Hiking

View of the famous Sedona, Arizona red rocks from the patio of Creekside Coffee

5 Spots for a Perfect Weekend Getaway in Sedona, Arizona

I’m not here to tell you about spiritual vortexes and healing crystals, but I will rave about the beautiful weather, views and community of Sedona, Arizona! I went to Phoenix for Thanksgiving last year and took a road trip up to Sedona for a couple days. Here are a few highlights of the visit…

West Fork Trail

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West Fork trail is 7.2 miles out and back and rated easy on AllTrails. The trail is mostly flat and takes you along the west fork of Oak Creek with 13 creek crossings. Bring your waterproof hikers for this one! There’s lovely views of canyon walls and forest sprinkled with autumn colors (in late November at least!). You know when the trail ends when you approach the narrow canyon enclosing on the creek (pictured below). We explored a bit further and found a spot to perch for lunch before turning around. There was ample parking when we arrived around 8 a.m., and while the trail was populated, it was not crowded.

Devil’s Bridge (via Chuck Wagon Trail and Devil’s Bridge Trail)

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Chuck Wagon Trail offers a better experience and scenery than taking the Devil’s Bridge trail directly.

Devil’s Bridge via Chuck Wagon trail is 5.6 miles out and back and rated moderate on AllTrails. This hike takes you along a desert trail (with some inclines) and gorgeous views of the red rocks to your final destination, Devil’s Bridge. Devil’s Bridge is the largest natural sandstone arch in Sedona and even more stunning in person. You can walk over the bridge for a breathtaking photo opp.

PRO TIP: Start at the Chuck Wagon Trail and follow signs to Devil’s Bridge. Starting at Chuck Wagon offers beautiful scenery and a more enjoyable experience. If you take the Devil’s Bridge trail directly, you’ll either hike up a dusty, dirt road (less enjoyable) or need to take an all-wheel drive vehicle to the trail head. Going via Chuck Wagon, you’ll share the trail with bikers, but that’s preferred to motor vehicles in my opinion. Check out this resource for details on the trail, different trail options and maps.

Creekside Coffee

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Going to Creekside Coffee after a long hike made me SO happy! They made really great coffee and offered magical views of red rocks on their patio or from the comfort of inside. They roast their own beans too, Rattle & Hum. As far as the view, I was amazed with “Snoopy Rock,” which looked just like Snoopy laying on his dog house, look for it while you’re there!

They have a bistro as well if you’re looking for a lunch or dinner spot. I’ll definitely dine-in next time!

Oak Creek Brewery

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We enjoyed a beer flight and dinner at Oak Creek Brewery, Sedona’s only craft brewery and brewpub. Great food and even better craft beers! I recommend checking this out and having a flight of beers, if not dinner as well. There are also art galleries and shops nearby you can check out before/after dinner.

Shopping

OK, I’m not one to shop much while traveling. But in our down time, we did explore the local shops of Sedona and had a great time. There’s a unique array of shops that sell everything from local arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, crystals, animal skins, used books and more! Visit Sedona has a great shopping guide available here!

Bonus…

Where to Stay: You know I LOVE Airbnb for all kinds of travel. There are wonderful options in Sedona that are fit for a solo trip, romantic couples trip or a family get away. Many have gorgeous views of Sedona’s famous red rocks.

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View from our AirBnb patio at sunset. This was a great place and affordable option for our stay in Sedona, Arizona!

Getting There:  It was a two hour drive from Phoenix – perfect for a quick two night stay like ours. Check out other nearby airports here. The Southwestern U.S. is beautiful with a variety of scenes. If you ever get a chance, make a full road trip out of your visit.

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Three Days Among the Waterfalls of Havasupai

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” – Leonardo da Vinci

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Taking a dip in one of the many aqua colored pools under Havasu Falls

I’ve always been drawn to the element of water. A small stream or quiet pond will draw my eyes and make me pause for a second to admire its beauty. The weeping rock at Zion National Park really had me mesmerized. So can you imagine three days surrounded by the most turquoise water and multiple gorgeous waterfalls? The Havasupai Reservation was a dream. Below is a full itinerary of our trip (three days) so you can learn what to expect. Or, click here for tips on planning your own trip!

Day 0: On the road and Hualapai Lodge
My boyfriend and I flew into Las Vegas after work so it was late when we landed. We spared no time jumping in our car, grabbing a coffee at Grouchy John’s and hitting the road. After a 2.5 hour drive, we checked into Hualapai Lodge for a last night in a soft bed. I originally planned to stay at the trail head, but I am SO glad we didn’t sleep in the car. Staying at the lodge allowed us to get a good night’s sleep and spread out to pack our camping gear. I would highly recommend this – worth the $99.

Day 1: Havasu Village, Falls and Campground
After researching Havasupai for months before the trip, I knew I wanted to make the most of our time there. So we were up before the sun to make the 1.5 hour drive to the hilltop and start on the trail early. I typed “Havasupai Trailhead” into Google Maps and got there with no trouble. Watch out for animals in the road! We ended up getting there a little later than I wanted, about 7 a.m.

The trek down is 10 miles, mostly downhill and flat. Eager to jump in the bright blue waters, we booked it down the trail in about 4 hours only taking two breaks. One was at the tourist office where you check in, show your reservation print out and get your wrist band. From the office, it’s another two miles to the campground. The first sight of Havasu Falls will be from above and is such a magical moment seeing it for the first time. So close… keep going toward the campground!

Looking onto Havasu Falls

Taking one last look at Havasu Falls before the hike back up to the parking lot.

The campsites are first come, first serve. Keep exploring past the fern spring for campsites. We were so happy with our site across the creek! After setting up our tent, we made lunch and headed over to Havasu Falls. It was around noon and the falls were in the shade, but some of the pools still had great sun. We spent a few hours enjoying the chilly water and views.

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After a long day, we made a quick dinner, settled into our tent, fell fast asleep and were up at 3 a.m. to practice with some night photography. I brought a tripod just to practice these shots. They turned out OK and it was worth the extra weight .

Day 2: Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls
If you make the trip, I urge you to take the time and effort to hike to Mooney and Beaver Falls! We were up at 6 a.m. to start our eight mile (each way) trip to Beaver Falls.

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To Mooney Falls, continue to the end of the campground and keep following the trail. You’ll see the waterfall from above and it’s quite the sight! Now follow the trail down to the waterfall. You’ll see a sign that says “Descend at Your Own Risk.” This is where we lost the trail and wandered around a bit. I finally noticed a white arrow painted on the rock and pointing down into a tunnel. Look for the arrow pictured below… this is where the fun begins! Now you start the exciting descent to Mooney with metal chains and wooden ladders as your aides. If you’re new to hiking or afraid of heights, it can be intimidating, but I promise it was SO fun! Just take your time and remember that the climb up is easier than the climb down. I am so thankful that the reservation has maintained the way down so visitors can experience the falls.

The descent to Mooney Falls

The descent to Mooney Falls

Once down, you’ll admire the beauty of Mooney Falls and feel so accomplished you made it down alive. Get ready to get soaked in mist from the sheer power of this falls! The falls was in the shade allowing us to have fun with the tripod and long exposures here too.

 

We continued to the trail to Beaver Falls. The trail splits several times, but as long as you’re on the clearly marked trail, it will take you to the right place. Then you’ll come to your first creek crossing. I changed from my hiking boots to my water shoes and rolled up my pants. Keep your water shoes on after the first creek crossing, because there’s another shortly after that. After the second one, you can put your hiking shoes back on because you’ll hike for a while before the next creek crossing. Or, you can just wear your water shoes the entire time. I saw many hikers doing this, but I didn’t want to risk getting blisters.

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This hike was so fun! You’ll run into a palm tree at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. How cool is that? This is when you know you’re getting close. There’s a few ladders up and then you’ll have a view of Beaver Falls! Continue down to have access to the water and enjoy the hard earned dip in the cool water. We arrived around noon and had plenty of sun for swimming and a snack. This was the best falls to swim in!

When we made it back to camp, we enjoyed fry bread at the hut near the ranger’s station – this was just our appetizer before a meal at camp! Bring cash on your trip, because this was SO good after a 16+ mile day.

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Day 3: The trek up and a night in Las Vegas
I didn’t want to leave, but we made breakfast and packed up camp early.  Then we carried all our crap on our backs UP the canyon for 10 miles. Honestly, it was harder than I thought it would be. It’s flat for most of the way, until you get to the switchbacks that we had just bolted down 48 hours earlier. The switchbacks were in the sun by the time we got there which made for a tiring trek. We took several breaks. This was 70 degrees in the beginning of April. How do people do this in the summer? We made it up in about 5 hours and were exhausted and dirty. Again, worth it.

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We found our car, switched to flip flops and started the drive back to Vegas. We stopped for Taco Bell on the way and of course, Grouchy John’s coffee again. We stayed at the Westgate Hotel off the strip (it was just meh..). Bonus tip… after taking a much needed shower, we walked to Lotus of Siam (thanks to Anthony Bourdain) for AMAZING Thai food.

Then we were up at 4 a.m. to make a 6 a.m. flight home. The trip flew by but I LOVED every single second. I would love to go back to the Havasupai Reservation one day!

Plan your own trip to Havasupai – check out 13 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Havasu Falls! 

Click here for my complete packing list!

New to backpacking? Check out my training guide!

 

5 Ways to Train for a Backpacking Trip

So you want to go on a backpacking trip? Or you’re thinking about it. Or your friend/significant other is forcing you and you don’t know where to start. Well, it’s quite fun and rewarding if you keep a positive attitude and give it a shot!

I’m not an expert, but I have done it a couple times and I’ll keep it real. Here are five ways to make sure you’re prepared and comfortable on your trip:
Gear
I promise, this is the most important part. Ensure you have comfortable and well-fitted backpack, hiking shoes and hiking socks.

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For the backpack, go to a store like REI where a professional can measure you for size and help you try them on. I found it so valuable that the store associate showed me how to adjust the backpack to fit me perfectly – I would have had no idea what I was doing! If something doesn’t feel right, don’t settle because you’ll regret it. They can also help you determine how many liters your pack needs to hold based on the length of your trip. I’m really happy with my 55 liter Opsrey pack as it works for both shorter and longer trips.

For shoes, again, you need to try them on before committing. If you order online, make sure you can return them if they don’t fit. For backpacking, you’ll want a sturdy and waterproof boot with ankle support. I took the Lowa Renegades on my last backpacking trip and loved them! They are on the firmer and heavier side but very durable and supportive. I hiked seven days in Patagonia in crappy hiking shoes (not the Lowas I mentioned) and I paid for it with wet socks and blisters. So I was all about the sturdier more durable boot!

Believe it or not, socks are important, too. Go for merino wool and make sure they are long enough for your boots. Yup, even in the summer. It provides some cushion and wicks sweat to keep your feet dry and blister free. I only wear Darn Tough – great quality with a lifetime guarantee.

$$$ Tip: Gear can get expensive. Once you know what you like, keep an eye on outlet sites like REI Garage, Backcountry and Campsaver. They also do 20% coupons a few times a year.

Crossing one of the many bridges of our Patagonia trek!

Crossing one of the many bridges of our Patagonia trek!

Break it in
Ok, you got the gear. Now it’s time to break it in. This will ensure your socks, shoes and pack have molded to your shape a bit and will be at their most comfortable.

I do this by wearing my boots, socks and pack whenever and wherever I can: walking the dog (yes, you’ll get funny looks), around the house (less funny looks) and on local trails (zero to few funny looks).

Most boots are now made ready to wear out of the box. However, I truly think it prepares you and makes for more comfortable gear.

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We decided to explore further in the valley and the landscape changed from boulders to moss and streams

Real-life practice
Now, what you came for: the actual training. It’s pretty straight forward. Pack your pack like you would for your trip or load it up with generally heavy things, and get walking!

I like to get an idea of how many miles I’ll be hiking per day on my trip with how much weight. Then match that wherever you can close to home: parks, local trails, at the gym – stair stepper or treadmill. Stair stepper and treadmill give you an advantage because you can adjust for some uphill practice.

You may have to work up to your goal mileage, and that’s totally OK. That’s the benefit of training near home. Then, when you’re on your hike you’ll feel much more comfortable and confident.

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Hiking back to the refugio with a view of Lago Nordenskjöld

General cardio and strength training
Backpacking is a workout and much easier when you’re physically fit. Even if you don’t have a trip coming up, you’ll always be ready for one if you keep up with a consistent work out routine. I personally work out by lifting weights 4-5x a week (shoulders, back and biceps, chest and triceps and legs). I’m not a fan of cardio but get it in by hiking and walking the dog. Keep cardio interesting by mixing high intensity shorter workouts with longer low intesity walks to your goal mileage.

Mind over matter
Honestly, it’s a mental game too. If you keep a positive attitude and focus on enjoying the experience you’ll have a better time. Don’t get frustrated with how tired you feel or how hot it is, you’ll only make yourself more miserable. I know this is easier said than done when you’re feeling exhausted and hungry and sore. I have a hard time with this, so my trick is to stop to take a break and enjoy the scenery and remember why I’m doing this.

Hiking in Havasu Canyon

It’s not always about the destination. The 10 mile journey through the Grand Canyon was also magnificent.

What tips do you have for a first time backpacker? Would you want more detailed posts on my exact workouts? Let me know in the comments below!

Read about my recent backpacking trips: