Backpacking in the Grand Canyon + Sedona

Day 1- Ooh Ahh Point- South Kaibab Trail

You just can’t beat the natural beauty of Arizona. From the green, lush mountains of Flaggstaff to the vortexes of Sedona, to the majesty of the Grand Canyon, AZ is home to it all. Plus, it is a logistically awesome place to go camping and exploring, thanks to great highways and easy airports in Phoenix and Tucson.

My husband Jon and I recently went on a 3 day backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon and then spent a couple days exploring Sedona. So read on if you want the full itinerary and some pretty pix!


South Kaibab- Hiking Down to Phantom Ranch Campground


Our route/plan for the hike was as follows: 

Day 1: Park at the ranger station, get permit. Hike from South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch. Distance: 8ish miles. Slept at Phantom Ranch campground and ate at the Ranch ($50pp). It was really gorgeous and very cold at  night, this was in December. It was about 20 degrees…brr.

Highlights on the Kaibab trail- the awe inspiring view that you get to take in, while not in pain yet.  One great view is the Ohh Ahh Point pictured above. You’ll see all the different rock layers and my favorite point was certainly when you get down to the Colorado river! It is massive and super powerful. It is crazy to imagine our amazing park rangers building this trail  and the bridges in 1933 with just mules and basic tools.


Day 2: Hike out to Indian Gardens, 5 miles of pain. We are pretty active, but after walking downhill for 8 miles straight the day before, we were definitely feeling the burn. Trail highlights were seeing lots of mule deer, crossing the Colorado river on yet another gorgeous suspension bridge and star gazing in Indian Gardens. The stars are so bright and there are more than you would even image exist. Stars illuminate the night sky so much there is no blank space, it glitters and glows all night. Indian Gardens was less populated than Phantom Ranch and it has lots of pretty foliage as well as running water and bathrooms, which are pretty standard in the Canyon.

Indian Gardens Campsite

Day 3: Final day of hiking, we took the the Bright Angel Trail up to the top of the Canyon, about 5 miles. This is a day where you’ll want to take 2 Aleve with that morning caffeine (unless you have mules carry your bags). It was challenging, yet so so worth it. We quickly ate our oatmeal and our Gu energy gels and went on our way. There are several rest/bathroom stops on this hike that give you a nice opportunity to take a break. This is possibly the steepest part of the 3 day hike, you are essentially on a Stairmaster with the intensity up for about 4 hours. I refer to that type of terrain as a booty buster.

Once we summited, if you can call it that, we were not only super hungry, but also felt elated to have completed such a strenuous and mentally challenging hike. It was humbling to go from feeling in shape, to ultimately have every single body part ache, from my shoulders and chest, to my hips, knees and toes. Somehow, even though painful, it is the best feeling in the world to me. It was so refreshing to unplug from technology and connect to my mind and body on a primal level. It felt strange to have to go back to being beholden to my inbox, clock and looking through social media felt even more meaningless than usual.


Day 4/5: After we finished up our hike we were on our way to Sedona for a relaxing night and a swanky meal at the Kimpton Amara Hotel. We ordered DIY guac, huge salads and a roasted chicken and I have never felt more stuffed. The serrano margs are where its at if you make the trip out there! Be prepared to past the F out after your meal. I’ll post more restaurant suggestions at the bottom of the post, Sedona is full of great southwestern and Italian food all with a healthy conscious, local twist.

In the morning we awoke to a beautiful sunrise peaking through the famous Sedona vortexes and delicious, healthy breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant before going hiking at the Bell Rock chain of trails. We mostly just wandered around for a few hours and took pictures as we were super fried from the GC. I’ll let the pictures do the talking though…



Favorite Sedona Eats:

Elote Cafe, Oak Creek Espresso, Cucina Rustica, Saltrock at the Kimpton.

Thanks for stopping by!

XO Maia