Itinerary suggestions/questions

Jul 22nd, 2009, 07:15 AM
  #1  
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Itinerary suggestions/questions

Fodorites - Am pulling together a February trip to Arizona and would love comments and answers to a few questions. Some background on us: DH and I are 66 and 55, well traveled, healthy and fit (for our ages anyway), and I'm extremely afraid of heights. We like interesting hotels, comfortable beds, good food and nice wine. We also love spas, but not sure we want to spend time indoors at spas when AZ has so much natural beauty to offer. Here goes:

Fly from DC to Tucson, with 3 nights there for the gem show, staying at Windmill Suites. One of the shows is actually there in the hotel!! With a bike trail behind for DH's amusement (he's really into biking) while I'm busy buying. Is this a win-win or what!

Drive to Sedona for 1 night; haven't selected a hotel yet. Have read about jeep rides which interest me, but DH is afraid they'll be too jarring and uncomfortable. Any comments on these?

Drive to through Petrified Forest, see Painted Desert, and on to Chinle. I have been eager to see Painted Desert for years and originally had planned to spend a night in Holbrook, but from what I've read in these forums, we'll be driving through it with a great view from Petrified Forest. Am I right on this? Anyway, 2 nights at Chinle probably at the Best Western. Tour the area with a guide. Again, the question of whether these would be uncomfortably jarring rides in 4x4s. If we didn't do tour with local guide here, is it worth 2 nights?

On to Monument Valley to spend one night at either The View or Gouldings.

Next day drive to Grand Canyon through the east side. Spend 2 nights at El Tovar. Given my extreme fear of heights, is there any hiking around South Rim area that I could handle? If not, what else could we expect to do there? Probably will do an afternoon helicopter ride.

Drive to Las Vegas for our departing flight home, spending our last night somewhere near Boulder.

Any thoughts on whether we should rent a 4-wheel drive car for potentially bad snowy drives through mountain roads, or other suggestions?

Much appreciated! Claire
claire_david2 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2009, 07:47 AM
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DH is afraid they'll [Sedona jeep rides] be too jarring and uncomfortable. Any comments on these?

The Sedona Pink Jeep tours are usually rated the # 1 most popular tourist activity in Arizona and there are a lot of senior citizens taking them, so should be OK. I think there are 3 or 4 routes, maybe ask the vendor which is the least jarring. I've seen these jeeps pull up a couple of times at Indian ruins I was photographing and always on relatively easy roads, not rough jeep trails.

I have been eager to see Painted Desert for years and originally had planned to spend a night in Holbrook, but from what I've read in these forums, we'll be driving through it with a great view from Petrified Forest. Am I right on this?

Yes, it's basically a drive-thru and probably not worth overnighting. You are very limited in where you can go, largely because people steal the petrified wood (tons each year). There are also great views of the Painted Desert on the drive from Kayenta to Cameron the day you drive to the Grand Canyon.

Tour the area (Canyon de Chelly) with a guide. Again, the question of whether these would be uncomfortably jarring rides in 4x4s. If we didn't do tour with local guide here, is it worth 2 nights?

This is basically a ride thru the sandy-bottomed canyon floor with some stream crossings that might sway a bit. Again, not a rough jeep trail at all ... if not doing the tour you are very limited in what you can do (drive the rims, walk down the short trail to White House ruins, that's about it), so if not doing the tour I would probably just stay one night. But the tour is worth it.

On to Monument Valley to spend one night at either The View or Gouldings.

Have yet to stay at the View but Gouldings is very nice. Again, a tour is a good idea here as you'll get to go back into areas you can't access on the loop road.

Given my extreme fear of heights, is there any hiking around South Rim area that I could handle? If not, what else could we expect to do there? Probably will do an afternoon helicopter ride.

There is a rim trail that offers good views but doesn't have any exposure. For the most part you are several yards from the edge, unless you walk off the trail. Should be fine on that.

I would recommend the IMAX film of the Grand Canyon showing in Tusayan, which is just south of the south entrance (about 7 miles from where you are staying). The river running scenes are great in this movie. Chopper ride is a good idea.

Any thoughts on whether we should rent a 4-wheel drive car for potentially bad snowy drives through mountain roads

If there are no winter storms you'll be OK in a normal vehicle, except at Monument Valley the loop road is sometimes too rough for low clearance cars (depending on when they last graded it with the dozer). Personally I would want a 4-WD in February, just in case, but if you're lucky with the weather you won't need it. There aren't any mountain passes per se, it's more like a high, relatively flat plateau.
Bill_H is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2009, 09:00 AM
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I have some problems with heights too. You may want to avoid the Oak Creek Canyon way into or out of Sedona. It's beautiful, but there is one windy stretch with a precipitous dropoff that freaks me right out. I agree with Bill_H that the south rim Canyon trail may be okay for you - stick to the inside.
lennyba is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2009, 09:10 AM
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Thanks, Bill and Lenny. I've been poring over reviews of Chinle and Monument Valley. The latter sounds much prettier, and clearly either Gouldings or View much nicer than anything in Chinle. Are we better off switching this around to do 2 nights in Monument Valley and only one in Chinle?

Also, I'm confused over which lodge at GC south rim to stay in. Kachina is sounding better (views from rooms) than Tovar. If the sun goes down around 4pm in February, is any part of the canyon illuminated for night views? Or is it dark within nothing to see of the canyon at night?

Thanks - Claire
claire_david2 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2009, 10:34 AM
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Are we better off switching this around to do 2 nights in Monument Valley and only one in Chinle?

Either place works OK for 2 nights, I guess. Chinle is mostly about the inner canyon and the rim drive and if you're doing a full day tour (instead of the half-day tour) then probably 2 nights here works better than one. If doing the half-day tour then you'll have time to do it and then drive to MV, so one night in Chinle would make sense. Easier to set up a flexible tour at MV so you can do one night there and still get in a good tour, then have time to drive to the GC.

Chinle can be a bit depressing. There's an alcoholic treatment center and it's fairly common for alkies to panhandle for drinking money (we've had people knock on our door at the Best Western at night asking for spare change), and at the more isolated overlooks there are signs warning you not to leave anything of value in your car due to break-ins. MV has very few people and a more easy-going vibe.

I'm confused over which lodge at GC south rim to stay in. Kachina is sounding better (views from rooms) than Tovar.

I've stayed at Tovar and Bright Angel on the rim and Maswik and Yavapai off the rim about 400-500 yards. The room we had at BA was old and dumpy with a creaky walkway that woke us several times when people walked by, the rooms I've had at Tovar (3 visits) were small and overpriced, but still much nicer than BA. Haven't stayed at Kachina or Thunderbird but they definitely looked worse than Tovar (and better than the BA room). It's nice to be right *on* the rim but not essential. If the Tovar price isn't scaring you off then that's where I'd stay, but you want to avoid the rooms on the first floor because so many people are walking by.

If the sun goes down around 4pm in February, is any part of the canyon illuminated for night views?

No, it's all natural inside the canyon. If the sky is clear and there's a full moon then you can see fairly well at night (some of us actually like to hike at night in the summer), but realize that it's very cold at night, probably in the teens. Basically the best times to view the canyon are at sunrise and sunset, when you get a sense of the depth. Worst time is mid-day when the shadows are flattened.
Bill_H is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2009, 12:48 PM
  #6  
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Bill - Brilliant advice! Thanks so much for the heads up on Chinle. That makes this decision a whole lot easier! Claire
claire_david2 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2009, 07:44 AM
  #7  
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Any suggestions on the itinerary? Are we hitting the highlights? I'm thinking 2 nights in Monument Valley rather than Chinle. Is that a good use of time, or would we be better off doing another night somewhere closer to GC? Thanks - Claire
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