GRAND Adventures in Arizona

I am trying something new with my blog this time... I think I will call it the TwitterZona blog. Since words cannot possibly describe our 4 day trip to the Grand Canyon State in November, I thought I would limit the words & just SHOW you how beautiful Arizona is.

Day 1

Southwest Air offers great fares - if you are flexible. We departed Dallas to Phoenix on Saturday & returned on Tuesday in November. Cost $88 pp round trip non-stop & 2 bags fly free.

Located off I-17 north of Phoenix. I used to think Arizona was all cactus & desert, I was WRONG! There is so much more to this beautiful state!

Every day is a winding road... I-17 between Phoenix & Flagstaff is a winding road that steadily climbs in altitude.

Country Inn & Suites Flagstaff, AZ.  We used points for a FREE night.

The beds were comfortable, breakfast tasty, & location... not great.

The room was clean but very tiny.  The beds were comfortable. It met our needs for a one night stay.

The bathroom was clean & tiny. Cleanliness is very important to me.

A FREE breakfast is available daily to start your day off right!  There are a variety of choices including eggs, sausage, waffles, juices, bagels, pastries, milk, & yogurt.
Other FREE breakfast items included oatmeal, cereal, & fruit. The fruit was a great grab & go snack for later.

There was a nice fire pit facing the mountain. There was also an indoor heated pool, fitness center, & business center that we did not use.

Overall I would rank the Country Inn & Suites in Flagstaff, AZ a 3.75 out of 5 due to the location. A train came through 3 times during the night blowing its horn & waking us up.  If the AC had been on, the sound would have been less noticeable but we did not need the AC in November.  If I did not have a FREE night or an awesome room rate I do not believe I would stay here again.

Day 2

We took U.S. Highway 180 from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon South Entrance. This is a beautiful 1.5 hour drive without the congestion of I-40.

Tune in to FM 102.5 to hear great travel tips & history about the Grand Canyon area.

We arrived at the South Entrance around 9:30 A.M. The weather was beautiful with blue skies
& a high temperature reaching 60 degrees. You could not ask for better weather! Entrance fees as of November 2016 is $30 for one single, private, non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers for 7 days. We chose to purchase the National Parks America the Beautiful annual pass for $80 because we were visiting other national park sites during this trip and for the next 12 months.  The pass paid for itself on this trip alone because we went to 2 other national park sites.

We stopped in at the visitor center to see the times for the FREE park ranger programs that day.
We like to go to as many park ranger programs as we can to learn about the sights we are seeing.

At the visitor center we watched a short video on this 365 degree spherical shape about how the Grand Canyon was formed.

A short walk from the visitor center you will find the most photographed place at the Grand Canyon, Mather Point. This was our introduction to the GRAND Canyon. How GRAND it is!

From Mather Point, we hiked the paved rim trail around to the Kaibab Trail head. In hindsight, we could have saved a lot of time just taking the bus because we greatly underestimated the time it would take to get to the trail head.

If we had taken the bus we would have missed some beautiful scenery such as this...Pictures do not do it justice, the human eye sees so much more than the camera.

This is the Kaibab Trail from the top looking down. This steep trail descends 4,860 feet in 6.3 miles.
We hiked this portion of the trail down to Ooh Aah Point. We did not have time to hike to the bottom & back up before sunset.

The trail near Ooh Aah Point remains steep. When you visit the Grand Canyon
you must do what only 3% of visitors do & that is descend into the canyon. The hike to
Ooh Aah Point is 1.8 miles round trip & takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.

The hike was worth the view!

We arrived at Ooh Aah Point around lunch & had a memorable lunch. We had trail mix & jerky washed down with some water. The food was simple but the scenery was world class! I can't think of a better place to have a family lunch!

The Grand Canyon South Rim has a great bus system that is FREE for visitors. I highly recommend using the bus to see the sights.

After hiking to Ooh Aah Point we went to Yavapai Geology Museum for a Ranger talk.

We learned about the rock formations in the canyon. I can't think of a better classroom.

After the ranger program we checked in at our hotel. We stayed on the rim in the Thunderbird Lodge. This was our most expensive night of our trip but it was worth every penny of the $230. We were literally steps away from the rim.

Our room (RM 6222) was clean & had the most comfortable beds ever! The room has been recently remodeled. We chose not to pay for a room with a view & were NOT disappointed. We were literally steps from the rim.

Our room had a TV - that we never turned on. Other amenities included a safe, Keurig machine, microwave, & mini fridge. There is NO complimentary breakfast at the Thunderbird Lodge.

The bathroom was well appointed. I liked that the soap, shampoo, & lotion are available in pump bottles.

In front of the Thunderbird Lodge is a bus stop. This makes your stay at the Grand Canyon all the more convenient. Overall I would rank the Thunderbird Lodge a 4.5 out of 5. A 1/2 point was deducted because of the lack of free breakfast. We enjoyed our stay & wish it could have been longer.

After checking in to our room we stepped outside & watched the sunset. Spectacular!

After sunset we had dinner at the Bright Angel Restaurant next to our hotel in the Grand Canyon Village. My husband & son had the River Runner Trout (above) & I had the Moqui Sour Cream Chicken (below). The food was good. I would even say we were pleasantly surprised given we were in a national park. 

After dinner we headed to the Shrine of the Ages for a ranger program.  The program taught us about the early settlers of the Grand Canyon. We used the bus transportation to get to the event since it was dark & we were unfamiliar with area. After the program we headed back to the room as we had an early day the next day. 
Day 3

We awoke early to enjoy breakfast on the rim outside our room.  An advantage of staying on the rim is you are able to enjoy these quiet moments of solitude. Definitely a breakfast to remember!

After breakfast we took the bus west to see the canyon from a different perspective. We were the only visitors at each of the stops.  I am very glad we visited in November instead of the summer.  The park rangers told us that there are an average of 60,000 visitors each day during the summer months.

After a 2 hour bus tour of the western portion of the south rim, we drove east of Grand Canyon Village to Desert View Watchtower. You can climb the 85 steps to the top of the watchtower for a 365 degree view of the canyon.  This would be our last stop at the Grand Canyon. To learn more about the Grand Canyon visit the National Park Service website.

Near the east entrance to the Grand Canyon south rim is the town Cameron, AZ. You simply MUST stop at the Cameron Trading Post. Here you will find the most spectacular Navajo Taco you will ever taste. Trust me you do not want to miss this stop. Come with a BIG appetite as the Navajo Taco is huge - we should have shared. You will also find a huge selection of souvenirs. 

Navajo Taco - "A platter sized portion of Navajo Fry Bread,topped with ground beef, chili beans, lettuce, cheese, tomato and mild green chile. We use only Blue Bird flour to make our Fry Bread. Grandma will tell you, it’s the only way."  All I can say is YUM!!!

After lunch we took a short drive south from Cameron, AZ to Wupatki National Monument. There are several structures built by Native Americans that you can tour. This structure built by the Wupatki Indians is over a thousand years old.  Ask for the interpretive guide at the ranger station to make the tour more meaningful. When you visit do not miss the blow hole located near the ball court. You will be amazed! There is a $20 fee per passenger vehicle unless you have the America The Beautiful annual pass as we did. 

Adjoining the Wupatki National Monument you will find Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. At this spot around 1060 a volcano erupted. Today you will find the area covered with lava rocks nearly 1,000 years later. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is on a loop road with Wupatki National Monument & one entrance fee covers both.

Next we drove to Sedona on Highway 89A. This is a beautiful drive!

We made it to Sedona in time for sunset.  This is the view from the Chapel of the Holy Cross. When in Sedona make sure you visit this serene location.

We stayed at the Desert Quail Inn located in the village of Oak Creek about 7 miles south of uptown Sedona. It was perfect for our needs in the pricey Sedona area as we were able to stay on budget at $135 per night.  We really enjoyed our stay!   

The room was exceptionally clean (a high priority for me). The beds were very comfortable. The room was a good size with plenty of space.

Amenities included a large screen TV, coffee maker, microwave, & fridge.

The toilet/shower area is separate from the dressing area making it easier to get ready.  Management at the Desert Quail Inn is fantastic, the room was great, & the location was superb. We will stay here in the future when we come back to the area.  I would rate the Desert Quail Inn a 4.5 out of 5 only because there is no free breakfast. 

Day 4

We awoke early on day 4 so we could catch the spectacular Sedona sunrise. We went to Cathedral Rock for an early morning hike.  The climb took us about 2 hours to complete with plenty of stops for photos. Fantastic hike! This is the view of Cathedral Rock at the base of the climb. There is a $5 day pass that you can purchase in town to park your car in Red Rock Canyon. There are also weekly passes if you want to visit for more than a day. 

This is the view of Sedona about midway up Cathedral Rock trail. Cathedral Rock is behind the camera. The hike is steep in places requiring you to use hand holds & foot holds to climb. I do not consider the hike to be dangerous as long as you do not go on a rainy day. 

There is a sign at the end of the trail BUT if you follow the trail to the left of this sign you will go to the spiritual vortex. To the right of the sign you will find the saddle rock formation.

This is the spiritual vortex found to the left of the trail end sign at the top of Cathedral Rock trail. I am not sure what positive energy I was supposed to feel since I was at the vortex but I can tell you the view was spectacular!

After our hike we had brunch at the Red Rock Cafe located behind the Desert Quail Inn. We had one of the best breakfasts ever at this restaurant.  We highly recommend the Red Rock Cafe.

After brunch we checked out of our hotel & drove 25 minutes to Montezuma Castle National Monument. Here you can see cliff dwellings built by the Sinagua Indians 800 years ago. When we visited a ranger was there explaining the life of the Sinagua & how the structure was built. You cannot go into the cliff dwellings but it is interesting to see. The fee is $10 per person aged 16 and older.& children are free. There is no fee if you have the America the Beautiful annual pass as we did. 

We flew home in the early evening. It was a fantastic trip field filled with memorable adventures that we will carry with us always. 

I hope my blog has inspired you to leave the comfort of your surroundings & go explore this beautiful world! Wherever your next adventure takes you, may God bless you.