Let me just start off with saying that this Arizona Road trip was certainly my favorite one I’ve ever taken. I love road trips and if you don’t enjoy road trips I challenge you to change how you think about them. My definition of a true road trip is not defined by getting from point A to point B, but instead thinking about the main goal by how many stops you can make along the way. That way you are excited each day to drive to your next location and if you can keep your driving to no more than 4 hours a day you’ll be surprised at how easy it feels to cover so much ground. Now to the trip itself.
I decided to take this trip when I switched jobs leaving myself a week buffer to do what ever the heck I wanted. I contemplated escaping to Puerto Rico or solo backpacking around Europe but because this all happened very last second I decided staying in the US was probably the best idea. I planned this trip in one week and while I would love to say that I could have just winged it, the time constraint and the amount of stuff I wanted to see required some some level of scheduling.
If you have never considered traveling around Arizona I HIGHLY suggest adding it to your USA bucket list. There are so many beautiful things to see in Arizona and If you have never seen a true desert I think you would be really impressed by what Arizona has going on. To begin I flew into Phoenix, AZ but you could also do a similar trip by flying into Las Vegas.
Arizona Road Trip plan:
Fly into Phoenix, spending a couple of nights in Scottsdale
Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
Zion National Park
Salt Lake City
Sedona is only 2 hours away from Phoenix so it makes for a great place to start this journey. Whether you decide to explore Phoenix or book it to Sedona the drive isn’t bad. I decided to start my trip with some relaxation in Scottsdale, right outside of Phoenix, which you can read about soon in my Scottsdale city guide.
Day 1: Sedona
We stayed at the Sedona Summit Resort which was larger than our apartment and had the most gorgeous views. We woke up early that morning and then headed out to squeeze in a hike before breakfast. Our time in Sedona was fairly short but we did manage to catch a couple of great hikes and sites including, Cathedral Rock, Devils Bridge Trail and Chapel of the Holy Cross. We stopped for a quick lunch at Creekside American Bistro and then saved some time to walk around the eclectic downtown where you can buy everything from crystals to local art.
Then we drove to the Grand Canyon through Flagstaff which was a beautiful drive. My one regret is not having enough time to stop in Flagstaff and explore the town. The drive is only 2.5 hours from Sedona to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Day 2: Gand Canyon
We arrived at the Grand Canyon around 4pm and drove straight to one of the most popular view points called Manther Point. Any of the view points in this area provide a breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon but unless you are there really early in the morning or really late in the evening the area is very very crowded. The Grand Canyon Village area has a couple of restaurants and some really nice places to stay within the park. These places book up fast and are a little on the pricey side so if you are interested in staying here you should book early.
After we snapped pictures of this side of the canyon we picked up a bottle of wine and some picnic supplies to watch the sunset. I have to thank the Outbound Collective for providing a great resource to hiking and viewpoints that were off the beaten path. We used the Outbound Collective App to find this hidden spot at Grandview Point to watch the sunset. If you are a little afraid of heights I’m not sure I would pick this spot to watch the sunset. To get to it you have to jump down onto a ledge that overlooks the Grand Canyon, sorry mom.
We planned this trip so last minute we were one of those who couldn’t book a place to stay in the Grand Canyon Village so we drove to the scenic Tuba City to spend the night. This town literally has two hotels, a questionable Asian restaurant and a Denny’s. One of my favorite parts of this trip is that we were forced to eat a Denny’s with a motorcycle gang that was stopping through. Being food snobs its good remind ourselves that for just $4.oo you can get a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a stack of pancakes (had some weird cravings this day) and have the most satisfying meal.
Day 3: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
Day three we woke up early and booked it to Page, Arizona. Page is right on the border of Arizona and Utah and holds the Arizona side of Lake Powell. This might seem like the most obscure stop, this was by far my favorite. You’ve probably seen pictures of Antelope Canyon in various stock photography or on tons of screen savers. Antelope Canyon has a upper and lower access that you can take a variety of tours through. To visit either of the canyons you HAVE to take a tour and go with a native Navajo guide. Don’t stress too much about preregistering for the tours we booked our time slot the night before with Ken’s Tours in Lower Antelope canyon. Tickets where 25$ a person and they had a tour leaving about every 30 mins. The hour or so “tour” was more like waiting in line to take a picture but it was 100% worth it. Our tour guide was incredibly entertaining and knew all of the tricks for helping us get some great pictures of the canyon.
After the tour we stuffed our face at Big Johns BBQ, and then drove over to the Horseshoe Bend overlook. This isn’t as much of a hike as it is a giant people train to the overlook but it is very exposed so bring water if you are going midday. Once we snapped our pictures of Horseshoe Bend we drove the 2 hours over to Zion National park crossing from Arizona into Utah.
Day 4: Zion National Park
We pulled in pretty late to the Cable Mountain Lodge which I wish I could have stayed in much much longer. To enter Zion National Park you have to take the free shuttle into the park which conveniently leaves every 15 mins right outside of the Cable Mountain Lodge. Since we’ve already spent some time in Zion we actually didn’t end up entering the park durning this trip but I have written a full post on our favorite hikes and places to eat so you can check here for more of those details. Instead of going to the park we got a quick breakfast at my favorite healthy spot in Springdale, Cafe Soleil, and then started our journey back to Salt Lake City. Of course I would have preferred more time to hike around Zion but there was a new job to get to in Salt Lake City and A LOT of laundry to do before hand.
To break up the drive a little bit we did stop in Kanarravile (really just rolls off the tongue) to hike a slot canyon that we heard was similar to hiking parts of The Narrows. This particular hike is a 3.5 mile out and back that takes you up a ladder and two different waterfalls. All I got to say is be prepared to get your feet/shoes wet. We went into it just wearing our hiking shoes which would have been fine except for the fact that my feet got so cold I couldn’t feel them. The hike itself though is really cool and a really great option if you want a similar experience to the Narrows but don’t want to go all the way into Zion.
As we pulled back into Salt Lake City in our little Ford Fiesta I couldn’t help but feeling very grateful to live in a country that has such beauty. Moving out west has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Living in Utah has not only opened my eyes to a totally different side of the United States but has also pushed me outside my comfort zone in so many ways and for that I am truly thankful.