I’m always up to hit the open road. The wide open spaces, the tapestry of landscapes, the never ending horizon are just a few of the winning qualities that converted me to become a long-term road trip enthusiast.
Last month, I embarked on a mini weekend getaway to Arizona for a girlfriend’s 27th birthday. The three-day road trip took two months to plan. It was a brief escape yet more than enough to explore three of Arizona’s most famous natural wonders: Grand Canyon National Park, Horseshoe Bend, and Lower Antelope Canyon.
WHERE WE STAYED
- We stayed for two nights in Page. Our hotel was clean, had a microwave, and was conveniently located less than ten minutes from the main downtown, Horseshoe Bend, and Lower Antelope Canyon.
WHERE WE ATE
- Page, Arizona is not a foodie town. Our options were limited to fast food and low-rated restaurants. To save money, my friends and I mostly ate what we packed (Filipino food).We did decide to eat out for Justine’s birthday dinner on Saturday night at Strombolli’s Pizza, which is located in the main downtown area of Page. Given the Yelp reviews, our expectations were low, but much to our taste buds’ surprise, the food was not only affordable but actually good!
Grand Canyon National Park
We hit the road Thursday evening, just before midnight, for our first stop: the Grand Canyon. The plan was to arrive before the sunrise, which was unsuccessful because we forgot to take into account the one hour time change from California to Arizona. Nevertheless, despite missing the sunrise, arriving early in the morning allowed us to still to enjoy the grandeur of the Grand Canyon before the crowds. The canyons were just as majestic as I remembered them to be. Perhaps more.
Ever heard of that saying, “It’s better to see a place once than hear about it a thousand times?” That’s what Horseshoe Bend was to me. Practically every friend of mine and every travel blog I follow have posted a photo of the said attraction. And I want to be next!
We trekked the three-quarter mile trail to Horseshoe Bend rim before the crack of dawn. It was bitter cold (low 40s) with wind gusts. We were shivering, hungry, and sleep-deprived from the drive the day before. The conditions were definitely less than ideal, yet they made the moment all that much sweeter when Justine “blew” her birthday cupcake (the wind gusts made it a challenge to keep the candle lit to begin with).
To those interested in seeing Horseshoe Bend, I recommend visiting during “golden hour” (sunrise or sunset), although sunrise is preferable if you don’t want to deal with bigger crowds or don’t want the sun to be behind the rim. Noontime also works, but the sun is too stark in my opinion.
The sun’s placement in the sky is important when photographing Horseshoe Bend. The goal is for the bend to not have any shadows. At around 8 o’clock in the morning, the sun was still low, but enough to cast a shadow on half of the bend, which didn’t look appealing in photographs.
You know that feeling of really really wanting to visit a place after seeing it so many times in photos, magazines, blogs, screen savers, etc., and then you finally arrive to that place, and you hear your self say, “Damn… I’m here.” Yeah, that. Lower Antelope Canyon left me more speechless than I expected. It was five-stories deep and absolutely surreal. It’s difficult not to be completely awestruck when walking through the canyons. You have to wander through swirls, climb up and down the narrow stairs, tickle the orange Navajo sandstone with your bare fingertips to make sure you’re not having a lucid dream.
Self-guided tours through the canyons are now strictly prohibited by law, so we booked a one hour walking tour with Ken’s Tours about a month before our trip. Reservations can be made in advance, and payments are due upon arrival ($28 per person, cash only).
Our tour guide, Tyler, was great. He was patient, filled with cool information, and was willing to share cool photography tricks using our iPhones (see vertical panorama below).
Here’s to more adventures and nights that turn into morning and friends who turn into family!
Click play to watch our video diary!