A November 2004 trip
to Arizona by LA guy
Quote: From the beauty of the Sedona to the vastness of the Grand Canyon and, finally, the majesty of the Monument Valley, this road trip was among the best I have taken.
Attraction | "Visiting Monument Valley"
The scenery on the way to Monument Valley is one of solitary desert beauty, which was even more accentuated by the strong midday sun. But gradually, our surroundings started to transform. As we traveled farther north, we noted more of the "butts" raised out of Earth along each side the road. This is when we knew we were getting close. Then, as we drove past a small hill, we finally saw in the distance those huge pillars of red rock we used to only see on television and postcards! We were barely able to contain our excitement. We wanted to plow our way into the valley, but our empty stomachs opted for us to first take a detour to Goulding's Lodge for lunch.
Goulding's Lodge is a restaurant and hotel complex located next to the entrance to MV. At first, we thought it was just another hotel/restaurant. Turns out, it’s built underneath a huge chunk of "butt" and also contained a gift shop and a museum (with artifacts from past Western movies filmed in the area). Having discovered this unexpected attraction, we took some time exploring all this lodge has to offer. But the most memorable was the incredible view towards the valley from the window seat we had while we enjoyed our meals.
As we finished our lunch stop, we couldn't contain our excitement anymore and drove straight towards the valley. After paying the reasonable entrance fee of $5, the road took us to the visitor center. It contains another restaurant and an even bigger gift shop, although prices are also more inflated here than at Gouldings Lodge.
After a brief visit to the visitor center, we embarked on the approximately 15-mile "loop" inside the valley, a dirt road passable by ordinary vehicles, but not without some challenging spots. The loop itself is very interesting, but there were also plenty of stops along the way to view the incredible rock formations surrounding us. From our visitor’s guide, we learned the name of each rock, which in turn inspired our imagination to think of why they were named as such. We took time to stop at each stop and found out that some of the stops even had vendors selling Indian jewelry on the spot. But, of all the viewing areas, the best stop was definitely the last one, the "artists point," where all the rock formations seemingly are lined up in a perfectly harmonious balance, a picture-perfect spot. This is where we clicked our cameras away.
The loop took us 3 hours to finish, but it seemed much less, as we were so engrossed in the scenery. You will definitely not regret it if you embark on this adventure.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 7, 2005
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Indian Route 42 Oljato
Monument Valley, AZ 84536
Prior to visiting Sedona, we have heard of this popular destination as "the most beautiful place on earth." But once we laid our eyes on it, we instantly realized those words don't do justice to just how beautiful the red rocks of Sedona is. Compared to other arid parts of Arizona, this valley is full of lush vegetations. Its oily green color contrasts sharply to the vibrant redness of the rocks it grew from. But, not only that, the rocks itself are multilayered, beginning with a whitish color on top, then pink, then full-blown red at the bottom. In essence, the valley bursts with a combination of natural colors we have never seen before.
As we drove deeper into center of the valley, passing by numerous art galleries, we searched out its popular local attraction known as "Tlaquepaque," a unique arts-and-crafts village, where we toured and ate lunch. It contained around 40 unique shops selling one-of-a-kind merchandises, all of which I would have loved to bring home with.
As we got back on the road, we came across the popular Schenby Hill Road and took a detour up the hill. At the top of the hill, there is a viewing area looking over the entire valley of Sedona. This was where we jumped out of our cars and started clicking away on our cameras.
But there is more; farther up north, we arrived at the Main Street, a bustling area with shops, restaurants, and cafés that kept us busy for the better park of the early afternoon.
But, knowing we had to arrive at Flagstaff before the day gets dark, we reluctantly left Sedona around 3pm and headed to the Oak Creek Road. And, to our surprise, since we were visiting in fall, the leaves were just started to turn their colors, and the unexpected timing led us to drive through one of the most scenic drive we have seen. Mile after mile, we were passing through an amazing sight of changing leaves, red-rock cliffs, and the sparkling Oak Creek that run at the left side of the road. What we thought originally as a boring drive up to Flagstaff turned into one of the most memorable part of the journey, a pleasant surprise at the end.
Attraction | "Sightseeing Grand Canyon"
We arrived at Grand Canyon around 9am, when the chilly canyon wind was still blowing. After paying the $20 entrance fee, we arrived at our first stop, the Desert View Tower near the east entrance of the park. One year ago, we had visited the very same place. But at the time, it was close to dusk, so we didn't have the luxury to truly appreciate the canyon. However, this time, we climbed up the Desert View Tower and viewed the canyon from the top floor, then down and out to the balcony on the second floor, where we were instantly awestruck by the panoramic view this balcony offered. It was a clear, sunny day, and we could see for miles all around us. We looked west, towards the heart of the canyon, and saw endless canyons stretching out towards the horizon. Totally amazing. We stayed on that balcony for a rather extended time before we decided to come down to the gift shop on the first floor, where we bought a souvenir for our second visit there.
Then we drove along the park road and stopped at every view point along the way, appreciating the subtle difference each view point offered us. I forgot which stop it was, but one of the stops even had an indoor observation deck built on top of a cliff. I wanted to see how high up the canyon I really was, so I gazed down from the secure observation deck towards the bottom of the canyon and literally felt my heart pounding. At the edge of the deck, I was literally just one step away from a 2,000-foot drop to the bottom of the canyon!
But the best part of the visit was definitely visiting the Grand Canyon Village, a busy small town filled with tourists from all over the world. There were several lodges built right along the cliff, as well as a number of restaurants/shops that cater to the tourists of every budget. And after we ate lunch, the air in the canyon had started to warm up, so we took off our jackets and enjoyed a moderated walk on the pedestrian walkway built right alongside the cliff for the rest of the afternoon, going in and out of gift shops, craft stores, and everything there is. As we gazed out towards north, we learned that we could actually see the North Rim Lodge 10 miles away. And, looking down towards the bottom, we also saw the Phantom Ranch next to the bank of the Colorado River.
Since it was only a 1-day visit, we didn't have time to embark on some (or most) of the trails. But the next time I visit, I will be sure to work in extra time to visit those areas that are off the beaten path.
Grand Canyon National Park
P.o. Box 129
Grand Canyon, Arizona 86023
Los Angeles, California