Grand Canyon Birthday Trek: AZ Road Trip!

Racing a Train on Arizona's Route 66! (Don't worry, trains top out at 55 mph)

Tomorrow, I’m off to Arizona! I’m picking up Drew from the airport in Flagstaff Thursday morning so I thought I’d leave a day early and see a few things between here and there. My beloved National Geographic Adventure Atlas has been open to northern Arizona all week and I’ve been scheming.

On my to see list: Canyon de Chelly, Homolovi State Park, the Two Guns & Canyon Diablo Ghost Towns, the Sunset Crater Volcano and Wuptaki National Monuments and Pima Point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Not a bad way to spend the last few days of my 20’s!

Canyon de Chelly is a place I’ve been saving for a trip without the dogs. The National Monument is on Navajo Tribal Land and you need a Native guide to explore beyond the overlooks along the road. On this trip, I’ll only have an afternoon so I’m going to check out the trail to the White House Ruins, the only hike you can take without a guide. I’ve heard this place is incredible and a scouting trip is sure to light my fire for organizing a longer guided trek below the canyon rim.

Depending on how much daylight is left after my hike, I might camp at Canyon de Chelly or head closer to Flagstaff. On the road, I rarely drive after dark. Road tripping is about seeing the world and you can’t see anything after dark!

Until last year, Homolovi State Park was known as Homolovi Ruins State Park, but the Hopi Nation lobbied to have “ruins” removed from the name because they consider the 300 Ancestral Puebloan sites in the park to be spiritually active places. The stone and adobe buildings were constructed between 1260 and 1400 AD. The largest and most thoroughly excavated structure consists of 1,200 rooms, rivaling the massive stone palaces at Chaco Canyon.

Pueblo Bonito D.O.G., Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

Two Guns & Canyon Diablo are covered in my newly acquired book Ghost Towns of the Southwest, both relics from the mining and Route 66 heydays. Apparently, a number of train robberies were staged out of Two Guns in the late 1800’s, earning it a lawless reputation. A grainy photo in my book shows a burned out gas station in Two Guns; I’ve been scheming a photo series of defunct gas pumps so this might be a good place to start my collection.

Old Gas Pump & Graffiti in Taos, New Mexico

Drew gets into Flagstaff first thing Thursday morning. We can’t check into our room at Bright Angel Lodge until the afternoon, so we’ll have plenty of time to spend on the road on the way to the Grand Canyon. I’m thinking we’ll take the scenic detour through Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments on the way north. I drove this route on my road trip earlier this fall to Las Vegas and it was spectacular.

Sunset Crater Volcano Scenic Loop

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

I’d like to get to the Grand Canyon in time to hike out to Pima Point, where we can look down into the canyon and see most of our hiking route. Sunset falls around 6:20 pm so that’ll be our goal: reach Pima Point in time for sunset, then dinner and a good night’s sleep before we hit the trail early Friday morning!

Trails from Yaki Point

Check out my previous posts on How to Plan A Killer Road Trip and Road tripping Rules.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
This entry was posted in Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Grand Canyon Birthday Trek: AZ Road Trip!

  1. azsoap says:

    I am excited to see your pictures, these are all places I would like to go. We live in Southern Arizona. Have a safe trip and have a great time!!!!

  2. mjspringett says:

    Good luck on your journey and Happy Birthday, MJ

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Happy Birthday Mary! Your trip sounds like an amazing one as always. Have fun, I can’t wait to hear all about it. Are you coming back to NM for awhile?

  4. I’m so excited about this trip because I’ve always wanted to explore Arizona & NM. I’m thinking I might make it happen after Kauai, in the late Summer. I will be living vicariously until then.
    Safe & happy travels!

  5. Pingback: Trespassing in Canyon de Chelly « Travels with the Blonde Coyote

Comments are closed.