This trip explores the three National Parks in Arizona, from north to south and some nice national forests, canyons and scenic drives in AZ. I am sure there are many, many more to explore, and visiting Arizona again is not out of the question. The only thing of popular note we missed is visiting the Havasu Falls area, which I heard inquiring a permit for is extremely difficult anyway. That will be for another time.
Day 1 – I landed in Tucson early morning and hopped in a car filled with friends, veggie wraps and cupcakes. We drove towards the Grand Canyon via Sedona’s Red Rock Scenic Byway. Taking this short 7.5 mile byway is well worth the extra half-hour.
Going the scenic way takes five and a half hours, no stops. But, we got out and hiked around for a quick bit, enjoying our first bits of AZ sunshine. It gets cold up north. We got to the Grand Canyon with dwindling crowds, not to mention it was a Wednesday, and we stayed for a most awesome sunset. The whole thing absolutely breathtaking, never ending, and bigger than anything I’ve seen here.
We stayed in Flagstaff for the night. It took little over an hour, but the hotels are probably cheaper – I never checked lodging pricing near the park, but the mountain-town feel of the hotels seem to be a tourist trap. Forgive me if I’m wrong.
Day 2 – Good morning! If you have an extra day and can successfully plan and get a camping permit for Havasu, go. It’s very close to the Grand Canyon. On our end, we picked through the complimentary breakfast and filled up our water bottles and bladders for the 3 hour drive to to Petrified Forest National Park. We followed Route 40 to the the north end, beginning at the Painted Forest Visitor’s Center.
The drive is 26-miles of pristine road with perfect overlooks and paved trails. The most astounding thing is just how much the scenery changes. From red desert to rainbows of blue, the views are always different from each stop. Take the marked trails and explore what you wish, there are many.
I was pleasantly surprised. I did not think the petrified wood would spark my interest, but it was gorgeous! And to think the area used to be a lush rainforest for the dinosaurs. All in all, it took us to about mid day, choosing to hike only Blue Mesa and Crystal Forest, but stopping plenty of times. Time to drive south. We were pretty exhausted by the time we stopped in Show Low for food and gas, and I had to pull over on the drive home via Route 60 for the gorgeous views of Salt River Canyon – both to take pictures and to switch drivers. The elevation got me for the first time here.
Finally, we land just south of Tucson, popular for Saguaro National Park and birding.
Day 4 – We visited some short, uphill hikes where I was pushed to my limits and realized I hated hiking without the shade of trees when the weather is 85+. With trees, hiking a mile up Ramsey Canyon’s steep switchbacks and a ton of birders at the base had me looking up and around and everywhere. Hamburg trail led to a beautiful overlook at 6,200′ and also had me stopping every hundred feet or so to catch my breath. Again with the elevation. Nearby, we made another stop at Corondo Cave Trail for a short half-mile hike to the open cave and had some fun exploring. Past that, we took the dirt mountain road to the Coronado National Memorial scenic overlook at 6,700′. Mexico was on the other side.
Did I mention southern Arizona had wineries? It does. I drowned my sunburn with crisp whites late into the day.
Day 5 – There was a rest day shoved in there somewhere. My flight was in the late afternoon and that means I can fit in just one more park. I went to see what Arizona looks like in the movies – Saguaro. These suckers are HUGE! And old. This is a short and sweet 8-mile drive through some scenic views and quick hikes. Unfortunately, it put the nail in the coffin for my hate of hiking in the desert. I feel bad for it, like I should be more grateful, but would you really think someone who loves the snow would love the desert, too? It doesn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful… I just liked it more from the car, with AC blowing in my face.
That’s it, thats all. See more fun posts of wineries and rainbow wood on Instagram – @christina_skis and let me know what else I should have visited on my way! Maybe I’ll come back after Monsoon season.