A Weekend in Arizona: Landing at PHX, Sedona and Grand Canyon (Part 1)

Arizona is widely recognized as one of the best states to retire in, in part due to the terrific weather they get in the winter.  Point of emphasis on the season.  Foolishly, Annalisa, Matthew (my tag-along third wheel brother) and I took a trip out to the last of the contiguous states to be admitted to the Union in August (the second hottest month).

Landing at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

landing-phoenix

We landed in Phoenix at 3PM.  A tip for those who were hoping to order Uber in Phoenix from the airport: not all Ubers are allowed to pick up at the airport.  This meant that when I arrived, no uberX vehicles were available.  You can take a quick (less than 5 minute) PHX Sky Train ride from the Terminals to the 44th St/Washington Valley station for free (it is the end of the PHX Sky Train line) and order your ride from there.  On the ride over, I dropped my pin at the station and saw more than 3 uberX vehicles suddenly appear.

After we arrived in Phoenix, we made a beeline to a local Costco to pick up supplies for our upcoming week of driving across Arizona.  For anyone traveling to Arizona, the single best purchase that we made on this trip was a portable cooler that we filled with ice and water every morning.  I can’t tell you how much money we saved on water because of our cooler.  And the water was very necessary because the weather can be absolutely brutal.

Arizona Weather in August

arizona-temps

Our rental car was parked in the shade and upon entering the vehicle, I was greeted with the spectacular feeling of not being able to breathe because it was so hot.  Yes, this is what happens when you arrive in Phoenix during the middle of a prolonged heat wave.  Forget about the “oh that’s only dry heat” nonsense.  112F (44C) is hot.

We were motivated to get out of Phoenix quickly because we were headed up to Sedona that evening.  Our first hotel stay was in Sedona, not only because of how beautiful it is, but because we were using Sedona as our launch point for the Grand Canyon the next morning.

Sedona, Arizona

sedona-arrival

For those unfamiliar, the drive from Phoenix to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is about 3 1/4 hours.  So if you were hoping to catch the sun rise in the Grand Canyon, but weren’t able to book a lodge within the National Park itself, then your best bets are either Sedona or Flagstaff.  Our drive from Sedona up to the Grand Canyon the next morning was a comfortable 1 3/4 hours.  Don’t tell anyone, but the roads in Arizona are pretty wide open and I may have been a little heavy footed on the drive up!

Visitor Safety Sign at the Grand Canyon

warning-grand-canyon

Upon arriving at the Grand Canyon, we were not so much amazed by the view (it was glorious), but by the very visually informative visitor safety signs that we saw.  I’m not sure the vomit was necessary to convey the message, but I appreciate the National Park Services’ point.

5 Minutes from the Visitor Center

south-rim

A short walk from the Visitor’s Center, you can quickly see the breathtaking splendor of one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World.

Grand Canyon Beauty

grand-canyon-beauty

The Grand Canyon is managed by the National Park Service, and as such, you are responsible for park fees.  Admission to the Grand Canyon costs $30 per vehicle, and is valid for 7 days at both the North and South Rims.  Owners of the America the Beautiful Annual Pass receive admission as part of the pass.  If you are able to time your visit, you can enter on a Free Entrance Day, which lands on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day weekend, opening weekend of National Park Week, National Park Service Birthday, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.  Alternatively, if you have a 4th Grader, you can get free park admission all year!

Total distance driven to this point: 270 miles.

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  1. Love reading trip reports about Phoenix and Arizona where I reside, especially when those visits are in summertime. 3PM is regularly the warmest time of the day in Phoenix. Look forward to the next installments. Hope you got to the North Rim. By the way, if you want to see sunrise at Grand Canyon and can’t get in at a lodge, Tusayon is your best bet.

    • P T –

      Phoenix, and Arizona in general, were fantastic. Wish we had gone in November, but even with the heat, we had a wonderful time.

      Your suggestion of Tusayon is spot on. It is much (much!) closer. However, for our travel dates, costs were astronomical in Tusayon. Sedona was >50% cheaper. Guess that’s what happens when there is little supply and lots of demand.

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