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Phoenix is Arizona's state capital and largest city, located in the south-central region of the state with major highways including I-10 (east-west) and I-17 (originating downtown and heading north). It is not a hitchhiker-friendly city by far, one big suburban sprawl full of highways, but there are some good spots around to get out of it.
The city is in the middle of a large, desert valley and surrounded by many suburban cities. When someone mentions Phoenix they are sometimes referring to the entire valley, which includes the cities of Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale, Glendale, Peoria, and others. Temperatures rarely get below freezing in the winter, but watch out in summer! Afternoons in late June and July can be as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but usually in the 110s. This can be especially difficult for budget travelers, since there are alarmingly few public drinking fountains available. However, common practice for any business establishment (or resident) is to provide free drinking water when asked, partially due to a commonly held belief that it is illegal to refuse anyone water- although no such law exists in Arizona.
Tempe is a popular hangout in the winter for street kids and other travellers, due to the university nearby and several places to stealth camp, such as Papago Park, a large urban park with hills and caves. Mill Avenue is the main drag, and while it has become much more yuppified over the years, you will still see a lot of traveling folks along the street and in the coffee shops.
Hitchhiking out of the Phoenix area means getting to an outlying suburb by bus ($2 one way bus fare) or have a friend drop you at a good spot, then planting yourself at a major truck stop exit or nearby highway on-ramp. Note that public transport is quite slow and quirky, which is to say, it rarely goes where needed or expected and is almost guaranteed to be at least 20 minutes late. Also note that there are no transfers available, and purchasing a day pass on board a bus costs $6. Buy one at a Circle K or lightrail station for $4 instead.
- 1 Hitchhiking out
- 2 Legal issues
- 3 Personal experiences
- 4 Resources
West towards California (I-10)
- Love's Travel Stop in Buckeye
First you need to get to Desert Sky Transit Center. There are no direct buses from downtown Phoenix but you can take for example bus 3 Westbound from Van Burren & Central Avenue and get off on Van Burren & 75th. Desert Sky is 2.5 miles to the north. From there bus 685 to Gila Bend/Ajo passes near Love's Truck Stop. It costs $4. If you take it seven stops from Desert Sky, you can hitchhike at the truck stop and there are many fast food places that may be good for soliciting rides. Bear in mind that there are only a few buses a day Monday to Friday (5.15 am, 9.55 am, 12.40 pm, 3.55 pm and 7 pm) and two on Saturday (11 am and 3 pm).
- Exit 137 at 67th Avenue
From downtown Phoenix, take local bus 17 west, get off at 67th avenue and walk 1/2 mile south. Two truckstops here: Flying J and Danny's-A Big Rig Resort. Between the two is a public road that all trucks must pass to get back onto the highway. Stand here at the corner with a sign stating your destination ("I-10 WEST", for example). TheWindAndRain waited at this spot for 3 days before giving up and deciding to go a different direction. Wallpaper was harassed by police here and told to leave after waiting for only five minutes.
South and East towards Tucson and New Mexico (I-10)
- Love's Travel Stop in Chandler
From Phoenix take any bus or light rail going to Tempe Transportation Center. You'll be better off taking a bus as you can pay for one ride which is $2 and ask for a transfer slip and take another bus from Tempe without additional cost. There are no free transfers from light rail. Once in Tempe take bus 66 to Lone Butte Casino which is the last stop. Walk towards Chevron gas station and turn right/west into Allison Road. Continue for a mile until you get to traffic lights and turn left/south. You will see large McDonald's sign. Once there at Exit 162, Love's Travel Stop is a new truck stop nearby and the highway on-ramp is large enough for a truck to stop. This hitchhiker has received several rides from here, from cars heading to the area of Casa Grande. Just past Casa Grande is the I-8/ I-10 junction, with several large truck stops. You should not accept any ride going a shorter distance than this. If you hold out, you may make it all the way to Tucson in one ride.
If you prefer to hitchhike from the highway, take the lightrail to the Country Club/Main station. Then take the 112 bus all the way south, to the Chandler Park and Ride. From there, you can walk along hwy 87/Country Club Rd for aprox 5 miles, until it splits off and goes through the Akimel O'odaam reservation. This is a great route to follow to Tucson if you'd prefer to avoid the interstate. Just try not to end up in Florence- there's a prison there, so it's harder to hitchhike.
- Carefree Highway junction or Deer Valley Road.
It is unsafe to hitchhike an I-17 on-ramp until at least as far north as Bell Rd or Deer Valley Rd. Ideally, you want to be outside the city at Carefree Highway before starting to hitchhike, but unless you can hustle a local ride this far, try this:
From downtown Phoenix take bus #27 north to the Metrocenter Transit Center. Get a free transfer ticket when you board. Take #35 north bus to the end of the line (tell the bus driver to let you off closest to the furthest I-17 on-ramp, Deer Valley Road). This on-ramp is not ideal, but there is room for a car to safely pull to the shoulder. If you find yourself waiting long, make a sign that says "Carefree Highway". It is only about 10 miles further north, and many drivers getting on the highway are going at least that far. If dropped off at Carefree, stick out your thumb and smile. You should have a long ride soon. No need to accept any ride less than to Cordes Junction (about 50 miles). Avoid taking a ride to New River (suspicious locals due to upscale housing, possible cop hassle as a result). Black Canyon City may be an interesting stop with some good cafes in town (Rock Springs Cafe, Four Bees Cafe), but you may have a hard time getting out.
Northeast towards Payson (AZ-87)
If you want to try your luck northeast along the Beeline Highway to Payson and Eastern Arizona, you will need to get out to Fountain Hills past the city of Scottsdale. Local bus service using bus #106 north will only take you part of the way, to Shea Road at 134th street. You will need to go another 10 miles or so past upscale residential areas before beginning to hitchhike without major hassle. There are many drivers en route heading for Fort Mcdowell casino and if you can catch a ride that far you can begin hitchhiking soon after. Try walking along the sidewalk with your back to traffic and your thumb out until you get far enough to really lay on the hitchhiking persuasion.
Another possibly easier location to hitch from is the intersection of AZ 87 and McDowell on the north edge of Mesa, just north of AZ 202. Wallpaper has hitchhiked to Payson (and beyond!) from the AZ 87 and Gilbert Rd, just east of the Salt River landfill. She has used this route several times successfully with short waits and no police hassle. To get there take the lightrail as far east as it goes- get off at Gilbert/Main. Then take the Gilbert bus north as far as it goes, to McDowell Rd. (Total cost: $4) Walk 2.5 miles north until Gilbert Rd. ends at the Beeline Hwy. From here, there is large shoulder and all traffic is at least going to Fountain Hills or the Casino, but much of the traffic is going all the way to Payson. I have started trips to Payson, Flagstaff, Canyon de Chelly, ABQ, and Salt Lake City all from this spot.
Northwest towards Wickenburg and Las Vegas (US-60 and US-93)
There's a good spot around 163rd Ave. guaka and Kenny only waited a short time before being picked up. TheWindAndRain can attest to the fact that the Flying J at 163rd and I10 is an easy place to catch a truck ride to Wickenburg.
Hitchhiking is at the very least discouraged within the Phoenix metro area and may be outright illegal. For this reason, always get to the far city limits, as mentioned in the exit points above, before attempting to hitchhiking. Otherwise, expect cop hassle and possibly a warning citation or fine. Also, nearly all of the Phoenix metro area is within Maricopa county and so is under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, called "America's Toughest Sheriff". His deputies are encouraged to uphold this tough stance, so be aware of your surroundings and consider that the (often draconian) laws will be interpreted and upheld to their fullest extent and often beyond.
There is absolutely no reason a hitchhiker should purposely visit the greater Phoenix area, unless you are a wealthy sociopathic masochist with a golf fetish, in which case you likely have a massive SUV, as most people in the Phoenix area are/have. Not only is it an overheated and ugly sprawl of freeways, beige two-car garages, golf courses, more freeways, and Walmarts, the people of Phoenix are generally quite rude to anyone they perceive as either not having very much money, or having a skin color any shade darker than the sand which envelops the area, and meeting both of these criteria will likely get you arrested and imprisoned for several years. People in the greater Phoenix area also tend to judge others based on the size, cleanliness, newness, and luxuriousness of their cars, which leads to a booming car sales industry, a constant haze of smog over the clogged freeways, and a nearly frightening number of lanes on major roads, but also means that someone without a car (ie a hitchhiker) will be assumed to be either insane or subhuman, and will be treated as such. In general, avoid Phoenix and its environs at all cost. - Josiahsettles
Hiding within the unimaginably vast urban sprawl, there are a few gems that make Phoenix worthwhile. South Mountain park is the country's largest municipal park, is accessible by bus, and has ample desert hiking trails w/varied scenery. There is a huge storytelling and slam poetry scene in Phoenix; go to Lawn Gnome bookstore on a Wednesday night, tell a story and you get in free. Around downtown Phoenix, also check out: Burton Barr Library (cool 5 story building with views of the city, free internet access, an Arizona room), an all ages music venue called "The Trunk Space," the Roosevelt Row arts district, and an infoshop called "The Sp(a)ce." The town of Guadalupe (near Tempe) has a wonderful local market and many colorful murals on display. It's worth a visit just to get a sense of the place and people who have been harassed by Joe Arpaio for so long (the entire town filed a lawsuit against him.) Mystery Castle is a quirky architectural landmark well worth the visit. Phoenix Trotting Park, if you can get there, is an abandoned building with amazing post-apocalyptic visuals. Food not Bombs serves weekly in Phoenix, Tempe, and Glendale- eat a free vegan meal and meet all kinds of people. - Wallpaper