Arizona describes itself as The Grand Canyon State. Read below the highlights we have visited in Arizona and get inspired for your own next trip.
Grand Canyon National Park
When you hear a lot about famous beautiful places in the world they often don’t make up to the level of your expectations when you finally see them. However, for the Grand Canyon we can be short: MAGNIFICIENT! It really is one of a kind and it’s just not possible to describe it in words. In our opinion it’s a must see! When we visited the Grand Canyon we were also lucky with the weather as we got a crystal clear blue sky.
We stayed overnight in Kaibab National Forest which is very close to the entrance of the National Park. You can find everything in the village Tusayan but be prepared to pay everything expensive. You might want to be prepared to that. Gas prices were double to what we paid in other locations.
Bright Angel Trail / South Kaibab Trail
You can hike down the Grand Canyon via 2 different trails at the South Rim and you can even combine them to go down via one and come up via the other. Disclaimer: Hiking down a Canyon is very very easy! However, what most people overlook is the steep return after they already hiked a distance. The official instances discourage to go down to the Colorado River and back up in 1 day. It’s feasible, but then you need to be trained and prepared. Our hike via South Kaibab Trail and Bright Angel Trail was just above 27 km and even with our level of fitness we were very very happy when we reached the end. One should not underestimate this hike!
Strava track (27km, 1408m elevation)
Make sure to be prepared with food and enough drinks and do check the weather before you start the hike. The trails are often steep and with some stairs but mostly good. When you start at South Kaibab Trail like we did, you just can’t imagine there is a river running somewhere down the Canyon. When going down make sure to spend some time at the Ooh Aah Point. It’s really insane to overlook the Canyon from that point. Official instances say to turn back at Skeleton point, but obviously we continued. When you finally reach the Colorado River you can either choose to cross it twice before heading back up via Bright Angel Trail, or stay at the side where you are. We can’t compare the both options, as we wanted to cross the Colorado River.
Grand Canyon South Rim Trail
Instead of going inside the canyon like we did you can also walk the Rim Trail which is literaly walking on the edge of the Grand Canyon over a distance of roughly 20 km. Before we decided to hike down the canyon we had this Rim Trail in mind. As we had some time in our travel schedule the day after, we decided to walk this trail anyway. Overnight the weather had changed and there were no more blue skies, but we managed to keep it dry till the end of the hike. When we reached the end at Hermits Rest it started pouring rain.
Although there are often great views during the hike, I’m not convinced to recommend this hike. You might take the bus to several view points and safe some time to do other activities. Also, when you have time constraints, you might skip the last part of the view points, as you’ll need to swap bus. The day before, when we ended at the Bright Angel Trailhead the queue was lengthy, so we decided to make a short hike to the bus stop earlier, so we could bypass the queue.
We started the Rim Trail at the visitor centre and we were somewhat confused at the big view point platform and before we knew, we were goign eastbound instead of westbound. We quickly realised this and took a bus back to the visitor centre where we restarted in westbound direction.
South Rim Trail (westbound) – 15 km
Riding Iconic Route 66
U.S Route 66 was one of the original highways in the United States numbered Highway system. It was constructed in 1926 and spanned roughly 3900 km. It originally ran from Chicago, Illinois through Missouri, Kansas, Oaklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before terminating in Santa Monica in Los Angeles (California). It became famous in television shows and movies bus was ceased in 1985.
On our way back from Las Vegas towards the Grand Canyon National Park we decided to take a little detour and ride over the iconic Route 66. As said it officially no longer exists but a touristic variant has been made so you can still experience the atmosphere of old villages. We started our journey in Kingsman and ended in Williams. It’s making distance like on any other highway, however the idea about the famous Route 66 makes it special.
Near the town Page you can find Horseshoe Bend which is a horseshoe-shaped incised meander of the Colorado River. It is located inside a private area and you need to pay $10 entrance fee per car. There is nothing else to do in this park but still it’s worth a visit. It’s a short out and back hike where you have a great view. A great place to absorb the power of nature and what time can do with a landscape.
High expectations! That describes best what I expected from Monument Valley. World famous from several Western Movies and even Forest Gump. In analogy of the other famous landmarks I figured out there was a park. Based on that information I didn’t do too much investigation. When we arrived we learned the park is named “Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park” which indicates it’s not a National Park nor a State Park. The entrance fee for the both of us with our van was 16$ (2022).
There is a scenic drive advertised which would take up to 3 hours. We started our journey and in contrast to the National Parks the road was horrible. You were advised to not go over 15 mph. We drove and while we saw some formations from a distance, it’s just didn’t bring what I had in mind. We continued our journey hoping it would be after the next turn or hill, but nothing…. Instead of 3 hours, it took us around 1 hour to reach the end. We thought we might have missed a part so I asked to the guard and when listing the points we had seen it was confirmed we did see everything and I was accused that if we did it in 1 hour I must have been speeding. Not a nice thing in my experience. We did caught a nice sun rise on the parking lot of the park to take some pictures.
So long story short, the park is not worth the visit. If you want to see the famous views from the movies, you can just see them along Highway 163 Scenic Drive for free! The best is to go to Forest Gump point.