Sedona & Grand Canyon, Arizona

Visiting the Grand Canyon has always been on my bucket list so when my friend Hilary suggested a girls trip somewhere “warm and outdoorsy,” Sedona seemed like the obvious destination but we quickly realized that we weren’t the only ones with this idea. Arizona is a popular vacation spot in March for all – golfers, baseball lovers, hikers and the like.

March 18, 2017 – Devil’s Bridge

We elected to fly into Phoenix and make the two hour drive north to Sedona which was slow due to traffic but picturesque. Dealing with some of the logistics at the airport took a bit longer than we anticipated so we arrived in Sedona mid-afternoon. After a quick stop to drop our things at the hotel, we grabbed lunch from 89 Agave, essentially the first restaurant we encountered after leaving the hotel. While I’m sure there are better choices for authentic Mexican food in Sedona, we needed something quick and convenient and this place was spot on.

After lunch, we wanted to squeeze in our first hike before the sun set so after soliciting advice from our hotel concierge, we decided on Devil’s Bridge Trail. As the name suggests, the hike leads to a beautiful, natural sandstone archway. The trailhead parking lot can only be reached by high clearance vehicles so we followed others’ lead and parked on the street near the Dry Creek Vista lot and walked along dusty Dry Creek Road to the trail start.

Note: Before visiting any of the Sedona trails, you need to purchase a Red Rock Pass, a parking pass that allows you to leave your car unattended on National Forest land ($5 USD for one day, $15 USD for a week and $20 USD for a year). You can purchase these passes at gas stations, grocery stores and in some instances, kiosks in the trailhead parking lot – complete list here.

The Devil’s Bridge Trail is well marked and climbs gradually. It is about four miles roundtrip from the Dry Creek Vista parking area and of moderate difficulty rising about 400ft in elevation. In total, the hike took us about two hours at a VERY leisurely pace. From what I understand, this is a popular hike and frequented by many including small children and dogs.  We went later in the afternoon so it wasn’t too busy but we did have one person describe it as “the Disney Land of hikes.” All in all we enjoyed the hike and understand why it’s so popular!

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{Dry Creek Road to Devil’s Bridge Trailhead}
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{Devil’s Bridge Trail}
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{Devil’s Bridge}

Post hike, we drove up to Airport Road, a popular location to watch a Sedona sunset. I believe there are trails that you can take to a more private viewing area but we stopped and parked ($3 USD parking fee) across from the flat observation area towards the top. It was pretty crowded (and windy) which took away from the ambiance so we didn’t linger.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Whole Foods to pick up lunch and snacks for our trip to the Grand Canyon the next day. Once showered and clean of the red dust, we went to Vino Di Sedona, a small restaurant with local beer and wine selections. They have a nice patio with live music but it was still a little too cold to sit outside so we enjoyed some wine and cheese inside.

March 19, 2017 – South Rim of the Grand Canyon

After breakfast the next morning we were off to the Grand Canyon. It took us a little more than two hours to make the drive to the South Rim with a quick stop at the IMAX theatre in Tusayan to purchase an Entrance Permit ($30 USD valid for seven days). We parked near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center in parking lots 1-3. Be prepared to stalk a spot because the main parking lot fills up early!

Note: Entrance Permits must be purchased for all visitors arriving by foot, vehicle or motorcycle. The Permit grants you and / or your vehicle and it’s passengers access to the Park. You can also purchase Entrance Permits at the Park Entrance Station on the South Rim.

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{Grand Canyon South Rim Views}
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{Mules on the South Kaibab Trail}

When we initially set out, we had ambitious (errr naive) goals of hiking from the Rim down to the Colorado River and back up in one day. However, we quickly learned that it’s virtually impossible and highly unadvisable when you start your hike at 12:15PM, who knew?

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{The first lookout on the South Kaibab Trail, Ooh Aah Point}
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{Hiking the South Kaibab Trail}
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{Cedar Point Views, the second lookout on the South Kaibab Trail}

In the end, we still managed to hike part way down into the Canyon on the South Kaibab Trail which, we were told, has better views and is less congested than its popular alternative, the Bright Angel Trail. In total, the South Kaibab Trail covers seven miles and a 5000ft elevation change each way with prescribed lookout points. We hiked just beyond Cedar Point to the north edge of the O’Neill Butte rock formation. The elevation at Cedar Point is approximately 1120ft from the top, after this point it starts to drop much faster so we were hesitate to go further. I estimate our trek was around four miles roundtrip which took us nearly four hours to complete.

Note: They say a good rule of thumb is to double the time it took you going down, to come back up. In our case it took us longer to go down because we stopped so often to admire the views and take pictures! I also highly recommend bringing water and salty snacks to fuel you because there is NO WATER along the South Kaibab Trail. We froze bottles of water the night before which helped keep our water and lunch from getting too hot during the hike.

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{O’Neill Butte Rock Formation, Grand Canyon}
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{South Kaibab Trail}
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{Grand Canyon Views from the north side of O’Neill Butte}

We finished the hike with a few hours to burn until sunset so we took the free shuttle to Yavapai Point and Geology Museum and walked along the Rim Trail stopping at Mather Point and other lookouts to appreciate the views from up high before eventually ending back at the South Kaibab Trailhead. Here, we picked up the free shuttle again, this time going the opposite direction to Yaki Point where we parked ourselves in prime position to see the sunset.

Note: Spring at the Grand Canyon brings highly variable weather. Temperatures at the bottom of the Canyon are much warmer than along the Rim and drop as the sun sets. I highly recommend packing layers to accommodate the wide spectrum. 

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{Elk on the Rim Trail}
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{Views from the Rim Trail}
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{Sunset at Yaki Point, Grand Canyon}
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{Sunset at Yaki Point, Grand Canyon}

After sunset, we drove the two hours back to Sedona under the brightest starry sky. Exhausted from our long day, we ordered Chinese food delivery from Szechuan Restaurant. Even though we called 10 minutes before they closed and were still 30 minutes out, they were kind enough to take our delivery order and even left it for us with the hotel concierge. The food is your basic Chinese but the delivery convenience made all the difference.

March 20, 2017 – Cathedral Rock & Sedona Day Spa

Despite protests from our feet and leg muscles, we woke early the next morning to hike Cathedral Rock Trail. Though this hike is shorter, about one and a half miles roundtrip, it is quite steep so be prepared to climb on all fours at certain points. The trail ends at a narrow saddle between two of the spires about 600ft up. We spent a lot of time admiring the views at the top so it took us about two hours to complete this hike.

Note: This is another popular hike in Sedona. We went early and virtually had the saddle to ourselves but on the way down, the trail was much more crowded with groups just starting out.

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{Cathedral Rock, Sedona}
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{Hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail}
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{Saddle between Cathedral Rock Spires}

Next on the itinerary was the highly anticipated SPA DAY but having worked up an appetite hiking, we first stopped for a quick snack at Berry Divine Acai Bowls. The next few hours were spent in complete bliss and relaxation being pampered at Sedona’s New Day Spa, a nice break for our muscles after all of our physical activities.

After a laid back day at the spa and later, our hotel pool, we showered and wandered around uptown Sedona. Considered Sedona’s Old Town, here you can find a wide variety of art galleries, restaurants and shopping. From trading posts to The Sedona Fudge Company, there’s something for everyone.

On our way to dinner, we stopped in Tlaquepaque, a seemingly displaced living arts community reminiscent of Old Mexico. This outdoor arts and crafts village is super charming with its string lights, sycamore trees and cobblestone pathways. We ended the night at The Hudson, a contemporary restaurant with delicious food and cocktails.

March 21, 2017 – Bell Rock

Determined to fit in one last hike before leaving Sedona, we woke early once again to hike Bell Rock Trail. This is also a shorter hike, just a half mile each way. Overall this is a pretty easy hike with a few steep areas that lead to flat perches. Bell Rock is known to have “Vortex Energy” which is believed to be a special spot on the earth where energy is either entering into the earth or projecting out of the earth’s plane.

Note: All of Sedona is said to be a Vortex and many of the people who live, work and visit here are searching for spiritual development and have great respect for the earth.

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{Bell Rock, Sedona}
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{Sedona views from Bell Rock Perch}

Before heading back to Phoenix to catch our flights, we enjoyed our final meal at Etch Kitchen & Bar sitting by Oak Creek. It doesn’t get more relaxing than a delicious brunch under a canopy of trees with only the sound of running water as a backdrop. Although, the amazing bloody mary’s didn’t hurt either!

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{Brunch near Oak Creek at Etch Kitchen & Bar}

Accommodations & Country Specific Details

Stay: The Orchards Inn of Sedona

We chose to stay at The Orchards Inn of Sedona because of the location – situated in the middle of Uptown and walking distance to most shopping and restaurants. They also have a pool and hot tub that we envisioned using more frequently than we actually did. 

Regardless, we enjoyed our experience. The hotel is located above Oak Creek and their rooms offer beautiful views of the Sedona Red Rocks. The rooms were clean, the hotel quiet and the staff extremely informative and accommodating. They also offer a free continental breakfast each morning starting at 6AM which was easy and convenient to grab before leaving to hike each morning.

The other place we consider staying that looked really cute in person is the Inn Above Oak Creek. This is located on AZ-179, South of the “Y” near the Tlaquepaque village.

Transportation:

To Sedona: We flew into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).

Around Sedona: We rented a car from Hertz that we picked up at the airport. We used the car to drive to and from Sedona and to each hike in Sedona. We also drove to the Grand Canyon. To get around town for dinner, we walked or took Uber. While they do have Uber, there aren’t many drivers so build in extra request time.

Currency: US Dollar (USD).

Language: English.

Outlet Adapter: The standard voltage is 120 V. The standard frequency is 60 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type B.

Passport/Visa Requirements: N/A

Vaccinations/Medicines: N/A

Weather: We went to Sedona in March, the perfect time to visit Arizona! During the day, the weather was great – no rain and sunshine with temperatures in the high 70’s or low 80’s. At night it was much cooler though so make sure to bring layers if you plan to be out before sunrise or after sunset.

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