Arizona has been on my bucket list of US states to visit for many years. My mom moved to Phoenix as a teenager and went to high school there. I’ve seen so many amazing pictures from family, friends, and strangers on Pinterest that have shared their own experiences. The furthest west that I had previously been was only to Colorado, so I knew the desert in Arizona would be new territory for both myself and Bryan.
Personally, vacations for relaxation are at the beach and vacations to explore and find new adventures include different terrain. If I’m travelling somewhere new, I am going to plan as many cities, excursions, and a diverse amount of experiences including great food as I can. I’m sharing the itinerary that I created prior to our trip, with all of the details to help you plan your own. With so many scenic views, hikes, cities to explore, and never-ending options of things to do, I would suggest researching each place you want to visit and mapping the destinations in advance. We spent a lot of time driving from one place to the next, so definitely take this into consideration if you plan to hit up as many destinations as you can!
Day 1 – Phoenix/Scottsdale: We flew into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Our friend picked us up and we stayed with him in Scottsdale that night.
Day 2 – Grand Canyon National Park: We picked up our rental car and had brunch at Breakfast Club in Old Scottsdale. They have a fresh juice and coffee bar, and the food was SO good that Bryan talked about his meal for the rest of the trip. We then headed north to the Grand Canyon, which is roughly a 3.5 hour drive. We decided to watch the sunset here, so we drove to Thunderbird Lodge to park. After chatting with the Park Rangers and asking what their favorite spot for a sunset is, we hopped on the blue bus route and rode to Mohave Point on the South Rim. The North Rim was still closed when we went (May 2021) so be aware of this when you’re mapping the destination. If you’ve never been to Grand Canyon National Park, it is like any other park in that there are trees, wildlife, and hiking trails, but you do not actually see the Grand Canyon until you are on the edge of it near the lookout points. Upon arriving at our destination, we were literally in awe at the scenic view. It’s such a masterpiece – pictures do not do justice for how massive and beautiful the canyon is. I felt so small in comparison to this piece of the earth that we were taking in. The sunset was absolutely breathtaking and I highly recommend staying for it if you can. The buses run for an hour after sunset.
Day 2.5 – Page: Full disclaimer: I would not recommend this portion of the itinerary to anyone with children or if you have anxiety. The drive from Grand Canyon National Park to Page is another two hour drive through the desert canyons. I didn’t have cell phone service, but thankfully Bryan had one bar so that we could navigate using Waze. At this point, it was 9:00pm and completely dark out. When I say it’s completely desolate, I mean it is desolate desert. I intuitively knew we were driving through winding canyon hills and steep cliffs, and that if we were to break down on the side of the road, no one would be able to help us until the next morning. This made my anxiety spike a bit, but Bryan was relaxed per usual. The best and most positive part of this drive was the sky! I grew up in the country, so I’ve seen the stars on a beautiful clear night… This was unlike anything I’ve seen before. I swear we could see the entire galaxy without a telescope. If you’re ever out in the desert at night, stargazing is a must! As the lights of Page began to appear in the distance, we knew we were getting close, but the adventure gave us one final scare. A Mexican Wolf suddenly darted out in front of us and stopped inches before we hit it. Talk about an adrenaline rush! We finally checked-in at the Marriott Courtyard Page at Lake Powell and had a much needed restful night.
Day 3 – Lake Powell/Horseshoe Bend: The morning started as most do with breakfast at the hotel restaurant and then we drove to the nearby lookout point for Lake Powell. Water in the desert seems like an oxymoron, but it’s such a sight to see! When we plan our next trip out west, I will definitely schedule a boat rental at Lake Powell – I can only imagine the view from the water! We packed up and headed down 89 South to Horseshoe Bend. It’s a $10 fee to enter, with a 3/4 mile hike to the lookout point. This is a location that I’ve always wanted to see. The natural curvature with the river was incredible. We watched the kayakers below come around the bend which was really neat. There are minimal safety rails here, so please be mindful if you have children or are planning to take pictures on the edge of the rocks. The views are stunning and definitely Insta worthy. Upon leaving Horseshoe Bend, we were able to see parts of the drive from the night before which are beautiful during the day. We stopped at a Navajo Indian tent sale that was setup on the side of the road just outside of Page. They had beautiful handmade pottery and jewelry. I had seen a sign for a Trading Post in Cameron, AZ the night before, so we stopped here for lunch. It’s a historic Trading Post with incredible artwork from local tribes. Walking around the shop and talking to one of the women that works there we learned about an artist that had a residency hand-looming rugs and blankets. Her work was so precise and artistic. She had been working on a massive rug that was specially ordered from someone in Colorado, but unfortunately she passed away from COVID-19 before she finished the piece. I shared about this on Instagram and saved to my highlights if you’d like to learn more about her and see her work. We ate lunch at the restaurant and enjoyed a traditional Native American meal called Navajo Hot Beef. I would go back in a heartbeat for this meal! To me, spontaneous stops to experience local traditions and cuisine is the best part of traveling.
Day 3.5 – Sedona: We continued the drive down to Sedona and checked into our hotel. Bryan’s college roommate, “Sutty”, that we stayed with in Scottsdale drove up to meet us in Sedona for the weekend. We went to dinner and enjoyed incredible Prickly Pear Margaritas at Tortas De Fuego.
Day 4 – Sedona: The next morning, we loaded up our cooler and the Jeep, and headed off for an adventure in Cottonwood, AZ that Sutty planned for us. We drove for about an hour and a half, reached the end of the main road, and continued off-roading for about 5 miles. We parked and then hiked 1.5 miles down between canyons to a swimming hole that was AMAZING. I’m happy to share the exact location if you’re able to travel here, but I want to do my part in keeping this a sacred spot for the locals. Please message me if you’re interested! We spent the day swimming and cliff jumping, and had the best time. We worked up quite an appetite, so we drove back into town and ate at Bing’s Burger Station. Everything was excellent – from the burgers to the fried pickles to the milkshakes to the employees – everything was superb. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing at the hotel swimming in the pool and soaking in the hot tub.
Day 5 – Sedona: Bryan and I woke up, grabbed breakfast, and went to the Oak Creek Arts and Craft Show. Sedona is full of creative artists, so you can imagine the booths and goods that are available here. We then had lunch at Mesa Grill Sedona, a restaurant that sits on the runway of the airport – such a cool view and great food! After allowing a little time to digest our food, we set off to hike the Airport Mesa trail. I’d done research and learned that this trail is the location for one of the energy Vortexes in Sedona. I’m a spiritual person, so I was very excited to experience this piece of nature that is known to be the perfect spot for meditating, gaining clarity, and soul cleansing. Very quickly, I felt the energetic shift. Individually, we may all have different experiences, but mine was as if I had walked through a doorway and was instantly overwhelmed by the vortex. I began to feel very emotional and could not articulate what I was feeling and began to cry. Bryan didn’t experience the energy here, but it was too overwhelming for me so I turned around to go back to the main trail. I wanted Bryan to enjoy the hike, so I told him to go on, and we separated for about an hour. I sat and meditated in a spot with 360o views. I’m glad I made this decision, because Bryan said the hike is very steep and narrow, which is not my favorite hiking element. We spent the afternoon soaking in the view and talking with other people eager to experience the Vortex. We hiked back to the car and on our way out of town, we stumbled upon Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village. If you’re ever here, be sure to check out Sedona Candle Gallery and watch the artists at work. We went back to our hotel for a quick nap and then had dinner at Butterfly Burger. The owner of this restaurant, Lisa Dahl, owns FIVE of the best restaurants in the Sedona area so we knew we were in for a treat.
Day 6 – Sedona: I’m a big fan of pumping my body with the good stuff – especially nutritional + local food while traveling. We ran into Local Juicery and I got two drinks for the day. We drove to the parking lot for Devil’s Bridge, but it was already full and the line of cars were piling up on the side of the road. I had been warned that you must get here very early in the morning, and it was nearly 8:30 am when we arrived. So my suggestion would be to arrive before 8:00am if you want to avoid the crowds. Next, we had to stop for a picture at the Sedona McDonald’s – the only one in the entire world with a teal arch. The reason behind this is because of the city rules against clashing colors to the natural landscape. One of the must-do items on my Sedona checklist was to go to Mystical Bazaar for Aura Readings. I will share all about this in my next post so stay tuned!
Day 6.5 – Scottsdale: After spending the morning in Sedona, we drove back to Scottsdale for our final evening. We made a pitstop in Mesa so I could visit Amber Fillerup Clark’s showroom for her hair line DAE. I have a post on my Instagram all about this! Sutty took us to dinner at Diego Pops. Order the Street Corn Queso, Braised Green Chili Chicken Tacos, and of course a ChocoTaco for dessert. The whole place is a vibe and the perfect ending to our trip. We enjoyed the rest of the evening at the pool and flew out the next morning.
If you have any questions or need advice for anything, please do not hesitate to reach out to me! If you’ve been to any of the places above, tell me about your experience! Please subscribe to my blog if you’d like to receive an email when my posts go live.