Thursday, October 10, 2013

Jen's Epic Road Trip: Grand Canyon and Sedona, AZ

 Have you ever planned a trip somewhere and added a random stop, not really knowing what it'd be like, and then that stop ends up being incredible?
That was my experience with Sedona. Originally, the Grand Canyon and Sedona weren't even on the itinerary. We were going to go to Yosemite and bypass Arizona. But once the giant wildfire in California started, we didn't want to risk having part of our trip ruined, so we cut Yosemite out and added the Grand Canyon.

Part of the reason we weren't going to Arizona? I thought it was mainly flat desert with this one big canyon. Yes, I know, I'm an idiot. These were the views we were greeted with when we first entered the state of Arizona. So I knew right off I'd be happy -- non-flat topography! My favorite!

This was how Mason spent the majority of the car rides.

We spent Friday night in Williams, AZ, which was a lot cheaper than the towns that were only 10 minutes from Grand Canyon. It was a 50 minute drive Saturday morning, but I thought it was worth it to save $100!

It's kind of hard to appreciate the scope of the Grand Canyon. It is, on average, 10 miles across, and at its widest it's 18 miles between the north and south rims. And it's over a mile deep!

We walked along the Rim Trail for a while before heading east toward the Bright Angel Trail. I'd heard that the best way to appreciate the vastness of the Canyon was to hike down into it, so that was our plan.

If you do the entire trail, it's impossible to complete in a day. Most people hike a mile or two down then head back up. Because you go down first, it's easy to go further than is safe given your time and fuel, and then you're stuck with five steep miles to climb back up. Plus, remember that the altitude is 7,000 ft high at the rim of the Canyon, so you have to contend with thinner air as well.

It's definitely worth hiking down into teh canyon, though! Even if you don't go too far, you can appreciate things like the geology of the canyon better when you get inside of it.

And you might run into a friend from college! Somehow, on a trail entering the Grand Canyon, we ran into a friend from the East Coast (although she lives in California now). Maryam, Sourabh, and I were all on the parliamentary debate team in undergrad. We hadn't seen her in two years, so it was great to catch up!

Like I said, the trail is steep! It also does not allow dogs, which we learned partway down, so we had to turn around and head back up. Sourabh and I would have liked to go further, but we didn't want to get in trouble for having Mason with us.

However, we definitely want to return and attempt a lot more of the trail! There's a lodge right at the trailhead, so it'd be a great place to stay if you wanted to do most of the trail in a day.

The Rim Trail is over 18 miles long and allows dogs on it, so we headed to a different portion and hiked along it for a bit.

Obviously we had to take a "family portrait" at the Grand Canyon!

One of the coolest things about the Canyon was seeing the cloud shadows over it. You can see the shadows going on for miles and miles.

Around 1 PM, a storm started moving in, so we headed out. We were lucky since storms had been forecasted for the whole day, but they didn't start until the afternoon.

As we drove out of the park, we were hit by intense rain and even some hail! The hail got so bad that we pulled over and waited for it to stop. There was also lightning hitting the fields near our car. I've gotten a bit more used to intense thunderstorms living in New York, but since I grew up in Washington, where you rarely get anything like that, thunderstorms still freak me out. Driving through that was not fun -- and the rain continued as we headed to Sedona.

Thankfully, it cleared up as we drove down Oak Creek Canyon and into Sedona. We got to see the incredible red rocks in all their rosy glory!

What's so cool about entering Sedona from Highway 89A is that you take this tiny windy road down into a canyon, then it slowly opens up to this incredible landscape of giant red rocks and the town of Sedona.

Sedona itself is quite the hippie town. They believe in energy vortexes, crystals, and things like that. But they also have some incredible hiking and biking, if crystals aren't your flavor (they're not mine).

We checked out Sedona a bit, had a nice Indian meal, and then went to bed early since I was going to be running 20 miles the next morning.

Unfortunately, the elevation (4500 ft) and rocky trails did me in. I only got in 8 miles before I had to stop because I felt so nauseous. But I got in the 20 miles the following Wednesday, and getting to run around these incredible views made the aborted run well worth it!

I wouldn't recommend it for running, but for hiking, the Bell Rock Trail would be fantastic. It meets up with the Courthouse Butte Loop, which circles the big rock on the left.

I hope I can return to Sedona at some point for a hiking trip. It was completely different from any place I've been before -- the colors are so vivid and the entire area feels like something out of a painting. I'm so glad we ended up going there!


  1. Wow, wow, wow. The Grand Canyon has been on our family vacation list literally since day one, but we haven't made it out there yet. One day, hopefully. :)

  2. This is a great post, thanks for sharing! My little family & I are headed to the Grand Canyon in June. Can't wait. :) Thanks for the tips.

    --Dena @

    1. Thanks, Dena! Hope you have a fantastic trip with your family!

  3. The Grand Canyon is a great place to go but I think the views in Sedona are better, especially if you come in from Oak Creek Canyon. If you time it right and come through the canyon in the late fall you will get to see the leaves changing color. They are both beautiful places to go. Sedona green