Something more than 360 kilometers – 225 miles – separate the city of Phoenix from the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. If you took the car and drove straight north, you could complete it in about four hours. It is an easy journey. The question, though, is why do it without stopping with the myriad of interesting places along the way?
Arizona is a state in the southwestern United States and borders Mexico, the Colorado River, and the states of Utah, New Mexico, California, and Nevada. There, desert landscapes, cacti, and exceptional rock formations dominate … However, it is known as the state of the Grand Canyon (The Grand Canyon State), since the north of the state is home to one of the best known natural tourist attractions in the USA and the world: the Grand Canyon.
360 kilometers in 5 days
The Grand Canyon was declared a world heritage site in 1979 and last year it celebrated 100 years as a national park. It is undoubtedly one of the most memorable views that exist on the planet. Few experiences are as shocking as when you first peer into the abyss of this massive ax on Earth. It is divided into North Rim (the north edge), South Rim (the south edge) separated by 16 kilometers, and the East Rim (the east edge). The South bank is the most popular and the easiest to make a route by car.
That is precisely the purpose of this journey. To do this, you must first fly to Phoenix Airport, rent a car, and take the Interstate north to Flagstaff, then further north on Route 64 to the entrance to the national park. Time depends on each one, but we we propose about 5 days to a week to get the most out of this itinerary.
A walk through Phoenix
Few know Phoenix in Spain, unless they talk about basketball and their NBA team the Phoenix Suns (where Spanish baseman Ricky Rubio currently plays). But that it is not one of the destinations that Spanish travelers mark in red in their list of preferences does not mean that it is not worth it. You are right, you have to discover Phoenix and this trip is an ideal excuse.
In fact, it is a great way to start the tour. Spending half a day or a whole day in the city and taking a walk can be a way to take the fatigue out of the plane journey. The first suggestion would be to know your passion for art. It is a city with a varied museum proposal. From the Art Museum, through the Heard Museum (the best specialized in native art in the nation), to the Museum of Instruments, where they keep an Elvis Preysler guitar. Downtown also has some interesting visits such as the Rosson House and the Victorian-style Heritage Square, eating at the legendary Pizzeria Bianco or visiting the oldest church in the city, the st. Mary Church.
Jerome, like in the old West
If you have had time, after a morning walk (the trails of South Mountain Park are highly recommended for all audiences), we left Phoenix for Jerome, a typical and historic mining town from the region, whose main street will make you feel that you have fully immersed yourself in a western movie. At this first stop we will drive just over 150 kilometers. Perched on top of Cleopatra Hill, this small town has grown from Arizona’s fifth most prosperous city to a true ghost town whose inhabitants are a community of artists such as craftsmen, musicians, and writers.
Verde Valley vineyards
About 15 minutes drive east of Jerome on the AZ-89A is Cottonwood, where it is advisable to stop and leave the car for a while. You are in the heart of the prosperous wine region of Valle Verde (Verde Valley). The volcanic lands and the moderate winters prevailing in this region provide ideal conditions for el cultivation of merlot, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon grapes. It is a highly appreciated broth among the country’s winemakers.
Cottonwood, as well as its neighboring cities Clarkdale and Cornville (also known as “Little Napa”), are ideal for enjoying a wine tasting. Especially recognized are the vineyards of Arizona Stronghold Vineyards and the Alcantará. Incidentally, this last estate embraces the Verde River and it is worth taking an excursion called Verde Adventures’ Water to Wine, whose final destination is the tasting room of its winery.
The energy vortices in Sedona
The next stop is only 30 kilometers away on 89A, when the charming city of Sedona appears at the end of the valley. On that road, you cannot stop watching the blue sky cut out over the beautiful mountains of reddish rock. The light at sunset over the mountains is amazing. The shades from brown to red are mixed in the immensity of a unique relief. They are the landscapes of the most anthological westerns in the history of cinema. We must remember that we are located south of the mythical Route 66.
However, apart from the many excursions – Oak Creek Canyon to the north and Catedral Rock and Bell Rock to the east, are the most recommended – that can be done in the surroundings of Sedona, this population attracts thousands of tourists thanks to its energy vortex and its cosmic powers. Experts assure that this is one of the places – Boyton Canyon or Airport Mesa are two highlights – where the Earth’s natural electromagnetic field has a higher level. It seems that it is an inexhaustible source of positive spirit that absorbs you only when you arrive.
Flagstaff and its porridge
We are about to penetrate the vastness of the Grand Canyon. Flagstaff (or better known as Flag) is the gateway. Although it is not only that, far from it. It is a city with many things to offer. Flagstaff It is located at a height of more than 2,000 meters and it is located 19 kilometers from Route 66. Its roots go back to historical days in the days of the pioneers of the west. This past is still palpable in the buildings built at the turn of the century or by the endless freight trains that cross the city.
BTW, being in Flagstaff and not trying their porridge is a sin. They are made with dry stone-ground corn and are quite similar to polenta. In the Tinderbox Kitchen restaurant, according to Lonely Planet, “We must highlight the porridge with blue cheese, which overflows under venison marinated in juniper, black figs with balsamic vinegar and fennel salad.”
The South Rim: la entrada sur
Of the two entrances to the Grand Canyon National Park, the most common is to enter through the south entrance. Not only for its greater magnitude, 2,100 meters deep compared to 300, but for having better services. From Flagstaff we set off for Williams on a highway whose landscapes are slowly transforming wooded to completely arid.
We are already in the southern part of the park. At first you do not realize its immensity. But the numbers are shocking: the Grand Canyon of the Colorado has a length of about 350 kilometers, about 21 kilometers in its widest section and, in its deepest parts, reaches 1,600 meters high. Finally this cannon has millions of years of history, since the waters of the Chlorado river were eroding the terrain and creating this natural work of art.
Walk, bike, helicopter, boat...
As of now, the options for visiting the Grand Canyon are almost endless. There is everything. When we reach the population of Grand Canyon Village, on the South Rim, we have at our disposal most of the accommodation, shops, restaurants, viewpoints and the beginning of the most advisable hiking trails. Anyway, you have to think that a trip in the middle of the tourist season (from June to September) will mean encountering a huge number of visitors. The first thing you should do when you arrive is visit the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, in order to have all the updated information and, if necessary, hire a guide or a tour.
Depending on the time you have, you must choose what is best for you. Most places can be done in your own car, others using the free bus (if you paid $ 35 for admission). As I said, the activities are numerous: from doing the Desert View Drive – scenic route – and watching the sunset from a viewpoint such as Hopi Point or Mojave, to flying over the extraordinary majesty of the canyon by plane or helicopter (ideal with children), walking on trails (the trails) or go rafting and descend various sections of the river. Even those who dare, ride a mule and trot down to the riverbank.
After a good breakfast and a morning yoga (there are hotels that offer them), you have to put your batteries up to cover 170 kilometers and get to know Marble Canyon, a stretch of the Colorado River flanked by multicolored limestone walls with a fine and striking texture. In fact, it is a favorite from where those who navigate the river launch, departing from Lees Ferry before heading along the Grand Canyon.
Even if you don’t intend to jump on a raft and experience the rapids downstream, it’s fun to see the Lees Ferry Launch Ramp, as well as the surrounding area – Glen Canyon and the Auxiliary Dam along the border between Arizona and Utah. But of all the walks in the area, the pedestrian part of the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado is essential.
The Silence of White Pocket
If you have time for lunch, stop by the iconic Cliff Dwellers restaurant (in the middle of nowhere) and then head to White Pocket at Vermillion Cliffs. Yes, that is the same national monument that houses The Wave, except that to reach this remote place with a galactic aspect, one arrives on dirt tracks and does not need a permit. The silence that reigns in White Pocket is overwhelming.
Lake Powell, movie sets
Lake Powell and Page, between the states of Arizona and Utah, is one of the points on the planet where the best scenes of Hollywood movies and series such as Gravity, Broken Arrow, Evolution, Maverick or the Planet of the Apes. Is about an artificial lake created from the Colorado river with about 300 kilometers long. Once there, it is advisable to go to eat pulled pork or smoked ribs at Big John’s Texas Barbecue, a good roast to finish the route and turn back to Phoenix.
From Phoenix to the Grand Canyon in five days