In part one of this look at Arizona photo opportunities, Sedona and the high desert red rock country were examined. Only a little over an hour north, you’ll find the hills and mountains of Flagstaff. An hour and a half further you find the opposite, the state’s masterpiece, the Grand Canyon.
Oak Creek Canyon
Leave Sedona heading north on State Route 89A and you’ll find yourself on a picturesque winding canyon road. Carved by Oak Creek, you’ll find swimming holes, picnic places, pull offs, campgrounds and more hiking.
Probably the most popular hike is West Fork Trail. This trail starts in a former orchard and winds its way through towering canyon walls. Crisscrossing Oak Creek and a bit of rock hopping will take you deep into the canyon. While many folks spend about a half-hour, whereas the more adventurous will want to do the six mile round trip.
Fall is the busiest time of year during with changing colors of the sycamores sprinkled with occasional red patches of maple set against the ochre and red rock walls. Dependent upon time of year and day of week you might want to be at the West Fork Trail entrance a bit before dawn to ensure early entry.
Continuing up the canyon find Flagstaff in the shadow of the San Francisco Mountains. During the winter you can enjoy the snow covered area, home to Snowbowl and driving trails with views from your vehicle. Covered with ponderosa pines, aspens and other mountain trees, this a totally different ecosystem available just a short ride up the road from Sedona. You can find Bureau of Land Management campgrounds and trails winding though the aspens as well.
Fall is a spectacular time to visit as the leaves shed their iridescent green colors turning to gilt golds. While camping among the aspens, I was also treated to the song of the shimmering leaves in the early morning breeze.
You can get on the infamous back roads of Route 66 in Flag but I’m going to move you north on US-89 to a lake and different rock formations.
South Rim Grand Canyon
It’s a weird place, this Grand Canyon. Many absolutely stunning photos have been created of this wonder. But strangely, none can capture the feeling you get when you peer down into the huge abyss carved by the Colorado River over the millennia. It literally takes your breath away.
A popular place to visit and capture images is the iconic South Rim. Home of El Tovar and the main visitors center, it is also the start of Bright Angel Trail. If traveling in your car, there are plenty of overlooks to pull off once you are in the canyon area for incredibly diverse views. During busy season there are shuttle buses throughout the park.
Page and Lake Powell
The town of Page has grown up since my move to Arizona. Due to the popularity of landmarks such as Horseshoe Bend and Antelope slot canyons, you’ll be able to find lots of accommodations from which to embark on even more northern adventures.
Just North of Page sits Lake Powell. It was filled with the building of the concrete arch-gravity Glen Canyon Dam. It is well worth a visit. The dam as well as Lake Powell. Lone Rock beach on Lake Powell is available for camping. You’ll need at least an all-wheel drive vehicle, or four wheel drive, and still need to be careful as you navigate the sand. Being able to drive up to your campsite and walk straight from there into the water for a swim can be magical.
Any passenger vehicle can get you to the main campground, overlooks, restaurants, and boat and watersport rentals.
The Navajo Nation was inundated with the Covid-19 scourge and has left many attractions such as Monument Valley visible but closed to the public. Things are starting to come back to normal as of the publishing of this article. As with all visitors centers, parks and places of interest check for information on current open/closed conditions before finalizing your plans.
While on the super scenic drive from Page to the Grand Canyon, you’ll pass through Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. It’s a stunner area. You can check out a panoramic image I made here. While on the road you’ll pass a spot called Cliff Dwellers which is most assuredly worth a gander.
North Rim Grand Canyon
If you jog a little South and West from Page you can get to the North Rim, which I prefer. As it is a longer drive than the South Rim it gives you access to vistas that many have not seen because of that extra drive time. I camped on the North Rim outside the Grand Canyon National Park on Bureau of Land Management land and found the closeness to nature to be even more intense than a quick visit can give.
Inside the park there are many overlooks with totally different views. Nature is an ever varied spectacle.
Note that the North Rim is 8,000-plus feet. Nighttime temperatures can drop quite low. That change starts to happen just before the sun starts to drop below the horizon. Even in midsummer, be prepared with jackets and sweaters.
In my next travel installment of Arizona I’ll share a yet different environment with photo opportunities, including wildlife, while moving you south in the state. Of course, that’s not to say there’s not wildlife in the north! There’s lots of options in traveling for photography in Arizona.
Yours in Creative Photography, Bob