I always hit this point where I NEED to travel. Explore. See somewhere new. Meet some new people and step outside of my comfort zone.
With upcoming obligations that required me to be home, and a very tight budget, I decided a lil’ road trip was the best idea.
So…after sitting in random, yet expected, Southern California traffic for an extra hour at 2:00pm on a Tuesday, I finally picked a destination to start…Arizona!! [fast forward through this small few day trip and you’ll find my AZ adventure turning into an entire solo 48 state road trip…read all about it here.]
I kissed my pup Kenya goodbye, [she wouldn’t even make eye contact with me because she knew I was leaving *guilt trip of the century*] grabbed my camera, laptop and my camping gear & headed towards Arizona ready to brave the desert summer heat!
Here are the 5 places I made sure to stop & explore while road trippin’ through Arizona:
1.The Grand Canyon National Park
With a late start to the day I made it to Williams, AZ and called it a night. Williams is located about 55 miles from the Grand Canyon, so it was a great place to stop and sleep [in my car LOL – hey, like I said the budget was tight]
After a super bright sun wake up call, I headed North to the Grand Canyon National Park. A group of spotted deer that were enjoying their bush breakfast greeted me near the park entrance. The first critter sighting is always extra exciting!
I headed towards The Village to explore and came across a cute lodge that was serving breakfast. I was now fed and ready to hike.
There are quite a few trails to choose from in the park, but appropriate gear is required for the hikes that descend into the canyon. I found one that was a good fit for the day and began.
There is a hiking trail that takes you along the rim with plenty of view points for awesome photos opps. Some portions are paved and others are dirt, but should you get tired there is a tram that runs on the road nearby during the peak months.
My hike was gorgeous! I wish I could eat my lunch on a bench overlooking this beautiful canyon daily! Sometimes it looks so perfect you would swear it isn’t real.
View Grand Canyon National Park map, hiking trail and FAQ here.
You know you have reached a popular tourist sight when you hear many languages spoken throughout your visit. While I usually prefer “off the beaten path” experiences, destinations turn into tourist attractions for good reason.
If everyone is going there, it is most likely unique or beautiful in one way or another. Therefore, they are usually worth checking out. National Parks across the U.S. definitely fall into this category in my opinion.
2.The City Of Flagstaff
Hours later [it was a long hike] I made it back to Priscilla [my Prius], packed up and headed South towards Flagstaff. I was excited to see the city but it was getting dark and I needed to locate my campground.
A quick tent setup and a thorough ‘bird bath’ and I was passed out under the stars. Please note that you usually need reservations to camp at a National Park in the summer months. They fill up quick, BUT a backup are smaller campgrounds in surrounding cities.
Usually after hiking all day [especially after not doing it for a bit] I sleep so well, but a skunk decided to invade the campsite that night. You know when something smells so strong you can taste it? Ummm yah. Like that. So gross. Eventually the smell dissipated and I awoke to a beautiful sunrise through the tall trees.
My favorite part of this campground? It had a shower! (Don’t take bug-less, sandal-free, temperature controlled showers for granted. Ever.) I figured I wouldn’t torture the Arizonians the way the skunk tortured me. 😉
I packed up and headed into town and I must say…Flagstaff is adorable.
The U.S. was playing in the World Cup that morning so all of the bars were packed at 9:45am. I joined in with the festivities, met some friendly locals and participated in the ‘beer for breakfast’ plan that everyone else was on. 😉
With a higher elevation, Flagstaff is an adorable town with gorgeous mountain views, unique ponderosa pines and desert landscape all combined. You gotta check it out!
While driving through Flagstaff, I realized that I needed to make a decision. Where to next? I had basically hit the end of my lil’ Arizona getaway and it would’ve been the perfect time of day to head home.
BUT I saw the route 66 signage and decided to head East instead. I mean why not?!
Route 66 is a historic highway that runs through 8 states [from Los Angeles to Chicago] since 1926! Unfortunately, it officially no longer exists but while driving the current freeways near where the old one resided, you can drive sections of it.
“Get your kicks on Route 66!”
4.The Painted Desert National Park
The Painted Desert was like a living painting as far as the eye could see, spread over badlands hills. Following the Route 66 you are lead right to this National Park and its sister, The Pertified Forest.
5.The Petrified Forest National Park
Attached to the Painted Desert area is the Petrified Forest. With similar views to the Painted Desert you also get to see giant 3 million year old Redwoods that have petrified, preserving them forever!
Gorgeous views everywhere!! The Grand Canyon is a must see but if you can squeeze these other two Parks into your trip, I definitely recommend a visit. Unique formations of layered colored rock and stone-like tree fossils? Where else can you see this stuff?!
Arizona and it’s beautiful visuals make you forget the Africa-like heat [especially in the summer]. Desert AND forest AND every combination in between will not disappoint you. 🙂
Some other Arizona fav spots of mine that I didn’t make it back to on this road trip are Sedona, Scottsdale & the Saguaro National Park in Tucson.
Thanks for reading! Have any favorite spots in Arizona? Thinking of road trippin’ there? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 🙂
P.S. Read about Amy’s solo 48 state road trip [on a small budget] here.
Amy’s 48 state road trip route [starting @ home = Southern California]: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming [again], Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada & UTAH!