Big Southwestern Roadtrip-Arizona. Begins in Kanab, Utah:
As a continuation of the Big Southwestern Roadtrip, the second part of the Big Southwestern Roadtrip-Arizona edition began in Kanab, Utah with a coffee and a muffin. Kanab is a cute little town filled with rich “Hollywood” history. In fact, it’s called, “Little Hollywood” as it lured filmmakers to the area because of its stunning beauty. There have been over 100 movies and TV shows filmed in the area so make sure you check out the Visitors Center for a compelling museum of sorts of the movie history in the area. Well worth a look for sure.
Along with cool history, Kanab also boasts some great antique shops. I was wanting a cast-iron dutch oven to do more than grilling on the nightly fires and sure enough, I found this beauty in the back room of an antique shop in town. I think I lucked out. It didn’t cost too much and turns out, it’s a Wagner Ware roaster. After a little research, it’s circa 1915ish. Wow! It’s a pretty neat acquisition, in perfect condition and worth way more than what I paid for it! I can’t wait to see what new meals that I can create with it!
North Rim of the Grand Canyon:
Seeing the Grand Canyon has always been a bucket list item of mine. On this trip, I was able to see it! Oh my! Visiting the North Rim fit our schedule better and I’m sure glad that was the case. Did you know that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon only attracts 10% of its visitors? My guess is that it’s really not easy to get to and people don’t want to take the long trek out there. So you need to plan for this. It’s approximately a 45-mile drive from Jacob Lake which is just a place to get gas and a snack.
Notes on camping near the Grand Canyon in the fall:
Traveling in Northern Arizona in early November can be quite frustrating. The state of Arizona basically closes down all National Forrest access and the entrance for the North Rim which makes finding a camp spot a bit challenging. If you choose to go to the North Rim at this time of year, plan on going out, get some photos and leave. It’s totally worth the drive and one of the most breathtaking places that you will ever experience.
The closest camping near the North Rim at this time of year is in Lee’s Ferry near Navajo Bridge which is about a 2-hour drive! Lee’s Ferry is the only place that you can access the Colorado River before it heads into the Grand Canyon. It’s actually where all the rafting companies put in for their trips through the canyon and also a great spot for fisherman. The camping there is pricy ($30/night) and quite honestly the campground is in disarray so be prepared. This is the only camping option in the area this time of year. It’s all good though. The views are spectacular!
Once you leave Jacobs Lake on HWY 89, you drive down a giant hill and into a valley. The road is very remote and there are no services. Here you will see your first view of the Vermilion Cliffs. The Vermilion Cliffs are the first step of the Grand Staircase-Escalante. It’s quite a sight as the cliffs hug the side of the highway the whole way to Navajo Bridge. I am sure that you will agree that this is a stunning sight!
After leaving Lee’s Ferry we headed up to Page, AZ. Quite honestly, some errands needed to be done and we needed cell and internet service! Lol! It had been a while and I was feeling a little out of touch from reality which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! While in Page, stops at the Glen Canyon Dam and Horseshoe Bend was on the agenda. Just as a note, Page, AZ has a terrific library for a quiet place to get stuff done. The view from the library is pretty nifty too. Their wi-fi is free and fast to boot!
After leaving Page, we continued on HWY 89, south towards Flagstaff. This is a long drive and quite honestly not so pretty. Just a high desert with no stellar views, hardly any services and not much to see. It’s a good time to turn the music up and maybe sing a little to pass the time!
Notes on camping near Flagstaff:
In Flagstaff, boondocking campsites are abundant, especially on the north side of the city. You can find them on both sides of HWY 89 near Sunset Crater National Monument. Time and weather weren’t on our side to go hiking on the volcano. Next time for sure! It’s a really neat area.
One of the prettiest drives that you will ever take is on HWY 89A from Flagstaff to Sedona through Oak Creek Canyon. I love this drive and have taken it many times over the years! It’s definitely one of my favorites.
Sedona, Arizona is a town that I fell in love with back in 1986 when I first traveled there. (Ha! I even named my cat Sedona). Back then it was a sleepy little place surrounded by incredible beauty. Today, however, it’s become somewhat of the tourist haven. To me, it’s lost its charm as the town is overrun with trinket shops and hoards of people, even in the offseason. Not my cup of tea. The real adventures are out of town with tons of outdoor activities. Just be prepared to share the trails with lots of people!
Notes on camping near Sedona, AZ:
Normally Oak Creek Canyon is a great place to camp, however, all the camping had been closed for the winter. I popped into the Visitors Center where the incredibly delightful and helpful staff helped us figure out dispersed camping options in the area, outside of all the madness.
If you continue down HWY 89A towards Cottonwood there are a lot of opportunities on the West side of the road. Stop in the visitors center and they will let you know what mile marker to turn on. The first road is about 5 miles down on the right. The second place to go is in the town of Cottonwood. When you approach the town there is a giant church that you can’t miss. Turn right there and then another immediate right onto the dirt road. Here there are tons of places to camp and the views are tremendous. It’s very private and quiet. We went out about 5-7 miles and turned left onto another dirt road. Really fabulous!
Don’t miss the town of Cottonwood. If wine is your thing, Cottonwood offers a huge array of wine tasting rooms that highlight Arizona made wines. It also has lots of restaurants and cute shops to pop in and out of. It’s kinda like what Sedona used to be 30 years ago! You can also visit the actual wineries and take a little tasting tour if you drive Hwy 17. It’s a lovely drive in itself and will actually link back into Cottonwood via HWY 16O. Oak Creek Vineyard is my favorite!
You can’t miss seeing the town of Jerome! It’s like being thrown back into the late 1800s and is even a National Historical Landmark! The well-preserved buildings are a tribute to the towns incredible history. It’s fun to read all the placards on the buildings and learn about the areas past. Plan on spending a few hours there. It’s neat and the views from high up on Cleopatra Mountain are incredible!
One last note, finding parking in Jerome can be a bit difficult, especially if you are in an RV. If you follow the main street to the end where the old mine is, there is a free public parking lot. It’s about a 5-minute walk into town from there.
When you leave Flagstaff and head east on HWY 40 and if you don’t stop in Winslow, your crazy! I mean who doesn’t want to stand on the corner? Seriously, this is a super fun side trip that is right off the highway. It’s one of the best 15 minutes that you will spend while you are on the road! Winslow is a nice town with shops and eateries and where in the world can you go where the music of the “Eagles” blares from every corner! Winslow, AZ just puts you in a good mood!
Hubbell Trading Post:
The ending destination for this leg of the trip was the four corners region and where I will start the next edition of the Big Southwestern Roadtrip-Arizona. We needed to go north so we turned off of HWY 40 onto HWY 191 through the Navajo Nation. It’s a very desolate drive with very little in terms of services. After about an hour and a half, you will stumble upon the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. Make sure that you stop and take a look.
The Hubbell family started the trading post after the Navajo people were allowed to return home. It was a pivotal point in history for the region. Nearly everything that was owned by the Hubbell family is preserved for your enjoyment. Make sure you ask for a private tour of the home from a park ranger. It’s really special and the Native American artwork is not only rare but incredibly beautiful.
Canyon de Chelly, Chinle, AZ:
After you leave the Trading Post, head north about an hour to the town of Chinle. It’s a large town for the area and it has all the amenities. It was getting late and it was really cold so we opted to spend the night at the Cottonwood Campground within the park. I’m sure there are other camping options in the area, it just wasn’t in the cards to figure out that evening.
I will end this post with a most amazing and unexpected surprise! Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Chinle, AZ. I had no idea that this place even existed and found out about it from a fellow traveler back in Flagstaff. As luck would have it, it was on the way back home to Colorado.
Like I said before, Canyon de Chelly was a totally unexpected surprise. It’s a huge canyon that the Ancient Puebloans found to be an ideal place to plant crops and raise their families. Besides the breathtaking views, you can see the ruins of homes from 1000’s of years ago. The park was formed to protect this important part of Native American history.
It is still being used today by a handful of Navajo families. Because of this, there is only one trail that you can hike without a guide and I highly suggest that you do it if you are healthy enough. It’s a pretty steep hike so make sure you have lots of water and sturdy shoes. Private tours and hikes are available, just stop in the visitors center to arrange this during your stay!
Canyon de Chelly is a must stop and see spot if you are traveling in northern Arizona. I was speechless!
One Last Travel Tip:
One thing that was learned on the trip. ALWAYS fill up with gas on a reservation. There is no tax and gas prices are .30-.40 cents a gallon less than off the reservation. Same goes with food and supplies. No tax! In Chinle, they have a couple of grocery stores and ACE hardware. So it’s a good place to stock up on gas and supplies!
I hope that you have enjoyed this part of the Big Southwestern Adventure-Arizona edition! I’ll post that last part of the journey soon and take you through the 4-corners region, through southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.
I hope that you enjoyed my commentary on the Big Southwestern Roadtrip-Arizona edition and if you are looking for another trip to follow? Check out my Ultimate Summer Road Trip!