5 Must-See Places in Arizona - Road trip Pt. 1/3
Road trips give you a different perspective and help you grasp how large and beautiful the world is. You're excitement builds as the landscapes changes right in front of your eyes. One minute your driving in the middle of a corn field and the next thing you know the road opens up to endless mountain ranges. You’re less worried about the destination and completely focused on the journey enjoying every second of beauty, trying to keep your eyes on the road but overwhelmed by this rush of excitement. You have the ability to stop at any landmark your heart desires! Our road trip took us through the beautiful Arizona desert, up the coast of California and through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
We decided to camp as often as possible along the way so we could be free of schedules and obligations. This not only cut the cost of our travels in half, but it allowed us to experience nature first-hand. At one point on our hike in Colorado I said, “This is exactly where I would build a home someday, I would die to wake up to a view like this!” Next thing you know Stephen and I are backpacking our gear 2 miles up the side of a mountain. When I tell you we're heavy packers, I'm not kidding. It took a few trips, but we made it. We could hear the stream in the distance and we saw millions of stars! The next morning we woke up to that million dollar view, for free.
There were some days we jumped in the Jeep not sure where the day would take us, but we had a tent in the back, a full tank of gas and adventure on our minds. We had one hell of a time and are going to share our favorite places with you.
Pt. 1 ARIZONA → Pt. 2 CALIFORNIA → Pt. 3 COLORADO
I'm going to bring you with us as we relive our adventures! Starting with 5 must-see places in Arizona. You can expect to learn the best places to visit, a few travel hacks and a couple of our favorite hikes!
A traveler’s guide to seeing it all. #howweexplore
1. Lower Antelope Canyon
Located in Page Arizona, just two hours North of the Grand Canyon this is one landmark you don't want to miss!
Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone and flash flooding, which has carved beautiful textures and waves along the canyons walls. It's become a popular destination for photographers and some tourists. It's a little claustrophobic down there, but it's oh so worth it!
TIP: You must book a tour for your trip. I would suggest going through Dixie Ellis.
Don't forget to check out the Dilophosaurus print at the top! If you're anything like me, you'll love seeing this un-preserved piece of history!
NOTE: Please check the weather before you descend 75 feet into the canyon. The tour guide told me after I made my way to the bottom that the canyon overflows with water during flash floods and it kinda freaked me out!
2. Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is a quick 10 minute drive from Lower Antelope Canyon. You take an easy “hike” or walking path to the bend where the view is unreal! Pictures don't do this place justice, but you feel like you're at the top of the world. You can get as close as you dare to the edge and I know I don't look scared, but it was very intimidating!
3. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon ranks #1 on the list of Seven Natural Wonders of the World and is one of the most incredible things I've seen. The views are breathtaking from any of the trails from the top of the canyon and something about the place makes you feel so small. You see millions of years of the earths history right in front of your eyes.
TIP: There is dispersed camping only 5 minutes from the parks entrance, for free! Download the free campsites app to read reviews and see if you're up for a camping excursion.
NOTE: There is a $30 fee per vehicle upon entering Grand Canyon National Park. The pass is good for 7 days.
Entering Sedona is like entering another world. The mountains look like they came straight out of Jurassic Park and the crystal shops located on almost every corner will awaken your inner gypsy.
Bear Mountain Trail — by Jamie Kullman
The city itself is extremely cute. There are tons of touristy shops, great restaurants and extremely friendly people. Have a conversation with one of the locals and you're sure to be filled in on the energy, vortexes and magic behind the place.
Our first night in Sedona we met the most interesting people! We were invited to their drum circle, which is something we've never experienced before and we had such a great time! Meeting locals is a great way to truly experience the culture of a place and get you out of the tourist traps.
Cathedral Rock — by Jamie Kullman
But that's not all Sedona is known for. The red sandstone formations seem to glow in the rising and setting sun and the views only get better the higher up you climb.There are hundreds of hiking, biking and rock climbing areas to fully explore. Download the AllTrails app or visit AllTrails.com to research hikes before you visit. The app also allows you to track your hike so you don't venture off trail.
Where to Hike:
↑ Bear Mountain Trail, 4.6 mile (hard) hike. By far my favorite hike! The views and landscape are constantly changing and you make your way over a few mountain tops. There are a few times where you get a 360 degree view of Sedona!
→ Cathedral Rock, A quick hike, but tough if you want to get to the top. Cathedral Rock is home to one of the vortexes located in Sedona.
↓ Devils Bridge, rated #5 of things to do in Sedona. Beautiful views the entire way and an awesome photo op at the end. It was a fairly busy hike.
View from the creek near slide rock — by Jamie Kullman
Best Water Hole:
→ Slide Rock, another must for those hot summer months. Venture a little further down the stream and you have peace and quiet away from the crowds and avoid the $20 entrance fee. The waters are ice cold, but so refreshing after your morning hike!
Scottsdale has everything to offer. They have good hiking for every skill level, shopping plazas on every major corner and activities for the whole family. It does get really hot during the summer months, but if you plan your days right the heat won't get you down!
Where to Go Shopping:
Old Town is fun to walk around day and night! There are tons of little western shops, boutiques and restaurants. If you’re looking to shop and it’s too hot outside walk over to Fashion Square, which is a very large indoor mall.
Kierland Commons is also a really neat outdoor shopping mall full of high end stores and restaurants. If you're a fashionista, go here!
Where to Go Out:
Old Town is lit with the best music, dancing and trendy bars in the area, each with a special theme! Make sure to check out Old Town for brunch as well, they keep the party going all weekend long.
Maya Day and Night Club is right in Old Town and hosts a Vegas style pool party all weekend long bringing in some of the best DJs in the country!
Talking Stick Resort is also a great place to go if you're looking for a bigger pool and more space to swim. It does get rowdy though so if you're looking for something low key make sure to check the schedule before going.
Best Water Holes:
→ Papago Park, home to sandstone buttes that are open for hiking and a beautiful park to walk around. A short climb and you can venture through the famed hole in the rock. ( I won't spoil the view for you). Or take the trail by the lake which is surrounded by light pink sand and palm trees.
Fossil Creek Waterfall — by Jamie Kullman
Fossil Creek — by Jamie Kullman
TIP: Bring a hammock and snorkel masks for the ultimate experience :) — by Jamie Kullman
← Fossil Creek, A beautiful trail following a creek with crystal clear, although typically ice-cold, water.
NOTE: You need a permit for parking and they sell out fast during the summer months.
The Waterfall trail head is the best place to park. Visit Recreation.gov to purchase your pass.
Canyon Lake — by Jamie Kullman
→ Canyon Lake, A beautiful lake tucked away in the mountains. The drive to get here is gorgeous in of itself and there are a few places to hike that overlook the water. Bring some lounge chairs, lunch and a float and you'll have a great time!
← Saguaro Lake, Similar to Canyon lake, but here you can see wild horses roaming around the beach, which is so beautiful! You can also swim around the bend and jump off a cliff into the lake!
Where to Hike:
Camelback Mountain is full of great hikes, but they are pretty heavily trafficked being right outside of Phoenix. Superstition mountains are a little further but you get views for days.
← Piestewa Peak Summit Trail - This is an aggressive hike and is rated #1 in the area! It’s heavily trafficked, but the views at the top are well worth the climb!
TIP: If you go during the summer months, it’s important that you hike early, 5 a.m. is reasonable if you’re going for a few hours. + Bring LOTS of water.
→ Echo Canyon Summit Trail - Camelback is one of the most popular hiking and rock climbing destinations in the area. This trail 2.5 miles and heavily trafficked during the winter months, so I would choose the Cholla trail as a substitute during these times.
Our first hike was Echo Trail on Camelback mountain and needless to say, you take a girl from Nebraska and put her on a mountain and she's pretty out of her element. We got about 100 feet up the mountain and I was ready to take a break. We found this beautiful cave and had lunch, where I drank a good amount of my water. I thought we had seen it all and was ready to head home. Then I realized we were actually doing it. With our emergency kit and a bottle of water we headed up the mountain. It was almost 1 pm and it was over 104 degrees outside. Along the way I stepped on a cactus, ran out of water and Stephen had a crazy nose bleed, but we didn't give up.
I'll tell you the feeling you get after reaching the top is unbelievable. You feel this sense of accomplishment knowing that you've worked so hard for this incredible view. Knowing you couldn't see it any other way. Now we hike as often as possible and the views are ever changing and always beautiful. You've gotta keep pushing until you reach the end of the trail.
〉〉 If you like what you see, be sure to follow @howweexplore on Instagram and Facebook for updates and future posts!
〉〉 This is Pt. 1 / 3 for our roadtrip so stay tuned for the next leg of the journey, California!