It’s been 2 years since my last solo photo trip to Palm Springs. The criteria for my February destination was pretty much the same – sunshine, preferably warm, and only a few hour flight away as I’d be taking an extra long weekend to explore. A co-worker recommended Sedona and as I started to research online, I found that there were SO many cool locations nearby that I’ve always wanted to visit. ‘Nearby’ is a relative term – I did A LOT of driving (over 19 hours, 1,025 miles total). By the end of my trip, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck – all of the hiking, driving, and lack of sleep (since sunrise is the best time to photograph) had taken its toll. Despite that, it was SO much fun! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many gorgeous sights within 4 days.
Las Vegas – Kingman – Supai – Grand Canyon – Page – Sedona
1st Adventure: Havasu Falls
As soon as I saw pictures of this beautiful waterfall, I knew I had to go see it for myself. Based on the name, I assumed that Havasu Falls was somewhere near Lake Havasu – and I also assumed that it’d be easy to access. I was wrong on both counts.
The falls are located deep within Havasu Canyon on the Havasupai Reservation (21 miles roundtrip). The village – Supai, population approximately 450 – is one of the most remote towns in the lower 48, accessible only by foot, pack animal or helicopter. The town has a post office, school, church, clinic, police station, café, a general store and lodge. Due to the temperature this time of year (20 degrees at night) and the fact that I was on my own, I decided to stay at the tribe’s rustic lodge instead of camping.
To begin my Havasu Falls adventure, I planned on getting up at 4:30 AM (in Kingman, AZ) in order to be at the trailhead by sunrise (7 AM). After flying into Las Vegas the night prior, I didn’t realize that I’d lose an hour (Mountain Time) when crossing into Arizona. By the time I picked up groceries for my hike and settled into my motel room, it was well after midnight. So I slept in until 5:30 and hit the road by 6.
I arrived at the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead (which consists of a parking lot, helicopter pad and restrooms) by 8 AM and took some time to eat my breakfast and add last-minute supplies (camera gear, clothes, and food) to my backpack. My car’s temperature gauge read 24 degrees so I began my descent into the canyon switchbacks bundled up in a down coat, hat, and gloves – not exactly how I pictured my sunny Arizona hike!
For the first hour as I headed down the switchbacks, I was met by a few caravans of pack horses and mules coming up from the Havasupai reservation – 1 group of mules was carrying U.S. Postal Service containers of mail (mule mail). About 2 miles in, I met a couple from Kansas City (Tom and Terri) and their friend (Bill) and ended up hiking with them to Supai town, to the waterfalls, and back up to the Hilltop the following day. Although I was fully prepared to have a soul-searching solo hiking trip, it was nice to have the company and they were really fun to talk to.
Within the canyon walls
We made pretty good time and arrived in Supai village within 4 hours of starting the hike. We had lunch at the little café (special of the day – taco salad) and headed down the trail to explore the waterfalls.
Havasupai (‘people of the blue-green waters’) mural in the café
Little Navajo Falls was the first oasis we encountered. It was so gorgeous – it looked fake.
Loving the spring-fed blue-green water of Havasu Creek
Farther down the trail: Havasu Falls
Further down the trail, past the campground, we saw 196 ft tall Mooney Falls – named after a prospector that fell to his death in 1882.
Tunnels, chains, and slippery rock to get to the base – I chickened out as I didn’t want to end up like Mr. Mooney…
One last look at Havasu Falls from the trail
Wigleeva rock formations over Supai
The next morning, we met at 7 AM to hike out of the canyon – one of the local dogs accompanied us the whole way to the Hilltop. It was a little harder hiking out as my body was pretty sore from the previous day – I definitely am not at my fitness peak in the middle of winter.
A look back into the canyon
2nd Adventure: Historic Route 66
I traveled the ‘Mother Road’ and enjoyed the random sights along the way.
One of many signs; my sweet little rental
go-kart – a Fiat
Route 66 wildflowers
3rd Adventure: Grand Canyon National Park
Obviously this is a must-see and I wasn’t disappointed. It is a pretty amazing sight to behold (but I could do without the huge crowds of people). I drove part of the Rim and pulled over at a few spots to see a different perspective – awesome!
El Gran Cañón
A peek at the Colorado River
Grand Canyon self-timer
I unofficially count my 4th Adventure as the drive from the Grand Canyon to Page at night via windy, icy roads in a Fiat but I didn’t have any pictures of that adventure so…
4th Adventure: Horseshoe Bend (near Page, AZ)
I woke up before sunrise to check out this spot – the Colorado River bending around beautiful sandstone. What a gorgeous place.
5th Adventure: Upper Antelope Canyon
These beautiful slot canyons are located on the Navajo Reservation near Page; the Navajo name for the canyon is Tsé bighánílíní, which means “the place where water runs through rocks”. You have to hire a guide to access the canyon so I signed up for a photo tour with Overland Canyon Tours and spent a few hours exploring the nooks and crannies. Another amazingly gorgeous place but again, I could do without the crowds. Don’t let the pictures fool you – there were probably 100 people in the canyon at once and it took some patience to get pictures without people in my viewfinder.
6th Adventure: Sedona
What a neat place! Of course, I had seen pictures before visiting but didn’t expect the lush mountain drive along the way (I pictured desert) or how amazing the red rocks were in person. Sedona is a really cute town – everything seems so new and neat. I loved the New Age vibe as well – I made sure to buy some crystals while I was there (for my time-machine).
Along the drive into Sedona – snow on the red rocks
Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte
Above Sedona (from Airport Lookout)
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Self-timer off of Mystic Trail
Red Rock Crossing -
Crescent Moon Ranch-remnant
Energy Vortex (invisible swirls of subtle energy).
Sunlit Cathedral Rock
Since I had to be at the Las Vegas airport by 5 PM, I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I wanted at this park. I was able to go for a short hike and meditate on the vortex spot for a while – a great end to a great trip!
Trip Details -
Where I stayed:
Kingman, El Trovatore Motel – If I had one word to describe this place it would be ‘interesting’. I stayed in the ‘Elvis’ room.
Supai, Havasupai Lodge – Very basic but a nice comfy bed after the long hike.
Page, Comfort Inn - Supercomfy bed and nice remodeled rooms. I took full advantage of late check-out and their hot tub.
Sedona – The Views Inn – Great location, beautiful views of Bell Rock, comfy bed, and a hot tub
Where I ate:
I was always eating on the run so I got groceries for my trip at Safeway, picked up In-N-Out Burger after my flight into Vegas (pretty much the only fast food I’ll eat), veggie sandwich at Subway, and a veggie burrito at Javelina Cantina in Sedona.
Some images available for purchase here.