The Grand Canyon State is grand-slam adventure. One of the best road trips in America. That’s because you can hit so many epic landscapes in a very short amount of time. How many places can you see? Well, by my estimate, you can hit at least ten different points of interests.
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If you love the outdoors and adventure; Arizona, Utah and Las Vegas were made for you. Depending on your pace and length of stay, depends on how many sites you can visit. If you can’t hit all of them, don’t worry, all the more reason to come back and visit again!
Preparing for a Journey
It’s possible to do this trip in just seven days but I’d recommend at least eight. Eight days is appropriate for most itineraries. At the end of the blog I’ll make sure to list some sample itineraries so you know what to expect. If your flying in from out of town, remember to use Skyscanner to search for cheap flights. The results of your findings could lead you to start in either Las Vegas Nevada or Phoenix Arizona.
If you didn’t guess it already by the title of the blog, I chose to fly into Phoenix and drive through the southwest part of Utah to reach Las Vegas.
Picking up a Rental Car at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport
So, if you find yourself landing in Phoenix, you will want to get a rental car right away to get on the road. Ideally, you will want to arrive early so you have the entire day to get your road trip started.
Pro Tip: Upon getting off the plane, don’t use the nearest bathroom unless you really need to go. Use the bathroom in the plane before landing instead. It might save you 30min in the rental car line.
Technically, you don’t pick up the rental car at the airport. Instead, you get shuttled ten minutes outside the airport to the car rental hub. It’s actually very organized and makes a lot of sense. I’ve been to a lot of airports and some are just a mess to find and pick up a rental car. This was easy breezy.
So, now that you have your rental car keys in hand, set you GPS before leaving the parking garage to Red Rock State Park. The drive should take approximately two and a half hours, but the drive is much faster due to the open highway and Arizona landscape. Once you head north out of Phoenix, it doesn’t take long to see plenty of cacti, rolling hills, diamondbacks and sunshine.
Red Rock State Park
Upon arriving at Red Rock State Park, make sure to take that selfie because you aren’t actually someplace unless its on social media. Just kidding! But, this is the perfect spot to stretch your legs for a little bit from the car ride. At just $7 per person, the park is cheap, relatively speaking. I’d plan on only spending about an hour or so here and two hours max. Talk to the park rangers and find the best trail route for you and take the map with. Enjoy the leisurely stroll and open air. One of the highlights is seeing Cathedral Rock. You won’t be able to get close to it, but you can see its beauty from afar.
Red Rock State Park is a 286 acre nature preserve and environmental education center with stunning scenery. Trails throughout the park wind through manzanita and juniper to reach the rich banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows are framed by native vegetation and hills of red rock. The creek meanders through the park, creating a diverse riparian habitat abounding with plants and wildlife. This riparian habitat provides the setting and the opportunity for the park to offer a focus on environmental education.
Hiker Tip: Why are the rocks red?
A: Because they contain a bit of iron … they are rusting!
Red Rock offers a variety of special programs for school groups and private groups. There are a number of daily and weekly park events. The park offers a visitors center, classroom, theater, park store, ramada and hiking trails.
When you’ve had enough, make sure to hit the bathroom and grab some extra water from the drinking fountain at the Miller Visitor’s Center.
Red Rock State Park Visitor Center
The gift shop, located inside the Visitor Center, offers a wide selection of souvenirs, including t-shirts, magnets, walking sticks, books, maps, and postcards that highlight the Sedona area. Beverages and snacks are also for sale.
There are many educational opportunities found at the Visitor Center. The hands-on exhibits are based on the theme of biotic communities. The panels bring to life the variety of habitats found within the park. You will also find information on the early human inhabitants of the area as well as roving displays showing a wide selection of the park’s wildlife. The center also features a small movie theater at the park which shows “The Natural Wonders of Sedona: Timeless Beauty.” The 45-minute film plays on request and covers Sedona’s history and wildlife and takes you on a flying tour of the red rocks providing you with some phenomenal aerial scenes.
If you don’t want to stay for the movies, I wouldn’t blame you. The day has just begun and you’ve got a lot of ground to make up.
Devil’s Bridge Trail
What is a hop and a skip away, thirty minutes down the road and you’ll find the head of the Devil’s Bridge trail. If you only have a low clearance vehicle, you can park at the Dry Creek Road trail head at the paved section, approximately 1 mile from trail head, or at the Mescal trail head located on Long Canyon Road.
Depending on where you park, you have a few routes to choose from to access Devils Bridge Trail, including the unpaved portion of Dry Creek Road, Chuckwagon Trail, or Mescal to Chuckwagon Trail. From the parking area off of the unpaved portion of Dry Creek Road, follow the trailmarker for Devil’s Bridge Trail. The early portion of the trail was originally a jeep trail so it is smooth and traverses through washes filled with juniper and prickly pear cactus.
Devils Bridge is the largest natural sandstone arch located in the Sedona area of the Coconino National Forest. The trail is a very popular hike that offers breathtaking views of Red Rock country. It is a steep, but short hike. The path gently inclines uphill and gets steeper as you continue on. About 3/4 of a mile from the parking area the trail will come to a fork and you will go left. Here you’ll end up at the base of the bridge. You will then continue up a natural rock staircase from which there are beautiful views. You will reach another level of stairs which will take you up to the bridge.
This popular trail is certainly a tourist attraction so make sure to arrive early to avoid large crowds. This is a fun hike for the whole family but make sure to stay aware and be safe. I love my Keen Hiking Boots for trails like this one. The last thing you want to do is twist an ankle out in the middle of nowhere.
Sedona Arizona Outlook
Now, you could easily spend two or three days in Sedona Arizona. There are plenty of things to do and see in this wonderful town. Make sure to see The Outlook while you are here, the views are amazing.
The Outlook is a popular place right beside the road that features a great view of the cascading mountains. While the picture above doesn’t do it justice, you have to see it in person. The sight of the red rock formations, the fresh air smell and the sun beating down is awesome!
The main area of downtown is quaint, cozy and cute. The brick pavers sidewalk and local shops, restaurants and a few tour excursions line the street. Flower beds, bustling shop owner staff, locals and tourists alike fill the area. It gets quite popular between lunch and mid-day so plan accordingly. You will not regret stopping in Sedona on your trip, it’s beautiful.
A popular spot to eat is an indoor-outdoor restaurant called Outlaw Grill. Get the grilled pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato fries, you won’t be disappointed. Overall, I would give the meal an 8 our of 10. There are plenty of places to choose from along the main road depending on your budget and time.
If you want some adventure, here is a short list of things to do in Sedona;
- Pink Jeep Tour
- Foodie Tour
- ATVing through the desert
- Horseback Riding
When you choose to leave Sedona is up to you but afterwards you should set your GPS to Flagstaff Arizona, which will be the next leg of the trip.
Native American Craft Market
When you leave Sedona, its a nice drive on your way to Flagstaff, but you wont find many places to stop. A nice stop along the way is the Native American Craft Market. Stop here for a quick minute to stretch your legs and pick up some small souvenirs. It’s always a big win in my book to pick up something unique and creative. There are a hand-crafted arrows, dream catchers, wood carvings and much more. The stop is worthwhile and the views do not disappoint either.