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Canyons & Monuments Adventure
Region: Northern Arizona
There’s more to Arizona’s wonders than the Grand Canyon (but you won’t want to miss that, either). Here are some of our favorite places to stop throughout Northern Arizona.
You have read about it, heard about it and dreamed about it. Now experience Northern Arizona and some of its most famous attributes – from the Grand Canyon to the Navajo Nation. You'll encounter unusual and majestic landscapes, many of which Native Americans believe to be sacred. You will hike, raft and take advantage of photo opportunities unlike anywhere else in the world, so do not forget your camera.
Day 1: See ancient sites at Sunset Crater and Wupatki.
Your journey begins in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona's largest city, which is two hours north of Phoenix. From Flagstaff, drive north on Highway 89 to visit the site of the Colorado Plateau's most recent volcanic eruption, Sunset Crater National Monument (:30). Sunset Crater erupted between AD 1064 and 1180. Hike Lava Flow Trail, an easy, one-mile loop trail well worth your time.
Afterward, follow the loop road through the incredible changing scenery and into Wupatki National Monument. The monument's Visitors Center is a great place to stop for a picnic lunch. It is also located near Wupatki, a large ancient pueblo and a great place for an easy walk. If you have time, be sure to visit the other pueblos in the area as well. The turnoffs from the main road are well marked. Spend your evening at one of Flagstaff's many dining establishments, like Beaver Street Brewery in historic downtown Flagstaff, or go dancing at the Museum Club located on Route 66. Overnight in Flagstaff.
Day 2: Tour the big attraction – the Grand Canyon.
Today, the Grand Canyon awaits! Have an early breakfast and drive north on Highway 89 toward Highway 64, which will lead you to the seldom-crowded east entrance of the park (1:00). Be sure to stop by the historic Cameron Trading Post on Highway 89, just north of the Grand Canyon National Park turnoff. Try a Navajo taco and shop for wonderful Native arts and crafts.
Once at the canyon, leisurely explore Desert View Drive, the longest stretch of road open to the public along the South Rim. Visit Desert View Watchtower, designed by renowned architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, which is just past the East Rim entrance. And don't miss Lipan Point and Grandview Point.
In the afternoon, stroll around Grand Canyon Village and enjoy a cup of coffee at the El Tovar Hotel or a snack at Bright Angel Lodge. Watch the magnificent sun set on the Grand Canyon. In the evening, enjoy a gourmet meal at El Tovar Lodge. Overnight in the park. For more information, visit Xanterra.
Day 3: Sunrise at the Grand Canyon, sunset at Lake Powell.
Grab a cup of coffee and your camera and watch the sunrise over the canyon. Drive back to the east entrance and proceed north on Highway 89 to Page (2:00). Lunch in Page.
Visit the John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum and learn about his Colorado River Voyages back in the late 1800s. Take a four-wheel-drive trip to remote Canyon "X," a slot canyon, just a few feet wide but more than 180 feet deep. Later, watch the setting sun over Lake Powell or take a dinner cruise on the Canyon King. Tours can be booked through the museum. Overnight in Page.
Day 4: Visit the world’s largest natural bridge.
Take a boat trip to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the world's largest natural bridge (schedules vary by season). This sacred bridge spans 275 feet across the river and reaches 290 feet high. The cruise will dock so you can hike to the bridge and take photos. Lunch is offered on the cruise. After the leisurely cruise back, enjoy an evening of dining at the Rainbow Room. Overnight in Page.
Day 5: Tour the cliffs of Canyon de Chelly.
Drive east toward Chinle (3:00). Take an afternoon Jeep tour into Canyon de Chelly National Monument, which is home to sheer cliffs and hundreds of Anasazi ruins, as well as modern Navajo homes and farms. Have a boxed lunch and explore the area from the sandy canyon floor while learning from your Navajo guide. Overnight in Chinle.
Day 6: See Navajo weaving and colorful petrified wood.
Go south on Highway 191 to Ganado. This path will take you along one of Arizona's scenic roads. Stop at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site (:30). This historic site offers weaving demonstrations and still trades goods with Navajo artisans. You may even catch a glimpse of a trade being made.
Continue to I-40 toward Petrified Forest National Park, which is one of the world's largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood. There are many opportunities to photograph archeological sites, historic structures and the multihued badlands known as the Painted Desert. Head west back to Flagstaff for a fine dining experience at the Little America Hotel. Be sure to ask for Eleanor Gardner and enjoy her legendary customer service. Overnight in Flagstaff.
Note: Estimated travel time is indicated in parentheses.