Whenever someone mentioned the desert I pictured the old Midwest. Barren and desolate, with the occasional rolling tumble weeds and ghost towns. When I finally traveled to Arizona to start my roadtrip, my mental picture of the state proved to be false. There was so much more to the landscape and a lot more greenery than expected. It was the first time travelling I’ve truly felt small and tiny in the world with the views provided by Mother Nature. The scale of the rock structures and vast landscapes reminded me that although the internet has allowed us to think we live in a small world, there are still so many wonders out there waiting to be discovered! Every turn on every hike was just more jaw-dropping sweeping views of desert landscapes.
We had a 10 day trip planned out and it was quite the adventure waiting for us. We flew into Phoenix, Arizona and embarked on our road trip heading to Sedona bright and early the next morning for the first stop of our Arizona road-trip. From there we made our way to the Grand Canyon and Page, and ended off in Las Vegas. Read on to see my must sees at each location!
Sedona | Cathedral Rock, Devil’s Bridge, Soldier’s Pass & Brins Mesa Trail
When we travel, we love to hike and Sedona has so many trails to offer that we didn’t even know where to start! We did some of the most popular ones and the sights were truly breathtaking. Large looming rock structures all around, I have never felt so small.
- Cathedral Rock: The most popular trail in all of Sedona, the parking lot gets filled up fast but if you time it right you shouldn’t have a problem. I recommend checking out this trial either first thing in the morning or mid afternoon. Early morning hikers will be leaving around 2/3pm. Best to hit up this trail on a weekday and if you intend to make it to the top, be ready for a climb. A lot of the way up I was on all fours due to the steepness. At the very end of trail you’ll be greeted with the best view in-between the two large rocks that form Cathedral Rock. From there, if you’re curious like us, you can continue around on two small trails to the left and right of the outlook. Hang onto your hats, it’s extremely windy up at the top and I definitely lost my hat for the ‘gram (don’t worry, I did recover it!).
- Devil’s Bridge: A fairly short hike, we did this the same day we climbed Cathedral Rock. We did Devil’s bridge super early in the morning to avoid the crowds so we could get those epic shots standing on the bridge all alone. We only crossed paths with a handful of other hikers but as we made our way down to check out the base of the arch the crowds were starting to form. Everyone is super nice and will wait for you to get your shot, but a lot of patience will be needed if you do venture to this trail later on in the day.
- Soldier’s Pass & Brins Mesa Trail: This is a long loop, 7 miles, so be sure to bring a lot of water and some snacks! We completed the majority of this within 5 hours. On the hike of Soldier’s Pass you will be able to see the giant sinkhole of the Devil’s Kitchen as well as the seven fairy pools. Unfortunately when we were there, there was no water to be found as it was the dry season so the pools were non-existent. The trail itself is fairly easy and all the way you will see changes in the environment as you traverse Red Rock country. The trail was really quiet only running into a few hikers here and there. I recommend this is you have the time to do a long hike during your stay.
- Chapel on the Hill: This is a fun stop and was our first introduction to Sedona. Definitely a high traffic tourist stop but the views here are great especially early evening with the sun lighting up all of Sedona below you.
Food Recommendation: We rented an airbnb with a kitchen so it was super easy to prepare and cook our own meals. There are a lot of grocery store options in Sedona, so it helped cut down on food costs. I highly recommend getting a free Safeways membership card to take advantage of their discounts.
Grand Canyon | South Rim & South Kaibab Trail
Next on our Arizona road-trip was a stop at the South Rim Grand Canyon National Park. I’ve always wondered what was “grand” about the Grand Canyon and that was answered right as I looked over the Rim Trail out into the vast canyon. IT. IS. HUGE! Such a vast and expansive natural wonder. I could feel the tingling feelings of vertigo on the soles of my feet as I approached the edge and looked down to try to see the bottom of the canyon. Let me tell you…. it’s a long way down. We spent the first day in the park just perusing the upper Rim trail and hopped on and off shuttle buses to see the different lookouts. It was amazing to see some of the wildlife, at first I thought the elks weren’t even real with how still they held themselves, but with the blink of an eye they would remind you that they are wild and free.
- Rim Trail: I recommend taking some time to walk between outlooks on the Rim Trail. The majority of it is paved near the Visitor’s Center and main central outlooks. I loved the unpaved ruggedness out to the west towards Yaki Point and further. Its the best area to find a secluded edge to yourself to watch the sunset. (But please be careful! Don’t get too close to the edge as unexpected parts crumble all the time!)
- South Kaibab Trail: A key thing to remember is that going down is optional but coming back up isn’t! It’s highly discouraged to hike all the way down to the base of the canyon in one day and I would take that warning seriously. We hiked the South Kaibab Trail up to Skeleton’s Point which is around 3 miles down into the Grand Canyon, a recommended stopping point for the trail. The view is incredible and as you travel down into the canyon the colours get more vibrant as the haze melts away. The trail down is a breeze, but be sure to allot enough time and energy to make it back up. It can take 2-3 times the amount of time to hike back up to the canyon rim. I would recommend taking in the sights and pictures on the way down as the way back up is tiring and you may be pressed for time. Be sure to bring a lot of water!
Food Recommendation: We mostly prepared meals and cooked as it was extremely expensive and low variety in food options. I would recommend stocking up on groceries in the general stores within the South Rim park versus what is at Tuscan. Surprisingly the stores in the park carried more variety and options than the small town right outside of it.
Page | Horseshoe Bend & Lower Antelope Canyon
Two key things to see in this small Arizona town, Horseshoe Bend and the Antelope Canyons. There are a lot of slot canyons around this area but the most well known is the Upper Antelope Canyon. Its that well known Windows 7 background of smooth wind and water carved rocks making bends and shadows. Truly an unbelievable sight but with the popularity of both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon it’s almost impossible to get those perfectly empty shots with no one in them. I recommend signing up for a photography tour if you’re keen on getting those type of shots but if you just want to check out the place, a guided tour will be sufficient. I did the Lower Antelope Canyon and it was truly stunning, just as breathtaking as I imagined, time flew by while down in the slot canyon and it was my first time doing a photography tour. Tonnes of fun and I would highly recommend! Lower Antelope is half the price of the Upper Antelope Canyon but from what I hear they’re both stunning so you can’t go wrong with just doing one. The photography tour I participated in was with Dixie Ellis Tours and I would recommend going with them; my advice is to book ahead of time but walk-ins are also possible.
Horseshoe Bend is free to view and a quick ten minute walk from the car parking lot making it a high traffic tourist stop. Be careful near the edges as there is no railing, I felt a lot less safe at these sandstone like edges compared to the open ledges of the Grand Canyon. Feel free to wander around to see the Colorado bend from all angles. This location is a great place to sit back and watch the sunset, so grab a blanket and spend some time just taking in the view!
Food Recommendation: a highly rated Texan style BBQ smoke house called Big John’s Texas BBQ. Order the ribs, they are fall off the bone good!
In between the drive from Page to Vegas, there are a couple of outlooks along the way. Always fun to stop and take a stretch and you’ll be surprised and what you find. Some of my favourite photos from this trip were taken at the Little Colorado Gorge, an unplanned stop in the road when I saw some stalls selling dream catchers.
Las Vegas | Valley of Fire, The Strip & Ka
Our last part of our trip took us to the adult playground of the world. Though I’m not one for all the indulgences of Las Vegas it was a nice end to the trip with the grand show of Ka by Cirque du Soleil. It was fun to be back in warmer weather and to be relaxing poolside in preparation of returning to snowy Canada.
If you get sick of the loud noises and bright lights of Vegas and need an escape, I recommend checking out the Valley of Fire. It’s a small park about an hour outside of Vegas with bright red rock formations and black stone towers. There are a lot of outlook stops and short hikes to explore. We did the Fire Wave Trail, a short 1 hr round trip on sandy terrain. This area is also a beautiful spot to catch the sunset but be mindful of the time as the park closes 30 mins after sunset.
Food recommendation: is a little place in Old Vegas called Le Thai. I was here once a couple of years ago and in returning for a second meal, it was just as good as I remembered! I recommend any of the curries and be sure to order the mango sticky rice for dessert, its the best thing on the menu and is often sold out!
That concludes our Arizona Roadtrip! If you have any questions or want more details, feel free to leave a comment! Be sure to check out the travel video of the Arizona road trip!
- Day 1: Flight to Phoenix, Arizona
- Day 2: Phoenix to Sedona
- Day 3: Sedona
- Day 4: Sedona to Grand Canyon
- Day 5: Grand Canyon
- Day 6: Grand Canyon
- Day 7: Grand Canyon to Page
- Day 8: Page
- Day 9: Page to Las Vegas
- Day 10: Las Vegas
- Day 11: Flight home