2 out of 5 hot mess tinis
Two days. A billion cool places. Arizona is the tits.
So you landed in Phoenix for a road trip...
Let's do this in two days - Phoenix > Grand Canyon > Jerome > Sedona > Page > and back
Land in Phoenix
If you have extra time in Phoenix, I have a whole ‘nother blog coming for you with things to do there. But to start, you might as well swing by Jobot Coffee & Bar (333 E. Roosevelt St.) to grab a coffee (or a beer because do you) before you head out.
On the Road Heading North
The only real goal for Day One is to take your time getting to Sedona. If you went straight there it'd be a two hour drive. We personally took our time getting there...
First stop was Verde Brewing Company. We saw it from the road and had the thought "we like beer" so we pulled over. This was not a planned stop but we did sample all seven of their brews and have nachos. It was a good spot for a snack break.
We then drove to Jerome, AZ because we were excited to walk around this ghost town that I'd read about. Once we were there, we wished we hadn't gone. It was super gimmicky. There were signs like “a bit further to the ghost town!!” There was even a gift shop. Any coolness was ruined. We left within a few minutes.
Still, seeing this area around Jerome was NOT a waste because we continued up the mountain to the Prescott National Forest area for some phenomenal views driving up the mountain. We stopped, took a few pictures, and when we thought we’d reached the top we turned around. The views alone were worth a 20 minute detour, fo' sho'.
On the way back down the mountain we obviously stopped at another brewery. We opted to trust Google Reviews and stopped at Wicked City Brew (4.9 rating!) in Jerome and it turned out to be a great little watering hole with some cool history. There was a skeleton drinking at the bar, which, frankly, tickled my funny bone. (See what I did there? Skeleton? Bone? #ComicGenius.)
The small town of Jerome looked like a cool place to walk around and spend a few hours. If it's your type of activity you can try one of the ghost tours, which I would imagine has a lot of potential in a town built in the 1800s.
Next Stop Red Rocks
Back down the mountain and we were almost in Sedona. We made one last stop in Red Rock State Park on our way in. There are a few miles of trails here (nothing strenuous, I did the entire thing in flip flops, but don’t do that because there are critters). The hiking trails didn't get as up-close-and-personal with the red rocks as I had imagined, but still, it was worth a stroll.
We didn’t get there until 6 PM or so, but we were glad we were later than scheduled because we got to see the sunset there - it made the walk even more beautiful. Nothing like stretching your legs in nature after a long day in the car!
Note: The park is open until dusk. There is a sign on the way in that says it closes at 5 PM Ignore that sign.
From there we drove into Sedona proper and the drive in was just an amazing site. It’s one of those sights you can’t really capture in a picture (or, someone better probably could, I didn’t make much of an effort).
The mountains were just stunning surrounding the city. When people go on and on (and on) about how you HAVE to go to Sedona...they’re actually right - even if you just drive through it.
Finally in Sedona Proper
Then, it was dinner time and mama was hungry. (Mama being me. I don't have kids or any idea why I'm like this).
We ate a Cowboy Cafe because this NY Times article told me to and I was just a litttttttle disappointed. Whether it was because I built it up in my head, I’m not sure. Just like the ghost town in Jerome, (not to go all “word of the day” on you) but it also felt gimmicky. I say this because everything - like too much - was all “old west-y” (but like fake old west-y because I saw not one rifle and Clint Eastwood was not even there).
It was fine, though.
On the other hand, also at Cowboy Cafe, I did have a new experience eating rattlesnake sausage. It made me feel weird eating a snake. I have not felt conflicted about eating an animal before or since.
A lot of people do the Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona. I opted not to because for me they were cost prohibitive to the effect of $220 for two of us to be driven around for two hours (I mean, I’m sure it’s cool, but, at the same time, are you out of your damn mind?) Anyway, if that price doesn’t give you a visceral reaction like it did to me, you may want to give it a look because it did get a ton excellent Google reviews and there are a range of tours and prices.
There’s a bunch of stuff we didn’t get to do here. I would have loved to stay and hike. I also regret not making it to Slide Rock State Park, because it's outside of Sedona and it has a natural water slide that looked fun to try.
We took too long getting up here stopping for supplies, hitting a Walgreens, a CVS, AND a Walmart for supplies, and a liquor store - why was that necessary. So be a little more efficient than us, so that you can take your time and see hippies in Sedona (get your aura read or purchase "vortex in a can"!)
End of Day One
We drove into Flagstaff to sleep at a depressing Motel 8. We selected Flagstaff because it was closer to the Grand Canyon.
There may be stuff to do here but I'm not sure, I called it Flagship the entire time I was there so that's what I know.
This is where the magic happened. Scroll to the bottom if you strictly want to see the timing for Day Two!
Flagstaff > Grand Canyon
I woke up to an alarm that went off a mere two hours after I had gone to bed and it was so early that I thought the hotel was on fire because of the confusion and chaos in my dream. But alas, this was the actual ungodly hour of 3:30 AM when I told myself I would get up because we had to drive 1.5 hours to get to the Grand Canyon by sunrise.
It was unfortunate that we went to all of these gorgeous places on a day after we got two hours of sleep because I now look like hot garbage in every photo. Plan better than us and avoid this issue.
We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park before the sunrise at 5:10ish, choosing Navajo Point as our lookout spot. 10/10 go see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Navajo Point was convenient for a get-in-get-out deal because it was right by the entrance and absolutely breathtaking.
I had never seen the Grand Canyon in person before. It looked fake, or like a mural. It is so big and stunning that it’s actually beyond comprehension.
I absolutely recommend going at sunrise. It was completely amazing, and almost nobody was up to see it at that hour so it felt like a private show. Of course, what’s a show without a 5 AM beer.
Hot Mess Tip: Navajo Point was an incredible lookout point to see the sunrise (at first I wrote “for Sunrise” because language is hard), but the Desert View Watchtower a mile up the road would have been another great option and it's more northeast so you may have a less obstructed view of the sunrise. Hard to say.
Onward and Northward to Horseshoe Bend
We left the Grand Canyon for Horseshoe Bend around 6:15 AM and settled in for the two hour drive.
Despite the height, there are no railings in sight, which makes it that much more stunning and au naturale. My boyfriend even noticed a human turd by a rock there. Can't get much more natural than that.
Once you park (which is super easy, just pull up right off into a parking lot off of the highway) it’s about a ¾ mile walk in the sand to Horseshoe Bend. Bring water! On the way walking, I wondered why everyone on their way back seemed to be sweating buckets. On the way back we were like “oh, now WE'RE sweating buckets.” (And we were there super early!) Come prepared to feel really out of shape and shoes for sand-sinking.
Hot Mess Tip: There are two things that Google Maps recognizes as "Horseshoe Bend, Arizona." If you use Google Maps, make sure you're driving north of the Grand Canyon.
Horseshoe Bend > Antelope Canyon
Only about 20 minutes from Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon requires that visitors go with an official Navajo tour guide. There are a bunch of tour companies. I researched this for probably four hours and arrived at this analysis: Upper Antelope Canyon is the most expensive but gets the best sunbeams. Lower Antelope is pretty but does not have such great sunbeams. You should book either of those way in advance. If you have enough dolla dolla bills (I see you) then you might as well splurge for a photography tour, more pricey but at better times of day. (Some require special photography equipment.)
We went to a slot canyon and it was cheaper than upper OR lower and there was exactly one sunbeam. It was absolutely adequate for what we wanted to do which was walk around and see the red, wavy rocks for ourselves.
I didn't pack sneakers so I wore flip flops to the hike through the canyons. It wasn’t big a deal and the guides still let me go. I’m convinced ”Arizona” means “no rules.”
Our 70 year old guide - who actually ended up being kind of weird because he insisted on taking 700 pictures of my pretty friend and it was only funny for the first 200 pictures - told us that the people from the reservation celebrate Halloween in one of the canyons. I don’t know how one swings an invite to that Halloween party but it sounds LIT.
Hot Mess Tip: My understanding is that there’s no point in paying a premium for the Upper Antelope Canyon if you’re not going midday because that’s the only time when there are actual sunbeams. Also, your tour could be canceled, especially of Lower Antelope Canyon, if there is a rainstorm/monsoon because it floods the canyons. Our guides told us the most recent flash flood, which happened the day before we arrived, filled the canyon "up" six feet!
Antelope Point Marina / Lake Powell - MUST GO
I had NEVER heard of this place in all my research (it has a measly ranking of fifth on “things to do” in Page, AZ on Google). We would have missed it entirely if the Navajo guide that drove us back from our tour of Antelope Canyon hadn’t of told us about it.
Antelope Point Marina has a floating restaurant in a gorgeous marina in the middle of the desert but it's my understanding that the lake, Lake Powell, goes on for a few miles. (If you're doing the paddle board Antelope Canyon tour, for example, you are in a different part of Lake Powell... I think).
It was stunning. Getting lunch here on a lake in the middle of a desert rivaled seeing the sun rise over the Grand Canyon for me.
Note that there’s a ton of money here. Boat in the desert money. So, you’re definitely going to see some rich people and some douchey people (and some rich douchey people). One guy yelled at us in the parking lot for “taking his spot” we were like “fuck you bro we were here first” (actually we were like, “was it your spot!?” we genuinely weren’t sure).
Brief aside: During this whole fiasco, I unknowingly had nailpolish on my face. I forgot to screw the cap on the nail polish and it spilled all over the rental car and put my sunglasses in the puddle of purple nail polish, then proceeded to put them on my face. If I were a superhero, my kryptonite would be that I always look like a moron during arguments. (Whether I've spilled on my shirt, have a booger, or I didn’t realize my dress was on backwards. I even had salsa on the back of my shirt once. I was the only one eating salsa so that one is still a mystery.)
The level of money made it like people watching in the opposite of Walmart. We even saw a guy with one of those water jet packs. (That wasn’t douchey, that was just awesome.)
I know I spent a lot of the time discussing the money level. I just want you to be prepared to bring your "A" game. You may need a wardrobe change if you're coming from hiking.
My main point being that it was such a great spot. You are missing out if you don’t go here.
Back to Phoenix
From there we undertook the 4.5 hour drive back to Phoenix, where it all began. Actually, we stopped again in Flagstaff for some people to poop. But other than that, we headed straight back. There was some light crying on my part because I’d gotten two hours of sleep, but all in all it was a perfect two-day road trip and we were back in Phoenix before 6:00 p.m.
(Don't concern yourself about the crying. It helps to think of me as a giant toddler with some oddly placed acne scars. To be emotionally stable, I need to have eaten enough, slept adequately, AND had a bowel movement somewhat recently - I call it the “trifecta of possibility.”)
This was our schedule on Day Two
~3:30 AM: Leave for Grand Canyon [1.5 hr drive]
5:00 AM: Arrive Navajo Point, Admire sunrise 5:25 AM, take a million pictures
6:15 AM: Leave [2 hr drive]
8:30 AM: Arrive Horseshoe Bend, AZ (10m walk, 20m to hang, 10m walk back)
9:10 AM: Leave [20 m drive]
9:35 AM Arrive for Antelope Canyon Tour
11:10 AM Antelope Point Marina 1:45m tour [10 m drive]
1:15 PM: Leave for Phoenix
5:45 PM: Arrive Phoenix
Hot Mess Tips
During Daylight Savings time, Navajo county does NOT operate on Arizona time. Call any tour places, etc. and make sure you schedule your trip based on the same time zone that you’re working off of. Put your phone in airplane mode if you can to avoid switching back and forth during the drive because it is so, so confusing. For example, our phone would say it was 9:00 a.m. and that we had 1 minute left to our destination and that we would arrive at 10:01. See? Confusing.
A lot of people in Arizona are like really, really attractive. I’m not sure if it’s just because I went to a lot of bars and bartenders in general tend to be attractive? I don’t know. But. It’s most definitely a thing.
You can buy liquor in CVS/convenience stores in Arizona. We made a CVS run and got Pringles and tequila so that part of the trip alone was a resounding success.
Apparently summer is monsoon season in Arizona. I genuinely had no idea that there was such a thing in the continental US. Pull over rather than drive through a monsoon (or still water). It’s genuinely terrifying.
Even though you will be super thirsty, you’ll also have to pee a ton. I can’t tell you how many times I peed that day. I peed in several hotels, fast food restaurants, gas stations, I peed on the side of the road - yes - as a lady. I even peed by accident on my dress and had to change. At one point I peed ON a rattlesnake. Yes, on a LIVE rattlesnake! Haha - kidding about that last one. I have a point here: Hydration is important but you will have to pee a ton, which is inconvenient on a road trip.
The Hot Mess Behind HMT
More from Arizona
...I am especially proud of how dumb this was.
...sample craft beer or get messy - there's no shortage of watering holes in Phoenix.