Less than 230 miles separate Phoenix from the Grand Canyon. If you drove straight through, you could be there in an easy four hours. But, why would you want to?
There’s so much to see and do along the way. Options range from vineyard-hopping to connecting with spirits (whether one’s own in Sedona or other people’s in the ghost town of Jerome).
Day One: Phoenix to Verde Valley
Take 1-17 about 110 miles north to Jerome, your first—and funkiest—stop of the day. Perched atop Cleopatra Hill, the onetime “wickedest town in the west” has transitioned from turn-of-the-century mining outpost to an artist hub and ghost town. Ghost Town Tours offers daily Spirit Walks—hour-long intros to the local historic buildings, ruins, and paranormal activity.
About a 15-minute drive east of Jerome on Arizona Highway 89A is Cottonwood where you’ll want to park yourself for a while. You’re in the heart of the thriving Verde Valley Wine Region where tastings are most definitely in order. At a minimum, check out Pillsbury Wine Company and Burning Tree Cellars in Old Town Cottonwood.
Day Two: Cottonwood to Flagstaff
Rise and shine! The first stop is a mere 19 miles up 89A where you’ll find the red rock heaven that is Sedona.
Spend as much time here as you see fit—emphasis on “fit” as a local hike is a must! Try Bell Rock or Airport Mesa both said to house vortices (mystical energetic sites, basically). But whether or not you believe that energy spirals into or out of the earth’s surface at various sacred spots the gorgeousness alone will awe and inspire you. And hey, if you feel a little something unexplainable amid these surreal, red rock surroundings, who are we to say it’s not a vortex at work?
Of course, there’s another mind-body-spirit pursuit that Sedona’s known for: pampering, nurturing, and healing treatments. And the town is teeming with legendary spas.
Head north on 89 A to Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon and up the road, on your final approach to Flagstaff, you’ll find another worthy stop: the Oak Creek Overlook Vista Native American Artisan Market, where you’ll find gorgeous local jewelry and crafts (and, as the name would suggest, views).
With a newly acquired treasure or two, roll into Flagstaff—not even 15 miles north on 89 A. Conveniently, historic Flagstaff is compact and walkable—or bike-able, for that matter. Either way, look around—and relax.
Day Three: Flagstaff to Williams
Your next stop is 33 miles west on Interstate 40 where you’ll find Williams. Cowboy shootouts. A bear and bison park. Historic Route 66. Welcome to unexpected fun in this gateway to the Grand Canyon.
The opium dens, bordellos, and other landmarks of Williams, Arizona’s, rough-and-tumble past are long gone. But some kinder, gentler vestiges of this town’s Wild West era remain. And that’s fortunate for Grand Canyon-bound visitors seeking a fun, full-service spot as a base before and after a trip to the canyon’s South Rim, 56 miles north.
Williams boasts the final stretch of Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40 (on October 13, 1984). The original “super-highway,” as Route 66 was known in 1926, spanned more than 2,300 miles from Chicago to Long Beach, California and opened up the West to road travel. (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 singer Bobby Troup marked the day Route 66 was bypassed, October 13, 1984, by plunking out the 1946 tune on a piano in the middle of America’s most iconic byway—called “The Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in his classic novel The Grapes of Wrath.
Today, the town’s Main Street is a National Historic District. Its storefronts house curio shops, an old-fashioned soda fountain, and classic diners and motels, which preserve a bygone era.
Day Four: The Canyon
The sheer size of the Grand Canyon is difficult to comprehend through photos or words. Much of the canyon is over a mile deep, 15 miles wide, and 277 miles long, carved through geologic formations that are over 1.7 billion years old. The vast majority of the Grand Canyon National Park is extremely rugged and remote, and many places are only accessible by pack trail.
Truly a sight beyond words, the Grand Canyon should be on every RVer’s bucket list. You can’t describe in words what takes your breath away with each view.
Want more on the Grand Canyon? Right this way!
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.
—John Wesley Powell