7 Sights for a Week in Arizona
Seven scenic stops to put some miles on your hiking boots.
Arizona is so full of history, gorgeous national forests and parks, and great food that it would be hard to see it all in a week. However, if that is all the time there is, there are some places that shouldn’t be overlooked. Many of these locations are separated by long stretches of desert highways, so travel time to and from each one is an important thing to consider when planning a trip. Once that’s all figured out, fill up a big jug of water and get on the road!
1. Off Road Tour of Red Rocks, Sedona, AZ
Sedona is absolutely gorgeous. Despite all the tourist traps, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I was only there for a few days but I easily could have spent a whole week pretending I was John Wayne and hiking through endless red rocks. For the more adventurous traveller, there is an option to rent your own off-road vehicle for exploring all the trails Sedona has to offer. If that doesn’t sound like fun, the signature Pink Jeep Tour jeeps are everywhere, but they actually provide a great run down on the area. Our tour guide was more than happy to give us tips on other good hiking spots and answered all our questions. There are a variety of Pink Jeep tours to choose from, but I would recommend the Ancient Ruin tour, especially if you don’t think there’s going to be room for other ancient historical sites on the rest of the trip. This tour features the cliff dwellings and rock paintings of the Sinauga tribes that lived in the area around 12 A.D., as well as a scenic hike and the chance to spot some desert animals!
2. Vortexes, Sedona, AZ
Besides the red rocks, the vortexes are Sedona’s biggest claim to fame. These are places that visitors have reported feeling unusually high energy from the earth. There are guided tours available but it can be quite a spiritual experience and for some, a tour guide might not be the best company. Even if the spiritual aspect isn’t your thing, the hikes are beautiful and there are some great sunrise/sunset viewing points nearby.
3. The Grand Canyon
Obviously. Are there any Arizona travel lists that don’t include this? I will never forget coming up over a small hill and being struck with the never-ending view. Camping spots and hikes down into the canyon could turn this into a week-long trip too, but if you only have a day or two there is still plenty that can be accomplished. Hike around the rims and take as many pictures as you can store, but be prepared, it is notoriously difficult to capture the mind-blowing reality of the Grand Canyon. Buses will take you up and down to different elevations and viewing points. If you’re running low on time, some spots are better than others and most bus drivers will be happy to tell you which stops are worth getting off. After a long day exploring, I was really ready to head home but we pushed through and headed back to the edge to watch the sunset. If you’re in the right spot, this is one hundred percent worth it. Temperatures drop fast once the sun goes down, though, so bundle up!
4. Antelope Canyon (Upper and Lower)
These slot canyons are an absolutely amazing experience. They’re located on Navajo land and you’ll need a licensed tour guide. The tours are popular, especially in peak months, so be to sure to make reservations to ensure a spot! Our tour guides at both locations were very informative and engaging. The photo tours are great but just make sure to read the fine print. Some require you to have an actual camera, whereas others will let you just use an iPhone. Either way, the tour guides will show you how to get the best angles for great shots (which is super helpful if you’re like me and not artistically gifted).
5. The Painted Desert
This famous destination is an easy, although somewhat lengthy, drive through the badlands. There are marked side roads and scenic stops to park and snap some photos. Scattered with mini mountains of multi-colored layers of rock, this is one of nature’s coolest tricks. It is also connected to the Petrified Forest, a combination that will bring out your inner geologist. If you stop at every point, this will be a longer excursion, but I did it as a detour from one location to the next and felt like I still got to see the highlights.
5. Canyon de Chelly
This canyon is located within the Navajo Nation as well. You can drive around the rim, hike down yourself, or take a tour via truck or horseback into the depths of the canyon. We used Canyon Hawk 4×4 Tours and got a personalized tour from the Navajo woman who runs the business. She told us the history of the canyon and of her family who had lived within the canyon walls for generations. The drive in, although somewhat rough, is beautiful and dotted with wild horses and more rock paintings. We took the White House Ruin trail, which ends at a site that resembles its namesake. There are local artists who sit in the shade and paint the ruins on slabs of red rock. It is amazing how well built the structures are given the limited tools they were built with and how in tact they have remained after so many centuries. The White House Ruin trail is just one of many other trails within the canyon that lead to other, equally fascinating locations!
7. Horseshoe Bend
There are no shortages of beautiful scenic views in Arizona, but this one was my favorite. The views of the Colorado River were like nothing I had ever seen and the contrast between the red rocks and the dark blue water was absolutely amazing. As always, there is the option for an easy hike to look out over the edge or a more adventurous rafting trip down the river. We stopped here in between Antelope Canyon tours but I would love to go back and do the rafting trip.
Almost every one of these spots could take up a whole week alone if you let them, not to mention all the amazing places that didn’t make it on this list, but if you don’t have two months to spend exploring, a few hours for each of these should do the trick!