Arizona Our Way // Travel Blog
The Southwest United States has gotten more & more popular over the past few years & I’m no longer a stranger to the amazing places you can find there. While most think of the desert as a scorched & desolate place, I’m fond of taking trips like this in the winter. Less crowds, more comfortable conditions (usually), & the chance of snow adding contrast to an already beautiful landscape! We took this trip back over the New Year’s break to end 2018 & ring in 2019 with some really great memories. When putting the trip together, I decided to contain our destinations to Northern Arizona rather than dipping into Utah in order to really get time to appreciate and explore the places we ended up. If you’re familiar with my last trip to the Southwest, it was an absolute marathon so I really looked forward to savoring each new destination with Hanna.
We landed in Phoenix & almost immediately picked up our Camper Van from Escape Campervans. We met a really cool couple there with a similar itinerary too! We headed to Sedona just in time to hike to the Boynton Canyon Vortex then I stayed up late taking photos of the stars around Cathedral Rocks & Red Rocks State Park since I knew winter weather was on the way in the morning.
Did I mention “winter weather” was in the forecast? I don’t think anyone anticipated us getting stuck in what was called by locals the “10-year snow storm” in Sedona, AZ. We sat in our van stuck in traffic at a roundabout for over 2 hours & spent another 2 hours stuck in a parking lot before we finally got out & made it to the Airport Mesa for good views of the snowfall.
We returned to Airport Mesa early the next morning to watch the sunrise over Sedona. It was pretty crowded despite temperatures in the 20’s, but I’d happily stand next to all those strangers again to be rewarded with these views.
We left Sedona after breakfast to get a truck-stop shower outside Flagstaff & continue on to The Grand Canyon! This was during the Government Shutdown, but I had confirmation that the park was operating with limited services & knew we could do our best not to have any negative impact.
Remember the couple I said we met at the van depot in Phoenix? We met up with them, Kelly & Austin, for sunset at the Grand Canyon & got to photograph their proposal! Austin told me in secret our first night in Sedona that he had plans to pop the question & I was super excited to offer to photograph it for them. The coolest spontaneous photoshoot I may ever do!
We got a group photo with Kelly & Austin before freezing our tails off taking our own self-portraits too. We all met back up in our campervans at one of the parking lots at the far end of the South Rim for the night.
Hanna & I woke up well before sunrise the next morning to experience what most never will! Sunrise over a snowy Grand Canyon National Park. We traveled up & down the South Rim to several more secluded spots taking photos & generally freezing. There is something so special about how the snow lines the canyon & adds even more depth to the insane scene.
After sunrise we left immediately for Page, AZ to see the famous Horseshoe Bend & experience our first Slot Canyon!
As one could & should expect, sunset at Horseshoe Bend was a MESS with other travelers, tourists, families, & generally obnoxious people, but we survived & it is just incredible enough a place to be worth it. After a good night’s sleep we woke up early for our morning tour with Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon Tours! I’m not usually one to pay for a tour of something natural like this, but all the slot canyons in Page, AZ are on Navajo Nation Land & require certain passes & guides. This newer company does things a bit different though & instead of taking people to the overcrowded Antelope Canyons, they have their own private canyon! They lead tours of 13 people max at a time & it was SO WORTH IT! Hanna & I had almost 45 minutes completely to ourselves & were allowed to use whatever photography equipment we wanted. Getting first-hand history & knowledge of the Navajo that live on the land was also incredible. Highly recommended!
That afternoon we met up with Brandon Dugi, a connection through social media who also does work with Horseshoe Bend Tours! He’s a member of Navajo Nation as well & knows this area like the back of his hand. He showed us a place just outside of town that we could get a few more self-portraits & explore a bit while we were at it.
After catching sunset in Page we made a last minute decision to drive all the way back to Sedona for the night to try to catch the Quadrantid Meteor Shower & also be closer to Phoenix for our return flight in the next 2 days. The snowstorm cut our explorations a bit short & we really wanted to experience more of what Sedona had to offer!
The star-trail photographs above both include at least one meteor that I caught over the 45 minute time frame they were captured & put together. It was an awesome first experience trying to capture something like that & put together star-trails!
The next morning we hiked a bit of the way to Cathedral Rocks to catch the sun rising over them. We were dead tired & in need of a sink shower, so we spent most of the last day getting cleaned up, hiking up to Schuerman Mt. for our last sunset, & taking a few more photos together.
We planned on waking up in just enough time to get out of town for more truck-stop showers before we got to the airport, but when I woke up I saw some of the sun peaking through & what I thought might be hot air balloons! I booked it up Loy Butte Road (this is where we camped every night outside Sedona for free!) just to catch a glimpse of the hot air balloons & sunrise over the red rocks & was well rewarded. This was the perfect send-off to an amazing week in Arizona. We drove back to Phoenix reminiscing & a bit sad to leave, but also excited to be home in a real bed & our own shower!
If you have any questions at all about where to camp, hike, see, eat, go, or do in these areas please shoot me an email, message, or comment below!
If you want me to come back to the southwest to take photos of your proposal, engagement, elopement, or wedding OKAY YES PLEASE CLICK HERE!