Mini Southwest US Road Trip

sedona arizonaThe day after Thanksgiving, I hopped a flight to Phoenix to see family and to meet up with my friend and fellow travel blogger, Danial Shah, to go on a mini road trip to see a bit of the Southwest US.

In a week’s time, it felt like we’d spent perhaps a bit too much time in the car, but we got to see some amazing sites: Sedona, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Monument Valley.

grand canyon

Grand Canyon

I’d been to Sedona and Flagstaff a couple times before, but had never made it far enough north to check out the Grand Canyon. To be honest though, when I saw it, I was sort of nonplussed. And I feel like that’s probably a horrible thing to say because, yes, it is magnificent. But I just wasn’t as moved by it as I’d hoped/expected to be. (Maybe my issue is that I had some expectations?) It wasn’t until the second day when I saw it under a blanket of fog that I was truly impressed by it.

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Tip: Leave about two days to see Grand Canyon (South Rim) before moving on and split the Desert View Drive into two. There is a shuttle that will take you around when you are in the park, but in off-season, it runs infrequently and is actually easier to just drive your own car.

horseshoe bend arizona

Horseshoe Bend

The place that impressed me the most was probably Horseshoe Bend. I think that’s the place everyone should visit. It’s still a bit touristy, but not quite as bad as Grand Canyon (and certainly not as developed and highly “Disney-fied” as Grand Canyon). If there was any place where I stood in complete awe of what nature had created, it was Horseshoe Bend (you know, after I slowly inched my way to the edge with jello-knees).

meganotravels at horseshoe bend arizona

Tip: Wear shoes that you can walk in sand and rock. The small hike up and back is only about a mile to a mile-and-a-half, but there are parts when it’s straight up or down in loose sand or craggy rock. It’s not a difficult hike, but just be aware. Also, there are no barriers between you and the bottom and it’s about a 300-meter drop. If you’re scared of heights (as I am), you can still get good views from a bit further back and there are places where you can sit and sort of scooch out.

antelope canyon arizona

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon was the place I was most looking forward to photographing, and while it was a ton of fun and so beautiful, my photos didn’t even come close to capturing the real beauty of it. You can find so many little shapes in the rock and the shadows create awesome imagery.

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Tip: Be sure to look online to see what time tours run. You can’t get to Lower Antelope Canyon without taking a tour. Also, be aware that summer is a very popular time to visit and our tour guide said that their tour company alone does about 500 people a day. When I went in early December, there were about 20 people total in the entire canyon (which is not very big) and they cleared out pretty quickly leaving us to have the run of the place for a bit.

monument valley utah arizona

Monument Valley

Situated on a 17-mile stretch of Navajo land over Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley is home to about 15 sandstone buttes in shapes that resemble animals, people, and objects. If you’ve never seen anything like it, it’s kind of otherworldly. Even now as I look back at photos, if I hadn’t actually seen it with my own eyes, I’m not sure I’d believe it was real.

monument valley utah arizona monument valley utah arizona meganotravels at monument valley utah arizona

Tip: The whole self-drive tour takes about three hours and that gives you enough time to see and photograph the buttes. There are alternate activities available: hiking, horse riding, and camping, but I opted just to do the self-drive (and felt that was enough).

13 thoughts on “Mini Southwest US Road Trip

  1. Monument Valley looks so incredible. And while I do kinda get what you mean about the Grand Canyon not living up to expectation (I was reading a post about how hiking down into it is much more impressive than the vista by two-fortheroad yesterday!), I’d recommend visiting the North Rim if you get a chance to go back. It’s a National Park, so there’s less of a Disney feel and fewer visitors overall.
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    • Thanks for the tip, Polly! I would’ve liked to have visited, but it was closed by the time we got there, sadly. Next time I’ll have to plan a summer trip and check out the North Rim too! (And the Wave and Antelope Canyon again!)

  2. Whoa baby! These photos are incredible. I shared them with Mike and I think he’s finally getting onboard with the idea of a SW road trip one day. Also – I’ve gotten really lazy lately and haven’t even touched my nice camera. These photos have me wanting to start working on photography again.
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    • Thanks, Jill!

      And yeah, get Mike on board–I’m sure he’d love it when you get there! It’s incredible.

      I hope you took your nice camera to Nicaragua with you and are snapping a ton of beautiful photos right now!

    • Thanks, Melissa! And yeah–my experience up to this point was similar. I visited a few areas just outside of Vegas and in Utah. This blew that out of the water!

  3. Oh wow! What fantastic photos. I’ve longed to visit the Grand Canyon for forever (it’s even on my bucket list).

    Part of the reason I’ve put off going is that I worry that (like you first experienced) I’ll be disappointed by it! (And my fear of heights doesn’t help…eek).

    Sometimes when a place is so famous and there are so many photos of it, I build things up in my mind about how fantastic it is. Then find them a bit of a let down once I actually get there. This is exactly what happened when I went to Niagara Falls.

    But it looks like you did a great thing by staying a while and seeing it from different angles. Great post!
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    • Exactly, Gemma! I think sometimes the expectation of how amazing things will be jades us and ends up with us feeling bummed. But I still think that those places are worth a visit because there’s obviously some value in seeing them! Though, as several commenters have said, check out the North Rim as apparently it’s better (it was closed when I was there).

  4. Beautiful photos! İ love the canyon with the blanket of fog–incredible! İ especially love the photos of Antelope Canyon. İ have never been there but am adding it to my list now.

    • Definitely get to Horseshoe Bend next time! It’s fantastic. (I’d also like to go to the Wave next time–just ran out of time!)

      And yeah, I’ve heard a few people say that North Rim is great, but unfortunately it was closed because I was there so late in the year. Next time I’ll be headed back in the summer! :)

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