This summer my family and I decided to rent a car and explore the American southwest. My family and I always vacation in July to celebrate my parent’s anniversary, but this vacation was extra special because we were going Grand Canyon where they spent their first anniversary 20+ years ago. Instead of spending the entire week at the Grand Canyon, we decided to hop around a few towns and tour some famous geological formations.
We flew into Phoenix, Arizona, rented a car, and immediately drove north towards the Grand Canyon. There, we stayed at the Yavapai Lodge on the South Rim because it was fairly close to the edge of canyon without being in the midst of all the tourists. We were there for two days, long enough to drive along the south rim area and explore different viewpoints. The canyon was jaw-dropping beautiful. It was so insanely huge, it almost looked fake.
On the third day, we drove to Page, Arizona to discover Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Horseshoe Bend is located right off of Highway 89 and is about a one mile hike from the parking lot. My sister and I trekked the sandy pathway in 103 degree Fahrenheit heat. It was totally worth it because at the end of the cliff, we peared over the ledge and gasped in awe of how huge it was! It is crazy to me how something like this occurs naturally. Obviously, it wasn’t as enormous as the Grand Canyon, but I was not expecting Horseshoe Bend to be this extravagant. That night, we ate at a restaurant overlooking Lake Powell and watched the sunset over the red cliffs.
The next day, we booked a tour of Antelope Canyon with Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours, which is operated by the Navajo Nation since the canyon resides within the Navajo Reservation Boundary. Our tour guide was the sweetest and most informative guide I’ve ever had. We booked a time during the late morning hour through the Upper Antelope Canyon, you just walk through the sculpted rocks and take pictures of the arrays of color striations. On the way back, we saw the canyon at high noon, which is when the sunlight shines through the cracks onto the sandy floor. It was an extraordinary experience that I will never forget. This was probably my favorite part of the trip! I definitely recommend taking this tour, despite the crowds of tourists, I still got amazing pictures. They are also really attentive to the fact that people take professional pictures here, so don’t worry about capturing an unwanted human in your photographs 😉
UPPER ANTELOPE CANYON
After our Antelope Canyon tour, we set out northeast for Monument Valley, Utah where we would stay for two nights. We rented a small house at the infamous Goulding’s Lodge with a view of the whole valley (I definitely recommend doing this!). That evening was spent taking picture of the glorious, monumental buttes at sunset.
The next day, we drove to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, a mere three hour drive north of Monument Valley. Arches is something my father and I have always wanted to see because we watched a series about it on television years ago. But, little did we know, the park is about 120 square miles and it takes about 5 hours+ to actually see all of the arches. Also, you have to hike to each arch and about half of the trails recommend ‘experienced’ hikers to trek through. So, when arrived at 3pm in 105 degree Fahrenheit, we decided it would be best to see the arches with the shortest and easiest trails. The North Window arch, Double arch, and the Delicate arch viewpoint were the only arches we hiked to and they were phenomenal. My favorite was the Double arch because it made me feel like a kid again climbing up inside the nook of the rocks, plus most of it was in the shade in the afternoon.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
NORTH WINDOW ARCH
DELICATE ARCH VIEWPOINT
The next morning we drove from Monument Valley, Utah to Sedona, Arizona and had lunch at the Hideaway House, a small country Italian restaurant. This place had the best Italian food, hands down! My mother, sister, and I went shopping at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village then, visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright. The final day of our trip was spent touring the Pueblo Ruins of the Sinagua people and driving back to Phoenix. We made a quick stop at the Desert Botanical Gardens before checking into our flight back home to Houston, Texas.
PUEBLO RUINS OF THE SINAGUA PEOPLE
PHOENIX DESERT BOTANICAL GARDENS
This trip was amazing! I cannot believe the grandeur and beauty of these geological formations. Now, I want to see more! At the end of our trip, I almost didn’t want to stop driving, I wanted to keep going on to the next national park. America definitely has a lot to offer, so get in the car and explore. If tons of Europeans, Asians, etc. take the time and money to come visit the western United States, then it must be something fantastic. (FYI: the majority of the people we encountered on this trip were either European or Asian. There were very little Americans and/or English speaking people.)
Until next time,
Photography by Sophia Kountakis.