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Category: Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park Guide: How to Spend a Day in the Park

Petrified Forest National Park is a fantastic park in northeast Arizona that preserves some of the United State’s best collections of petrified wood. This massive park’s central area can be…

Petrified Forest National Park is a fantastic park in northeast Arizona that preserves some of the United State’s best collections of petrified wood. This massive park’s central area can be experienced in a day, but of course, there is so much more to explore if you have more time. If you only have a day though, here is what I recommend you do starting from the north entrance and leaving from the south entrance.

Details

  • $30 to enter or free with the national parks pass
  • Became a national monument in 1906 and a national park in 1962
  • Only national park to have a portion of Route 66 running through it

Getting There

The park is about an hour and a half east of Flagstaff. I started from Highway 40 and then exited on Highway 180.

The Park

From Highway 140, you will enter near the Painted Desert Visitors Center. There is not a lot to see at this visitors center but they have some petrified wood on sale, and you can ask any questions you have about the park.

Tiponi Point

From here I headed to Tiponi Point, the first viewpoint you get to. This viewpoint and the rest in this area all provide amazing views of the Painted Desert, which is a collection of hills as far as you can see in red, pink and blue tones.

Painted Desert Inn

Next we stopped at Painted Desert Inn, which is a historic landmark built in the early 1900s that used to be a hotel. The building is now a museum that preserves what it looked like when the hotel was in use. It is fun to walk around, to explore the old dining area and rooms and to see the prices that were on the menu when it was in use.

Don’t forget to also go out to Kachina Point which is outside of the inn and another excellent viewing area.

From here we made our way along the park road and stopped at a few of the five more viewpoints that were in the northern part of the park. Each of these viewpoints are quick stops and provide slightly different views into the wilderness area of the Painted Desert.

Route 66

After passing the last viewpoint, you will be at the small part of the park dedicated to Route 66. Route 66’s original road went right through this portion of the park. It is gone now though with the vegetation grown up to cover the road, but the electrical lines still mark where the road would have been.

There is also a small display here with a plaque, information, and an old car. I am a huge Route 66 fan, so it was fun to see this historic area of the park.

After leaving Route 66, you will drive for another 5 or so miles until you pass train track and enter into the middle portion of the park.

Puerco Pueblo

The first stop in this section is the Puerco Pueblo. This quarter mile trail has the remains of some pueblo homes that were built in the 1200-1300 CE and also a vast collection of petroglyphs to see as well. Don’t forget to go into the small building on the trail to learn more about the area.

Newspaper Rock

A quick drive brings you to Newspaper Rock which is one of the most popular stops in the park. This overlook lets you look down on a huge rock that has more than 650 petroglyphs, some of which are over 2,000 years old. You really need a zoom lens or binoculars to see them well since they are far below you, but it is an excellent site and one of the best petroglyphs I have ever seen.

Tepees

From here the drive gets impressive as you enter the badlands area of the park and see the famous Tepees. I was blown away by how cool these colorful mountains were and pulled out a few times to take photos from different angles.

Blue Mesa

It only gets better though as you head into the Blue Mesa, one of the most unique areas of the park.

There are a few viewpoints here, but I recommend you take the short 1-mile hike down into them as you will be able to appreciate better the blue and purple hues of the landscape and will get your first real view of petrified wood.

It was a pretty dreary day when we went but it was still awe-inspiring to see this area, and it was probably my favorite spot in the park.

Agate Bridge

Petrified wood becomes the main draw of the rest of the park, with the first stop being at the Agate Bridge, a 110-foot petrified log that was reinforced with concrete to stay in one piece.

Jasper Forest

Next up is a short stop at the Jasper Forest which has a high concretization of petrified wood that you can look out over. It is not as impressive as I am sure it was in the early 1900s before a lot of the wood was taken though.

Crystal Forest

From Jasper Forest, you will get to Crystal Forest which is the most popular spot in the park. This mile-long trail gets you up close with thousands of pieces of petrified wood.

I was blown away by how much they had there and how cool it was to see in person. The trail just keeps getting better and better as you head further back and see some substantial pieces of wood.

Give yourself enough time for this trail as you will want to spend some time here checking it all out.

Giant Logs Trail

We are now at the southern portion of the park. If you have time, visit the Rainbow Forest Visitors Center, which has some exhibits and information. Also, it is connected to the Giant Logs Trail which has some of the largest petrified logs in the park.

Long Logs Trail

Also, from here you can head out on the Long Logs or Agate House Trail which is about 2.5 miles if you do both of them. The Long Logs Trail leads through another collection of petrified wood, some of which is over 170 feet long.

Agate House Trail

The Agate House Trail continues on to a seven-room pueblo house that used petrified wood for its construction. This house is especially interesting since I had never seen anything like it before. After doing this trail, your one day in Petrified Forest National Park is complete.

Let me know what I left off in the comments that you like exploring in the park.

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13 Things to do in Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is a beautiful city in Arizona that is full of unique attractions ranging from outdoor adventures and hikes to architecture, shopping and food. I have been going to Sedona…

Sedona is a beautiful city in Arizona that is full of unique attractions ranging from outdoor adventures and hikes to architecture, shopping and food. I have been going to Sedona for many years, and throughout that time I have gathered some of my favorite spots in the city to share below. Hopefully, this list encourages you to want to spend some time in this beautiful city as well and let me know what I left off in the comments.

Red Rock Scenic Byway

If you only have a little time in Sedona, then the best thing to do is to drive the Red Rock Scenic Byway. This stretch of 14 miles goes right through the heart of Sedona and shows you some of the amazing mountains and buttes like Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, which are the main draw for visitors. Make sure to pull over at a few of the viewpoints as well for great photo spots.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Next up, Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of the most popular stops in Sedona. It was built in the 1950s, and it is a Roman Catholic church that has won many awards for its unique architecture. You can walk into the chapel when it is open and see the cross, with the beautiful window views behind it that spotlight many of the area’s best mountains. Of course, the best view is from the bottom though looking up at the church that seems to come right out of the rock. It was even voted one of the seven best man-made wonders of Arizona in 2007.

Montezuma’s Castle

Located about 15 miles south of Sedona, Montezuma’s Castle is a quick stop but one that many visitors choose to go to while visiting Sedona. This national monument protects a Native American cliff dwelling used between 1100 and 1400 AD. You can’t go inside of it or anything, but it is still amazing to see from the viewing area below and well worth the short excursion out of the city.

These next few recommendations are hikes since that is one of the main reasons that people visit Sedona.

Cathedral Rock

First up, Cathedral Rock is one of my favorite hikes in the area, especially for sunset. This short but incredibly steep hike takes you up the base of Cathedral Rock and to a viewing area that you have probably seen before online. It is a hike that will require you to do a little bouldering and use your hands to get yourself up, but it is still accessible for most people. The views at the top are incredible , and you will often see wedding photo shoots happening here since it is that pretty. Note the parking area is small though so try to go not on the weekends.

Devil’s Bridge

Devil’s Bridge is the most popular trail in Sedona, and it leads to a massive sandstone arch that people walk across for photos. The hike is 4 miles round trip, and it is relatively easy until the end when you have to go uphill to get to the top of the arch. It’s a great hike though and another one you will want to arrive early to avoid the crowds. I made a video just on this hike that you can see here.

Soldiers Pass

My last hiking recommendation is Soldiers Pass. This hike is a popular one as there are spurs that led to all sorts of the other trails, caves, and viewpoints. The main reason people go though is for the Devil’s Kitchen which is a large sinkhole only about a quarter mile from the trailhead. If you continue on you can also go to the seven sacred pools which were of religious importance to many Native American tribes and which are still popular for many spiritual seekers today as well.

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village / Chai

Moving on from the hiking, downtown Sedona has Tlaquepaque which is a beautiful arts and crafts village that is a favorite stop for many visitors. The area has dozens of shops that sell everything from Native American jewelry and art to toys and clothes. My favorite shop there is the chai house though. They make a bunch of different kinds of chai drinks which are fantastic, and they have an excellent outdoor seating area for you to relax at while you drink your chai. For me, it is worth visiting this shopping area just for this.

Airport Lookout Mesa

If you want to get some great views of Sedona without hiking, check out Airport Mesa Lookout. The Sedona airport sits on top of a large hill in West Sedona, and you can drive up to the parking area at the top, pay your $3 fee and walk across the road to get some great views of West Sedona and Coffee Pot Mountain. If you can find a parking spot at the pull out about half way up the mesa there is also a small trail that will take you up a small hill and which has amazing views both directions of Sedona’s famous mountains like Bell Rock. Whichever one you go to, you will have some great views.

Red Rock Crossing

Red Rock Crossing is a small park south of West Sedona which is a great area for landscape photographers. It is also a beautiful place for the whole family to explore though as there are many short trails which leads to excellent views of Cathedral Rock. If you get lucky, you may even be able to take one of the famous sunset shots of the rocks reflecting in the water below you.

Palataki Heritage Site

My last recommendation before talking about food is the Palataki Heritage Site. This well preserved Native American area is run by the national parks service and preserves some cave art and cliff dwellings from the early 1300s. It takes about 30 minutes to drive here from West Sedona, and you have to call in advance to get on a tour as that is the only way to see it. The one hour tour is fascinating though, and I found the cave art to be especially impressive to see.

Alright, now on to food. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is some of my favorite spots.

Restaurants

Breakfast

First up, for breakfast head to Sedonuts, but get there early as they often sell out. If you are looking for something more healthy though, you can get an açaí bowl at Berry Devine or coffee at one of the many coffee shops around the area.

Lunch

For lunch, I like Wildflower Cafe for sandwiches and soups. They also have great views from their deck as well. Or if you are looking for a nice sit down spot, then head over to Creekside which has a great lunch and breakfast menu with lovely views of the mountains as well.

Dinner

Lastly, for dinner, I like Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen in West Sedona as it has a great menu of options for vegans, vegetarians, those that are gluten-free and meat eaters. Hideaway Cafe is another fun spot that has nice views and great pizzas, amount other things. If you can only pick one place though then I recommend Elote though. You have to get there at least 45 minutes before they open to get a table as they don’t have reservations, but it was easily the best food I had in Sedona and one that I highly recommend you wait for as it was for sure worth it. Order the Elote appetizer and you can thank me later.

That’s it, my favorite spots in Sedona Arizona, let me know what your favorite spots are in the comments.

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Horseshoe Bend at Sunrise: Grand Canyon’s Famous Bend

Let me just say that Horseshoe Bend is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I have been blessed to the opportunity to visit Taj Mahal, the pyramids…

Let me just say that Horseshoe Bend is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I have been blessed to the opportunity to visit Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt and many of the great wonders of the world but Horseshoe Bend can compare with the best of them. It is one of those spots that you just see and cannot believe it is real. You should have it on your bucket list. I would also recommend seeing it at sunrise as well for two reasons. 1. You will be pretty much by yourself. 2. The light is not shadowing any of the canyon so you can take amazing photos with a tripod. Here is all of the info so you can do it yourself.

Main Details

  • .75 mile hike that takes about 15 minutes
  • 10 minute drive from Page, AZ
  • Bring a wide-angle lens

Horseshoe Bend-10

I decided to leave about an hour before sunrise from Page, AZ. It was a ten minute drive to the trailhead and there were only 2 other cars, both of which looked like they had people sleeping in them. We set out on the trail which is all in sand and is up and over one hill then down to the viewpoint. It took about 15 minutes because the sand makes it slower going.

Horseshoe Bend-8

When we arrived at Horseshoe Bend we were the only people there. I set up right in the middle with my tripod and just sat there in awe as I fired away pictures with every change of light. Here is the first photo I took.

Horseshoe Bend-1

The bend itself was perfect at this time as there were no shadows in the early morning light, so everything lit up well.  About 10 minutes later we were joined by a few other people but it was never more than 10 viewing the sunrise with us. 

Horseshoe Bend-2

We even got to watch a young man propose to his girlfriend in the beautiful sunrise light, and I got the chance to photograph them after it was over. We sat at the bend for around an hour and a half until the sun was fully up. Once the sun is up the bend becomes much harder to shoot as the light can make hard contrasts. 

Horseshoe Bend-6

I also saw a small boat and a tent down on the water / beach below. I guess you can boat into the bend and stay, which sounds like it would fantastic and a unique adventure for sure. Be sure to bring a wide-angle lens so you can get fun photos like this.

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After photographing for an hour and a half I packed up my stuff and headed back to the car to get a nap in before visiting Antelope Canyon. All I can say is that you really need to go to Horseshoe Bend for sunrise, the lighting is perfect and you will be able to see this amazing place all by yourself. It is worth losing a few hours of sleep over.

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Upper Antelope Canyon: The Famous Slot Canyons & Light Rays of Arizona

The light rays of Antelope Canyon are a famous pilgrimage spot for photographers and I am no different. On my recent road trip through the South West I made it…

The light rays of Antelope Canyon are a famous pilgrimage spot for photographers and I am no different. On my recent road trip through the South West I made it a point to book a tour on the mid day tour (which is when the light rays are there) and see this for myself. I booked a non photography tour, the photography tour is double the price and allows you to bring a tripod. I was scared it would be a busy mess and it kind of was, but honestly it worked for me, so this review is of that tour.

Antelope Canyon-5

Details

  • Must book at least a month in advance for the busy midday tour on a weekend
  • Around $50
  • Plan to never not be surrounded with people so bring your patience
  • Tours take about 2 hours with the drive and the time in the canyon
  • Light comes in from about 10:45AM – 12:45PM but make sure to check the weather for clouds as that will stop the rays from coming in.
  • It will be dusty so plan accordingly with your gear
  • Here is the company I went with

The Tour

Antelope Canyon-1

After meeting in downtown Page we were broken into groups of 14 and shuttled via bus type contraptions out to the entrance of the canyon. This takes about 15 minutes and the road is sandy and bumpy so cover your gear as you drive out.

Antelope Canyon-2

When you arrive at the canyon you will be ushered over to the entrance as you wait for the groups to go in and for it to be your turn. We didn’t have to wait long to enter, but the entire tour is relatively slow-moving as you are waiting for the group ahead of you.

Antelope Canyon-9

The good thing about the guides is that they know the canyon so they are constantly showing you where to set your camera for the best shot. Ours often took our camera from us to take photos for us while in the canyon.

Antelope Canyon-6

Like I said before, there is a ton of people in the canyon for this tour. You always have a group ahead of you and a group behind you. The guides do their best to space you out and allow everyone to get a good shot, but it is very tricky. You can only photograph on the way through it, on the way back you have to just walk through without stopping. It is about .25 miles long.

Here are some of thing you will  see in the canyon:

The Heart

Antelope Canyon-11

The Candle

Antelope Canyon-8

The Light Rays (weather and time permitting)

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The Sand Falls

Antelope Canyon-12

Abraham Lincoln

Antelope Canyon-13

The Branch Water Brought In

Antelope Canyon-14

The Waves

Antelope Canyon-7

As you can see from the above pictures, you can still get great photos even with other people all around you. I am happy I booked the tour I did, I saw the photography tour in the canyon and it looked like mayhem too. There were 8-10 people all with tripods, tripping over themselves to get a good shot in the small canyon and it seemed stressful. I am sure that weekdays are probably the best time to go if you have the opportunity to do it then.

All in all though, this was a fantastic trip into the canyon and a great way to check off something I have always wanted to do. Ask any questions you have in the comments below and I will answer anything I am able to.

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Havasu Falls: A Grand Canyon Waterfall from your Dreams

Consider this another of our post barrage on our time in Havasupai Reservation in the Grand Canyon both hiking and exploring the insanely beautiful waterfalls. Since each of these waterfalls…

Consider this another of our post barrage on our time in Havasupai Reservation in the Grand Canyon both hiking and exploring the insanely beautiful waterfalls. Since each of these waterfalls could stand on its own as a destination we decide to break up the posts for each one, this one focuses on Havasu Falls, but you can read about Mooney Falls here and Navajo Falls here. To answer your question before you ask, yes the water is really that blue.

Havasu Falls 1

Havasu Falls is located at the top of the campground, 10 miles from the trailhead at the top of the Grand Canyon Ridge. You cannot do a day hike here so you must get reservations, either at the campground or at the lodge, in order to be able to see it. This is super welcomed for me as the waterfall had a lot less people at it, due to the hike in and the reservation system which meant less trash and less abuse of the area since the only people that make the trek are the ones that really want to be there.

Havasu Falls 2

As you approach the falls you will be hiking in from the top and will not know it is coming till it is literally in front of you. The signs of this are the “danger, don’t get close to the edge” signs that let you know a drop is in store. You can walk really close to the top of the falls but obviously be careful as it is not recommended.

Havasu Falls 3

Taking the trail down to the left will give you your first glimpse of Havasu Falls and if you are like me, your jaw will drop. This waterfall has earned a spot on many top ten best waterfall lists and you can quickly see why. The water drops about 75 feet into a lush and deep, blue water pool. From there it cascades over rocks to create a natural lounge area for floating before creating two smaller 5-7 foot waterfalls, each with their own pools below for swimming as well.

Havasu Falls 4

As you descend you will continue to get amazing views of the falls before seeing a small trail that goes off to the right and drops you at the base of the falls where there are picnic benches for eating and plenty of space to spread out. We spent half of a day here taking in the views, swimming in the water, and just generally loving the insane beauty of this area. Of the three waterfalls this is the best for spending time and relaxing at.

Havasu Falls 5

There is also some pretty impressive cliff jumping near the waterfall that lots of people were doing. Zac tried his hand at a 25 foot jump and you can see the video below. The hardest part is having to scale the side of the rock wall to get to an area where you can jump. Its hard to pick which of these falls are the best but the time we spent relaxing at Havasu Falls was pretty amazing and something you have to add to your bucket list.

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Mooney Falls: Epic Descent to a 200 Foot Waterfall in Arizona

As a caveat, the descent to Mooney Falls is not for the faint of heart. While nowhere near the craziness I have heard it compared to like Angels Landing and…

As a caveat, the descent to Mooney Falls is not for the faint of heart. While nowhere near the craziness I have heard it compared to like Angels Landing and such, this is a pretty sketchy descent that you will take to reach the base of what is one of the most amazing waterfalls I have ever seen.

mooney Falls

After passing Havasu Falls and the campground you will reach the top of Mooney Falls. Like Havasu you start on the top of this waterfall with epic vistas and views and if you want to continue on or see it from below you will have to descend an old mining route that has cables, ladders and caves.

mooney Falls 1

There will be lots of signs warning you to not take it lightly so make sure you are aware of what you are getting into when you set out.

mooney Falls 3

The descent goes through two caves first, then continues down the rock face with a series of crude steps, and lots of strewn cable. As you get closer to the bottom you will meet two ladders, one small 5 foot one and another 10-15 foot one. Both were in good condition when I was there. Here is a view of the bottom from far away.

mooney Falls 5

Here is a video of me ascending the entire route via GoPro cam to give you a taste of what it entails.

Mooney Falls

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When you reach the bottom you will be greeted with a awesome mist coming off the massive falls to your right and will probably need a minute to soak in the epicness.

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The waterfall drops so far that the sheer power coming off the ground is intense, especially considering the water below it is only like 3 feet deep (I walked out as far as I could but the pelting of the falls made me turn around). I really wanted to get a picture in the spray, and since the descent is sketchy we had the waterfall mostly to ourselves with only 10 other people there. This allowed Zac and I to grab the epic picture below.

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After spending time at the main falls we started to walk down the water a little bit and found another 5 foot falls that you could actually swim into and had a small cave behind it.

Mooney Falls 9

From there we continued down stream to the waterfall a couple people told us about that was 5 minutes walk. This one you could climb completely up and so we had to check it out. Amie and I climbed to the top and it was super fun and beautiful as you could sit in the stream and look down at the blue water and the canyon below. The video I made didn’t turn out but I highly recommend coming down here.

Mooney Falls 10

After that we packed up our stuff and headed back up to Havasu Falls, completing what was an epic first half of our day exploring Mooney Falls. Check out the rest of the pictures below.

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