I hadn’t been to Arizona since I was a very small child, so my memories of the state were limited if nonexistent. Returning as an adult to visit a friend studying at ASU, I was quickly enamored with this desert state, although I began to melt as soon as I stepped off the airplane.
For Labor Day weekend 2017, I spend five days visiting the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and other sites that Arizona has to offer while connecting with people that feel like my second family. It was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to go back again someday to visit more places that we didn’t have time to cover during this trip, like renting a boat on Lake Powell or other top boating lakes in Arizona.
Page Springs Winery
This place was a fantastic stop on our way to Sedona before starting our two nights of roughing it in the desert! I had no idea that there was a robust wine region of Arizona, but there are a lot of cellars and wineries in the Verde Valley, and Page Springs is a beautiful stop. Overlooking the vineyard, the back porch is a great place to do a tasting, and they offer an extensive tasting list and different appetizers for pairing.
Camping on Forest Service Land
To save money, and because we knew we didn’t need any facilities since we’d be going out to eat, we opted for free camping on forest service land just outside of Sedona. There are no toilets, no trash removal, and no official fire pits, so you have to be prepared with your own water, toilet paper, garbage bags etc. but this is a great option for just a few nights!
After visiting Sedona, I can see how people become enraptured with the mystical aspects of this desert city. Ok, so I didn’t go so far as to have my aura read and I didn’t invest in any energy cleansing crystals, but I will say that the atmosphere of this city is a bit magical. The beautiful landforms of the rocks and the expanse of the desert mixed with the local artsy culture makes it the perfect place for a few nights stop. We camped on nearby forest land and would go into town for meals. Sedona has a ton of great restaurants. We ate at Javelina Cantina which was great Mexican food and stopped at Thai Palace Uptown which was nice for Asian eats and a quaint, outdoor garden.
First Views of the Grand Canyon
We parked the car in the lot, walked onto the sidewalk that was surrounded by desert landscaping on either side, with the occasional informative plaque about the flora. My ears tuned into the sound of foreign languages being spoken around me, tourists from all around the world coming to marvel at this natural wonder. As we got closer, I closed my eyes and Katie took my arm to lead me to the viewing area. I opened my eyes and the wind was knocked out of me.
I knew it would be beautiful, but I really had no idea how big and vast it would be. No picture can illustrate the sensation of seeing it in person.
South Kaibab Trail
We chose to hike the South Kaibab Trail due to the fact that it typically attracts fewer tourists, and it offers stunning views of the Canyon. It doesn’t, however, have a water source to resupply on the way, so all water containers must be filled at the top. There are also restrooms at the trailhead.
There was a sign along the trail that served as a warning “Hiking down is optional, hiking up is not!” Meaning, you can choose how far you hike down, but be aware you’ll have to haul yourself back up and out of the canyon. Make sure to be sipping water and not guzzle it all, leaving yourself dehydrated at a far distance to walk up. The Arizona sun is unforgiving, so make sure you have plenty of sun protection – both sunscreen and clothing to prevent severe burns.
As if hiking for hours and hours in and out of the Canyon wasn’t enough, upon our return to Sedona, we thought we’d squeeze in another hike. This time, however, we opted for one that would have a refreshing halfway point – a swimming hole known as “The Crack” on the Bell Trail at Wet Beaver Creek. It was a 3.5-mile hike each way, on a mostly flat trail with only minor up & down elevation changes. Stopping halfway to eat lunch and go for a swim was the perfect way to cool off and refuel before hiking back.
And like any good trip to the Southwest, we rewarded ourselves for the long days of hiking in the hot sun with a trip to In-N-Out 🙂 Nothing better than some animal style burgers & fries!
I loved the time I got to spend in Arizona, and I can’t thank my beautiful friend Katie enough for showing me such a great time. I got to cross the Grand Canyon off my travel bucket list, developed a great tan and got to explore all over the beautiful state of Arizona. Couldn’t have asked for a better Labor Day (extended) weekend 🙂