairie, you’ll see flora such as buffalo grass, yucca, and blue gramma in the upland areas of the Refuge, while mature cottonwoods and tallgrass prairie dominate the bottomland areas.

Wildlife that is commonly sighted in the Refuge includes white-tailed deer, quail, coyotes, and Rio Grande turkeys. Depending on the time of year you visit, diverse bird species such as raptors, songbirds, American kestrel, northern harrier, and a red-tailed hawk will be seen in the Refuge. Look out for mule deer, raccoons, badgers, and porcupines too, and do well to take pictures when you sight them.

Three private RV parks are available in Guymon, a few miles west of the Refuge.

Rita Blanca Lake

You’ll drive past the Rita Blanca National Grasslands on your way to Rita Blanca Lake, so if you want, you can make a quick stop at the Grasslands to view the beautiful sceneries within the park.

The lake is located southwest of the city of Dalhart and offers excellent birdwatching opportunities to visitors all year-round. So, here’s another place where you will use your camera and binoculars. In addition, you will find lots of nice trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding by the lake. Should you choose to explore these trails, prepare to come across different wildlife species. There’s also a picnic area equipped with tables and playground equipment where you can share meals with your family and watch your kids play.

Call it a day at Rita Blanca Lake Park which accepts tents and large rigs and offers hookups for RVs.

Cibola National Forest

Just before you drive into Albuquerque in New Mexico, you’ll arrive at the 2,500-square-mile Cibola National Forest where you’ll be able to do whatever fun activity you’ve not been able to enjoy during the course of the trip from Cedar Rapids.

One of the things you’ll notice first when you arrive is the mountain range that rises to more than 11,300 feet in the park. You know what that means? Mountain climbing and biking if you’re up for it. If you fancy hunting, you’ll be able to go after deer, antelope, elk, and turkey in the Forest. Anglers can make use of any of the numerous lakes in the park for their fishing pursuits. Other ways to stay active here include hiking, nature observation, picnicking, scenic driving, and a host of water activities.

Camping options here vary from dispersed campsites to tent and RV sites for individuals, groups, and families.

Petrified Forest National Park

If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that there’s been a gradual change in the landscape as you moved closer to Phoenix. You now find yourself in a region with lots of National Forests and Parks. Just before you wrap up the road trip and get to your destination, Petrified Forest National Park should be your last stop.

What you should look forward to here is the backcountry adventure that’s on offer to willing and equipped visitors. You won’t be making use of paved trails or roads, but instead will find your own route or follow suggested ones. You can be sure that breathtaking views await you as you hike these paths and experience another beautiful side of nature. Ensure you have the right gear, maps, and enough water.

You can camp in any of the backcountry sites or return to any of the developed campgrounds nearby for your stay overnight.


How you want to spend time in Phoenix is up to you. There are plenty of family-friendly sites that offer unique fun experiences to everyone - Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Science Center, Arizona Museum of Natural History, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, etc.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast that fancies hiking, then feel free to choose any of the easy to strenuous trails in the city such as Blevins Trail in Usery Mountain Regional Park; Waterfall Trail in White Tank Mountain Regional Park; Hidden Valley via Mormon Trail in South Mountain Park/Preserve. After it all, visit any of the taco shops in the city.

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