Most people associate Arizona with hot arid desert, cacti, and the Grand Canyon. While all of this is true, Arizona is much more that. Add dramatic sunsets, gorgeous red rocks, slot canyons, massive buttes, and mesas to the list of Arizona beauty. So without further adieu, here are the top 5 amazing places to see in Arizona.
1. GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
The Grand Canyon is inarguably one of America’s most famous and highly visited attraction. The word attraction comes to shame when you see it in person. A massive canyon carved over millions of years by the Colorado River is a testament to the power of a river.
The national park is divided into two main areas, the remote North Rim and the widely popular South Rim. Most people including myself visit the South Rim which is open year round.
HOW TO GET TO THE SOUTH RIM
The nearest airports are in Phoenix & Flagstaff in Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada. For more detailed directions visit the NPS site.
The village of Tusayan is located two miles south of the park boundary and has an airport, shops, and hotels. Inside the park, lodging (including campgrounds) is available at the Grand Canyon Village.
EXPLORE THE SOUTH RIM
One of the best ways to explore the South Rim is to park your car and take the free shuttle bus. The shuttle buses also connect to the hotels in Tusayan. Grand Canyon’s shuttle system is hassle free, systematic and provides access to all the points of interest and hiking trails.
SOUTH RIM BUCKET LIST
- Catch sunrise at Mather Point – There is simply no excuse to miss sunrise at the Grand Canyon.
- Scenic Hermit Road (shuttle only), stops at nine canyon overlooks
- Kaibab Trail Route – the shuttle goes up to Yaki Point.
- Hike the South Kaibab Trail – Starting from Yaki Point, this trail takes you closer to the canyon and offers wonderful views. The trail is steep on the way down and takes twice the amount of time to hike up. Be mindful of the direct sun at all times and carry plenty of water.
- Desert View Drive – popular for sunsets
2. MONUMENT VALLEY
Monument Valley in one word is majestic. It is quite overwhelming to witness massive sandstone buttes and mesas standing tall in the desert. It is the poster image of the American West. It is not just the sheer size but the isolated buttes in the flat desert that paint the most enduring image. No wonder it has been the perfect setting in so many movies, popular being Stagecoach, Forrest Gump, etc.
Monument Valley is inside the Navajo Tribal Park boundaries that require a $20 fee entrance fee. The park hours are as follows –
Peak Season (May 1-Sept 30) 6:00am – 8:00pm
Off Season (Oct – Apr) 8:00am – 4:30pm
WHERE TO STAY
The View Hotel is within Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park which also offers premium cabins overlooking the valley and campsites.
The Gouldings Lodge is 6 miles from the Navajo Tribal Park and has a lodge, campground, gas station, grocery store, and restaurant.
SCENIC DRIVE AT MONUMENT VALLEY
Although Monument Valley can be seen from miles away, take the 17-mile scenic drive called the Valley Drive. There are 11 viewpoints on this dirt road, John Ford Point, and Artist Point being the most scenic and popular. John Ford’s Point is named after director John Ford who set his classic western films in Monument Valley. Here visitors can recreate the iconic image of a lone rider on a horse standing at the edge of the viewpoint for a small fee.
3. HORSESHOE BEND
The Grand Canyon is surrounded by many smaller canyons and the Horseshoe Bend is quickly becoming a must-see sight. Located in Page, AZ, and part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, this is an awe-inspiring place to be. A short walk takes you to the overlook which is more like a cliff edge. Be mindful of the rocky ground and strong winds. Bonus – explore Lake Powell.
4. ANTELOPE CANYON
Located on Navajo tribal land in Page, AZ; Antelope Canyon is probably the most photographed canyon in the world. Antelope Canyon has two sections – Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. To visit either of the canyons you pay a flat fee of $8 and must have a Navajo tour guide. Both Upper and Lower have ‘walking tour’ and ‘photography tour’ to choose from. The photography tour is longer in duration and pricier and mandates a tripod. Take the walking tour unless you are a professional photographer.
UPPER ANTELOPE CANYON V LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON
The Upper Antelope Canyon is more popular as it is accessible to walk and has more chances to see the light beams. But it is also very crowded and expensive in comparison to the Lower.
Lower Antelope Canyon is narrow in some places and has ladders that take you down but nothing too difficult. In either case, make sure to call ahead to know if there is availability as tours can fill up during peak season.
These slot canyons have been carved out by rainwater over centuries and have incredible curves and formations. Your tour guide will point out the best spots to photograph, the camera setting and even take your photos. Noon is the best time to visit if you want to see the light beams. (Note: The images in this post are of Lower Antelope Canyon.)
Although I have not been to Sedona yet, from what I have heard; it is an Arizona gem. If you have ever seen photos of Sedona, chances are it comprised of beautiful red rocks formations. These are some of the many places to explore in and around Sedona – Cathedral Rock, Red Rock Crossing, Slide Rock State Park & Red Rock State Park, Devil’s Bridge Trail, Chapel of the Holy Cross, etc.
Via Vijay Singh