Northern Arizona’s Top 5 Tourist Destinations.
by Anura Guruge
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1. Petrified Forest National Park.
2. Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
3. Four Corners (Navajo) Monument.
4. Monument Valley (Navajo) Monument.
5. Grand Canyon National Park.
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This was Devanee’s (14) trip and she wanted to go to Canyon de Chelly, Four Corners and Monument Valley. Petrified Forest, basically on the way to Canyon de Chelly, was a bonus. The Grand Canyon, which we had visited, for 4 days in 2013, was a surprise. I had it all planned but I never let on. Deanna and the kids had no idea until I pulled up at the entrance to the Park. They were delighted.
Though I had driven by it multiple times I had never been to the Petrified Forest National Park. Glad we went. Definitely worth going. We only spent 2 hours but saw most of the ‘landmark’ logs and sights. Got some great pictures.
We stayed at Canyon de Chelly, at the ‘Sacred Canyon Lodge‘ (née ‘Thunderbird Lodge‘), which is inside the ‘Park’, for 4 nights. That was our base for this trip. What can I say about Canyon de Chelly other than that it is my favorite place in the whole wide World! Canyon de Chelly is just magical.
I had never been to Four Corners and doubt whether I will ever go back. It really is in the middle of nowhere. Long, long drive through vast, barren, desolate landscape. I did NOT like it! The spot itself is hemmed in on all four sides by ‘cheap’ concrete vendor stalls — that look like bunkers. It makes the whole place feel cheap and tatty. ‘They’, the Navajo Nation, charges $20 entrance. I do NOT have a problem with that. I also have NO problem with them trying to sell their wares — and we, at various places, including Four Corners, bought a far amount of stuff (as is our wont). I am happy for the Navajo to make as much money as they can. They are entitled. I just wish that they had done this Monument with a bit more decorum and taste. C’est la vie. I will not hold it against them. They are entitled.
I have been to Monument Valley before; definitely once, possibly twice. The first time, in 1986, which was also when I discovered and fell in love with Canyon de Chelly, and I remember, vividly, that I was in a yellow rented Camaro — which was not the best car to drive through the sandy roads at the Valley. But I managed. This time, just because I knew we were going to visit Monument Valley, I rented a SUV — a Chevy Captiva (which was OK, but really was ‘gutless’). I would never buy ‘that’. It was way too underpowered and poorly-geared for my taste (and driving). Monument Valley is monumental. Striking. But it was PACKED. Liked going to Disney World — and this was still April, i.e., not prime season.
The Grand. It was at least my 8th or 9th trip. The second for Deanna and the kids. They just love the Grand. They were so excited, especially since it was a total surprise. The Grand is like no other. It is magnificent. As I was telling a Park Ranger, there were more people at any given stop (on the South Rim) than we encountered during a whole day at Canyon de Chelly. I don’t think we ever encountered more than 24 people at any one spot at de Chelly. Most of the time the car parks were empty or just had one or two Navajo vendors. That is very much a part of the attraction for me. The solitude and serenity. I gather it is ‘packed’ in June and July.
So that was our 5 days in Northern Arizona. 1,409 miles on the Chevy Captiva (from Enterprise), 2 hours on horseback and 4-5 miles of hiking.
Two bonus pictures.