Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Flagstaff (In 1000 Words or Less)!

Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Flagstaff (In 1000 Words or Less)!

This time of year I start hearing: “We’re planning a trip to see the Grand Canyon and (other things near there)! What do you recommend???” This is awesome, because in my opinion everyone on the planet should have the chance to see the Grand Canyon and surrounding region. I’ve been living, adventuring, and raising a family here for over 10 years, so I’m declaring myself qualified to dispense travel advice for this corner of the U.S.

People who are headed our way are almost always planning to see Sedona, Flagstaff, and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and it’s almost always in the time frame of April-September, so that’s what I’ve focused on.

I’ve done my best to compile a list of some personal favorite day-trip funtivities in these three places below. There are many other wonderful places to adventure, shop, eat, etc, besides those mentioned here. I am keeping this article brief on purpose, and will share more detailed recommendations in the future. Feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments!

Before we get rolling: always always ALWAYS check weather and temperature predictions AND know your water needs/sources before you do anything outdoors in the southwest. People die every year from heat, dehydration, and storms/flash floods. I’m not saying hide inside during your visit – the outdoor recreation here is AMAZING and should not be missed. Educate yourself and venture out well-prepared.

Also: get the Annual National Parks Pass. You will need it for the Grand Canyon, most trailhead parking in Sedona area, and many of the tourist sites around Flagstaff.

In and Around Flagstaff

mountain trail through pines and flowers
The Weatherford Trail.

Easy hiking: Buffalo Park.

Moderate hiking: Kachina Trail from Snowbowl or Sunset Trail up Mount Elden.

Difficult hiking: Humphrey’s Summit.

Very difficult hiking: Humphrey’s Trail to Weatherford Trail to Kachina Trail (a ~20-mile loop).

Biking: This is a pretty bike-friendly town, as they go. Get a map of the Flagstaff Urban Trail System and go nuts! Sure beats trying to park downtown.

Touristing: Walnut Canyon, Meteor Crater, Wapatiki National Monument, Sunset Crater, and the Museum of Northern Arizona.

My food picks in Flagstaff: Josephine’s for fancy-ish American-ish (mid-range lunch prices, higher-end dinners, eat on the patio if it’s nice out). Ewa Thai for delicious curry. Diablo Burger for a unique local burger joint in historic downtown. Tacos Los Altos for burritos, which you can pick up on your way to adventuring (breakfast, lunch, and dinner – two locations). Nimarcos or Fratelli’s for pizza. Taverna for Greek. La Vetta for fancier Italian (also in historic downtown).

For all your coffee needs: Wicked AZ Coffee and Kickstand Kafé.

Sedona and Oak Creek

Bell Rock Trail.

Hiking: Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock (popular high hikes/scrambles, steep but not difficult – go early to avoid crowds). Submarine rock – slightly longer hike/scramble. Devil’s Bridge – check w/ local rangers to see if you can drive all the way to the trailhead. If not, it adds some miles.

Biking: for moderate difficulty, check out the Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock area trails. For moderate to advanced fun, check out the Highline Trail loop (also great as a hike).

Another awesome way to see Red Rock Country: Pink Jeep Tours

Creekside fun: Red Rock Crossing, Grasshopper Point, or the Midgley Bridge slide area (it’s a steep hike down from Midgley Bridge parking lot). Great for the hot part of the day.

My favorite restaurants: L’Auberge for something a little fancy; go for lunch and ask for a table by the creek. Indian Gardens Café and Market for more casual fare (sit in the courtyard). Oak Creek Espresso or Firecreek Coffee for your caffeine fix.

The Grand Canyon

sunrise over grand canyon
Sunrise near South Kaibab Trailhead.

As with every National Park, you do yourself a disservice if you view the Grand Canyon only from a couple popular overlooks or try to fit it all in to a Saturday afternoon in July. Visit on a weekday in spring or fall. Stay for sunset. Stay overnight if you can.

If you and your group are excellent hikers, I recommend getting a little out of the main tourist area and starting a day hike at Grand View. Hike to Horseshoe Mesa and out on it to one of the two points that make the “horseshoe”. You’ll have amazing views of the Colorado River, a very dramatic trail, and less people than in the corridor areas. There are no water sources on this hike but there are pit toilets on the Mesa. You can park at the Grand View trailhead.

If your group is beginner level (or you have young kids), you can check out the Rim Trail (stroller-friendly in many areas) or hike to Cedar Ridge on the South Kaibab trail (3 miles round trip). You can’t park at the South Kaibab trailhead – you have to take the shuttle or park at the Pipe Creek Overlook and add a mile or so (one way) to the hike.

If your group is strong but you want to stay on main trails, you can take South Kaibab Trail all the way to Skeleton Point. I strongly recommend not going any further than that without an overnight permit. And many people do the Bright Angel Trail right by the main lodge, but you can skip it if you want to avoid the larger crowds. Kaibab and Grand View are a much better bang for your buck when you’re day hiking.

None of these trails are suitable for people with significant fears of heights or for poorly behaved children. Call the rangers directly if you have questions about where dogs and bikes are allowed.

You absolutely must watch a sunset or a sunrise or both while you’re at the Grand Canyon. Get out along the rim at night (take a headlamp and be incredibly careful). With no major cities nearby, the stars are absolutely amazing, and you can usually spot little lights miles away where people are camped in the backcountry.

My favorite restaurant near the canyon: We Cook Pizza and Pasta in Tusayan.

Additional Reading

For more excellent info – straight from a bunch of locals – check out this book!  


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