Greetings TA friends. We spent a week in August at the Grand Canyon and Sedona and here is our trip report. Our family includes my wife, two boys (ages 10 and 12, but big eaters), grandma, and me. We flew in from Ohio. See my reviews for more in depth info of restaurants and attractions. We go on vacation to do stuff and not so much to rest. We started early most mornings, but we were back at the hotel-condo by 7 at night.
Day 0-Arrived in Phoenix and stayed at Homewood Suites Airport South.
Day 1-Drove up the freeway towards the Grand Canyon. For a group of Ohioans the views on the way were nice. It was nice seeing all the cacti and mountains along the way. Based upon Tripadvisor Expert recommendations we opted to come into the GC from the eastern entrance on Desert View. So we traveled up 89.
We stopped at Sunset Crater National Monument along the way. We had a picnic lunch there (nice picnic areas). We also spent a short time exploring (less than an hour), but it was really nice seeing a volcanic area. We got our annual National Park pass here so we would have a quicker entry into the GC.
We headed into GC along Desert View. Tip-there are gas stations just before you make the turn from 89 to Desert View. Extra Tip-there are some nice viewing areas with Native American shops before you head into the National Park.
After heading into GC we hit all the viewing spots along Desert View. It took us a couple hours. We could have spent much more.
We then headed to our lodge, Maswik Lodge. It's comfortable and clean, though it's not luxurious. Tip-if people have stopped along the route they might be looking at elk; we saw an elk near our lodge. We ate supper at the Maswik Cafeteria; it was ok.
Day 2. At the GC we started with the Hermit Road route. We hit all the stops, but we probably could have skipped one or two. They were all fantastic. It took us about 4 hours or so; we could have done it quicker and we certainly could have spent triple the time. Hitting this route first worked for us. Then we took the Village Route to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Tip-there are picnic tables at some of the stops, so picnicked at the Hermit's Rest stop so we wouldn't waste time heading back to restaurants.
There we picked up Kaibab (Orange) Route. Since we were getting tired we opted to hit only the Yavapai and Yaki Points; that worked for us.
Then we took the Village Route back Bright Angel Lodge. Feeling refreshed we hiked the Bright Angel Trail for a bit. Feeling like we accomplished what we set out to accomplish, we hit the gift shop. Then we ate supper at the Bright Angel Restaurant; it was better and more affordable than we expected.
Day 3. We headed out of the GC and headed to Sedona. We headed down old 89. It was a nice drive into Sedona and it helped welcome us to all the beauty. We hit the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center for maps and coupons (found a couple); they also sell the Forest Service Recreation pass required a Forest Service Areas. Tip-you don't need the pass if you're pulling over just to take pictures, but you will need it if you're leaving your vehicle to do some hiking; they do sell them at machines at the major trail heads, but not all.
We spent part of the afternoon hitting some of the shops in Uptown Sedona. We ate lunch at Sally's BBQ (good). Then we checked into our condo, Highlands Resort at Verde Ridge in Cornville; it's a bit west of Sedona, but it's really nice and quiet-recommended.
We ate supper at the Haunted Hamburger in Jerome; the burgers were really good. Jerome is an interesting town and one of the more unique places I've ever been. Driving to and and through Jerome is quite scenic and a little bit scary (and not just from the ghosts, ha ha).
Day 4-We had breakfast in the condo. We headed out to Sedona. We had reservations for the Pink Jeep tour Broken Arrow tour; highly recommended. Grandma held up during the tour, but some of it was a bit strenuous for her. Tip-be prepared for the gratuity; yep that was a bit naïve on my part (thanks to TA for tips on tips).
We had lunch at the Cowboy Club. It was conveniently across the street from Pink Jeep. It was our splurge meal. It was expensive, but worth it. I was afraid it would be too kitschy without substance, but it was an excellent (and casual) steak house. Tip-try the rattlesnake bites and cactus fries; I did it for the story, but they tasted good.
We headed a couple doors down to the Black Cow Cafe for some ice cream. I've had ice cream in many places, but this ranks in my top three all time. The malted vanilla was excellent. Highly recommended.
Next I pulled out my trail map I picked up. We headed through the north and west part of Sedona. We just drove around and stopped to look at the sites. We primarily stopped at trail heads (parking areas there), but there are occasional spots to pull off as well. This worked well for us and we saw a lot. Tip-you'd think trail heads would have restrooms, but not all do so hit them when you see them. Tip-you see a lot as you drive. Sometimes you double back and the same scene looks different coming in a different direction; silly but true.
We ate supper at the condo.
Day 5-We ate breakfast in the condo. We took a later start to rest a bit. We headed out late morning. We spent the day heading out the south and east part of Sedona. Again we drove around seeing the sights and hitting the trail heads. We started at Chapel of the Holy Cross. It was spectacular. There views in every direction. There's plenty of viewing outside. We drove around a couple hours and spent a bit of time on the Bell Rock trail.
Finally we went to Red Rock Crossing (aka Crescent Moon Ranch Park). It's a $9 fee that's not covered by the Recreation Pass. We picnicked here (nice area, but were besieged by flies as we ate, but only then). It has a spectacular view of Cathedral Rock. The creek is a short distance away. The creek is deep in some areas and the rocks are slippery with some natural slides. The boys had a ball playing in the water. Go into the creek for an even better view of Cathedral Rock. Tip-don't spend the buck for the map unless you're going to hike; if you're just going to the creek don't bother because you just follow the sidewalk to the treeline and the creek is just a few yards beyond that.
Day 6-We started early. We took the long drive to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. I've always wanted to head there since my neighbor showed me slides (yes slides) of the area when I was a kid. Yes it's a long haul from Sedona. But we were comfortable with what we'd seen in Sedona and I really wanted to see it. I'm thankful for a wife who is a good sport (so were the boys).
We started at the South Entrance of the Petrified Forest. The Rainbow Forest Museum doubles as a visitor's center. Right behind it is a short Giant Logs trail where you can see a variety of
petrified wood. We picnicked at the picnic tables just a short way from the Museum.
We hit most of the stops spending most of our time at the Crystal Forest and Blue Mesa. We then ventured to the Painted Desert portion of the park. We hit most of the points spending most of our time at Pintado Point and Kachina Points. We then finished up at the Painted Desert Visitor Center. We were in the park about 3.5 hours; we could have spent less time (though not much) and we certainly could have spent more hours there. The petrified wood was amazing the scenes of the Painted Desert were simply beautiful. I'm glad we spent our day there. Tip-the NPS brochure (and web site) tells you how to spend your time if you're short for time; it's spot on. Also you can purchase petrified wood at the Concessionaire shop right next to the Painted Desert Visitor Center.
We headed back to the Sedona area. We went to Simon's Colombian style hot dogs located at Oak Creek Brewing Company (used a coupon). It was fantastic and Simon gave us some tips of some good hiking and viewing spots.
Day 7-I typically use our last full day of vacation as a day to do things we didn't get a chance to do or to just rest. We slept in. We opted to head to Sedona to pick up some more souvenirs. We ate lunch (and grabbed some muffins for breakfast) at Sedona Memories Bakery and Cafe (yum, highly recommended).
We then headed to Slide Rock State Park so the boys (this one included) could play a little in water; it was a lot of fun. It costs $20 a car load, but we cut our cost in half using a military discount. Tip-Red Rock Crossing is less crowded, the boys liked it better, and it was half the cost; so if you only have time for one water event keep that in mind.
We then hit Hog Wild in Cottonwood for supper (used a Groupon). It's run by people transplanted Chicago; they also have Chicago Italian Beef. We all got BBQ. The staff was friendly, the meats were good, but the sauce was just ok. Recommended.
Day 8-We headed to Phoenix to fly home.
Day 9-Rested at home.
Bonus Tip-I tried to go as paperless as possible. I photo streamed pictures of screen shots of flight reservations numbers, web site info (like NPS maps), TA notes, boarding passes, and such. That way instead of carrying around paper or looking up the info I could just look at my photo stream (and so could my wife).
Bonus Bonus Tip-I made going through airport security a tad easier for me. I put our liquids, medications, and other iffy things in a small soft cooler. Instead of digging it out of my bag all I had to do was put it in the bin and unzip the top of the cooler. Then I could just stow in under the seat in the plane.
Thanks to all who participate in TA forums and reviews. You made my vacation planning a ton easier (I share the love in my home town). The destination experts for Sedona are the best on TA (especially RedRox); thanks. I try to share the love with my hometown.