Itineraries

  • Colorful Pots on wall 5298[1]

The Whole Enchilada

Seeing the state in two weeks:

So you've decided to see the whole Grand Canyon state in one big trip. Well, if you've got two weeks in which to do your exploring, you can certainly see all the highlights. Try to schedule your visit in May or September. As far as temperatures go, these are the all-around best months to visit-not too hot, not too cold. So, if you're ready for a whirlwind tour, here goes.

Start your tour in Phoenix, where you should spend a couple of nights. Visit the Heard Museum and Pueblo Grande Museum & Cultural Park to learn about Arizona's Native American tribes, and visit the Desert Botanical Garden to learn about the plants of the desert. Do some shopping in old Scottsdale, and visit a history or art museum depending on your interests. If you're up for a splurge, start your second day with a hot-air balloon ride.

From Phoenix, head north to Prescott, the territorial capital of Arizona. This picturesque town, with its stately courthouse and attractive Victorian homes, is quintessential small-town America. Don't miss The Palace, a former saloon that has the most authentic feel of any restaurant this side of Tombstone. From Prescott, continue north to Sedona by way of Jerome, an old mining town perched high on a mountainside overlooking the Verde Valley. Jerome is now full of art galleries and interesting shops and boasts one of the best views from any town in the state.

From Jerome, drop down into the Verde Valley (stopping for a ride on the scenic Verde Canyon Railroad if you have time) and continue on to Sedona. The red rock country surrounding Sedona is some of the most spectacular scenery in the state and you could spend days exploring around the outskirts of town. Sedona is also one of the Southwest's top arts' communities, and has been giving Santa Fe a run for its money in recent years.

From Sedona, head north up Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff and onward to the Grand Canyon. Spend the day at the Canyon and then, if you were unable to get a reservation inside the national park, return to Flagstaff or Williams for the night. The following day return to the canyon, or spend the day exploring around Flagstaff, with stops at the Museum of Northern Arizona, Walnut Canyon and Wupatki national monuments (for Indian ruins), or Meteor Crater.

The next day, head north to Page and the spectacular Lake Powell, a reservoir amid red rock cliffs. The lake, which stretches far into Utah, is a convoluted maze of narrow coves that were once side canyons of the Colorado River. There are several different types of boat tours on the lake, but the one to do is the trip to Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Rainbow Bridge is the largest natural arch in the world.

  • Sedona red rocks and cottonwoods orig 1
  • Sabino Canyon Fall 11-15-09

The next day, head east to Monument Valley, a Navajo Nation park that is home to some of the most readily recognizable rocks in the world. The buttes, mesas, and spires of this high-desert landscape have served as backdrops for countless Western movies and TV shows, and an equally large number of TV commercials. You can tour Monument Valley in your own car, but you'll likely get more out of your visit if you take a guided jeep or horseback tour. En route from Page, be sure to visit Navajo National Monument, where you can see the cliff dwellings of Betatakin.

From Monument Valley, drive southeast to Canyon de Chelly National Monument, which is also on the Navajo Nation. You can tour the north and south rims of Canyon de Chelly by car, and it's also possible to hike down into the canyon at White House Ruins. However, to visit any other parts of the canyon floor, you'll have to go on a tour with a Navajo guide. There are a wide variety of tour options here, including on foot, on horseback, in your own 4X4 (if you have one), in a guide's 4X4, or in a large all-terrain truck. These latter tours are the most common.

The next day, head south to Ganado and the historic Hubble Trading Post and then drive east to the mesas of the Hopi Reservation. Tour Walpi village and stop in at some crafts galleries before continuing south to Winslow. Be sure to stop and visit the restored La Posada hotel. From Winslow, drive east to Holbrook and Petrified Forest National Park. If it's not too late, you might want to drive south to Pinetop-Lakeside for the night. Otherwise, there are lots of chain motels in Holbrook. This town also has the Wigwam Motel, a Route 66 landmark.

From Pinetop, get an early start and head east to Springerville/Eagar and the start of the Coronado Trail scenic highway. This road winds for more than 100 miles south to the mining towns of Morenci and Clifton, and though the going is often very slow, the high country scenery is gorgeous.

Continuing south by way of Safford will bring you into the land once claimed by Apache leaders Geronimo and Cochise. West of the town of Willcox, you'll find the Amerind Foundation Museum, one of the state's finest museums. Exhibits contain artifacts from many of Arizona's Native American tribes. From the town of Benson, head south to Tombstone (yes, it is a real town). You can stay here for the night or continue south to Bisbee, another old mining town turned arts community. If you're good at sticking to itineraries, then as far in advance as possible, try to get a reservation to visit Kartchner Caverns. These caverns, said to be some of the most beautiful in the country, opened to the public in 1999, and currently it is necessary to make a reservation in order to take a tour.

From Kartchner Caverns, it is less than an hour to Tucson. You should plan on spending two nights in Tucson. The best use of your time here will be to head out to the west unit of Saguaro National Park to see the large stands of giant saguaro cacti. To learn more about Arizona's Sonoran Desert, visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is more of a zoo than a museum. Leave plenty of time for this one. Many people who think they'll just breeze through end up spending half a day here. Also in this same area you'll find Old Tucson Studios, a western movie set turned amusement park. Here, you can walk a reasonable facsimile of the streets of Laredo. Genuine Tucson history can be seen in downtown's historic neighborhoods and at San Xavier del Bac, a 200-year-old Spanish mission church that is known as the White Dove of the Desert.

After a couple of nights in Tucson, head west 140 miles to Organ Pipe National Monument, which is right on the Mexican border. The monument preserves dense stands of organ pipe cacti, which are nearly as impressive as saguaros. After touring the monument, head north back to Phoenix.

If you have an extra day available (and don't mind another long day of driving), consider continuing west from Organ Pipe National Monument to Yuma. Spend the night in Yuma and then the next day, drive north to Lake Havasu City to see the London Bridge, which was moved to the middle of the desert in 1968. After crossing the bridge, which is no longer falling down, head back to Phoenix.

  • Backlit landscape Organ Pipe NM

The Route:

Spend two nights in Phoenix, then head north on I-17 to Cordes Junction and take Hwy. 69 northwest to Prescott. From Prescott, drive north on Hwy. 89 and then northeast on Hwy. 89A, passing through Jerome en route to Sedona (spend 1 night in Jerome and 1 night in Sedona or both nights in Sedona).
From Sedona, drive north on Hwy. 89A to Flagstaff and continue north on Hwy. 180 to the Grand Canyon (spend 2 nights in the area staying either at the Grand Canyon or in Flagstaff or Williams).
From the Grand Canyon or Flagstaff, drive north to Page on Hwy. 89 (spend 1 night in Page). To reach Monument Valley from Page, drive Hwy. 98 southeast to Hwy. 160, drive northeast to Kayenta (passing Navajo National Monument en route), and then continue north on Hwy. 163 (spend 1 night in Kayenta).
To reach Canyon de Chelly from Kayenta, drive northeast on Hwy. 160 to Hwy. 59 southeast, and then take Hwy. 191 south to Chinle and Canyon de Chelly (spend 1 night in Chinle). From Chinle, drive south on Hwy. 191 and then take I-40 west to Petrified Forest National Park. From the nearby town of Holbrook, drive south on Hwy. 77 to Show Low and then go east on Hwy. 260 (spend 1 night in Pinetop).
From Pinetop, go east to Springerville-Eagar and then go south on Hwy. 191 through Clifton, Morenci, and Safford to I-10. Go west on I-10 through Willcox to Benson and then go south on Hwy. 80 to Tombstone (spend 1 night in Tombstone, Bisbee, or Hereford).
From Tombstone, go west on Hwy 82 and then north on Hwy. 90 to reach Kartchner Caverns then continue west on I-10 to Tucson (spend 2 nights in Tucson).
From Tucson, head west on Hwy. 86 to the town of Why and go south on Hwy. 85 to reach Organ Pipe National Monument. From here, drive north on Hwy. 85, through Gila Bend, to I-10 and then go east on I-10 to Phoenix.
Alternatively, to visit the London Bridge, go west on I-10 to Quartzite and then go north on Hwy. 95 to Lake Havasu City. From Lake Havasu City, backtrack to I-10 and drive east to Phoenix (spend 1 night in Phoenix).