Nevada, Utah, Arizona: A Southwest Road Trip
This April we headed out west for a 3 state road trip complete with table games in Vegas, Route 66 fun, and a few of our favorite National Parks. Read more to find out about our favorite stops on our grand ‘ole road trip!
Our Southwest Road Trip
- Hike in Sedona, Eat & Drink in Flagstaff
You’ll read this on other blog sites, but trust us on this one – check out the Cathedral Rock Hike in Sedona. This 1.5-mile hike is not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth it! Be prepared for a steep hike with quite a bit of scrambling. If you’re lucky, Gentle Thunder will be perched on a rock at the top singing into the canyon. After reaching the top, go to the left and climb up another 50 feet for a view of the saddle.
Flagstaff is an adorable mountain town with tons of restaurants and bars. We stayed at the Monte Vista Hotel, which is located right at the center of town. We chose this hotel because it’s supposed to be haunted and they have a bar (…priorities). From Monte Vista Hotel, we were able to easily walk to restaurants, bars, and shopping throughout town. These were our favorite Flagstaff spots:
Monte Vista Cocktail Lounge: This was the first speakeasy in Flagstaff and has kept a lot of it’s original charm. Great drink deals, pool, and darts.
Toasted Owl Café: We hit up this café for breakfast. It has a great vibe, a full bar, huge menu, and the restaurant is filled with mismatched vintage furniture that you can purchase.
The McMillan: This trendy American restaurant is in the oldest standing building in Flagstaff. This is a great place to enjoy dinner and a nice cocktail. I enjoyed the Mamie, a great gin and strawberry cocktail, and the mac n’ cheese. I recommend both!
Biff’s Bagels: Need a quick base for a day of exploring? Biff’s is your answer! This bagel and coffee shop was named after the owner’s dog and the walls are adorned with photographs of customer’s dogs (yes, it makes you feel warm and fuzzy). The bagels are made in house and are de-lic-ious.
- Newsflash, Las Vegas Hasn’t Gotten any Cheaper
Shocking, I know. If you’re up for losing some money at the blackjack table, spending $13 on cocktails by the pool, and gettin’ jiggy on the dance floor, start your road trip here. Otherwise, you can save some money and do some relaxing by flying in and out of Albuquerque or Phoenix.
- Relax with a Root Beer at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner
Their root beer comes in a frosty mug with pellet ice. Enough said. Oh, and they serve up a killer cheeseburger with some vintage 50’s charm on the side. A great pit-stop on a route 66 road trip.
105 E Andy Devine Kingman, AZ 86401
- Skip Antelope Canyon, Play Photographer at Horseshoe Bend
Antelope Canyon in Arizona is definitely pretty, but the required crowded tours run you about $50-60 a person and all we got was an insta-worthy photograph. If you’re looking to save money and time, you can skip this spot and “ooo and ahh” over Antelope Canyon pictures on the #antelopecanyon Instagram thread.
While Antelope Canyon may have its downfalls, Horseshoe Bend was on point! Amazing view, quick hike to the bend, and an insta-photo to make your friends back home envious… and it was FREE! To get a great photo of this spot, make sure to bring a wide angle lens. We used the olloclip for the iPhone (my BFF).
- Don’t Rush, Make a Few Pit Stops
The beauty of a road trip isn’t just unlimited fast food, it’s also the ability to snail along and make stops often. While road tripping, we used our Google machines to make a few impulsive stops. Here are a few of our favorites:
Spelunking in Lava River Tubes: Driving about 14 miles north of Flagstaff will get you to the Lava River Tubes in Coconino National Forest. This activity allowed me to take my accessory game to the next level with a head lamp. The Lava River Tubes are equal parts creepy, claustrophobic, and kick ass. You climb down into the cave and have a mile long lava tube to trek through. It is completely pitch black and cold. So, bundle up, buckle on your head lamp, and explore a zone that MUST be inhabited by aliens/dinosaurs/goonies.
Chapel of the Holy Cross: This chapel is a quick stop right outside of Sedona. The chapel is built into the red rocks of Sedona. The views in front of the chapel and inside the chapel are equally beautiful. If I went to church, I would make sure it was here. This stop took us about 40 minutes and was totally worth it.
Montezuma Castle National Monument: You can catch this quick stop about 35 minutes south of Sedona (we did both the Chapel of the Holy Cross and Montezuma Castle on our way out of Sedona). Montezuma Castle is one of the best preserved pueblo dwellings in the U.S. As a kid, I was obsessed with learning about the pueblo way of life, so seeing this huge pueblo built into a cliff was a childhood dream come true #nerdalert. This stop will take you about 45 minutes and you will have to pay the entrance fee to park (unless you during National Park Week like we did and then it’s free!!).
- See the Grand Canyon by Bike and Foot
We rolled into the Grand Canyon at about 1:00 in the afternoon. After a quick Google search, we decided we would rent bikes to get our bearings of the park. We used Bright Angel Bicycles to rent our bikes, you can see more information on bike rentals by clicking here . Due to starting our ride later in the day, the company recommended the “Red Bike Ride”, which takes you 95% downhill (can I get an amen?!?) to Hermit’s Rest. This ride was a perfect way to “ooh and ahh” at many unbelievable views of the Grand Canyon before seeing it all by foot the next day.
We dedicated our next day to hiking down the canyon. We chose the South Kiabab Trail per recommendation by rangers because it is less crowded than Bright Angel Trail. We attempted the day hike to Skeleton Point, which is a 6 miles round trip hike. The hike down was very easy with a well-established path. About a mile into the hike you will come to Ooh-Aah Point, which is a great spot to take in the view and stop to rest and drink water. At about 1.5 miles in you will get to Cedar Ridge, which has a toilet. We stopped here for a snack and watched the trail workers and their mules as they hauled dirt down the trail. After Cedar Ridge, a ranger stopped us to check our water supplies and plan for the rest of the day. After some honest talk we realized that hiking all the way to Skeleton Point would be VERY difficult so we kept hiking a couple more minutes to a saddle with more great views, ate lunch, and headed back up the canyon. We made the right choice. On the way back up, the Arizona heat and incline became very real. Despite my couch queen status, we made it back to the top in one piece (with lots of stops).
This hike was difficult, but definitely worth it. We would highly recommend trying to get a walk-in camping permit (we heard they give out about 16 a day) or planning ahead and getting a reservation at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the trail so that you can hike down, stay the night, and then tackle the hike up feeling fresh. Never seeing the bottom of the canyon still haunts us, but we’ll check that off the bucket list another time!
To get to this hike: take the orange bus to trailhead from visitors center.
- Catch a Grand Canyon Sunset from Shoshoni Point
Yes, the Grand Canyon is that big… yes, the Grand Canyon is that pretty… and yes, the Grand Canyon is crowded with tourists. You can learn all about the most popular hikes and lookout points on the Grand Canyon website, but these spots can be VERY crowded. While we thoroughly enjoyed our biking tour of the south rim and our day hike down into the canyon, the hands-down highlight of our trip was escaping the crowd, taking advice from locals and checking out Shoshoni Point! This point has unreal with unique views of the Grand Canyon. We suggest taking your books, a few snacks and some wine and settle in for the world’s greatest sunset happy hour!
Directions: We hesitate to even share this with you for fear of this magical place becoming overcrowded, but here goes… coming from the visitor center turn left at the stop sign towards Desert View. After you go past South Kiabab Trailhead, go about another mile until you see a dirt parking lot on your left. There will be a gate that is closed and a sign that says “for permit use only”. Ignore the gate and sign (rebels!!), then walk along the trail about a mile until you reach the point. You will know you’re there when you see picnic tables and a bathroom.
- Extend Your Stay at Zion National Park
We tacked a one-night stop at Zion National Park onto the end of our trip and definitely left Zion wishing we had allocated more time in this amazing park. Zion has one of the most unique landscapes we have ever seen and tons of amazing hikes. Don’t skip this park if you are out west!
During our one amazing day in Zion, we did the Observation Point Hike and the Emerald Pools Hike, which filled our day from about 7:00am to 3:00pm.
If you’re down to tackle Observation Point, catch one of the earliest buses into the park and get hiking before the sun and heat (and crowds) set in. This hike zigzags up over 2,000 feet and is pretty strenuous hike. That being said, I am the self-proclaimed queen of the couch, avoid the gym like the plague, and survived with a smile on my face. The changing landscapes on the way up and the amazing views of Zion and friends you make at the top make it all worth it! Don’t forget lots of water and snacks for pit stops along the way.
After Observation Point, we ignored the urge to put our feet up for a bit and took the bus straight to the Emerald Pools hike. Our new friends at the top of Observation Point recommended this hike as a pretty easy hike that’s worth doing. We agreed. It took us a little over an hour to see all three pools. During this hike, you walk under waterfalls and through three levels of pools with pretty views of the park. To get the Upper Emerald Pool you do have to climb over some tough rocks, but we saw many families with kids do this fairly easily. Once at the top there is a large pool and waterfall. While the waterfall was small during our visit, it was a great place to sit and enjoy nature! (to note: there were LOTS of families doing this hike, which meant lots of loud and excited children. So, if zigzagging through children isn’t your thing you may want to skip this hike.)
This website was a great resource for a quick description of the different hikes in Zion: http://www.citrusmilo.com/zionguide/recommend.cfm
- Stay in Springdale while Visiting Zion National Park
Knowing that Vegas would single handedly kill our budget, we were careful to stay as cheaply as possible on every other stop. We pre-booked all of our hotels before leaving except for Zion–shout-out to booking.com for helping us find cheap as dirt deals! Rather than booking a random motel we decided to check out the area before choosing a hotel and we nailed it! We drove through Zion and into the town of Springdale, which is full of adorable shops, restaurants, and places to stay. Many of the hotels were full, but we were able to snag a room at the Bumbleberry Inn. Not only was this place extremely charming, but our room had a small patio with amazing views of Zion. Springdale is the perfect home base for a vacation to Zion with pools to enjoy, shopping, and many nice restaurant options! If you can’t tell, I kind of want to live there and own a fudge shop (#dreams).