I would never have said that a trip to Arizona was on my Bucket List, but it turns out it should have been! And with the weather getting colder and colder, the warmer weather in Arizona seems especially tempting. I knew about the Grand Canyon, of course, but I was totally surprised by everything else I got to see on a recent trip. Here is a quick guide to help you plan a trip to Arizona:
Day #1 – Arizona Quick Guide
We flew into Phoenix, picked up our rental car and headed north to Sedona. This was my first sight of the Red Rocks. Red Rock Country is one of the most visited areas in the United States. I could tell from my first views that I was going to have a great time exploring and photographing the area! It is, of course, unlike anything you’ll see in the Midwest.
We drove a little north of Sedona on 89A to catch a few more views including this one at Oak Creek Bridge. Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is a 14 mile drive along Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona. We didn’t make the whole drive that first day . . . we just enjoyed the views at the bridge before heading back to Sedona.
We ended the evening relaxing on an outdoor patio watching the sun set on the red rocks. Sedona has dozens of restaurants, many of them with outdoor seating . . . so finding a spot to enjoy a sunset or two won’t be a problem.
We started the day driving north again on 89A from Sedona to Jerome, Arizona. It was a beautiful 27 mile drive. This little town was once a fast paced mining town, but now it survives off tourists. This historic copper and gold mining town was founded in 1876 and was once the fourth largest town in the Arizona Territory with a population over 15,000. Jerome is now called a ghost town, but it has many restaurants and artist studios that cater to the tourists.
Our next stop was the Montezuma Castle National Monument. This is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. Towering 70 feet above the ground, it is a 20 room, 5-story structure that is built into a recess in a white limestone cliff about 70 feet above the ground. You can reach the ruins just two miles from I-17 (take exit 289; north Camp Verde).
The last stop of the day was 12 miles north of Flagstaff to the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. This was my first time seeing lava flows. If you’ve never seen a lava flow it is worth a trip to see.
This was the day I was really looking forward to….time to see the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon National Park is an hour drive from Sedona, but it was well worth it for a chance to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world! We visited the south rim (which is where 90% of the visitors to the park go) because it was closer for us. Words and my photos are not able to adequately describe what an amazing site this was. There are plenty of spots to pull off the road and take photos. There were spots with just a few other people and spots with throngs of people (which make it hard to take photos.)
I also managed to get a really cool shot of a very large elk while we were in the park. I jumped out of the car to get closer (while keeping lots of trees between us. I really didn’t want to make him mad!!!
The Grand Canyon was a full day of driving, stopping and taking photos. I plan to do a post just on that day soon. The Park is 18 miles wide and a mile deep. I would expect you could spend weeks here and not see everything. There are 6 lodges to stay in and you can also camp in the Park. Any of those options would give you more time to explore than I had on my trip.
We started our day on the patio at the Coffee Pot, which reminded us of Blue Heaven in Key West without the chickens. Great little place to have a wonderful breakfast!
We tried to rent an off-road “Razor”, but all the rental places we could find were timeshare companies where you only get a decent rate if you agree to go on a tour of their property. That was definitely something we didn’t want to do so we just drove our rental car up into the hills to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
The view from the Chapel was awesome…..except for an enormous house that has been built into the mountain below the Chapel. I checked online and it seems a lot of people are not very happy with the location of this house (but what’s done is done, I guess). Construction of the Chapel started in 1955 and took 18 months to complete. It is definitely one of the “must-sees” in Sedona.
We ended the day with an early dinner so we could drive up Airport Road to watch the sunset and take pictures. There are lots of people at this location at sunset so go early to claim your spot.
On Day #5 of our trip we made a stop to visit the Petrified Forest National Park. It is located in north central Arizona, just off of I-40, about 18 miles west of Navajo, Arizona and about two hours east of Flagstaff, Arizona. In 1906 selected “forests” were set aside as the Petrified Forest National Monument. It became a national park in 1962. This was a site unlike any I have ever seen. The trees that were toppled by volcanic eruptions, buried in marshes and covered with mud and volcanic ash have been uncovered through erosion. After millions and millions of years being bured in layers of sediment, the extremely slow process of petrification was complete with the logs being transformed into colorful stone. To say it is bizarre is an understatement.
Located next to the Petrified Forest is the Painted Dessert, another “must-see” spot. The Painted Desert gets its name from the rainbow of color, made up mostly of shades of lavender, gray, red, orange and pink. It was a beautiful site to see and photograph.
On our last day in Arizona the Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona. This is the largest, most well-preserved meteor impact site in the world. It is located just a few minutes from Interstate 40. Meteor Crater was created from a collision between an asteroid traveling 26,000 miles per hour and Earth approximately 50,000 years ago. It is approximately 1 mile across and 550 ft. deep. As much as I enjoyed seeing this site my biggest disappointment is that we didn’t take time to get out picture taken “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” we were in the area! I think I’m going to have to go back just for that.
These 10 sites that I’ve included in my Arizona Quick Guide were all on my “must-see” list for Arizona. I am sure I’ve missed lots of things that I’ll need to see on my next trip. I would appreciate hearing about any places I should plan on for my next trip!