After my time there, Arizona quickly earned a pretty high spot on my favorite states in the USA! From blue waters, to magical sandstone vortexes, to the Grandest of Canyons... Arizona completely blew me away. This is a little itinerary that we did while on a month long road trip across the western part of the country and I’m sharing the best of it with you!
Petrified Forest National Park
Time needed: 1/2 day
This is one of the more unpopular national parks but it’s a quick and easy stop if you’re coming from Arizona’s eastern neighbor of New Mexico. It isn’t a hiker’s destination necessarily but there are some fascinating things here.
Petrified forest is mainly known for its fossils. There are trees that had fallen nearly 225 million years ago, which is pretty cool thing if you ask me. I will say, it's not the most picturesque park but it sure is rich in history.
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As photographers, we wanted to wake up early and shoot sunrise here but as it turned out, their hours were from 8:00AM-5:00PM, which pretty much means there is no opportunity for sunrise or sunset photography. This really bummed us out because we felt as though our photos were unable to do the place justice but hey... ya win some ya lose some.
Time needed: 1 hour
We all know the Beatles’ song that goes, “I was standing on the corner of Winslow, Arizona...”
Well, this is that Winslow Arizona and you can stand on the corner. Literally. There’s a park called “Standing on the Corner Park” and with a big huge Route 66 sign in the middle of a 4 way intersection. It’s a major tourist attraction and parking will be super annoying but it was a fun little stop on our way to Sedona. It’s touristy but I’m so, so glad we went. It was a 5 minute detour and I figured "Why not?".
Time needed: 3-5 days
Sedona is just magical. I personally fell in love with it and the wonderful energy in the are, which is apparently that's due to its numerous “vortexes”. Now, I’m not overly familiar with vortexes and I just found out about them while we were there... so I don’t have a certain opinion on them one way or another. However, I WILL say, the energy was definitely immaculate and I felt so happy the entire time I was there, lol.
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Fossil Falls (Bob Bear)
Time needed: 1 day
This was INCREDIBLE and one of the most hidden of gems in the state of Arizona. The best way to describe this place to you is, a cave with blue water and waterfalls. If that doesn’t make you grin from ear to ear then don’t go here lol.
This is a hike that you now need a permit for. It’s somewhat annoying that you need to go through the trouble but as always... the permit system is to protect the wellbeing and preservation of the environment.
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Time need: 1-2 Days
OKAY WHAT!? This is one of the most underrated lakes ever! I’d never seen photos of it or heard about it until I was doing some hard research into the state. It’s man made so that’s kind cheating but... nonetheless it’s epic. There’s rock climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, camping. Everything you need for an epic weekend.
Things to do:
So, I was going to try to reserve a site in advance on their website but they said you needed to reserve at least 10 days in advance. It was the day before. I read that check in and check out was at 12 noon so we decided to just go there and see if we could get one.
It ended up being first come first serve
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Of course I couldn’t make a list of Arizona must-see’s without including this world renowned park! It’s one of those places that you grow up hearing about and if you’re lucky, get to experience one day. This most recent trip was my first time there and it completely blew me away. I’d thought I’d seen other canyons in the country but none of them even come close to the grandiose of this place. We only went to the South Rim because the North Rim was still closed for winter.
A friend of ours told us about this incredible hike that he wanted to take us on. It’s called the Bright Angel Trail.
If you’ve been to the Grand Canyon, you know how far down the Colorado River looks from the rim. This hike? This hike goes to the fricken bottom and let me tell you... getting back up was no joke.
It ended up being a 18-19 mile day with 5,000 feet of elevation gain. This is absolutely for experienced hikers only, as it was one of the most strenuous things I’ve ever done.
Specs according to All Trails:
Distance: 15.3 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 4,478 feet
My watch and Kevin's Strava amounted to a few miles more so I would budget for 18 miles.
Time required: 12 hours. We left at 3:00AM-ish and finally got back to the car around 4:00PM. We hung out at the bottom for a little while and had many, many photo stops, not to mention breaks, on the way up. Let me just be very straightforward, this hike kicked my ass but it was one of the most rewarding feelings EVER! I was moving pretty slow because I had some blisters on my heels going into it. I also had a few moments of doubt where my mind got the best of me. I'm sure many people do it in a fraction of that time but just over-budget on time and distance because you don't want to get caught down there in a storm or the dark.
The Bright Angel Trail and the bottom of the Grand Canyon
*There's also an option to ride horses to the bottom but I have a strong opinion that doesn't agree with this method.*
The following day we opted for a short and sweet lookout outing, again at the South Rim. We went to Yavapai Point and explored the multiple lookouts around that section.
This was a wonderful activity for the day following our big hike. You park in the lot and hop from viewpoint to viewpoint, enjoying the different overlooks. This is absolutely a must-do for families, seniors, and even has some wheelchair accessible options. If you're short on time and just making a quick afternoon stop at the Grand Canyon, this is perfect.
Lower Antelope Canyon Via Kayak
Time needed: 1-2 Days
Now this was definitely my favorite day in Arizona! This isn't the usual Antelope Canyon that you see photos of. That one is upper Antelope Canyon. This is lower Antelope Canyon and it's much less popular but incredibly beautiful. Kayaking through the canyons as they get narrower and narrower and camping on an island was such a unique and wonderful experience. An experience I won't be forgetting anytime soon. It was especially epic because we got to kayak to our campsite--something I personally had never done before. We packed everything we needed for 24 hours on Antelope Island, including overnight gear. It was one of the highlights of my trip.
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All in all, Arizona was EPIC! There's so much to do there and our road trip was unbelievable. We haven't even scratched the surface, so I plan on updating this post whenever we decide to travel there again. Hopefully that'll be soon! As always, do the hikes that I suggest at your own risk and assure that you're in adequate physical condition so you don't get in over your head.
With that being said, I hope you have the best time enjoying and exploring Arizona!