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  • Writer's pictureKendra P. Morrison

The Best Arizona 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary

Updated: Jun 26

Phoenix - Sedona - Monument Valley - Page (Antelope Canyon & Lake Powell) - Grand Canyon


Monument Valley Arizona 7 Day road trip

Traveling out west in the U.S. is a grand adventure that offers up a myriad of completely different terrain, spectacular vistas, and some of the friendliest folk you’ll ever come across.


We chose to visit in April when the weather was perfect and I was blown away by the diversity of the landscape as we travelled from the palm trees and cacti of Phoenix, Arizona to Sedona’s breathtaking red rocks, and onward to the vast deserted expanse that showcases Monument Valley in all its glory.


Sedona Arizona 7 day road trip

Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona has got to be one of the most beautiful creations that nature has to offer.  With its swirling rock, it is a truly mesmerizing experience to behold and was a dream to photograph.   


Antelope Canyon Arizona 7 Day Road trip

Visiting the Grand Canyon on the return journey was yet another wonder of nature not to be missed.  However this world renowned gash in the ground was just one of the incredible highlights of a trip that packed in a whole lot of nature in a a very short time.  


Grand Canyon Arizona 7 Day road trip

When traveling out west be prepared to leave your double-shot-oat-milk-cappuccino self behind and embrace the joys of watery diner coffee, short stack pancakes, burgers and pulled pork sandwiches pilled high with mountains of fries and free refill sodas.


This is America after all - and it’s certainly a far cry from the fast paced rat race of the east coast.  Be sure to enjoy the laid back friendly vibe -  and just go on a diet when you get back!


Note: Full itinerary at end of post.



 


Phoenix to Sedona 

There are many routes to get to the area and a huge amount of national parks for miles, but we chose to start our adventure flying in to Phoenix, Arizona.


We rented a car at the airport (note: it’s best to rent an SUV as some of the terrain we encountered wasn’t that suitable for a smaller car) and drove north towards Sedona which takes about two hours with no traffic.  


Giant Cacti - Black Canyon City Trailhead

About an hour into the drive, stop for lunch at the quirky and cool Rock Springs Cafe.  Established in 1918, it is the absolute perfect introduction to the West with giant elk heads that greet you in the entrance, to food piled high, gosh darn friendly service, a choice of 20+ pies for dessert (if you can fit in a slice) and even a year-round Christmas shop upstairs!



There’s even a lovely landscaped garden out back complete with a little creek running through it along with two gigantic cowboy boot statues.  You’ve arrived!



Literally just a few meters up the street is the entrance to a small park where you can access the Black Canyon City Trailhead and get up close and not too personal with the giant cacti that cover the surrounding landscape.


Black Canyon Trailhead and Giant Cacti Arizona

Park and take a walk along the trail amongst these succulent titans.  They all seem to have different personalities and are definitely quite a stretch from their average garden center little buddies we are all used to.




 


Sedona

Another hour of so, past the cacti hills, and you quite suddenly hit the red rocks of Sedona.  Sedona is a charming city with a truly breathtaking backdrop.  The town itself basically sits on either side of the one road leading though it.  It’s kind of spread out with low rise plazas and hotels.  


View od Sedona Arizona

The main hub for walkability is at the north end of town near the Best Western.  The place is manicured and clean, with a hippie, outdoor, granola vibe juxtaposed with the odd upscale spa resort.   


Maybe because of the fact that everyone is exhausted from hiking all day in the heat, Sedona does not have any nightlife to speak of.  In fact, most places close at 9pm - so you’ll get plenty of rest for the ensuing packed itinerary.


Sedona Hiking and the Sedona Shuttle

While there are some parking options at some of the trailheads, they are certainly not abundant.  For this reason the city offers a convoy of shuttle buses that serve as a park-and-ride to most of the popular trails.  


Hiking in Sedona and Sedona Shuttle

The Sedona Shuttle has 4 different routes that will drop you from a parking lot to one of the many trailheads and runs Thursdays through Sundays.  Take note of the schedule and plan your ride accordingly.  Some of the shuttle lines go every half hour while others go every 15 minutes.  Be aware that they only hold 25 people per bus, so get in line.


Devil’s Bridge Trail

You could spend all week (or probably all year) exploring all the trails that Sedona has to offer.  Research the distance and the difficulty before heading out and definitely bring water as there’s no amenities once you descend the shuttle.



We chose to tackle Devil’s Bridge, riding the number 11 shuttle from the W SR-89A Park and Ride stop to the Dry Creek Vista Trailhead, returning via a slightly shorter trail to the Mescal Trailhead stop and taking the same 11 shuttle from there back to our car.


This hike was a family favourite - the scenery along the way was something else and takes you through read rocks, greenery and monoliths.  The prize at the end is the Devil’s Bridge itself which is totally worth the vertical climb up rock steps to the site.


Devil's Bridge Sedona Arizona hiking

Don’t worry - there’s plenty of time to rest to gaining access to the rock arch while waiting patiently for people to take photos one after the other.  It’s a pretty epic shot though!


The Red Rock Scenic Byway (aka State Road 179) 

Take a magical drive along the this Scenic Byway named the most scenic, distracting roadway in the U.S., that leads from the main 89A road 7.5 miles out of town through stunning rocky scenery.


Red Rock Scenic Byway State Road 179

You can stop along the way at various points and walk as far as you like.  We stopped at the Bell Rock trailhead and enjoyed the easy (flat!) trail loop.




We also stopped off at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, one of the most photographed landmarks in Sedona, to appreciate the stunning 1950's architecture and engineering. The prominent 90ft cross serves both structurally and decoratively with the building and rock working together as one.


Chapel of the Holy Cross, church built into rock in Sedona Arizona

Other hikes are: Cathedral Rock, Birthing Cave and Soldier Pass, to name but a few.


If you don’t feel like navigating the hikes and terrain all by yourself there are a few tour companies that will organize your transport around Sedona.  Pink Jeep Tours is one of them and you see the custom pink jeeps whizzing all over the place.


Sky Ranch Lodge - Sedona

We stayed at Sky Ranch Lodge which is beautifully placed above it all with views that are probably the best that Sedona has to offer.  The owner created a botanical garden (with a kids scavenger hunt for a prize) all through the property as well.  



The rooms have all been recently updated and there is a heated pool.  There is a lookout point next to the hotel that is a must to visit if you don’t stay at the hotel.  


Sedona Restaurants

While a lot of the restaurants don’t seem to capitalize on the views, we found a couple that certainly do.  Further past Sky Ranch Lodge lies the tiny Sedona airport that’s only used for small light aircraft.  The Mesa Grill Sedona restaurant located there has good views and is a great place to have a drink outside and maybe catch a take-off of landing at the same time.


Mariposa Restaurant is all kinds of fancy and has fantastic views, especially as sunset.  The chef was voted the best in Arizona.  Lovely, but be prepared to empty your wallet.


Breakfast is an important meal if you are planning on hiking all day.  Our go-to spot was The Coffee Pot which was open early (6am) and not only serve a whopping 101 omelette variations, but has all the pancakes, waffles, dreamy breakfast food you can imagine.  We headed for the outdoor patio in the back every time.  Did I mention, that the service is super friendly too?


The Coffee Pot Cafe and restaurant Sedona Arizona

89Agave CantinaVino Di Sedona (great outside patio), Hiro’s Sushi (fab sushi with a back patio that’s good a night), Pisa Lisa (best Caesar salad ever and the largest gelato scoop I’ve ever come across) are a few others.


 


Sedona to Monument Valley

The road to the epic Monument Valley takes you through some incredibly dramatic landscape.  The journey, in this case, really is the destination.  On leaving Sedona and all its rocky outcrops, you soon find yourself in Coconino National Forest, traveling through quintessential Yogi Bear country campgrounds, and up through a windy road past fir tree covered cliffs.


Coconino National Forest Arizona

Make a quick pit stop at Oak Creek Vista to take in the scenery before continuing north towards snow capped mountains in the distance and the beginning of the desert.  


Coconino National Forest Arizona

Navajo Nation

Once you start to enter the Navajo Nation, the earth turns red and you are greeted with nothing but expanse.  Jagged and smooth stone natural sculptures emerge in all directions and the road seems to go on forever between them.


Navajo Nation country Arizona

The Navajo Nation stretches across four states and is roughly the size of Rhode Island.  Rather strangely, our clocks all changed around this point and after thinking we’d maybe entered into some sort of vortex, we discovered that Arizona does not abide by daylight savings, but Navajo nation does.  Be prepared to be as confused as I was right about here!


Navajo Nation Fry Bread

The Navajo have a rich history and unique culture that should be preserved at all costs.  After so much conflict in the 19th and 20th centuries, their belief in the importance of living harmoniously with nature is a message that serves as a beacon of hope in our current environment.


Dinosaur Tracks

Blink and you’ll miss the exit, but make a pit stop to see the Dinosaur Tracks.  About 1.5 hours from Sedona, it’s a no frills operation run by a few Navajo who will personally escort you to see the Dino prints that cover the area.



While there is no entrance fee, they will require a tip at the end of the ten minute tour - so be sure to have some cash on hand.


Agatha Peak

This beauty, Agatha Peak, rises up to meet you right before you get to Monument Valley and is totally worth a photo stop - or just be sure to admire it as you pass by.


Agatha Peak Arizona


 


Monument Valley

OK so you’ve probably seen some, or all, of the movies and TV shows shot in Monument Valley.  From John Waynes’ ‘Stagecoach’ to Marty and Doc’s western ‘Back to the Future III’ adventure, this particular location on Earth is something else entirely.


Monument Valley John Waynes’ Stagecoach

To say that it’s awe inspiring is an understatement.  It’s grand.  It’s epic,  It’s alien even.  And what’s more, it seems that no one has really discovered it.  Compared to all the places we visited on the trip, it was desolate.


There was hardly anyone there and only two hotels nearby - and not a lot more anywhere else in the general vicinity.  Maybe we were just super lucky, but there were hardly any other pesky tourists invading my photos at all.  Brilliant.


Monument Valley Arizona

It costs a whopping $8 (that’s sarcasm) per person to enter the Monument Valley site.  Head to the Visitors Center and take in the magnificent first encounter view from there - along with a snack from the decent snack bar on site.  The windows can easily be mistaken for works of art; the views are so special.


Monument Valley View Arizona

You’ll get a map at the entrance that outlines the self-drive loop of the park.  We saw other tours going on with specialty vehicles - but I’d recommend driving yourself and making all the stops you want.  It’s a one way loop, and while the beginning of the track is a car killer (remember the SUV rental recommendation), the rest of the track is fine.  



Stop and take it all in at every opportunity - you are in this movie.


We chose to do the Wild Cat Trail which is one of the few trails you can do on foot at Monument Valley.



The entrance lies near to the parking lot at the Visitor’s center and is about a 4 mile loop that took us approx. 2 hours.  It’s mostly flat terrain and gives you a fantastic close up encounter with one of the grand buttes.  




Goulding’s Lodge

There are only a couple of places to stay at Monument Valley itself.  The View Hotel is located inside the park and has a hotel, premium cabins and an RV park.  The cabins have an incredible view and definitely look the part.  


The other famous hotel just outside the park entrance is Goulding’s Lodge which was where we decided to stay.  The hotel has a grand history of movie stars and adventure with the owner visiting Hollywood with his last $60 to pitch Monument Valley as a movie set in the 1930’s. Fun Fact: the lodge is actually located just over the border in Utah!



The ensuing movie production that took place there, with the likes of John Wayne at the helm, provided much needed income for the Navajo during the Great Depression.



And it hasn’t changed all that much since.  The restaurant is the only place to eat in the general area. Definitely try the Navajo bread - it’s a tasty delight that can be savory or sweet with a sprinkle of sugar.  It’s basically bread and a donut in one.



Visit the awesome Goulding Arch, a formation just behind the hotel near the Goulding RV park.  We had the place all to ourselves to explore when we visited.  It makes for a fab playground!


Goulding Arch near Goulding's Lodge Monument Valley Utah

Forest Gump Point

Located just north of Monument Valley on Highway 169, is Forest Gump Point, the exact location of the iconic spot where Forest ended his epic run in the 1994 Oscar-winning film.  This incredible scene highlights the dramatic endless road with the monumental red rocks in the distance.


Forest Gump Point Monument Valley Arizona

Don’t worry - you can’t miss it.  There is a small sign commemorating the spot, together with a permanent group of tourists / fans risking life and limb for that perfect selfie.  Be careful not to get run over mid shoot!


Mexican Hat Rock and San Juan Trading Post

Not far from Goulding’s Lodge and just slightly north of Forest’s famous stopping point, you’ll find San Juan Trading Post located over the San Juan river.  The San Juan Cafe is one of the few places to grab a bite in the area - so enjoy a cold drink and some phenomenal hand-cut fries (seriously) before heading on to Mexican Hat Rock.



Spoiler alert - it looks just like a Mexican hat.  Since there’s no telling how long it will manage to stay balanced up there, it might be worth a visit sooner rather than later.


Mexican Hat Rock in Monument Valley Arizona


 


Monument Valley to Page

The car journeys during this trip are fairly significant and I have to say, I did worry that they might be a little tiresome, however the driving turned out to be one of the true highlights.  The scenery was ever changing like watching a personal movie - no iPad required either in the backseat!





Horseshoe Bend

This natural wonder, Horseshoe Bend, lies about 4 miles southwest of Page.  Pay to enter ($10 per car) and park at the lot (with facilities) and walk about 20 minutes along a gravel path to the overlook.


Horseshoe Bend Arizona

It’s hard not to be impressed with the meandering Colorado River taking a bite out of the rock to form the 1000ft (300m) vertical gash in the earth.  Also - make sure to walk away from the bottleneck crowd - there’s plenty of areas to enjoy the view - just beware of the edge.




Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is one of the most photographed destinations in the southwest USA.  And for good reason.  It’s a truly magical natural phenomena and unbelievable that it has been created not at the hands of a master sculptor, but instead by the combination of simply water, rock, wind and time.


Antelope Canyon Navajo Nation Arizona

Now - there are two locations of Antelope Canyon to visit - upper and lower.  You will need to book tours in advance.  We ended up booking tours to both the upper and lower canyons.  The tours however, are not cheap at all and while both canyons are spectacular, if I just had to choose one of them to visit, I would probably go with the Lower Canyon.


Upper Antelope Canyon - Antelope Slot Canyon Tours

This tour company, Antelope Slot Canyon Tours, is based in town and shuttles you out from there to the canyon.  At around $120 per person, the vehicles transport small groups to the site via a very bumpy sand road.


Note that you cannot bring anything except a water bottle, no bags or hydration packs, and no children under the age of 5 are permitted.


Antelope Slot Canyon Tours Page Arizona

The tour starts at a small fairly nondescript fissure in the rock and leads you through its beautiful interior.



The rock formation is astounding and there is plenty of time to take photos along the way.  The tour guide did a good job of keeping the groups separated so you didn’t feel as though the place was too packed. The guide is also great about showing off all the rock formations - like this incredible 'dragon's eye'.



The entire tour only lasts about an hour and a half from when you leave to when you return to the storefront.  There is about a 20 minute walk back to the vans once you exit the canyon.  All Antelope Canyon tours are guided by Navajo.


Lower Antelope Canyon - Kens Tours

The lower canyon really highlights the texture and shape of the swirling rock that has been millions of years in the making.

Kens Tours of Lower Antelope Canyon Arizona

It's extraordinary and definitely a highlight of the trip.  Looking up from the base of the canyon and taking in the red rock swirling against the blue sky above is truly a unique sight.



Our tour guide, Ben B, made the experience that much more enjoyable with his stories and sense of humor - to include his hilarious stories about Instagram influencers and their obsession with themselves, rather than the incredible environment!


The walk through the canyon started with a flight of stairs and there were a few ladders along the way to navigate the whole canyon.  There were many chances to stop and take it all in, and of course take photos.  Note that filming video is not allowed anymore inside the canyon.  


Entrance to Lower Antelope Canyon Arizona

The tour was a lot longer than its ‘upper’ counterpart and ends with you popping up out of a small crack in the ground close to the exit.  Remember to take cash to tip your guide as well.  


exit of lower antelope canyon Arizona

At a more reasonable $65 per person, Ken's Tours is a win.  Even though it's is only a 60 minute tour, you actually get to spend most of that time inside the canyon itself. 


Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam

Just on the outskirts of Page lies Glen Canyon Park and the second largest man made lake in the U.S. created by the Glen Canyon Dam holding back the waters of the Colorado river.


Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Park Arizona

The park costs $30 per vehicle to enter.  The views of the lake along the road are unique in that the water is so tranquil and calm and the color from the lake and the rock is gorgeous - especially during the golden hour.



Stop at the Carl Hayden Visitors Center (it’s free - yay!) on the way back to Page and and take in magnificent views of the dam and the bridge.


Glen Canyon Dam near Page Arizona

Page Hotels and Restaurants

Page isn't huge by any means, but is a metropolis in comparison with the small desert towns and there are a number of restaurants and hotels to choose from.  We stayed at the Courtyard Page at Lake Powell which seems like an oasis in the desert with it’s nice pool and greenery.  


Courtyard Page at Lake Powell Hotel

The food situation is by no means gourmet, but there are a number of choices that work just fine for most tastes.

The Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery is a huge place with all your faves and there’s a nice outside area to sit in the evening.

Blue Buddha Sushi Lounge is surprisingly hip and actually serves great sushi considering it’s desert location.  It certainly helped satisfy our craving for non-beige food!

Lake Powell Espresso is the coffee shop and breakfast spot (for when the hotel breakfast is not included).  Real espresso was a nice perk after days of water diner coffee as well!

Big John’s Texas BBQ - A basic spot for BBQ - you can smell it before you see it.  

Sunset 89 - a slightly more upscale affair with great sunset views.

Dam Bar and Grill - A lot of places start with ‘dam’ which my 10 year old thought was hilarious.  This particulate dam bar was a good all round sports bar with good standard fare.


Dam Bar and Grill in Page Arizona


 


Grand Canyon - South Rim

The entrance to the South Rim is about a two and a half hour drive from Page on the way back to Sedona.  After paying the entrance fee to the park and getting a map, you can stop off at any number of of look-out points along the the way to the central visitors center.


Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona

We started at the Desert View Watchtower close to the entrance which was a good intro to the vast expanse of the canyon.


Desert View Watchtower at Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona

From there, continue to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, park, and head to the South Rim Trail.  The trail is immaculate and offers plenty of opportunity to enjoy sweeping views of the canyon no matter how many people there are.  You can be as brave as you dare exploring the edge - just don’t trip!


Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona


Grand Canyon Village

Consisting of a few hotels and The Grand Canyon Railway, Grand Canyon Village is a very cute spot to visit and no doubt becomes much more civilized once the hoards of tourists leave for the night.  Scenic daily trips leave from the railway station, something that I would have loved to have done if we’d had the time.



Instead of eating at the Village, we chose a lovely wooded spot for lunch at Yavapai Tavern, that offered up excellent food and cold beer.



 


Exploring the southwest of the United States turned out to be quite the remarkable experience.  With so many incredible sights wrapped up in a one week trip, it’s a delight to the senses and, beige food and watery coffee aside, wholly recommended.