From Red Rocks to Slot Canyons: Astounding Arizona

Stunning Sedona.
Stunning Sedona.

Recommended Time: 5-7+ Days

Earlier this year, I got to visit one of my favorite places on earth for the very first time. Arizona is completely and utterly amazing. The week we spent in the desert was one of the most profound of my life. I’d never seen anything like it—the red rocks that seemingly rose out of nowhere. The canyons carved out of the ground by mighty rivers. It’s an extraordinarily beautiful place.

We started our trip by flying into Phoenix International, renting a car, and immediately heading out of the city. We wanted to stop at a few national monuments en route to Sedona. The first was Montezuma Castle, which was pretty remarkable. To think that people chiseled out the side of that mountain centuries ago is pretty amazing. It’s definitely worth a stop, as is nearby Tuzigoot National Monument, offering scenic views of the surrounding desert landscape.

Road winding through the red rocks of Sedona.

But it was the drive from Tuzigoot to Sedona that had me literally gasping at the views. The colors of the earth shift, becoming deeper—richer. The red rocks start to poke out of the ground, reaching skyward. And then you’re there—in Sedona—where it’s as if God took a paintbrush and dotted the landscape with colors you’d only expect to see in some exquisitely detailed watercolor.

Make sure to spend a few days in Sedona. You don’t want to plan to stay for an evening, then drive away the next morning, watching the red rocks in your rear-view, knowing there’s so much you left unexplored. From scenic hikes to off-roading adventures, Sedona has an adventurous side that you’ll want to take some time to delve into. Check out my city guide for the best activities, restaurants, and places to stay.

Next, make your way to the Grand Canyon, a mere two hours north. Perfect for a day trip, or a week-long camping adventure, the Grand Canyon offers an experience for every type of traveler. We spent the afternoon gazing over the rim, marveling at the layers of rock formations, and the tens of thousands of years of history held within them. It’s an incredible place—something that often tops the bucket lists of amateur travelers everywhere—and as well it should! No picture could ever do it justice. You need to stand in its presence to truly appreciate its magnitude. Just go there. Trust me.

You can see for miles.

You can see for miles.

A fun side jaunt is Page, Arizona. A ridiculously small town in the upper northeast corner of the state, Page is about a 2-hour drive from the Grand Canyon, via one of the most isolated stretches of road you’ll ever come across. It’s all on Native American land. You’ll go miles and miles without seeing anything. We wondered to ourselves who in the world would ever stop at the roadside stands you’d see set up occasionally—but somehow they were always deserted. There’s one town about halfway down this road between Page and Flagstaff—and it’s still about 20 miles from that exit. I don’t remember ever feeling that isolated.

Page boasts several natural wonders that make the journey well worth the trip. We reached Horseshoe Bend at sunset. This is the place where the Colorado River makes a 270-degree turn, forming the shape of a horseshoe. It’s one of the most tragically beautiful places I’ve been. (I read a fun fact that it has the highest suicide rate in Arizona because people think it’s the perfect spot from which to pass into the next life). It’s a hike from the road, but the dramatic views make up for that. Sit and marvel at the beauty before you.

The main reason people make the trek to Page is to visit Antelope Canyon, just outside the town. It is the most photographed slot canyon in the world. Unlike the Grand Canyon carved into the earth and witnessed from above, visitors walk into Antelope Canyon, and light dances on the canyon walls. At high noon during the summer months, light beams travel to the floor, creating an environment straight out of photographers’ dreams. It’s a remarkable place, and luckily because all the natural beauty is above your head, you are hardly bothered by the hordes of tourists surrounding you—and your images are virtually people-free!

Arizona is truly an incredible place worth some exploration. We would have loved to have had time to continue on to Las Vegas, or more National Parks in Utah. If you have the time, make the multi-day drive from Phoenix to Salt Lake City, stopping at every National Park along the way. When we mapped it out, our possible route would take us to eight!

Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.

Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, Sedona.

Have you been astounded by Arizona? What other stops would you include a road trip?

Check out our other road trips: Maine, Maui, Florida, California, and the Finger Lakes.

Places

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, East Sky Harbor Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ, United States

Places

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Camp Verde, AZ, United States

Places

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument, Tuzigoot Road, Clarkdale, AZ, United States

Places

Sedona

Sedona, AZ, United States

Places

Grand Canyon, South Rim

Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon Village, AZ, United States

Places

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend Parking, Page, AZ, United States

Places

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, United States

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, East Sky Harbor Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ, United States

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Camp Verde, AZ, United States

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument, Tuzigoot Road, Clarkdale, AZ, United States

Sedona

Sedona, AZ, United States

Grand Canyon, South Rim

Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon Village, AZ, United States

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend Parking, Page, AZ, United States

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, United States

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