12 days around Arizona, January 2020
Well, wasn’t just in Arizona, we travelled also in Utah and Nevada, but the majority of the 1800 miles (2900 Km) that we did was in Arizona.
This is a travel guide based on our experiences, also a photographic documentation about our first trip of 2020 in USA.
We have chosen to make this road trip during the low-season and turned out to be a good idea! The winter in the Southwestern United States is not too cold, it was obviously less crowded, less expensive, and very suggestive to see all this places that you normally imagine hot and dry, in an unusual scenario.
Like I said in the Californian road trip article, if you’re going to visit more than two national parks, we recommend you to buy the The annual U.S. Park Pass for $80 USD. This because every National Park that you’re going to visit, it will cost you around $35 to enter. You can check the National Parks list at this link.
This time we preferred to book in advice all the accommodations on Airbnb, a good thing to save money, time and anxiety.
Use the link below if you want to receive $62 CAD discount on your first booking!
- Las Vegas
- St. George
- Grand Canyon
We have chosen Alamo, an American rental car with a super deal! We saved a lot of money taking a Compact Car, a Cevrolet Spark. Small, cheap, fully filled with gasoline and with all the insurances included.
Don’t get scammed from the upgrading proposals, this car was perfectly running everywhere, from slight ascents / descents to dirt roads.
Rental cost: 10 days – 890C$ (600€, 670USD tax incl.).
The gear I’ve used:
- Fujifilm XT-3, It’s always a pleasure to bring this camera with me; it’s fantastic, weather sealed, small and fast, simply perfect for travel. I paired it with the SmallRig L-Bracket, that I think is the best add-on to get more ergonomic grip and add the vertical or horizontal compatibility with Arca-type mount on a tripod.
- Fuji XF 23mm f/1.4 R, a premium, fast, wide-angle lens. I used it for the majority of my landscape photos.
- Fuji XF 35mm f/2 R WR, an all around special lens, weather sealed like the Fujifilm X-T3, super sharp at any aperture, super compact with an amazing auto-focus.
- Fuji XF 56mm f/1.2 R, a solidly built lens that produce stunning photos. It’s a prime short telephoto-length lens, equivalent to 85mm on a full frame camera. I know, it’s heavy, expensive and not weather sealed so is not ideal for travel, but is the longest length I have and I love it.
On a hypothetical dreamy future, for travels, I will bring the Fujifilm lens: 23mm f/2, 50mm f/2 and 90mm f/2. These lens are all weather sealed (to avoid the general paranoia), small and light. Let me know what you bring during your trips in the comment section at the end of the article!
YES! We arrived in Las Vegas at 11pm and decided to go to sleep directly, don’t see this plastic city and wake up early in the morning to drive to the Valley of Fire State Park. Obviously, before to sleep we ate at our favourite, super recommended fast food “In-N-Out“, a cultural icon from the south California.
The first Airbnb in Las Vegas was fine, nothing to report. Was a double bedroom with one bathroom shared with the host that we didn’t met because of our very late arrival.
1 night: 52C$ (35€, 40USD).
What did we saw?
- Valley of Fire State Park. Is really nice to take a brake from driving and stretch the legs doing some easy hike trails in this area, halfway to St.George. I suggest you to make the Fire Wave trail to see the landscape that I have used for this section.
- Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. An amazing park close to St. George. Great to see until the sunset.
Our second host Shauna was special, a double room with shared bathroom in a huge, clean and comfortable house where we were allowed to use the kitchen and cook for the evening, plus the day after.
1 night: 39C$ (30€, 30USD).
A funny Alamo’s clerk briefed us about the Mormons, that had established in St. George long time ago. Check out this story if you like wired religion stuff.
Zion National Park
Alarm at 5:30, heavy breakfast and we drove to the Zion National Park. At the beginning was a bit windy and chilly, but after undertaking the Angels Landing Trail, the hot began to be felt.
The Angels Landing Trail is described as a strenuous trail, we did it during the winter, with some ice and without crampons in two and a half hours round trip with a break on top. Is 0.8 kilometres long with an elevation gain of 497 metres. The last part is the most tricky, with chains for the final push over the precipice.
Definitely the most demanding trail of the trip. We read that since 2004, ten people have died falling from the cliffs along the route. You must be very careful and do it with good hiking boots (like my Salomon), I saw people climb with sneakers, I strongly advise against this…
Completed the Angels Landing Trail, we headed east towards Fredonia, a strange city on the Grand Canyon North Rim where, our super kind host Dylon, suggested us to go to the cemetery and watch the sunset, interesting scenario. After a quick but very appreciated chat with our Airbnb host, we took a shower and sleep. We were just fried.
Overnight: 56C$ (38€, 42USD).
We woke up early again and, from Fredonia (the coldest city of the trip), we drove toward Page through desolated landscapes in the Navajo Nation. Driving along these long roads, in a micro car, among snowy deserts and red rocks, was something unique.
What did we saw?
- Lees Ferry in Coconino County, Arizona. Lunar landscapes appear out of the fog on the Colorado river shores. Mind-blowing to see this place during the winter, extremely suggestive. The ground was super soft that you can sank into it.
- Horseshoe Bend. I know, is overrated, $5 to enter in one of the most touristic places on the planet, but it’s worth a visit. Is massive, imposing and, I can’t deny it, photogenic.
Overnight: 77C$ (52€, 58USD).
We had booked a guided tour to explore the Antelope Canyon, I mean, you’re obligated, but you can choose from two options:
The most popular on the Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon, crowded, expensive and limited, especially if you’re a photographer. Under the new regulations there are no more Photo Tours, you can not set a tripod and all the tours seems really quick and unfriendly.
The less popular one, equally wonderful, cheaper, with an amazing guide more competent and careful with his clients.
We strongly recommend the Antelope Valley Canyon Tours By Ligai Si Anii, LLC, which is a little further south. An amazing part of the Antelope Canyon explored with a local Navajo. He explained us the customs and traditions of his people and some tips to survive a snake bite with medical herbs.
We then decided to drove until the Monument Valley but, unfortunately, was completely submerse in the mist and we didn’t seen any mountain or landscape at all, just a pack of young hungry dogs and a few crows. There’s some drawbacks travel during the low season, but still evocative.
2 Nights: 90C$ (61€, 67USD).
We have stayed in the southern part of the Grand Canyon (South rim) two nights, but we actually had just one entire day to visit what we could.
The choice about the various activities fell on the Bright Angel Trail. Be careful! Because you start from the top, the view is spectacular and you have to walk down to follow the trail, unless you do not want to come back through the South Kaibab Trail (days of hiking), you have to go back up. We arrived at the Three Mile Resthouse and I can assure you, go back from there was exhausting with crampons!
What did we saw?
You can see from the number of pictures how much tired I was.
After two days at the Grand Canyon, we got to Sedona, a city located in the Arizona desert, characterized by red rocks reliefs, new age shops and bird watcher’s.
Around 7 am we stopped at the The Butterfly Garden Inn for a quick coffee and to collect some informations. This place was very interesting, in the middle of nowhere it was like a wooden mountain bay. You can also sleep here, is like a cluster of bungalows.
If you’re going to make trails or simply visit the area and you want to park without any risk of getting tickets by police, I strongly recommend you to purchase a Pass, daily for $5.00, weekly for $15.00, annually for $20.00.
We really enjoyed Sedona, is an amazing place, quite different than the rest of the other places we visited this time. Cliffs that rise above this red sand desert, barren vegetation and blue sky.
Overnight: 98C$ (67€, 74USD).
What did we saw?
- Soldier Pass Trail, with our daily pass we parked exactly where I set the Google maps link. This parking lot is super handy but it only has 14 spaces and closes at 6pm. This trail is 4,1 miles (4,5 Km) out & back, not difficult but a bit tricky at the end.
During this excursion, be sure to don’t miss the Seven Sacred Pool and The Soldier’s Arch.
- Devil’s Bridge Trailhead, overestimated, touristic and crowded also during the low season. The trail is easy if you don’t make it after a whole hiking day like us. The final view from the Devil’s bridge make sense but is too much “Instagrammed”, there is a queue to take the famous picture on the rock bridge.
- Chapel of the Holy Cross, architecturally interesting, made by the local sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude in 1932 inspired by the Empire State Building (don’t ask me why). Easy to reach, it worth a quick visit.
- Cathedral Rock Trailhead, great trail, especially if you made it to the top. 1,2 miles (2 Km) with an elevation gain about 744 feet. Not too hard but I always strongly recommend to do it with good hiking boots like my Salomon!.
We reached Phoenix for the last four days. After all that natural excursions and breathtaking landscapes, been bounced into a “monster” like Phoenix was strange. 4 lane roads, traffic, a huge gap between rich and poor population, small beige houses and tall skyscrapers. A city constructed in the middle of the desert, definitely not eco-sustainable at all.
Our last Airbnb in Tempe, close to Phoenix, was comfortable but a little wired. A double bedroom with private bathroom super clean, but it seems that any of the people that lived in the house wanted to meet us. Every time that we opened the door, we heard someone go in his room and lock the door. We never meet any host in four days, never mind…
4 nights: 153C$ (105€, 114USD).
What did we saw?
- Arcosanti, an archeological prototype experiment from an Italian architect Paolo Soleri started in 1970, 60 miles from Phoenix. It was great to see how this eco-friendly project is actually still alive. A hundred young and old people still live there. They’re still trying to keep this project updated despite his creator passed away a few years ago.
To visit this interesting place you don’t have book, but there’s opening hours with guided mandatory tours, you can check it on they’r website. They also suggest a donation between 15 and 30 US dollars.
- Downtown, not much to say. I don’t recommend it really.
- Hole in the Rock, a pretty big park near the Phoenix Zoo. A nice place to relax a bit.
- Old Town Scottsdale, a nice neighbourhood founded in 1999 with a lot of boutique and souvenir shops, cafes, gastropubs, and wine bars.
That’s it! If you’ve been reading since here, thank you!
One last thing, don’t forget to let me know your opinions or questions in the comments below.