My trip to Arizona was the first real vacation I took for almost a year. Needless to say, it was just what my family and I needed after a long and difficult year. With the loss of my grandma at the beginning of the pandemic, we were eager to have some sort of normalcy where we could get out of the house, spend quality time together, and enjoy ourselves away from home. So after much deliberation and planning, we decided to continue our tradition of going on a family vacation during the Thanksgiving holiday. Of course we had to select a domestic destination and Arizona was the top contender as we could spend a lot of time outdoors and remain safe.
There’s so much that can be done in Arizona, it was hard to narrow down all the activities! We had 4 full days to explore…which meant I had my work cut out for me to plan our route! First thing I had to do was make a list of every single attraction/activity I thought we’d all enjoy. Then I bookmarked them all to view on a map of the entire state. Based on where everything was located, I narrowed down the activities and then looked up accommodation that would allow us to visit different areas by completing day trips. Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Page, Sedona. Those were the cities on the list and the perfect middle ground area was Prescott. It didn’t hurt that I found the absolute perfect Airbnb there. So, now that I had all that locked down…I was ready to plan out the details.
Day One: Phoenix
Our first day in Arizona was mainly our travel day. We arrived in Phoenix in the early afternoon and really didn’t do much in the city. There was plenty of time to check out a few sights in Phoenix if you wanted to! Since we traveled on a holiday where many places weren’t open, we decided to just head out to Prescott. We quickly ate lunch at one of the few places that were open and then headed on our way to Prescott to check into our Airbnb that was about 2 hours away. Once we arrived to the home, we settled in and prepared ourselves for an early morning.
The Airbnb that we rented was absolutely perfect. It was spacious enough for the six of us with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The floor to ceiling windows made for beautiful views yet the place remained cozy where we honestly wished we had more time to just relax in the comforts of the home.
Day Two: Grand Canyon
The next morning, we woke up early to head out on our first adventure. I chose the Grand Canyon as our first stop because after a day of travel, I didn’t want to exhaust the family further with intense hikes. While there’s plenty of hiking opportunities to do at the Grand Canyon, I knew my family would appreciate all the lookout points we could visit. So we drove the 2 hour and 40 minutes that it takes from Prescott and entered from the south rim of the national park with beautiful views all around us. The Grand Canyon is definitely a place that you can just drive around and stop at all the view points along the way. I had some specific points bookmarked, but because of certain closures – that plan just went out the window. We were able to stop at Grandview and then from there we really just winged it and stopped at any point we wanted to. It was definitely a nice, easy first day of the trip!
Day Three: Sedona & Jerome
For day three, I was ready for a nice hike! I love hiking and Sedona is filled with great trails. With Sedona being only an hour and a half away from Prescott, this visit was a no brainer. Initially, I planned for two hikes in one day but decided I didn’t want my family to completely hate me. So, I stuck with one and knew we needed to complete the Devil’s Bridge trail. This hike starts on Long Canyon Road and ends with a natural bridge that is definitely Instagram worthy. While pictures might make your skin crawl as hikers pose on a narrow formation, I promise you it’s not as bad as it looks! The hike itself is a 3.9 mile out and back trail that is rated moderate. For the most part, I thought it was a fairly easy hike as you aren’t at a constant incline the entire way. It wasn’t until the last bit of the hike that you’ll need to complete some rock scrambles and climb up a bit. It’s a beautiful trail and you’re surrounded with stunning views the whole time. There’s plenty of space, so it’s easy to stop at various points and catch your breath while taking in nature’s beauty.
If you want a picture on the actual bridge, be prepared to wait in line! And please, do your part and wait in line! There were people who entered on the other side trying to bypass all the people who had been waiting and just don’t be that person. If you don’t want to wait then snap your picture elsewhere and go about your way, but be respectful of all the people who have been waiting for their turn.
After the infamous picture, I headed back down to meet up with my mom and sister who weren’t heading to the very top. As we waited for the rest of my family to get their picture, we decided to do a photoshoot of our own! I’m always eager to get to the destination, so I tend to walk fast and ahead of everyone so this slower pace walk back was fun and enjoyable to spend with my mom and sister. There are plenty of great spots to stop at for an amazing back drop!
Once we were all done with the hike, everyone was pretty hungry so we drove to town to find something to eat. Every place was pretty packed and our choices were slim. We stopped by a local pizza place and ordered some pizzas to go – which was an obvious great decision and just what we needed. The next stop on the itinerary would be Jerome, which is essentially a ghost town located just 30 minutes outside of Sedona. While we made it out to this town, we actually didn’t get out of the car to explore at all. Ideally, you’d visit this town during the day as you’d get more a feel of what it’s like and the views from there are great as you’re pretty high in altitude. Since we didn’t get there until night time, we didn’t get a chance to explore, so it just made for a scary dark ride down a winding road! If you’re visiting Sedona and have the time, I definitely think you should add Jerome to the list! It’s so close and would be interesting to see this old mining town.
Day Four: Page
Day four was my absolute favorite day of the trip. It was also the longest and most tiring. Page is located almost 4 hours north of Prescott, so saying we had an early morning is an understatement. Page is home to Antelope Canyon, which I’m sure many of you have seen amazing photos of. Unfortunately (but understandably), Antelope Canyon was closed to visitors due to the pandemic. However, I did find a “work around” as part of the canyon isn’t located on a reservation and can be seen by kayaking. I booked tickets in advance through Lake Powell Adventures and the only availability was their 10AM slot. The tour lasts 4 hours and takes you kayaking along Lake Powell and a hike through the canyon. The cost was $120 per person and 100% worth it. While I believe you could rent your own kayak and do so on your own as I saw other kayakers there, we opted for a tour since we weren’t familiar with the area and it was some of our first times kayaking!
Kayaking is quite challenging and there were times where the guide had to check in on us. It looks a lot easier than it looks especially on the way back! But the views were absolutely incredible and honestly the entire experience felt surreal. You’re surrounded by the canyons and feel like you’re on another planet. The water is so serene and although my arms felt as if they were going to fall off, I was still relaxed because of the atmosphere.
After about a mile of kayaking, you reach the destination and the guide will warn you not to stop too much to take pictures because it’ll just get better and better the more you walk. Yeah, we didn’t quite listen and didn’t have time to get to the final point, so listen to the guide! On the tour you don’t really get much time to walk around, which is one aspect that I wish was different. Also someone in the group had to catch a flight, so that caused us to feel even more rushed as it’s likely that we could’ve exceeded the 4 hours if that wasn’t the case. But regardless, we came in knowing we had only 4 hours total and can’t complain! Anyways, you get to walk through this certain section of Antelope Canyon which is stunning with orange and red hues surrounding you. The end point that the guide speaks about is what you really picture in your head when you think about Antelope with narrow walkways and light beaming through openings. I was able to run the last 5 minutes to give myself time to at least see it!
The entire place is breathtaking though, so even if you didn’t make it to this point you would not be disappointed one bit.
After we kayaked back to the starting point, we drove about 15 minutes to Horseshoe Bend. There, you pay a small fee for entrance and then it’s just a short walk from the parking lot. We were all so exhausted and sore at that point, so were happy that there wasn’t a full on hike to get to the viewpoint. This is a must stop when visiting Page. Horseshoe bend is so grand and breathtaking. While they’ve installed a barrier in the center section due to the obvious dangers and unfortunate fatalities at this site, there are still a ton of open areas so please be careful and watch every step you take. You don’t realize how high up you are until you see the little rafts and people down below!
Day Five: Sedona
Sore and in pain, we had one more full day to go on this Arizona trip! This day we headed back to Sedona since it was only an hour and half away from Prescott and I planned only one short, simple hike. That would be the birthing cave, which is a pretty straight forward 4 mile out and back trail with the only very steep section being at the end in order to reach the cave. You’ll start the trail on Long Canyon Trailhead and steer to the left when you come to fork on the trail. You’ll see indents alongside some of the cliffs and just keep heading towards that way!
Now, if you’re expecting an underground cave – this isn’t it. This cave is an indention along a cliffside. It’s quite small and can’t comfortably fit too many people, so I would say to just be respectful and mindful of those around you. The walls are also a lot steeper than I expected, so be prepared for a little climbing! The view is absolutely amazing though and you’re sure to get some beautiful shots.
After hanging out in the cave for a little bit, we headed down for a fairly quick hike back to the road. You really do not need to allocate too much time to complete this hike as it’s easy to complete and you likely won’t spend too much time in the cave itself as you don’t want to overcrowd the space.
From there we went into town to grab lunch before heading to Slide Rock State Park. Now, to be completely honest – this place wasn’t even on my list of places to check out but my uncle really wanted to go. Since we got there close to closing time, the sun was starting to set and it was pretty empty. It’s definitely a great spot to explore during the summer if you enjoy swimming! It’s a cool set up and can see why it’s a popular spot to hang out at.
We ended the day with another trip into town to buy some souvenirs before our trip home the next day. Sedona is such a beautiful and cute place to visit. I could see myself spending more time there and exploring various hikes. If you’re heading to Arizona, you have to add Sedona to your must stop places to see.
The next morning, we headed back to Phoenix to catch our flight home to Virginia. This was the perfect family trip that we desperately needed. I am beyond thankful for my family and the time we are able to spend together. It’s now more than ever that I recognize the importance of creating more and more memories with the people I love and will never take those moments for granted.