“I need a vacation.” Few among us have never uttered that phrase. Too much work, too little rest, and too many unused PTO days often mean we are not looking after our minds, bodies, and spirits. If you can relate, you may be in desperate need of a wellness getaway—and Arizona offers an itinerary created over millions of years by Mother Nature herself. When it’s time to de-stress, unplug, and re-center, look no further than the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon State.
Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
Two of Arizona’s most stunning landscapes are located just seven miles away from one other—which makes for an unforgettable day of natural beauty.
Antelope Canyon—located on Navajo land east of Page—was shaped by millions of years of water and wind erosion that divided this “slot canyon” into lower and upper parts. Adventurers can visit both: Lower Antelope Canyon offers a longer sandy hike with several elevation changes and stairways/ladders to get into the canyon; Upper Antelope Canyon is at ground level and equally impressive, immersing visitors in the swirling embrace of sandstone walls.
Horseshoe Bend is just a quick drive west to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This is the iconic spot where the Colorado River takes an almost 360-degree turn while carving its way downstream. The overlook point, which can be accessed via the town of Page, is particularly popular during sunset when the landscape is at its most vibrant. For a longer adventure, you can experience Horseshoe Bend on a hiking, kayaking, rafting, or helicopter tour.
Hiding at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. Havasu Falls drops nearly 100 feet and is known for its spectacular ice-blue color—owing to the minerals in the water. It’s a very popular spot for hikers and campers but is not easy to reach and requires a reservation (all of which sell out within minutes each February). You really must experience the magic of this place—but plan ahead!
Some of the most unusual geologic formations in the country are found in northern Arizona. It took millions of years for nature to make Vermilion Cliffs, an isolated maze of rock formations. The area is so removed from human activity that the cliffs were chosen as a site for the reintroduction of the California condor into the wild. If you’re interested in hiking Coyote Buttes North (The Wave) or Coyote Buttes South, reserve your hiking permit online before you go (only 64 are given out per day).
Petrified Forest National Park
Imagine 170 square miles that look like a different planet and that’s what you’ll experience at Petrified Forest National Park. Stretching for miles on both sides of Interstate 40 near the town of Holbrook in Northern Arizona, visitors can “log out” while walking right up to massive petrified fallen trees, all surrounded by the eye-popping views of The Painted Desert that sweep through the park. Choose from two visitor centers: the Painted Desert Visitor Center on the north and the Rainbow Forest Museum to the south. Both sides of the park are connected by the 28-mile-long Main Park Road, which winds past viewpoints, trailheads, and other attractions.
Watson Lake and the Granite Dells
Though it’s lesser-known, this outdoor enthusiast’s playground is not-to-be-missed. And because it is a mere four miles from Downtown Prescott, Watson Lake is an ideal day trip for those wanting maximum fun with minimal driving. The area features two beautiful lakes perfect for fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping, and picnicking and the surrounding granite cliffs are a major destination for rock climbers, hikers, and mountain bikers. The area offers miles and miles of trails with terrain that ranges from easy to technical, so there is truly something for everyone.
Fly Fishing at Lees Ferry
Considered by many to be the crown jewel of Arizona fly fishing, the Colorado River at Lees Ferry is a world-class fly fishing travel destination. Experts here agree on fly selection which makes it a great spot for beginning to advanced anglers. For Wild Trout, try midges, scuds, and aquatic worms. And for Rainbow Trout, zebra midges, scud patterns, and San Juan Worms under an indicator work best. Overall, don’t be afraid to swing streamers big and small to flush out larger piscivorous quarry!