The Grand Canyon state is nothing short of grand.
I mean that in earnest, not in a pun sort of way.
In the many hours I spent on the road in the state I only visited one city – Phoenix and the remainder of my time was spent in much smaller places just passing through to Petrified Forest National Park or the Grand Canyon or Monument Valley (which I discovered is actually in Utah).
It’s a stunning state, with so much orange and desert you can over indulge in those colors, but in the Grand Canyon you can never over indulge. I say this because of all the sights I have seen in my life pulling your eyes away from that beautiful sight is the most difficult thing.
Prior to the settlement of Phoenix in 1867, the land had been inhabited by the Hohokam peoples who successfully irrigated and farmed the land for more than 2,000 years as the area sits between the Salt and Gila Rivers as a prime agricultural community.
Then in 1867 a veteran of the Civil War, named Jack Swilling (Jack led a well-rounded and interesting life worth an internet detour) came upon the land and found it prime for agriculture. Thanks to his interest in rebuilding these ancient canals Jack’s friend Phillip Duppa suggested the town be named ‘Phoenix’ as it was rising from the ashes. Obviously the name stuck as well as the importance of farmers to the economy in this town down to this day.
Climbing Camelback Mountain in early April with clear skies overhead and a strong sun shining away I couldn’t imagine giving this hike a go when the weather is much warmer and yet, this is one of the most hiked trails in America. Not surprising when the trail became so full in spots that stopping to let people pass the narrow path was the only option. My couchsurfing host’s patience was tested during the hike thanks to my slow going, but standing on top of the orange rock with orange hues as far as the eye could see was worth the effort to get there.
Needless to say when I had completed it and been lapped twice by a machine of a guy (who I have to believe is at least 5 years younger than me to make myself feel better) I still felt like superwoman. Until the next day when I suddenly hurt in places my body didn’t know I had.
Early the next morning as the sun rose I set off to Petrified Forest National Park, after some u-turns I arrived to find it’s a park you drive around. And here I was thinking I could walk the whole thing, I’m definitely not in tiny New Zealand any more.
The landscape changed drastically between Phoenix and Petrified National Park, snow on the road side definitely had me a little worried, needless to say it was just beautiful and nothing more to halt or slow my journey.
Spring can bring really changeable weather in the region so ensure you always check the forecast and pack enough warm clothes for winter and enough warm clothes for summer as it can be also quite hot.
Walking around the landscape, seeing these crystallized logs of what was once a forest I thought to myself that it felt like a dinosaur’s paradise, as though a scrappy little one could jump out from behind a log at any minute. I soon learned that this forest existed before dinosaurs and they were buried underneath the landscape, mix in minerals and wait a few million years and discover they have become something worth far more than logs of wood.
It’s grandeur and expanse was mindblowing and you could easily fill a day up going slowly through the park and stopping at each little detour within it. I didn’t have enough time as I had to continue on to the Grand Canyon so spent a couple of hours in fascination and then exited.
The drive between Petrified Forest National Park leads to Holbrook which is on Route 66, a symbol of vintage America if there ever was one. Along with some other interesting sights, I would set aside a little time to view the hotel with tepee’s and Americana cars parked alongside them.
Next I arrived in the Tusayan, a short drive from The Grand Canyon and a perfect place to lay your head between exploring this grand park.
The canyon is beyond words. There is nothing you see before stepping foot before the view or can be told that can prepare you for the sight of that broken valley of rocks carved over time thanks to the Colorado River. It is simply breathtaking!
I will only give you tips to the Grand Canyon and images although, once again, standing there your eyes feel the sight is a fake and your mind knows the truth with the wind blowing around you so allow plenty of time to just wander and explore, eventually your eyes believe as much as your mind does that this wonderful sight is very real.
If you want to go hiking on the trails begin at the Visitor’s Center on the South Rim to discover what you need and how long hikes will take along with degrees of difficulty. Because it’s much hotter inside the Canyon ensure you have enough water before you even set out to choose a hike.
Lastly, it costs $25 to enter the Park with a vehicle, but the pass is valid for 7 days with unlimited entry within that time. Allow for a good amount of time to visit and go at different times to see the way the different light hits at the angles.
It’s an amazing place as is Arizona, definitely worth a visit!
Tips for Arizona:
Phoenix is perfectly set to explore the state of Arizona or simply have a city adventure in one of the most diverse and unique parts of America, here is a perfect place to start.
There are two hiking trails on Camelback and here is information on climbing either.
Holbrook is the nearest town to Petrified Forest National Park and it is a significant stop with Route 66 running through. If you want to stop in this town on your way to your next destination here is more information about the town.
I could not have seen everything without driving so here is a helpful page regarding driving in Arizona.
Because the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most popular and the nearest town is only 15 minutes’ drive away, the Grand Canyon village can sell out of accommodation if you aren’t prepared. Here are the list of places to stay.