Southwest Spring Break Road Trip
Bright and early we headed to Bellingham for the flight to Las Vegas. Our flight, which was supposed to be 2.5 hours only ended up taking 2 with the smoothest landing I have ever experienced, so thank you Allegiant Air! The time we gained with the flight was soon lost as we arrived at Sixt car rentals. We had made a reservation for the car prior to our trip but when we were chatting to the person at the front desk about our travel plan she was like “Ya… we can’t rent you the car if you are driving into states that don’t border Nevada.” What a ridiculous rule!! There was NOTHING on their website that says that. Why have unlimited mileage when you can’t even go anywhere? She said she cancelled the reservation but gave us no confirmation that it happened. Julie T I am coming for you if we aren’t fully refunded!
Without wanting to waste any more time we headed over to National car rental. We had such a great experience on our East Coast road trip renting from them we knew they would quickly and easily be able to rent us a vehicle, and guess what it was….a Nissan Rogue just like our East Coast trip!! I was sooo pumped, best road trip car ever! *Not sponsored:)
After picking up food and supplies from Trader Joes and Dick’s Sporting Good we headed out of Nevada and into Arizona. The scenery was incredible right from the beginning reminding us of some of the landscapes we had seen in Kenya and Tanzania.
We arrived in Flagstaff as the sun was setting and the temperature dropped below freezing. Craig, loving motels, got us a “great deal” ($35) which came at a cost...it was a TOTAL dive! Not the worst place we have ever stayed but top 3 for sure! Thankful I brought my winter jacket we took a walk through the city centre and had a beer at Flagstaff Brewing Company.
Woke up pretty early, not surprisingly the bed was super uncomfortable! We didn’t stick around Motel L for long, after making oatmeal and coffee as we headed to our 1st big stop the Grand Canyon. The drive from Flagstaff took about 2 hours.
Beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky but the temperature didn’t get over five degrees celsius. As a geography major I totally geeked out! I think I told Craig about 6 times how great of a day I was having!! We parked at the Grand Canyon Visitor Centre and walked the rim rock trail to Hopi House.
It was pretty busy at the visitor centre but as you start to walk along the trail the crowds thin out fairly quickly…as do the barrier rails!! As someone absolutely scared of heights I did my best not to totally chicken out and managed to get a couple “living on the edge” shots.
We shuttled back to the car (buses run every 15 minutes-super easy) from Village East and continued the drive along the rim where we stopped for our final viewpoint at Navajo Point.
From there we headed back past Flagstaff onto Sedona where we had booked Peaceful Sanctuary in the Heart of Sedona on Airbnb. Katie, our host, was amazing! So friendly and accommodating it was great to stay in Sedona at her cute house, see her art work, and meet her cat Monkey! Upon arriving she told us to head up Airport Rd to watch the sunset, so beautiful!
That night we had dinner at Chocola Tree Vegetarian. Maybe we are spoilt where we live with vegan & vegetarian restaurants, but the restaurant was not very good at all. The food and the service we lacking. The best part about our whole experience was our server who was exactly what you would picture when visualizing a modern hippy dude working as a server at a vegetarian restaurant.
While in Sedona we wanted to checkout some of the cool hikes they are known for. It was hard to decide because there are so many to choose from. They are all varied in length, topography (exertion/difficulty level), geography (what it looks like/features), etc. so to help us out we headed to The Hike House to ask the experts. They were so helpful!! You can also buy your Red Rock Pass from them but I don’t recommend buying the trail map (it was $12 and you can just take pictures of the map at the trailhead for free).
We decided on the Brins Mesa Trail #119. Starting at Jim Thompson TH (just behind town) we headed up Mormom Canyon. Brins Mesa is a long hike that connects to many trails which is great if you want to lengthen it, but we decided to make our hike a loop by taking Solider Pass which took us passed the Seven Sacred pools and Devils Kitchen. To get back to the TH we took Cibola and Jordan trail which linked us back to the car park.
We have both done quite a bit of hiking and many of the hikes have been stunning, just as a reference point we put this hike in our top 10, it was that beautiful!!
After the hike we headed back to our Airbnb for lunch and then down to Cornville to a beautiful little winery called Page Springs. We sat out on the patio at the bar and did a couple wine tastings. The staff was super friendly and knew their stuff! Having no other plan for the evening we both got a glass of our favourite wine from the tasting and headed down to the picnic area above the bank of Oak Creek.
Not wanting to leave the red rocks of Sedona we decided, on our way out of town, to do another hike. This time we decided on a shorter but more elevating hike. We wanted to get a view of the valley and knew Cathedral Rock would give us what we were looking for.
Wow it did not disappoint!! Challenging on the way up it is definitely not for the faint of heart (although we did see a lot of non-typical hikers heading up). The climb took us about 45 minutes with a couple of small breaks and waits for other hikers coming down the one-way section. From the top we looked west across the whole valley. Descending the hike was fairly straight forward, the most challenging being the part where you scaled down the rock face.
Sedona is also known for having energy vortexes. There are 4 main vortexes in & surrounding Sedona. After our hike we were heading down Hwy 179 towards Scottsdale which happens to go right past Bell Rock, one of the vortex areas, so we thought we’d check it out. The vortex is about half way up Bell Rock and there are no signs for it. From what we read if you head up the trail let your senses guide you to where you feel the energy. We arrived at a flat area and both sat down and were just open to the experience. You’ll have to check it out yourself to see if you can feel anything!
Sedona and Scottsdale are only about 2 hours apart but with the hiking and the meditating along with a couple of bathroom breaks and 1 margarita stop we didn’t get into Scottsdale until about 6:00.
To premise the accommodation, it’s important you know that Craig likes to book Motels-the cheaper the better (refer back up to day 1). I agree I don’t like wasting money on a place to stay but there is a line and some of the places we have stayed in the past, and on this trip, cross that line and are downright disgusting (even for him) but this place was UNREAL!!!! No idea how Craig booked Hotel Adaline for $60 CAN a night when people checking in beside us were paying over $300 but he did and he redeemed himself for all the crappy places we have stayed!
Pictures (and videos) are worth 1000 words…
After consulting our trusty Lonely Planet, we decided to checkout Green New American Vegetarian for dinner. The line out the door was a sure sign of the deliciousness that was about to come! Now that we’ve checked out a couple places to eat it seems typical to line up to order and then get a table (rather than having servers) so don’t be deterred by the line, it’s just the way it works. Food was cheap, fast and phenomenal!! We shared the Classic Burger, Original “G” Spicy Po-boy, Brussels Sprouts and my favourite the Buffalo Wings. They also did their own dairy free desserts, Tsoynami was the name of their ice-cream shop, but we were too stuffed to try but they looked amazing!!
Hotel Adaline was VERY hard to leave so we spent the morning poolside soaking it all up. When we did finally leave we headed into Phoenix for a quick look around. The neighbourhoods were nice and the houses were beautiful. Before leaving we stopped by The Coronado for a quick bite. We shared the vegan Lemon Muffin and Hibiscus Scone.
The drive from Phoenix to Tucson was about 2 hours. On the way in we checked out Saguaro National Park West. Known for its concentration of massive Saguaro Cactus this park is a MUST SEE. We arrived around 5:00pm knowing we wanted to do the scenic drive and a couple of the walks to take pictures before watching the sunset. Both the walks we did took almost double the suggested time because we couldn’t stop taking pictures of the cactuses. The Saguaro’s obviously were amazing but the Prickly Pear and Barrel Cactus as well as the Teddybear Cholla and countless others were equally as cool. We did the Valley View Overlook Trail and Signal Hill scenic walks.
We also got to see Gila Woodpeckers, Curve-billed Thrashers, and a Roadrunner!!! He was certainly quick, as he literally ran across the road, if we blinked we would have missed him.
Because they close the gates to the scenic drive at dusk we parked at the Desert Discovery Nature Trail and made our dinner as we waited for the sun to set. The day was pretty clouded over so we weren’t sure if we would even get a sunset. As the sun descended below the horizon we resigned to the fact that there wasn’t going to be a sunset when almost out of nowhere the cloudy lit up pink and the most brilliant sunset took over the whole sky. We were speechless, actually I kept saying “oh my God”, “OH MY GOD” because every minute the sky was more and more lit up. We were the only people in the park and got to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve ever seen.
As we got ready to leave I noticed something racing around and under the car. I bent down and a little Kangaroo Rat came right up to me. It wasn’t scared at all and either was I. He was looking for a bite to eat. Not someone who typically feeds wildlife, this little guy was just so sweet and I can only imagine how hard pressed it was to find food, I gave him a couple broken up nacho chips which he happily took down his little hole. I find it hard to understand how people create a hierarchy of animals in which they love and care for some and hate others AND to think that animals don’t have feelings blows my mind! I digress…I’ll save my rant for another blog!
From Saguaro we drove the last 30 minutes into Tuscan to our accommodation. Remember what I was saying about Craig’s accommodation…well the Rodeway Inn was absolutely disgusting, THE WORST place I have ever stayed!! I think Craig realized it too.
After dropping our bags, we headed into the downtown area of Tuscan which was pretty happening. There is a big university population so it was pretty bumping. We stopped in at La Boca and ordered veggie taco’s (they had 3 different ones; Veggie-THE BEST!!, Rajas, and Tofu) togo and had a margarita while we waited. The taco’s we all delicious...but the room still sucked!!
I don’t think I could have packed up faster than I did after our night at the Rodeway! We headed out of Tuscan, after a quick stop at Trader Joes, en route to Las Cruces New Mexico. We originally planned on checking out Tombstone but from what we read it’s a bit of a tourist trap so we decided to skip it. After our crappy night in Tuscan we cancelled the next motel in Las Cruces and instead booked Private Room in Historic Adobe Home on Airbnb. Booking.com is really good about their cancellation policy (you have until 6:00pm the night of the booking to cancel or change, which we took advantage of on more than one occasion). It was really cute and nice to be in a house rather than a motel. After making dinner we headed around the corner to a local brewery, which was alright.
White Sands is one of the places I looked forward to the most when planning the road trip. White Sands National Park looked so picturesque online but even more incredible in real life. It took a about an hour to drive to the park which passes by a missile launch site. Lucky for us there were no missile launches that day because they close the road for safety.
It seemed like we drove forever without seeing any sand but then when we got to the park it seemed like the dunes went on forever. When we arrived at the visitor centre it was packed and I was worried it was going to be crowded and hard to find parking, boy was I wrong. The park was massive and everyone kind of spread out. Once we got into the park we did our 1st walk the Dune Life Nature Trail and took lots of pictures.
It took about 45 minutes to do the 1-mile loop. We jumped back in the car and drove the scenic loop and stopped at the Yucca Picnic Area to have lunch. Before sledding down the dunes we did the Backcountry Camping Loop Trail, a really nice hike across them.
As a little fun treat/surprise I booked a private hot tub at Riverbend Hot springs in Truth or Consequence. The cool thing about it was that it was right on the river. It was a wonderful way to top off an amazing day.
Leaving T-or-C was easy, there wasn’t much there other than the hot springs (which were amazing). We hit the road straight to Albuquerque where we checked out the Old Town.
It was a cute little square with a bunch of tourist shops. We strolled around but didn’t get anything (wish we did though because I didn't find any other New Mexican fabric). After our stop in Albuquerque we headed to our accommodation in Santa Fe. I booked the El Rey Court Hotel based on the amazing pictures they had on their site but when we arrived it wasn’t quite as nice as we thought it was going to be. Seemed like it was recently bought and they are planning on fixing it up-it definitely had potential. We ended up hanging at the hotel for a bit when we realized that the pueblo in Taos were closed and having planned to go there and spend the night we decided to change our plans to add a bit of southern Utah instead. After we headed into the historic plaza in DT/old town Santa Fe. All the art shops were closed (it was Sunday evening) so we headed to Desert Dogs Brewery and Cider house. It was pretty happening and the drinks were pretty good. We played games and enjoyed the art on the walls.
The PLAN for the day was to do the Tent Rock hike. We drove out of Santa Fe to Kasha-Katuwe National Monument. We didn’t know why there was a big line up of cars until we went online while we waited and learned that they had a 1 in 1 out policy because the parking lot is quite small. We ended up sitting in line for half an hour and when we reached the booth he told us it was cash only!!! We tried to see if he’d let us in anyways but he was having none of it (I actually think he got personal satisfaction turning us around). It was a total waste of our time and for a while I was pretty frustrated with the whole thing. But then I realized I didn’t want to give him or it anymore of my energy. We came back to our accommodation and had a quick bite to eat (last night’s left over Whole Foods vegan pizza-SOOOOOO good) and then headed to Bandelier National Monument instead. We checked out two different parts. The 1st was the ancestral Pueblo homes and petroglyphs that were built into the caves.
The dwellings were accessible by wooden ladders (some 140 feet high up in the rock walls).
The 2nd was Tsankawi trail. The trail was just off SR 502 with lots of parking. The loop took about an hour to do and was incredible!!!! Similar to the first hike there were remnants of cave dwellings and petroglyphs but this one had something even more special.
The walkways looked like they had been dug out from water run-off. This hike is a must do if you are even in Santa Fe. On our way back, we quickly checked out the artist studios on Canyon Road (although they were closed) and went by Trader Joes for the last time.
When we left Santa Fe around 9:00am the weather was changing for the worst. It was grey and cold and looked like it was going to downpour but we wanted to try our luck again with the Tent Rock hike. Because of the weather, and most importantly $5.00 CASH, we lucked out with no line up and lots of parking. It was cold and I had to wear my big jacket. From the parking lot we took Cave Loop Trail to Slot Canyon Trail.
The canyon trail was epic! From the tent rocks, to the narrow canyon, to the unreal viewpoint at the end, the hike had it all. In total it took us about an hour and a half. Would have been longer if I didn’t freak out at the viewpoint leaving Craig there to take photos on his own. The hike down was just as beautiful, if you are ever in Santa Fe this hike is also a MUST DO!
On our way to our final destination we stopped in Albuquerque for a second time. Lesson learned, when you find a souvenir you want don’t wait to find it somewhere else. It was Craig’s idea to go back (amazing husband maneuver)!
On our way out of town it began hailing-which made us a bit worried about our next planned activity which was the remote Bisti Badlands, about 40 miles south of Farmington. Known for their unique rock formations we wanted to check them out.
There are no official hikes more just GPS points of formations. Without a GPS we didn’t want to wander too far in, as many people have gotten lost. We waited out the rain for about 10 minutes in the car before venturing out. It was cold but the clouds broke and was pretty nice despite the near freezing temperatures. The formations looked out of this world. The fragile structures were made from the softest sandstone.
Knowing Farmington was just a place to spend the night we waited on the side of hwy 371 for the sunset. It sure was beautiful albeit freezing.
We packed up and left Farmington early. Remember how I mentioned Rodeway Inn in Tuscan was the most disgusting place I ever stayed…well Rim Rock Lodge was a close 2nd.
Today’s plan-Ship Rock and Monument Valley both of which came out of nowhere and were enormous. You are literally just driving along when WAH-BAM there they are right there in front of you. Along the highway are tons of scenic pull outs because it’s hard to concentrate on driving and staring at them at the same time. Ship rock was super cool because it is all by itself whereas Monument Valley is a long row of buttes. Monument Valley is rad because there are so many and they stretch on for so long. Monument Valley also has the coolest road that looks like it leads right to it and is great for photos.
We drove to the visitor centre because we wanted to do the Wildcat Trail hike which loops around world famous Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte. It was windy to start but really warmed up the further down the canyon we got. We both caught some sun. It was another beautiful hike.
It was really amazing being so close to the buttes, especially after driving past them earlier. We weren’t into it but the visitor centre has a nice gift shop, restaurant and museum.
Before heading to Bluff we stopped by to check out Gooseneck State Park. I hadn’t heard of it before but it's a cool vantage point for seeing the tremendous meandering of the San Juan River. Similar to what I think Horseshoe bend looks like in the Grand Canyon.
In Bluff we stayed at the Kokopelli Inn 100 times better than the hole we stayed in the night before!!
We travelled from Bluff to Holbrook. On the way we stopped by Canyon de Chelly. While looking up information and a map online of the park crime and theft was stated as being “ripe.” The Lonely Planet also mentioned it as an issue. Definitely didn’t make us want to spend time there so we basically drove in and out and decided not to do the hike down to the bottom of the canyon.
Afterwards we went to the petrified forest. It was amazing. The 1st part of the park was similar to the painted hills in Oregon (only 3 times larger) and the 2nd was filled with petrified logs from over 200 million years ago!!! It was mind-boggling to think that they existed at the same time as dinosaurs!!!!
In Holbrook we stayed at the infamous Wigwam Motel.
Final full day! From Holbrook the drive to Las Vegas was about 5 hours. On the way we decided to scrap the plan to check out a ghost town and meteor crater to allow for more time in Vegas. We booked the Linq hotel which is an affiliate of Caesars Palace. On the way in we missed the entrance and were forced to drive along the strip for a bit which added about 30 minutes onto our drive…Craig was definitely ready to get out of the car!! Checking in was a bit of a time suck too but once we sorted it out and found our room it was awesome!! I guess they upgraded us without us knowing. Instead of just a room we had a suite with a kitchen and living room. The hotel is also dog friendly (which we love), environmentally conscious, and uses products that weren’t tested on animals WIN WIN WIN!! We ditched our bags and headed straight to the pool party.
The Linq also has a concierge service that you text. You can ask for anything you need (her name was Ivy). For instance, we wanted to know of restaurants that were vegan/vegetarian. Of course, they recommended restaurants operated by the hotel but it was an awesome restaurant called The Yard House that was full of options for us!! The Linq also had a pedestrian boulevard with lots of shops and places to eat-it was nice to be off the strip, although we did walk the strip earlier.
After dinner we headed up to our room, we were both pretty tired and we had to get up at 4:00am for our flight home at 8:00am!! We had a great trip lots of outdoor activities with beautiful and interesting natural things to see. We both agreed that Arizona was our favourite, although New Mexico had some cool places too.
...where to next??!
Things we knew/learned/want to share:
-booking.com has a great cancel and/or change policy and we used it more than once
-Use an incognito window when looking up accommodation on your computer as pricing changes.
-Roam like home from Rogers was great!! Didn’t have to wait for Wifi at night could look things up, post, and text anytime.
-Stay at a chain motel rather than independent motel (better standards). Motel 6’s are clean and cheap.
-Save money by buying a cooler and get a big box form TJ to keep dry goods in, that way you can make your own breakfast, lunch and dinners when needed.
-Pack cutlery, plates, bowls, coffee cups and single burner (that goes on a small propane tank) in your suitcase to bring with you.
-HAVE CASH for getting into parks that don’t take credit!!
-Wear sunscreen, even if it’s windy
-If you find a souvenir you like don’t wait to find it somewhere else, just buy it!