You went on a roadtrip through the Southwest United States and DIDN’T stop at the Grand Canyon?!?
Yup, that’s right. I didn’t stop at the Grand Canyon.
Don’t get me wrong, the Grand Canyon is epic and everyone should go if they haven’t already. It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World, after all. But by no means is the Grand Canyon the only epic spot the Southwest has to offer. Last September, my mom and I spent 8 days checking out some of these equally-grand goodies.
Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona
There are a handful of guided tour companies you can use for Antelope Canyon. The canyon itself is located on protected Navajo land and is not easily accessible so the only option is to pay for a guided tour.
My mom and I visited during Labor Day Weekend. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made reservations in advance and the tour companies were completely booked up for the holiday weekend. After a mini freakout session and a little more research, a company called Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours came to the rescue. They offer tours without reservations! They operate on a first-come first-served basis with tours leaving on the top of the hour from the Navajo Tribal Park Parking Lot ($48/person). Luckily, we were able to get a last-minute tour of the Upper Canyon without a problem. Our tour guide was named Bear and he took a lot of cool pictures using my iPhone camera because he was an expert on all best angles to catch the light shining into the canyon.
*Depending on the season, there is an optimal time of day in which the sunlight shines through the canyon in just the right way. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you can get a glimpse of glowing sand falling from above like a illuminated hourglass. The window of time for optimal viewing is very specific.
Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona
Horseshoe Bend was easy to get to from Page. It’s off Route 89. You park in the parking lot and walk 3/4 of a mile along a easy hiking path. It’s absolutely breathtaking.
If time is on your side and you want to do some really cool activities on the cheap, consider attending one of Sedona’s timeshare sales presentations. How do you find said presentation? There are TONS of timeshare booths in downtown Sedona advertising Jeep Tours and Helicopter Tours for ridiculously low prices. The catch Signing away to a 1-2 hour sales pitch on why you should buy a timeshare package. It’s a bit of a pain because you physically have to go to a hotel site at a designated time and sit through the presentation before you can redeem your free (or almost free) gifts.
For 90 minutes of our time and $45 total, my mom and I were gifted a helicopter tour over Sedona, a 2.5-hour jeep tour and a voucher for a complimentary 3-day/2-night resort stay that I plan to use this year.
As someone who has previously worked in sales, the sales pitch was pretty interesting and wasn’t much of a burden for me. I didn’t go into it with any intention to purchase and was sure to diligently read everything I signed prior to committing (this is key!). One guy on TripAdvisor had a really negative experience with some aggressive salesperson, but my experience was positive. I didn’t feel pressured. I didn’t buy a timeshare. I walked out 90 minutes later with my helicopter ride, jeep tour and 3 night vacation for 2 people for $45 – it was pretty sweet.
When we weren’t flying around in a helicopter or off-roading in a jeep, we were hiking.
Sedona is said to be a very spiritual place. My mother was the one who first informed me about Sedona’s Energy Vortexes which apparently are centers of energy emitted from the earth. We hiked the Bell Rock Vortex during sunrise and visited the Airport Vortex later that day.
Did we feel the energy from the rustic red land reverberating through our bodies and souls?
My mom said she bit lighter while hiking Bell Rock. I felt energetic the entire time, nothing out of the norm. Mind over matter.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a neat place to pop in if you like churches and/or cool architecture. We spent about 10 minutes here.
What else is there to do in Sedona? Wrap up a long day of hiking by sipping on a Prickly Pear Margarita downtown. Go on a scenic drive while listening to your favorite podcast/audiobook, sign up for a yoga class or treat yourself to a spa day. There are a lot of retirees and old people here. Just relax and take it slow.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument is in the middle of nowhere (55 miles from Las Cruces, NM), but it’s absolutely worth a visit. White Sands is nature’s coolest sandbox – a vast area of sparkly, smooth crystal-white sand providing hours of entertainment.
It’s only $3 per person to enter the park and once you pay for the pass, it’s valid for a week. My mom and I went twice – once in the evening and a second time the following morning.
If you are looking for a place to stay near White Sands National Monument, I highly recommend staying with Ariella. This was probably one of the best AirBnB experiences I have ever had. Her place is not exactly fancy or modern, but it’s charming and homey like your grandma’s house. And she fits the part because she’s like the Cuban grandma you never knew you had. She’s a loud, outgoing artist who greets you with hugs and bids you farewell with kisses and more hugs. Her energy, candor and humor were enough to made the trip on its own.
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Taos Pueblo has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1992 and was the first living history site on the list. Native Americans still live in the original, authentic adobe dwellings. The pueblo does not have electricity as it aims to preserve and maintain the traditional way of life the Red Willow Native Americans led.
We took a guided tour and learned most families have a modern home in addition to their traditional adobe dwelling in the Pueblo. Taos Pueblo is it’s own sovereign nation – they have their own government and rules and the homes have been passed on from generation to generation for the last 1000 years. In order to own property on the Pueblo, you must be at least 1/4 Taos. $16/person to enter the site
My Southwest Roadtrip Itinerary
Day 1 – Drove from San Diego to Las Vegas, NV. Spent night in Las Vegas| 5 hours driving, ~335 miles
Day 2 – Drove from Las Vegas to Page, Arizona. Visited Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Spent night in Page, AZ | 4.5 hours driving, ~280 miles
Day 3 – Watched the sun rise over Horseshoe Bend. Drove from Page to Sedona, Arizona. Spent night in Sedona | 2 hours, 50 minutes driving, ~160 miles
Day 4 – Sedona, AZ
Day 5 – Sedona, AZ
Day 6 – Drove from Sedona to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visited White Sands National Park. Spent night in Las Cruces | 7-8 hours driving, ~500 miles
Day 7 – Drove from Las Cruces, NM to Santa Fe. Spent the night in Santa Fe. | 3 hours 50 minutes driving, ~235 miles
Day 8 – Drove from Santa Fe, NM to Taos Pueblo, and then to Denver, CO. | 6 hours 15 minutes driving, ~365 miles