Last January I set out from Mesa (1243 ft) with two friends to cover as much terrain as possible. The plan was to arrive in Flagstaff (6910 ft) to ski and then hike the following day in Grand Canyon National Park. We had three days.
The two-hour drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff takes you on a rollercoaster ride climbing from 1100 ft to 5000 ft then dropping into the Verde Valley, before rising steeply to 7000 ft, putting any 4-cylinder to the test. We decided to make our first stop at Arcosanti (3750 ft), explained best by their website as, “An experimental town in the desert of Arizona, built to embody Paolo Soleri's concept of arcology - the fusion of architecture with ecology.” It was a good stop. Next, we decided to head to Jerome (5435 ft) for lunch. Before I continue, I should mention that the weather was unusual for Arizona that day. The clouds were thick and dark and we had already encountered some rain. Jerome, a town known for its uniqueness and paranormal activity was shrouded in clouds, cutting visibility to the extent of the narrow streets and historic buildings. Knowing we would likely encounter snow on the drive, we set out after lunch. Sure enough, Flagstaff was a winter wonderland.
A sudden winter storm had blanketed Flagstaff with a foot of snow. We settled in at a downtown hotel before making our way to Beaver Street Brewery for some delicious chili. The next day my friends were anxious to get to the Canyon so we chose to forgo skiing. Not an easy decision considering the fresh powder on the mountain. That, and the 80-mile road to Grand Canyon Village (7000 ft), located at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, was covered in snow.
After a slow go, we arrived to a most spectacular sight, the Grand Canyon wrapped in fresh snow, and a break in the storm allowing the sun to bathe the canyon with light. We spent the day walking along the rim and taking in the views, and the evening investigating our hiking options. After some discussion, and instructions regarding crampons, we decide to make the decent in the morning.
We woke up to fresh snow and subfreezing temps. As the sun was rising we started our descent. Ten hours later we climbed out of the Grand Canyon and started our trip back to Phoenix. Our only regret was that we did not stay longer. After your visit you may be inclined to agree, pun intended.
Glenn Schlottman serves as the Community Relations Manager for the Arizona Office of Tourism. He conducts education and outreach programs for communities around the state.