Archive » July 5, 2012
By Ray Navis, Contributing Writer
On occasion, people ask me what my favorite summer trip would be. One that stands out is to take in the wonders of northern Arizona: Sedona, the Grand Canyon and for the more adventurous, Monument Valley. With several flights a day, this is an easy last-second idea that is sure to please.
SedonaAbout 2 hours to the north of Phoenix sits the city of Sedona, which is literally carved out of Red Rock monoliths named Cathedral, Coffeepot and Thunder Mountain. The scenery is so spectacular, that sometimes it is hard to keep your eyes on the road as you drive in. Movie buffs will remember the setting from some of the car chases seen in Midnight Run (with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin).
Sedona has long been a hub of spiritual and metaphysical. The world-famous Enchantment Resort dedicated to revitalization is located here, and the town has inspired New Age musicians such as Wyndham Hill. Oak Creek Canyon provides a magical transition to the higher elevation as you make your way north.
Grand CanyonThere are many man-made attractions, which can be costly and only provide temporary happiness. The natural beauty of the Grand Canyon always provides me with lasting memories. Most travelers will only make it to the South Rim, which is just fine. The loop along the ridge offers several jaw-dropping vistas worthy of an hour each. The best action is available to the early birds with sunrise. Those who can crawl out of bed will get a once-in-a-lifetime treat joined by deer, squirrels and many other native creatures.
The best thing to do at the Grand Canyon is to simply marvel at one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. If you have more time, consider a hike to the bottom for an overnight stay at the Phantom Ranch. Helicopter tours can take you to places most will never see, including the cliff dwellings in the North Rim and the Havasu Falls.
The El Tovar is by far the best place to stay when visiting the Canyon. It sits perched on a bluff, just yards from the edge. Some rooms have large balconies to take in what nature presents. The El Tovar is quite popular, as it is really the only nice place to stay in the park. If you can’t get a reservation and you like a nice bed, I would look into Little America in Flagstaff. They have one section of the hotel that has been highly upgraded.
Monument ValleyFor me, the really exotic landscape in Northern Arizona is found at Monument Valley. This collection of skyscraper sandstone buttes has captured Hollywood’s imagination, starting with John Wayne movies such as The Searchers. Even Forrest Gump made it here. I have had two amazing experiences on my two visits, which were 25 years apart. On both occasions, as soon as I made it to the visitor center and gazed upon “The Mittens,” an airplane cruised by close to the ground like a rocket ship on the moon. After a few moments, it is easy to understand how this area became the spiritual capital of the Navajo nation.
Goulding’s Lodge has always been the best place to stay when visiting this area. It is just a couple of miles from the visitors center and has sweeping views of the valley. The setting is authentic, and on our last visit we had to wait for a large flock of sheep to cross in front of us as we made our way. Somehow, we did not mind. There is a great new addition with the opening of The View Hotel, which is right next to the visitor center.
Each room has a balcony taking in the best views Monument Valley has to offer. Jeep tours are a trendy way to move farther into the Valley, but the views from the visitor center will satisfy most.
Getting thereUS Air offers several non-stops daily from Santa Barbara to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Hertz has a giant fleet of cars and offers First Class service. Sedona is easily reachable the same day with the Grand Canyon about 3½ hours from the airport. Monument Valley is a solid 3 hours from Flagstaff and will require an overnight stay.