Bunny’s Highlights of Arizona
Just before Covid-19 hit the world with a hammer and brought all travel to a standstill, Bunny managed to make an extended visit to Arizona. She had not visited the unofficial Grand Canyon State before, but it immediately became one of her favourites.
Bunny went to Arizona to hike and to enjoy its wild nature. She skipped the big city thrills, bypassing Phoenix completely, and only visiting Tucson and Scottsdale fleetingly. She spent a couple of weeks in Chandler and Fountain Hills as part of her pet sitting adventures but the rest of her time in Arizona was spent zipping around in a rental car looking for great scenery. Luckily for Bunny, Arizona is the epitome of great scenery.
Red rock buttes, slot canyons, cartoon-like cacti, beautiful lakes, charming small towns, superb hiking and even remnants of ancient cultures - all this you can find in Arizona. You can also count on good, sunny weather for most of the year - unless you happen to be there during the snowstorm of the century, like Bunny did.
Check out below Bunny’s highlights of Arizona.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon, is an obvious choice to visit in Arizona. Its spellbinding beauty attracts almost 5 million people annually. Bunny visited in winter-time which tends be quieter. Thanks to the off-season, Bunny managed to find accommodation inside the national park which was a great plus.
Grand Canyon’s massive scale and unbeatable views are impressive at any time of the day, but early morning and late afternoon are particularly great times to explore this gem. As an added bonus, that’s when most of the (annoying) day-trippers are gone or yet to arrive.
You may not have heard of Coyote Buttes, which is part of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area on the Arizona-Utah border. This is home to the (Instagram famous) Wave - a geological wonder of a sandstone formation with swirling bands of colours created by slow erosion. Wave is notoriously difficult to get a visitor permit for. Luckily, the rest of the Coyote Buttes is more accessible with equally stunning scenery and excellent hiking opportunities.
Bunny visited an area called Cottonwood in Coyote Buttes South and enjoyed one of the best hikes ever, with spectacular scenery, peculiar geologic wonders, gorgeous rock formations and dazzling displays of colour. This is a true wilderness area, so it is best to visit with an experienced guide.
Monument Valley had long captivated Bunny’s imagination before she actually managed to visit. It was a must on her Arizona itinerary.
When you drive to Monument Valley, the unfolding scenery is otherworldly and instantly recognisable at the same time. That’s because you have, no doubt, seen it in movies and advertisements before. This wide empty desert with protruding red mesas and majestic buttes is truly epic scenery.
Although the area is not packed with activities or entertainment, Bunny advises you to stay the night at View Hotel inside Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Experiencing the spiritual silence and awe-inspiring colors at sunset and sunrise in Monument Valley are moments you will not soon forget.
Saguaro National Park
Think of Arizona and you will probably think of cacti. They are (almost) everywhere and they are gorgeous. There’s no better place to enjoy them than in the national park named after them: Saguaro National Park.
Located close to Tucson, Saguaro National Park protects a giant saguaro cactus forest that offers great hiking, plenty of solitude and magnificent cacti which stretch as far as the eye can see.
Where to Stay
Antelope Canyon is one of those places that you can visit only with a guide. Bunny is not too keen on group expeditions, but this amazing slot canyon was too tempting to miss so she settled for a tour.
There are actually two separate canyons here, Upper and Lower Canyon. Bunny went to the Lower Canyon because that was the only one she managed to get tickets for. (The tours can be fully booked for days ahead so plan accordingly!)
The canyon was mesmerising. Even experiencing it as part of a large group (Bunny went with Dixie Ellis), Bunny was captivated by sandstone formations, myriad photo opportunities and the weird and wonderful feeling of walking inside the narrow canyon.
If you want to recreate the famous photos of the beautiful light beam, which only appear at a certain time of the day, you will need to visit the Upper Canyon, Bunny says. No light beams form in the Lower Canyon.
Horseshoe Bend is located just outside Page, which is an excellent base for many adventures in Northern Arizona and further afield in Utah. Horseshoe Bend offers a dramatic view of the Colorado River looping around a peninsula of vertical rock. It’s an vertigo-inducing sight.
You admire the river 1,000 feet above the water, on the edge of a cliff which is not completely fenced. Photography here ranges from a bit tricky to deadly. A number of people have plunged into their deaths at Horseshoe Bend in recent years while trying to get their best Instagram shots. Don’t be one of them, Bunny says.
Horse Bend is a short hike from the parking lot, but it can get extremely busy. Be prepared for crowds.
Many places in Arizona have awesome scenery. Sedona is no exception but, in addition to its gorgeous setting, it also boasts beautiful hotels, seductive spas, vibrant art galleries, boutique wineries and is spotted with vortexes that are (supposedly) conducive to spiritual healing and meditation. Now how many places can claim that?
Bunny went to Sedona mainly to hike, not to be spiritually awakened, and enjoyed her time immensely. Sedona had some of the best, and most accessible, day-hiking Bunny has experienced anywhere in the world. Impressive red rock formations, interesting canyons and well-marked, beautiful walking trails make Sedona a true hiker’s paradise.
Don’t rush through Sedona, Bunny says. A minimum of 2-3 days is needed to appreciate everything on offer here.
Also check out Montezuma Castle National Monument, 30 miles from Sedona. It is a 20-room dwelling built by the Sinague people right into the cliffs of a verdant valley between the years 1100-1400. It has been called “a prehistoric high rise apartment complex” and it is an impressive example of the engineering skills of the indigenous people.
Bunny’s Bucket List
Although Bunny spent more than a month in Arizona, she didn’t quite manage to see everything she wanted.
Havasu Falls is one of those places she is desperate to visit one day. This destination requires some advance planning as you will need to make reservations and obtain a permit before being allowed to hike there.
Bunny also wishes she had had more time to spend at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as the short visit she managed to squeeze in, including the Horseshoe Bend and the area around the Hoover Dam, seemed quite promising indeed.
If you are travelling in the US and looking for epic scenery in a great climate, go to Arizona, Bunny says. The hiking, in particular, is spectacular but many of the sights can also be admired directly from the window of your car, in true American fashion…