Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon / Credit: Todd Brenneman

Embark on the Northern Arizona Road Trip of Your Dreams

The definitive road trip guide to and through Grand Canyon country

Have you ever wanted to experience Arizona's stunning red canyons and famous Old West charm for yourself? Are you unsure of how to even begin planning this kind of bucket-list trip?

Well, you're in luck. This definitive road trip guide is here to take the guesswork out of planning, and help you through the best of the region's wild landscapes and exceptional hospitality. From the breathtaking vistas of the Grand Canyon to the sparkling turquoise waters of Lake Powell, northern Arizona delights solo adventurers, couples in love and rambunctious families alike. The best part? The mild year-round weather makes it the perfect escape from those brutal northern winters.

Welcome to Grand Canyon Country

Start your journey in iconic Williams. This small town with a big heart is known as the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon," but don't be fooled into thinking that's all it is. Nestled in Arizona Pine Country, Williams is a charming escape brimming with things to see and do. In the words of local historian Jim Harvey, "Williams is the real thing."

Route 66 history buffs get their kicks along the storied highway's best-preserved stretch, reveling in a perfect slice of midcentury Americana complete with soda fountains, neon lights, classic cars and quirky vintage shops.

Be sure to take the whole family when you visit the nearby Bearizona Wildlife Park, where you can get up close and personal with the animals of the Southwest from the safety of your car. Get to know majestic bison, rugged mountain goats and whimsical black bears. Guided bus tours are also available, offering a windowless view of the animals. Regular feedings make sure all the creatures get nice and close.

And those of you looking to de-stress with a few rounds of golf will find the perfect sanctuary in the lush, pine-rimmed championship course at Elephant Rocks Golf Course.

When you're done soaking up all the fun Williams has to offer, hop aboard the Grand Canyon Railway, departing daily from downtown Williams. Since 1901 this train has transported travelers on an enchanted journey to the heart of one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Step into the past in one of the train's lovingly restored passenger cars and witness authentic characters and musicians who bring the Old West to life. The good-for-nothing Cataract Creek Gang has even been known to rob a train or two as it makes its way to the canyon.

Explore the South Rim

With more than five million visitors a year, the South Rim is the most visited side of the canyon, and it's easy to see why. Seeing the sunset over the South Rim is something everyone should experience at least once. One look and you'll understand how the canyon ended up on the list of the world's seven natural wonders. But the wonder doesn't stop there. The South Rim offers endless opportunities to get deep into the splendor of the world's most famous canyon.

When you're ready to get a closer look, hike the Bright Angel trail or take a traditional mule ride down to the Colorado River and watch the climate, wildlife and topography change with the elevation. Other options include mountain biking, horseback riding, Jeep tours, white water rafting trips and even skydiving for you daredevils out there.

Hang out on the West Rim

It used to be that the best view you could get of the canyon was standing at the edge, but all that changed with the Skywalk, a 3-meter-wide horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that juts 21 meters out into the canyon at Grand Canyon West. There's no feeling quite like walking out onto that incredible feat of modern engineering and staring straight down into the depths of the canyon. Talk about a bucket-list experience.

Keep the adrenaline going with a one- or two-day rafting trip with Hualapai River Runners on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Along with thrilling whitewater rapids, the trips come complete with hiking at Travertine Cavern Falls, local wildlife viewing, lunch along the banks of the river and an exciting helicopter ride from the river up to Grand Canyon West—talk about seeing the canyon from a new point of view! Or, instead of going deeper into the canyon, go higher on the zip line at Hualapai Ranch and soar 500 feet above a spectacular side canyon.

In addition, Grand Canyon West is owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe, giving you a chance to learn about the traditions of the canyon's first human inhabitants. Sample Hualapai inspired dishes like pan-seared quail with roasted squash and prickly pear gastrique; watch gorgeous traditional dances; pick up a beautiful piece of Hualapai art to remember your trip.

More canyons to be seen

Though not as grand in name as the Grand Canyon, explore the northeastern part of the state to see other noteworthy—and just as spectacular—canyons. Set up base camp in Page, and make sure your phone has enough battery life for all the pictures you'll be taking. It's just a short drive to the sapphire skies, red rocks and turquoise waters of magnificent Lake Powell. Relax on the water before you set out on a hike to the incredibly photogenic Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River just south of town.

From Page, you're practically at the Navajo Nation's doorstep. Tag along on a guided trip through some of the sacred sites on their land, including Antelope Canyon and Canyon De Chelly. Not only will you see the gorgeous views and awe-inspiring landscape, but you'll also come to understand why the Navajo people revere this land and, no doubt, you'll come to respect it, too. To learn more about the Navajo people, head to Tuba City and visit the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum. Created with the help of leading Navajo scholars, the museum provides an extraordinary look at the Navajo people's society, accomplishments, and historic contributions.

Jump back in time

While the stunningly beautiful canyons were formed over millions of years, there's a geological feature just outside Flagstaff that was formed in an instant. Fifty-thousand years ago, a meteorite came crashing to Earth, leaving a massive crater in its aftermath. Meteor Crater is the cavernous 168 meters deep hole that remains and is the best-preserved meteorite crater in the world.

Whatever your dream northern Arizona vacation looks like, the wild red canyons, towering pines and glittering blue waters are waiting for you. Start planning your Grand Canyon adventure today.

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