A good friend of mine explained to me before I went to the Grand Canyon that “once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it”. While that’s true in some sense–it’s a 10 mile gorge in the ground–it’s not true in others. While I won’t go into detail about every stop along the way, I will say that each had its merits and if you have more time available to you, spend at least a few days marinating there. You’ll thank yourself for it.
Of all of my stops of my trip, the Grand Canyon was well…the most Grand. Nothing I’ve seen in America compares to it. Here are a few of the stops you should definitely see if you’re on the South Rim:
- Mather Point – It’s the “starter” view and absolutely does not disappoint with getting you adjusted to the Grand Canyon.
- Yavapai Point and Geology Museum – For those who want to see the canyon and not be exposed to elements while learning something along the way, this is for you.
- Desert View Watchtower – Like Mather Point, it boasts a visitor center and various shops and stores along with the most interesting visual object you’ll see on the South Rim.
- Tusayan Museum and Ruin – For the geologist at heart, visit this site for a boutique museum and the opportunity to walk along the ruins of ancient people who lived on the Grand Canyon.
- Grandview Point – Careful here! To truly get a good view of Grandview Point, you’ll need to go out past the partition and out onto some of the narrower rock paths that have little to no protection if you fall. High reward to a moderate risk.
- Shoshone Point – This point isn’t marked on the Grand Canyon map, but it’s accessible via a 1-mile dirt trail just past Yaki Point. It boasts one of the most rewarding views of the Grand Canyon and a beautifully balanced rock to focus on for photo enthusiasts. It’s my second favorite view of the trip.
- Hopi Point – With its deep red rocks and views of the Colorado River, it’s a must-see for sunset.
- Hermit’s Rest – Another great place for sunset. There’s also a trail that leads off into one of the verdant, forest-like patches of the Grand Canyon.
Once the sunset, I’d gotten word that there would be a meteor shower that night and that there wasn’t any better place to view it than the Grand Canyon. This worked for me because one of the central reasons for going to Arizona was for stargazing. I decided that the best place to see the stars was where I started at Mather Point. As I walked towards the observation point–or at least attempted to–I stopped to take a few shots of the stars set against features like rocks and solar towers. The closer I got to Mather Point, however, the more irrational my fear became that I’d be somehow attacked by a bear or mischievous/murderous person on the grounds. My thinking went: The Grand Canyon is so large and Mather Point so isolated that I could scream and not a soul would realize I was in paranoid danger. Weighing the risk to reward–I wasn’t going to see an outline of the Grand Canyon–I continued to gaze and shot in the complete dark, just not at the rim. I was out for about 2 hours when I came to the conclusion that I would not see the meteor shower. I wasn’t disappointed though. I marveled at the volume of stars that were in the sky and the faint, ever-present glow of our Milky Way Galaxy. I saw a few random shooting stars, a few star clusters, and a number of satellites whizzing about. As I stared up, I felt completely satisfied and restored in the sense that I was connected to something more and forced down my last bit of Alka-Seltzer.
Deep sky view from the Grand Canyon
When light came the following morning, I didn’t have the energy to power through for another sunrise adventure. I had flirted with the idea of going back to Meteor Crater for the tour the facility gave, but that thought was competing with visiting the Petrified Forest. Ultimately, after having spent the entire day at the Grand Canyon, I felt that I’d be selling both experiences short, so I slept in. The other reason was that I was still feeling sick and wanted the extra time to adequately vacate the AirBnB as well as chart out the next few days on the southern half of Arizona.
Once I cleaned up and got my things packed, I charted a course for Sedona. Unlike Canyon de Chelly and the Grand Canyon, Sedona didn’t have one core natural attraction but many. Perhaps a better way of saying it is that the town is the attraction. The ride down from Flagstaff is easily one of the most scenic and beautiful I’ve ever taken. From lush, rolling hills, winding roads, flowing creeks, and towering mountains, Sedona is a land to behold. I can’t count the number of times I pulled aside on the road, threw on my hazards and shot what unfolded before me.
A creek on the road down to Sedona.
Situated in a valley beneath towering mountains, the town attracts arts and adventure types from the world over. From the advent of American cinema and up through the 1970s, its distinctive red rock formations, notably Cathedral and Chimney Rock, became some of the most recognizable exteriors in film history. Even if you don’t think you’ve seen Sedona, you’ve seen Sedona.
Once in Sedona, the one place I knew to go was the Airport Overlook. Looking out from there you can see a number of mountain faces, spanning the length of the town. Viewing it from this vantage point gives the town the mythical, ephemeral quality of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings. It’s that stunning. After taking my shots from the outlook, I decided to take the advice of the parking attendant and hike the Summit Trail down from the Airport Road Overlook. While I didn’t necessarily inquire into this trail specifically, I did want to know what a “vortex” was in the Arizonan context when I paid the $3 dollars to park. She explained that it was the place where the magnetic fields on earth clashed (or something like that) and were widely reported to have healing properties based on the location of the vortex. The one I was in apparently provided a “caffeine-rush” that could be more strongly felt the closer one got to the nucleus of the vortex. “Can’t you feel it?”, she asked with confirmation in her eyes. I closed my eyes and tried to connect with my inner ki, imagining the energy rising up around me like something out of an anime. Sensing more of a migraine than energy, I replied “I don’t”, visibly disappointing her.