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Trip Report Red Rocks, Roads and Canyons - Panecott's Trip to AZ

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I just returned yesterday from my wonderful road trip to Arizona, with an overnight visit to Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods area in Utah.

The trip was wonderful, and more than I had expected or hoped for - total relaxation, physical and mental, incredible scenery, enjoyable driving on scenic, traffic-free roads, several wonderful hikes, good meals, and of course, innumerable photo-ops all along the way. In fact, I'd say Arizona is one huge photo-op.

I'll try to get a little trip report together in the coming days but I just wanted to thank everyone for all the help, information and great advice you gave in planning my trip. I incorporated many of your suggestions and they really added up to a great itinerary. From my original plan of Sedona- 4 nights, Grand Canyon-3, and Scottsdale-4, I wound up going north from the GC to Page, northeast to Monument Valley and southern Utah, south to Canyon de Chelly, west to Winslow - where I stood on the corner taking it easy :-) - and wound up in Scottsdale for a relaxing final day at the hotel pool.

I had beautiful, mild and comfortable weather, except for the full blown snowstorm last Wednesday at the Grand Canyon! That was unexpected! Unfortunately, my heli ride over the GC was canceled, and the hiking trails were closed, so that was a disappointment, but not a huge one, and the only one of the trip. And I did get to see the Canyon the previous afternoon when I arrived, so I had spring and winter all in the course of two days, which was a bonus.

So, thanks again for all your help. More to come.

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    Okay. I'll try to keep this as brief as possible b/c, altho' the trip was wonderful, it was pretty uneventful and unexciting. But I'll try to offer whatever useful information I gleaned from my travels for future AZ visitors.

    The flight out on US Airways was no frills, but surprisingly comfortable. An A320 Airbus, there was plenty of leg and arm room, but no entertainment, audio or video, and no free food or snacks, except for one round of free drinks and a second round of water and coffee. At $369 RT, it cost just $7 less than it cost me to fly RT to Rome a year ago, plus there was a $25 charge for a checked bag. So, altho not the best deal in town, it got me where I was going.

    I got a great, last minute Hotwire deal on an SUV and rented a KIA Sportage at the Phoenix Airport for less than the cost of the economy car I had reserved. So it always pays to check on those last minute deals!
    I loved the vehicle, the small size was perfect for me and it was a pleasure to drive.

    My first stop was Sedona and, after leaving the Phoenix city limits, the drive was scenic and very relaxing, the first of a series of pleasurable drives all throughout the state.

    I arrived at my B&B, the Alma de Sedona, in late afternoon and was welcomed by the managers, Lori and Jim, who gave me a packet of all the information I could possibly need, along with a welcoming chat and my choice of cold beverage. We sat in the lovely lobby/breakfast room, which was beautifully furnished and looked out on the swimming pool, and of course, views of the red rocks.

    My room, "Far Pavilions", was beautiful! Large and tastefully decorated with warm Tuscan touches, it had a gas fireplace, comfortable seating area, large bathroom with a jacuzzi for two, and a private balcony facing Thunder Mountain and with panoramic views in every direction. From the front windows I could see Cathedral Rock in the distance. It was perfect!

    The B&B is located at the entrance to West Sedona, just off Route 89 and is convenient to everything. It is built in the typical, SW stucco style and consists of a series of small structures each with 3 or 4 guest rooms, probably 12 in all. Quiet and peaceful, it is walking distance to the Thunder Mt. hiking trails located just behind it.

    Breakfasts were wonderful and consisted of homemade muffins, burritos, pancakes and more muffins and burritos, and fresh fruit. I spent 3 days there and loved every minute. I would highly recommend the Alma de Sedona to anyone visiting Sedona.

    After settling in, I had dinner at Keyser's West, a casual local place right on 89 within walking distance of the B&B. It was friendly, reasonably priced and the food was delicious. Not wanting to undo 6 months of Weight Watchers and -31 lbs., I tried to stick to basics - except for those breakfasts! - and ordered local grilled trout, which was excellent. Afterwards I drove up to the airport to watch the sunset, along with a few hundred other people.

    It was pretty, but unremarkable, and altho' the airport is a vortex area, I felt nothing spiritual. The same can be said for all the other vortex areas I visited. I was awed by the beauty of my surroundings, but then I usually am when I visit someplace special, and of course felt relaxed and happy, but I can't say I had any kind of spiritual experience. That's not to say I was disappointed in any way, b/c I was not and Sedona is an area of great natural beauty, but it just was not different from any other reaction I've had to new places.

    The next morning I woke early for my 9 a.m. Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour. Our driver, Bob, was great. He was funny and knowledgeable, and I had complete confidence in his driving over the amazing boulders and rocks on the trail. As other Fodorites have said, it was great fun and a not to be missed experience.
    I met a nice couple at my B&B who happened to be on the tour right after mine and also got Bob as their driver, and they, too, enjoyed him and the tour immensely.
    After the PJ tour I took an easy hike on Chimney Rock trail by Thunder Mt. Weather was mild and breezy, and perfect for hiking.
    More to come...

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    Thanks, Pannecot,
    Friends and I leave for Phoenix this coming Saturday and we are staying in the North Mtn area. Our plan is to go to GC and we are booked at the Bright Angel Lodge for a night. Also planning a PJ tour of Broken Arrow route in Sedona. Hope all of us "mature ladies" can handle it! Fun times ahead.

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    ssloantwo, not to worry! I'm no spring chicken myself and did just fine in the jeep. In fact, Bob told us he'd recently had a 93-year-old woman as a passenger who handled it like a trouper. It's such great fun, I'd do it again in a flash. Have a great trip.

    Here's more of mine.

    Later that afternoon I drove over to the Crescent Moon Ranch and took a long, pleasant walk along Oak Creek which has beautiful, close up views of Cathedral Rock. It was a warm day and several people were wading in the creek. It looked so refreshing and I was sorry I didn't have my bathing suit with me, but I did go in up to my knees.

    At one point along the path there is a garden of hundreds of rock sculptures - little piles of rocks of varying shapes and sizes. The garden seemed to be endless and I decided to add a sculpture of my own. Then I got carried away and made a second one - the Sedona version of "panecott was here".

    The road leading to the Crescent Moon Ranch has wonderful views of the rocks and several viewing points along the way. A "Red Rock Permit" is required to park at many of the locations and can be purchased at Ranger Stations and other locations. I got mine at a GIANT convenience store on Route 89 near my B&B. The Crescent Moon Ranch itself charges a separate $10 a day parking fee.

    That evening I enjoyed a lovely dinner at The Heartline Cafe, a friendly restaurant along Route 89 in the direction of uptown Sedona. I had pecan encrusted trout and a delicious salad and sauteed vegetables, and sampled a local AZ wine from Page Vineyards - a very nice meal, with fine service.

    I had intended to return to the CM Ranch to see the sunset (and get my money's worth from the $10 daily parking fee) but my dinner was leisurely and it was too late by the time I finished. But I was seated outside in the garden and managed to see the sienna sunset on the surrounding rocks.

    The next day I took a 6 mile hike at Boynton Canyon, which was very invigorating, and eased some of my guilt for eating a cheese and chorizo burrito plus a cranberry crumb muffin for breakfast.
    I picked up a tree limb along the way which I used for a hiking stick and was very glad I had it in certain places. The hike was mostly easy but challenging in a few spots. Along the way I ran into two girls I had chatted with the previous day at one of the scenic viewing spots. Earlier, while parking, I moved my car so two men could squeeze in the small spot in the full lot. I also ran into them along the way and they asked me how I was doing and if I had enough water with me, which was very nice. What goes around comes around.

    Most people just wore walking shoes or sneakers but I was very glad I wore my hiking boots and would recommend boots for most of these hikes. The weather was again mild and breezy and perfect for hiking. Afterwards, I drove around exploring the area and found a vantage point called the "Vista", which offered wonderful views of the area. I was alone there for about 15 minutes enjoying the quiet and the breeze before another car pulled up. There were several other hiking trails in the area and I was sorry I didn't have more time to spend in Sedona.

    That night I had dinner at "The Barking Frog", also on Route 89, which was just so-so. I encountered an "attitude" from the young snot-nose at the desk who offered me a seat at the bar. When I declined she claimed all the tables were reserved and I would have to wait. I was about to leave and tell her a thing or two when the hostess came over and offered to seat me. I asked for a table outside and got one.
    The rest of the service was fine and the food was okay but not great. At the end of the meal they give you an evaluation form so I got my opportunity to tell them what I thought of the "welcome". So that was payback time and so is this and I would not recommend this place :-)

    The following day I reluctantly left Sedona for the Grand Canyon. The ride up Route 89A was just lovely, and like all of my rides outside of Phoenix, was blissfully traffic free. I stopped briefly in Flagstaff along Route 66 and then continued on scenic Route 180 through the Canonino Forest to the GC. It too was a beautiful drive with open spaces and views of snow covered mountains. The sky was blue and spotted with billowy white clouds and I stopped numerous times for photo ops. It was a perfect day and I could feel a chill in the air.

    I arrived at the Grand Hotel in Tusayan, just 2 miles outside of the GC, in late afternoon, got settled in and headed for the canyon. I hopped on one of the shuttle buses to get oriented and planned to just ride it start to finish. The driver recommended that I get off at Yavupai Point, for which I was grateful, b/c I watched the sunset there and it was my only real view of the canyon since it snowed heavily for most of the next day....

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    The Grand Hotel was okay, nothing special, but it was very conveniently located and the next best thing to the park lodges, all of which were fully booked.

    My one full day at the GC was the worst, weatherwise. What started out as rain in the morning turned into a full blown snowstorm that lasted most of the day. My helicopter ride was canceled, but I was more disappointed that the hiking trails were closed, as I'd been looking forward to hiking at least part of the way into the canyon.

    I rode the shuttle buses for want of something better to do, and on the red bus line - "the scenic route" - there were a few friendly folks and we all jumped out at every stop to take pictures of the white nothingness that was the Grand Canyon, laughing all the while at our own silliness.

    Amazingly, the skies cleared in early evening, just in time for the sunset. I again hopped on the red line and the driver rushed through the route in order to get us to Hopi Point in time to see the sunset. He dropped us off and said he'd wait for a few minutes, otherwise we could wait for the next bus in 15 minutes. As the temp. had dropped to 19 degrees, I took a few pictures and hopped back on the bus.
    I ate at a local place, the Tusayan Diner, that had a limited menu, but good hot soup and delicious burgers.

    The next morning I got an early start for Page where I'd booked a smoothwater float trip on the Colorado for later than morning. The weather started clearing and I got a look at the canyon from the Desert View drive on the East Rim, which is on the way to Page.
    The float trip started at the Glen Canyon Dam, and ended at Lee's Ferry, which is the beginning of the white water and the start of the GC. The 4 hour ride was interesting and scenic, altho' it was very windy and cold in parts. Afterwards a bus picked us up for the one hour ride back to Page. I had an early supper at the "Dam Bar and Grill" and then did the hike to Horseshoe Bend, which was beautiful in the early evening light.
    I spent my one night in Page at the Days Inn, which was surprisingly very nice. I had a stylishly furnished and comfortable mini suite with nice views. An adequate buffet breakfast is included in the room rate, and the service was friendly and efficient.
    The next morning I took a drive around man made Lake Powell before heading over to Monument Valley in southern Utah. I decided to skip Antelope Canyon b/c I got a late start and the weather was cloudy and I just decided to go straight to Monument Valley. It turned out to be a good decision since MV is in a different time zone and one hour later, and the ride took longer than expected. Most of my drives did, as I was constantly stopping for photo ops and drove at a leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery.

    One great thing about the AZ roads is that there is plenty of opportunity for passing, so there was no pressure to drive fast on the rare occasions when there was someone behind me.

    At MV I spent one night in "The View Hotel", which overlooks the rocks and has beautiful sunset views. I took the scenic 17 mile drive 2 hours before sunset and finished just as the sun was going down. I'd advise taking this drive in late afternoon, when the lighting is best and there are no shadows.

    The next morning I took a hike on what I thought was the "Wildcat Trail" - one of only 2 trails where unguided hiking is permitted. The start of the trail was obscured behing a large RV and I unwittingly started the hike from the wrong end. It was poorly marked and I got lost and am sure I took a wrong turn somewhere and went at least 2 miles out of my way. For 2 hours, I never saw another person in either direction and saw piles of scat on the trail, and only hoped it came from some benign creature like a sheep. Fortunately, I didn't come face to face with any four legged, or slithering creatures.
    I eventually saw some people in the distance and made my way in their direction. I finally found myself at the beginning of the trail, which was clearly marked with rocks. So wherever I had been, it was not the Wildcat Trail.

    Afterwards I started out for Chinle and the Canyon de Chelly, first heading north through the Valley of the Gods in Utah. It was another beautiful, scenic area through uncrowded and traffic free roads.

    I arrived in Chinle in late afternoon and checked in at the Best Western on Main St. I had originally planned to wind up in Winslow that evening but staying in Chinle was a good move b/c it was a long drive.
    Canyon de Chelly, a mini Grand Canyon, was a lovely and interesting spot. The next morning I took the South Rim Drive and also hiked down into the canyon to see the White House Ruins. Fortunately, it was not possible to get lost and I managed to stay on the trail. It was a great hike and I'd recommend it to anyone who doesn't have "height" issues.

    From there I went to Winslow and stopped at the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert on the way. One of the rangers told me that about a million lbs. of petrified wood is stolen from the park every year by tourists. I believe it b/c there's very little left, except large boulders.

    I left the Petrified Forest at 6 pm, closing time and headed to Winslow, driving west the whole time, first on 180, then on I 40. The setting sun was blinding and it was a harrowing ride for an hour and a half. I got behind an 18 wheeler and basically let his tail lights guide me -- almost like driving by touch.

    Winslow is on the old Route 66 and was made famous by the song, and there's not much to do there but standing on the corner taking it easy. :-) I stayed at La Posada, a lovely, historic old hotel right along the Santa Fe RR tracks.

    The hotel was popular with movie stars and celebrities in the 40's and the halls are covered with photos of all the rich and famous who stayed there. At $109 per night, my comfortable, king room overlooking the lovely garden was a real bargain.
    One of the few activities in Winslow is to sit and watch the freight trains go by and there's a little seating area behing the hotel for this purpose.
    I was out there one afternoon and a man started talking to me and he had a notebook with a list of all the trains that passed, what time, direction, and how many cars! Like I said, there's not much to do in Winslow.
    I spent 2 nights there and my last day was spent relaxing in the garden and driving along what's left of Route 66, taking photos of Americana.

    My last stop was Scottsdale, for only a night and I spent the day relaxing at the hotel pool. I stayed at the Scottsdale Cottonwoods Resort, which was very pleasant and comfortable. I had a spacious "casita" with a private patio in the back.

    I had a lovely al fresco dinner at the Veneto Trattoria on North Scottsdale Rd., right across the road from the hotel before flying out of Phoenix the next day.

    All in all it was a lovely trip, very relaxing and pleasant, which is just what I wanted and needed. All of the roads were incredibly scenic and traffic free and it was a pleasure to drive. I rented a KIA Sportage, a smallish SUV and really enjoyed driving it. Except for the snow at the GC, the weather was mild and perfect. Not too hot or too cold.

    A pleasant surprise of the trip was Navaho Fry Bread, which was really delicious. It's like a combination of Zeppole and Indian Na'an , and is served with honey or powdered sugar. I'd never heard of it before a Fodorite mentioned it on one of my pre-trip threads, but it was my favorite discovery of the trip.

    The trip turned out to be more than I expected, especially the endless variety of scenery, and the total relaxation.

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    I just read your trip report from last year. We're thinking of possibly doing the raft trip (beginning of November)/Antelope Canyon after spending 2 nights at GC vs just returning to spend more time in Sedona, see Jerome & perhaps Verde Canyon RR trip. What do you think?

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    mouse, sorry, I just saw your post when I was checking on something for another poster.

    I'd highly recommend the float trip to Horseshoe Bend, and the hike above it - where you can look down at the bend and the route you take on the float. I don't know what the weather will be like in November but be sure to dress appropriately b/c it can get very cold down there on the river.

    As I said, I missed Antelope Canyon b/c of weather and time issues, but it was highly recommended by Fodorites when I was planning my trip. And if you can do it, I think you should.

    I can't comment on Jerome or the Verde Canyon RR trip b/c I didn't do either one.

    How much time will you spend in Sedona before the GC? I spent 3 nights there and I wished I'd had more time - loved the hiking.

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