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Advice Needed for Itinerary in Northern Arizona

Advice Needed for Itinerary in Northern Arizona

Nov 10th, 2009, 08:03 PM
  #1  
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Advice Needed for Itinerary in Northern Arizona

My wife will be at a conference at the View Hotel in Monument Valley in May 2010. We are planning a trip to Arizona built around the days that she will be there. We have spent a lot of time in the wonderful parks in southern Utah and southwestern Colorado, as well as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but we have not spent much time elsewhere in northern and central Arizona. We like hikes, but not overly strenuous or adventurous ones.

We are thinking of an itinerary something like the following. I would appreciate any suggested changes in destinations and time allotment, as well as any specific recommendations for hotels, tour companies, etc.

Thursday May 6: Arrive Phoenix on an early flight. Drive to Petrified Forest and stay nearby (Chambers?). Or can we get to Chinle tonight?

Friday May 7: Drive to Canyon de Chelly, take jeep tour in Valley, drive on one of the rims, stay in Chinle or Thunderbird Lodge.

Saturday May 8: Drive on other rim of Canyon de Chelly, then to Kayenta and Navajo National Monument, short hike to viewpoint of Betatakin, drive to View Hotel in Monument Valley.

Sunday May 9: Drive around Monument Valley, probably take a horse ride, stay at View Hotel. My wife’s conference starts tonight.

Monday May 10: View Hotel for my wife’s conference. Might have time to drive to Valley of the Gods.

Tuesday May 11: My wife’s conference ends about 11 AM. Drive to Page and go to Antelope Canyon this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

Wednesday May 12: Visit Antelope Canyon if did not visit Tuesday afternoon. Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim and stay there.

Thursday May 13: Grand Canyon South Rim. (We are not planning to go into the canyon.)

Friday May 14: Drive to Sedona, perhaps with stop(s) in Flagstaff area (museum, Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon?), stay in Sedona.

Saturday May 15: Sedona area (including balloon ride?), drive late to Phoenix near airport.

Sunday May 16: Early flight from Phoenix.

Comments/suggestions?

Thanks very much,

Len
RCLCOLPB is offline  
Nov 10th, 2009, 10:22 PM
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sound wonderful.
ees12 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 06:11 AM
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Excellent plan, should be a good trip. Couple of comments:

"Arrive Phoenix on an early flight. Drive to Petrified Forest and stay nearby (Chambers?). Or can we get to Chinle tonight?"

The drive to Chinle from PHX airport is a bit over 5 hours according to Mapquest, plus any time spent at Petrified Forest. There's actually not a lot to do at PF and I've never heard of Chambers, so I'd definitely drive on up to Chinle for the night, assuming your flight arrives by noon or so.

"Drive on other rim of Canyon de Chelly"

You can drive both rims in one morning (the drives are short), and the only hiking (without a guide) is down to White House ruins. Most people enjoy a day or two at de Chelly but three nights may be one night too many. A full day jeep tour to both canyon arms and drives on both rims is enough for most.

"Monday May 10: View Hotel for my wife’s conference. Might have time to drive to Valley of the Gods."

It's about a 40 minute drive to the turn-off to VotG, then less than an hour to drive the dirt road looping thru the Valley. I'd also suggest a stop at the Goosenecks State Park overlook, and also a drive up and down the Moki Dugway for great views of the area. The Dugway is a short dirt road leading to the plateau overlooking the valley, I think it's only 3 miles long.

For Antelope Canyon near Page, the upper canyon is best viewed mid-day, say 10 AM - 2 PM. The canyon walls are high, narrow and dark and the sun doesn't penetrate until mid-day.

Sedona is great, maybe take a jeep tour if the ballon isn't flying. The Sedona jeep tours are usually rated as the # 1 tourist attraction in Arizona.

Should be fun, perfect time of the year for weather.
Bill_H is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 06:18 AM
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Sounds like a great trip. You might add a half day smooth water raft trip on the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry while you are in Page. We did this and went to Antelope Canyon in the same day.

Walnut Canyon is very interesting, so worth a stop.

Both rims of Canyon de Chelley can be driven in the same day easily. Do take a private tour in the canyon if you can.

Have a fantastic time.
emalloy is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 06:31 AM
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I love Wupatki/Sunset Crater Nat. Mon. In Wupatki, be sure to visit at least one other site in addition to the main site (WUpaki). Be sure to go all the way down to the blow hole (I think that tip has earned me a free Fodor Guide for each of the past 3 years!)

At Sunset, there is a short hike at the base of the crater. between the crater and the entrance is the Lenox Trail. It is steep, but short and leads to a great view of the lava field.

When traveling the Oak Creek Canyon, I always recommend going from Flagstaff to Sedona rather than the other way. Better views and easier driving (being on the inside of the canyon rather than the outside which makes for more nervous driving, altho it's not really that bad)
bigtyke is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 01:38 PM
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>>There's actually not a lot to do at PF and I've never heard of Chambers, so I'd definitely drive on up to Chinle for the night, assuming your flight arrives by noon or so.<<

I had to think about Chambers for a second. It's basically a motel and a gas station at the I-40 exit to Chinle.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 02:57 PM
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We did part of your planned trip last Oct. We stayed in the town of Holbrook after we left Phx. There was a really scenic drive from Phx through the mountains to get there but i really recommend that route over the highway. There were lots of nice lakes and forests it was worth the drive. Holbrook is what is left of the old Route 66 and if you are really in to kitchy motels you can do as we did and stay in the wigwam motel. if not there are other more modern motels but this is a great gateway to the Petrified Forest. Then you can have the next day at Petrifed Forest and be to Chinle in the evening with time to drive the rim road.
Go for a private tour in the canyon, we did a full day with Adam Teller, although there are plenty of guides you can hire when you get there. We also did a horseback ride in Monument Valley and it was the surprise highlight of our trip. We went on a private ride and it was really great all on the valley floor and not on the road like we saw some others riding later.

joyce
joeyi is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 03:49 PM
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Thanks so much for all of your great advice. A few clarifications and follow-up questions:

It looks like we can fly into Phoenix late on Wednesday evening May 5, and we will stay near the airport.

That will allow us to get an early start from Phoenix on the morning of May 6, and it sounds like that will give us ample time to see Petrified Forest (geting there by the interstate route) and end up at Chinle that evening. Would we have time to go through the mountains as joeyi suggests, or should we save that for another trip?

On May 7 we would aim to drive on one of the rims of Canyon de Chelly and take a jeep tour (1/2 day) in the canyon. So 2 nights in Chinle, but only one full day and the next morning actually at the canyon.

On May 8, we would drive on the other rim of Canyon de Chelly, and then to Navajo National Monument and end up at Monument Valley.

It sounds like these timings should work?

If we go to the lower canyon at Antelope Canyon, which I gather is less crowded, what times are acceptable? Or is the upper canyon better?

How long do Sedona jeep tours run? Any particular recommendations?

Is the smooth water raft trip in the Page area adventurous/scary, or as smooth as it sounds?

Sounds like there's a lot more to do in the Flagstaff/Sedona area than we will have time for in 2 days (but it's relatively easy to reach from Phoenix, so we are already planning to come back for a longer stay...). Assuming we leave the Grand Canyon early on May 14 and don't have to be in Phoenix until late on May 15, how would you suggest allocating time in Flagstaff/Sedona area?
RCLCOLPB is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 05:19 PM
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On your first night, see if you can get accommodations on the north side of the city so you don't have to fight rush hour traffic when you are trying to get away.

The 1/2 day smooth water raft trip is very gentle and they stop along the way at a spot where there are some neat petroglyphs carved into the rock.

We only did upper Antelope canyon so I can't vouch for lower. I have a few pictures taken at about 3 pm and also some from the raft trip at www.flickr.com/photos/emalloy2009/sets in the 2008 set if you want to get an idea of the conditions at that time of day. We went on the raft trip in the morning then stopped for lunch then went to antelope canyon in the afternoon and drove to Kayenta that evening. Kayenta is very close to Monument Valley.

As for Sedona, the ride down Oak Creek canyon to Sedona is very pretty and there is lots to do in the area. I found the town itself a little too full of tee shirt shops, but the scenery is nice.

Walnut Canyon is about 10 miles east of Flagstaff and has very interesting cliff dwellings that you can walk right through. It is much smaller than Mesa Verde.
emalloy is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 06:11 PM
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Would we have time to go through the mountains as joeyi suggests

If you go to Mapquest and plug in Phoenix to Chinle then the route joeyi proposes is the first one that comes up, meaning it would take less time than taking the freeways. Definitely more scenic.

If we go to the lower canyon at Antelope Canyon, which I gather is less crowded, what times are acceptable? Or is the upper canyon better?

Light is good (in different parts) of lower AC pretty much all day, or at least as long as the Navajo are there to let you in. Walls are lighter color, wider and it's not as deep, so more light reflects in than in upper AC. Upper is more popular because it is a flat walk on sand thru the entire canyon, while lower involves a lot of scrambling on ladders and narrow spots. I like lower much better because of the smaller crowds and variety but both are excellent and highly scenic.

How long do Sedona jeep tours run? Any particular recommendations?

The Pink Jeep tours are the most famous and this company typically tops the 'most popular attraction' lists. You can check their web site to see how long they run. There are several options, maybe search on Fodors for past remarks, where people described their favorites.

Is the smooth water raft trip in the Page area adventurous/scary, or as smooth as it sounds?

This is from the base of the dam to Lee's Ferry, no rapids at all and you are riding in a large motorized raft, so smooth and definitely not scary. Scenery is the main attraction.

Assuming we leave the Grand Canyon early on May 14 and don't have to be in Phoenix until late on May 15, how would you suggest allocating time in Flagstaff/Sedona area?

I would personally drive thru Flagstaff and spend most of the time in Sedona. Flag is fine but for a short trip most (but not all) tourists would rank Sedona above Flagstaff.
Bill_H is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 03:54 AM
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When you visit the Petrified Forrest, I would really recommend seeing the Painted Desert and Painted desert Inn section north of I-40. I am not sure what people mean by "there is not much to see." The Park Service web site says the average visit is 2 to 3 hours and I think that you would want at least that much time.

We prefer Flagstaff to Sedona. I guess we are in the minority based on the last post. The museum of Northern Arizona has an outstanding collection
Vttraveler is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 08:50 AM
  #12  
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Thanks again!

Very interesting regarding mapping software differences between PHX and Chinle. As Bill_H says, Mapquest shows it takes less time via US 191 (5:11) than via interstates (5:34). Googlemaps has a totally different result: 6:22 via interstates vs. 7:17 via US 191. Any sense of which site is more accurate on this route and in Arizona more generally? But either way it sounds like the scenic route makes sense and that we could fit in Petrified Forest for a few hours as well, assuming we fly in the night before.

Assuming we take the scenic route, it looks like we will be going east on the Red Mountain Freeway (202) rather than heading north. Do you think there would be a big advantage to get away from the airport after we land if we are heading that way?

Re Antelope Canyon, how difficult are the ladders and narrow spots in the lower canyon? We are fine with fairly strenuous hikes, but my wife gets nervous about going up (and particularly down)places where she feels like she might slip or fall.

Len
RCLCOLPB is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 11:26 AM
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If you are in the area, definately spend 2-4 hours in Petrified Forest. While Vttraveler says "I am not sure what people mean by there is not much to see.", most National Parks require several days for me to explore. This just happens to be one of my least favorite ones.
Don't get me wrong, it is certainly worth doing, but I wouldn't go totally out of your way to do it. I was amazed on the National Parks special on TV a few weeks back that John Muir spent hours just sitting and gazing at the tree rings in the trees. If he liked it that much, surely must be worth a stop.
spirobulldog is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 12:51 PM
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I was responding to another post saying "There's actually not a lot to do at PF" and trying to give some sense of the amount of time to plan
Vttraveler is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 01:20 PM
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Any sense of which site is more accurate on this route and in Arizona more generally?"

The mapquest numbers usually agree closely with the times I get driving to Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, within a couple of minutes.

I usually take the freeways to Chinle (live in Phoenix not far from the airport) and it always took between 5:30 and 5:45 to drive it, which agrees with what you were quoted from Mapquest. I can't remember the times for the mountainous route. For a first-timer I'd probably recommend sticking to the freeways. The Googlemaps times you quoted are much slower than what I typically see. Dunno why.

Re Antelope Canyon, how difficult are the ladders and narrow spots in the lower canyon?

There's an 8 ft drop with a ladder, then a 15 ft or so drop with a ladder, then a couple of small drops with steps or narrow sections you have to squeeze thru. The entire canyon is less than 100 yards long, with about 3/4's of it level walking in beautiful chambers, so it's not like it's a lengthy hike.

Years ago the ladders were just regular extension ladders with no hand railings (I used to 'rent' one ladder from the local in charge of access and go in by myself, moving the ladder between the two drops), but after the fatal flooding a few years ago they put in permanent ladders with railings, including an 'exit' ladder at the end (so people could get out quickly in case of another flood). So if these are still in place then it's pretty safe to move around. Just go down before your wife so you can catch her if she slips, I guess.
Bill_H is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 01:41 PM
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Make sure you book your Navajo tour guide in advance to get the time of day you prefer and also, to get a smaller size tour group with one of the better guides. We were among very few Americans when we visited Canyon de Chile; the majority were from Europe. It's a very special place.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 05:21 PM
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I would consider taking the route thru Payson and Heber to the Petrified forest. It's a good road and you can go 65 (legally) - 75 mph most of the way. It's a shorter route and has some interesting scenery along the way - especially the Mogollon Rim
bigtyke is offline  
Nov 24th, 2009, 06:20 PM
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Thanks again for all of your fabulous help!

This is what our itinerary is looking like as of now. I am still struggling with how to divide up our limited time between Grand Canyon South Rim and Phoenix (leaving Grand Canyon early Friday morning and getting to Phoenix late Saturday evening so we can get our early Sunday flight). Any further thoughts on stops in Wupatki, Sunset Crater, and/or Walnut Canyon, vs. getting to Oak Creek Canyon and the Sedona area somewhat earlier on Friday? One consideration is that I suppose we are more likely to get back to the Sedona area sometime in the future than we are to go farther north.

My next step is to go through all of the postings that suggest different guides in Canyon de Chelly (though Adam Teller sounds great, as Joeyi suggested), Monument Valley, and Antelope Canyon, but I would certainly welcome any suggestions in response to this post--as well as comments on any of the hotels.

Len

Wednesday May 5: Try to fly into Phoenix on latest flight (Southwest?). Stay at Hampton Inn Tempe, $98.
Thursday May 6: Drive to Petrified Forest via Payson and Heber, end up at Canyon de Chelly. Thunderbird Lodge in the park, $120.

Friday May 7: Canyon de Chelly, take jeep tour in Valley (Adam Teller all day?), stay in Thunderbird Lodge.

Saturday May 8: Drive on rims of Canyon de Chelly, then to Kayenta and Navajo National Monument, short hike to viewpoint of Betatakin, drive to View Hotel in Monument Valley.

Sunday May 9: Drive around Monument Valley, probably take a horse ride and perhaps jeep ride, stay at View Hotel. My wife’s conference starts tonight.

Monday May 10: View Hotel for my wife’s conference. Might have time to drive to Valley of the Gods, Gooseneck State Park, and Moki Dugway, or may go while my wife is in her meeting.

Tuesday May 11: My wife’s conference ends about 11 AM. Drive to Page and go to Antelope Canyon as soon as arrive (midday best for Upper Canyon particularly). See Best Dam View and Horseshoe Bend after Antelope Canyon or Wed. morning. Stay at Days Inn in Page, $81.

Wednesday May 12: Visit Best Dam View, Horseshoe Bend and/or Antelope Canyon to the extent did not visit Tuesday afternoon. Drive to Grand Canyon South Rim and stay there—Bright Angel (shower in hall) $79 or Kachina Lodge $170. (Try regularly for better options, particularly cottage at Bright Angel.)

Thursday May 13: Grand Canyon South Rim.

Friday May 14: Drive to Sedona via Oak Creek Canyon, if possible with stop(s) at Wupatki National Monument (go down to blow hole), Sunset Crater, and/or Walnut Canyon), stay in Sedona at Sky Ranch Lodge, $85.

Saturday May 15: Sedona area (including balloon ride??, hike(s), Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour), drive late to Phoenix, stay at Residence Inn Phoenix Airport at 44th St, $98.

Sunday May 16: Early flight from Phoenix.
RCLCOLPB is offline  
Nov 25th, 2009, 02:58 AM
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Sounds like a great trip. Have a wonderful time!!
emalloy is offline  
Nov 25th, 2009, 07:31 AM
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Any further thoughts on stops in Wupatki, Sunset Crater, and/or Walnut Canyon, vs. getting to Oak Creek Canyon and the Sedona area somewhat earlier on Friday?

Wupatki is fairly open plains, with most of the Indian ruins in bad shape (fallen down) compared to the protected cliff dwellings you'll see elsewhere. Some nice scenics with the ruins and the San Francisco peaks in the background, which will likely still have snow on them in early May as they are over 12,000 ft elevation. We did a four day hike into a restricted back-country area once that was interesting but other than this I don't spend much time at Wupatki what with the GC so close.

Sunset Crater is OK but the road skirts the base of the crater and you aren't allowed to hike up to the rim, so not a whole lot to do. Basically a drive-thru National Monument with a couple of exhibits but the main attraction unaccessible. Walnut Canyon is fine, some smaller cliff dwellings and nice walks.

You can easily detour thru Wupatki and Sunset Crater on the drive from the south rim via Cameron to Flagstaff and if you haven't had your fill of Indian lore after staying in the heart of Navajo country at MV and CdC then you might spend more time here.

Sedona is entirely different, with beautiful red rocks as the background. This is tourist country, with many shops downtown, and it tends to be very crowded on the main streets on weekends due to Phoenix people coming up, so Friday would be a better day than Saturday to hit the shops. Sedona is also a favorite spot of the New Age hipsters, home of "power vortexes" etc. As soon as I saw the headlines for the recent sweat lodge deaths I figured it happened in Sedona, the place attracts people like James Ray.

There are some excellent restaurants and the art scene is generally rated third in the southwest after Santa Fe and Scottsdale. There are also a few nice, well-preserved Indian ruins outside of town, some you can easily drive to and others most easily reached via a guided tour. The Pink Jeep tours generally get one of the highest tourist ratings in the entire state.

The people who don't like Sedona have problems with the crowds, commercialism of downtown and the faux New Age vibes; the people who do like Sedona cite the beautiful surroundings, fine dining and shopping.

that suggest different guides in Canyon de Chelly (though Adam Teller sounds great, as Joeyi suggested), Monument Valley, and Antelope Canyon

You don't really need a guide for Antelope Canyon, just drive to the entrance and the Navajo can set you up on the spot.
Bill_H is offline  

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