There is a plethora of information online about visiting the Grand Canyon. As first-time visitors, my Fiancé and I were thankful to gather so much information prior to our trip. My hope is that this will add to the available information and helps you plan your perfect Grand Canyon trip! This is a detailed write up so grab that cup of coffee sit back and enjoy! We were fortunate enough to visit Phoenix, Sedona, Coconino National Forest, South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Old Town Scottsdale during our trip.
We planned our trip to the Grand Canyon during the 4th of July weekend and no, the crowds aren’t bad as the internet makes it seem! We flew into Phoenix on the night of July 3rd and stayed the night in a hotel by the airport. The next morning, we made the trek up to Sedona.
Sedona, Arizona is known for its beautiful landscape. The area is surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests. The rock formations have vortexes, which helped dub Sedona as the spiritual Mecca of the Southwest. We departed Phoenix at 8:00 AM and arrived at Bell Rock by 10:00 AM. After a very short hike from the parking lot, we were up close to the huge rock structure. We didn’t feel a sudden urge of spiritual awakening around this vortex site, but my Fiancé and I walked back to the car reminiscing about our grandparents who are no longer with us. Whether you are a spiritual person or not, the beauty of Bell Rock is reason enough to visit the site! After visiting Bell Rock, we found ourselves eating lunch at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill. The food was amazing and the views were even better, I highly recommend lunch there after a hike!
The next stop after lunch was Cathedral Rock. We attempted to stop at Buddha Beach, but the crowds wanting to swim in the natural creek were deterrent enough to turn us away. After Cathedral Rock, next stop was Flagstaff, or so I thought. The GPS pointed us north on highway 89A. The landscape of Sedona’s red rocks quickly turned into pine trees and mountains. Purely by accident, or by the efforts of the GPS, we ran into Coconino National Forest. There are plenty of viewpoints on 89A and a stop is worth it! I mean, just look at this view.
After taking in the grandeur of the Coconino National Forest, we headed north to Flagstaff. We arrived shortly after 4:00 PM. There are many lodges and accommodations for visitors to stay at the Grand Canyon. We opted for Flagstaff because the city hosts a spectacular 4th of July fireworks show at the Continental Golf Club. Our hotel was a quick ten-minute walk from the fireworks show. We ended up with front row seats to watch the fireworks. The city of Flagstaff and the first responders did an amazing job with everything from crowd control to the actual fireworks show. It was the first time my Fiancé and I watched a firework show together. We set the camera on the tripod and laid our blanket on the soft baby Bermuda grass of the golf course and enjoyed a wonderful show in perfect 67-degree weather!
The next morning was the “grand” event. We wanted to watch the sunrise at Mather Point on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. So, we left our hotel room in Flagstaff at 3:00 AM on July 5th; yes, we were committed. We arrived at the canyon around 4:50 AM. The entrance fee into the Grand Canyon is $35 per car. We parked our car at the Visitor’s Center and embarked on a short ten-minute walk to Mather Point. There were a few people waiting to catch the sunrise but we expected a bigger crowd than what we saw. As the sun started to rise over the horizon, we got to witness the true magnificence of the canyon. At that moment, I knew why so many photographers kept telling me that it was impossible to capture the glory of this canyon in a picture and they were right. The Grand Canyon is 200 miles wide and a mile deep. It’s majestic, beautiful, and is a spectacular testament to the glory and might of God. After exploring other parts of the park, mainly to the west of Mather Point towards El Tovar hotel, we decided to make our way to Horseshoe Bend. We were in route on 64 East. At this point, I was pretty disappointed about my pictures. My whole purpose for the trip was to shoot a Panoramic picture of the canyon, which I’d be able to print. As we were getting closer to the park’s exit gates, we decided to make one last stop at Lipan Point. This was the spot that ensured I’d go home with a printable pano! The views were breathtaking, the haze cleared up, and we got to see the Colorado river in the valley below. We packed up our gear, ate the PB&J sandwiches we prepped the night before and made our way to Horseshoe Bend.
It took us two hours to get to Horseshoe Bend. Parking fee is $10 per car. We got to the parking lot at 12:30 PM and by this point the crowds were beginning to swell. It was also much hotter at Horseshoe Bend than it was at the Grand Canyon. We parked our car, and walked about a mile to the bend. We were amazed at the level of freedom visitors were granted. We could walk all the way to the edge and see the beautiful view and the vertigo causing drop below. After snapping a couple of pictures, we hiked back to the car and started our two-hour drive back to Flagstaff.
We got a goodnight’s sleep after a grueling day full of the beauty and the hot Arizona sun. On July 6th we made our way back to Phoenix with the help of an amazing cup of Cocomo from Dutch Bros Coffee; we desperately need these in Texas! As we were driving into Phoenix, we decided to check out the Old Town area of Scottsdale, which is 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix. We decided to eat at the Jewel of the Crown, an Indian restaurant in Scottsdale. I have very high expectations for Indian food and this restaurant surpassed them completely. After filling up our bellies with Lamb Keema Samosas, Puri, Lamb Curry, and Raita we explored Old Town. It’s filled with amazing architecture, shopping, restaurants and bars. The hundred plus degree heat during the middle of the day was a little overwhelming though. After exploring, we turned in for the night and got some great night’s sleep before our red eye to Austin, Texas on July 7th.
We could’ve spent months here and wouldn’t have scratched the surface. Arizona completely blew me away. The landscape, the gracious and welcoming people, and the culture ensured that we had a wonderful experience. Don’t ponder anymore, start planning your trip to the Grand Canyon State now!