This post may contain affiliate links - this just means that if you chose to purchase a product I mention here, I may get a small commission from your purhcase.
A few months back, we had the amazing opportunity to take a quick Arizona roadtrip to visit Sedona and the Grand Canyon with my husband’s parents. This was my first, and only time so far, in Arizona and let me tell you, it was breathtaking!
I absolutely loved getting to see all of the amazing natural wonders between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. Arizona is full of beautiful scenery and we could have stayed for weeks and not run out of things to see and do. Alas, we only had 3 days to fit in as much of Arizona as possible, but I think we made good use of our time.
This post is a few months delayed, but I hope you still enjoy reading about our trip and seeing some of the many photos we took!
Our first day in Arizona, we flew into Phoenix early in the morning and met up with Ivan’s parents. From there we started our roadtrip heading North to our ultimate destination of the Grand Canyon – with several fun stops along the way.
Our first sightseeing stop was at Montezuma Well, which is part of the Montezuma Castle National Monument. I was really surprised at how green it was here! I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve lived in El Paso for over a year now, or if I’ve just always pictured Arizona as totally brown, but either way, the scenery was much more diverse than I expected.
The well itself was very pretty, but the most interesting part was seeing the cliff dwellings along the rim of the well which were close to a thousand years old. This wasn’t a planned stop, but it was not too far off of our route, so I’m glad we made the time to check it out.
The next stop along our route was definitely a planned stop as I’ve wanted to visit Sedona for a very long time. And it did not disappoint.
We stopped by the Chapel in the Rock first, which was really neat to see. But because it was so crowded, we opted to admire it from a distance.
We then went on a hike up the Cathedral Trail, which is another super popular spot in Sedona. It was a tricky hike at parts, and a lot of fun to conquer. We saw people of all ages on this trail – and frankly, I was quite impressed, because I was out of breath! The views from this hike were absolutely gorgeous, and I took several opportunities to stop and take pictures (and mostly catch my breath) along the way.
After our hike, we went to a cute little shopping area called Tlaquepaque (don’t ask me to say it!) Here we ate lunch at a cute little cafe and then walked around the little shops. The entire area was gorgeous with brick paver walkways, flower boxes, trees, and musicians playing live music everywhere.
We opted to stay in Flagstaff during our trip, as there were limited options closer to the Grand Canyon, and many of them are booked as far as a year out. But Flagstaff ended up being another fun place to see. It’s not a big city by any means, but it had a cute downtown with lots of shops and restaurants.
Day 2 of our Arizona roadtrip was the day we actually went to the Grand Canyon. We went pretty early in the day, so it wasn’t too crowded when we arrived.
We were all able to get into the park for free with our National Park card because Ivan is active duty. I highly encourage all military families to take advantage of this and visit as many national parks as possible – especially if you’re on a budget. It’s a great opportunity to see some pretty amazing things without breaking the bank.
The bulk of our morning was spent walking the Rim Trail that curves along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We contemplated hiking down the canyon but ultimately decided that we would have a more enjoyable experience, and a much better view by hugging the rim of the canyon for a good distance.
Although I’m sure it would have been fun to hike down to the bottom, we enjoyed a much more leisurely hike this way and had a great view of the canyon from multiple angles.
After a long hike we drove to the East Rim where we had lunch and got an even better view of the canyon from the Desert View Watchtower. I’m so glad we made the drive to this side of the canyon because it looked totally different! From the watchtower, you can see incredibly far, and you get a very good view of the Colorado River, which you don’t get from the South Rim.
Much of Day 3 was spent driving back from Flagstaff to Phoenix, but because our flight didn’t leave until late in the day, we still had a lot of time left over to explore a bit of Phoenix.
Right as we arrived back in the Phoenix area we stopped at the Pioneer Living History Museum. The old west town replica was a fun stop, and we enjoyed walking through the old buildings and reading a bit about Arizona’s history. This would definitely be a fun stop to make with kids – we had fun even without kids!
Pioneer Living History Museum
After this, we stopped by downtown Phoenix for lunch and to walk around a bit and see the city, before heading over to the Desert Botanical Gardens. If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram for long, you’ve probably realized that I’m a bit of a botanical garden junkie, so any chance I get to visit a new one, I take it. And the botanical garden in Phoenix was a great one.
It was much bigger than we originally thought, and we ended up spending most of the afternoon here. As the name Desert Botanical Garden would imply, they had a huge selection of desert plants, many of which I’d never seen before – or had only seen in pictures. But they also had a butterfly garden, wildflower garden, and vegetable garden, among other sections.
Desert Botanical Garden
After our long walk through the botanical gardens, we headed across the street to make one last sightseeing stop at the Hole in the Rock at Papago Park. This was a neat thing to see (and climb) and it was really nice to rest in the shade of the rocks for a few minutes after being in the sun for hours.
Hole in the Rock
Our Arizona Roadtrip was short, but oh so sweet, and we had a wonderful time with family exploring new places. After years of dreaming about visiting some of Arizona’s beautiful landmarks, it was such a great experience finally getting to be there, even if it was only for a few short days. This was definitely another checkmark on my bucket list!
What are some places on your roadtrip bucket list?
A lot of these photos were taken on our phones – but for my Nikon I mainly use these lenses: Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F/1.8G Lens (portrait) Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II Digital Zoom Lens (AF-S Motor) (for Nikon) (wide angle)