A Perfect Winter Trip to Arizona & The Grand Canyon

by | Aug 12, 2016 |

Winter Trip Part 1: 24 Hours in Scottsdale

24 hours in Old Town Scottsdale is the perfect way to prep for 4 days of intense hiking at higher elevations. It is easily walkable and has a neighborhood vibe that Phoenix lacks. Start out by checking into the Saguaro Scottsdale, a bright and modern boutique hotel right in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale.  Before you explore Old Town, hit up the pool and hot tub for a little dip with candy colored surroundings. On your way out of the hotel grab a habanero infused margarita and a fish taco at Saguaro’s bar Distrito.

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Tacos at Distrito

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The Saguaro Hotel Scottsdale Pool #2- Hotel review.

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Lobby at Saguaro

Old Town is a pedestrian friendly downtown area awash with jewelry stores selling local gems and silver, prickly pear cactus candy shops, huge cacti and a variety of upscale Mexican restaurants with modern interiors and exciting margaritas. Try Cien Agaves for a bright pink prickly pear margarita (the local specialty) and another delicious taco, I vote for the chicken one! For dinner I love Los Olivos, it is the oldest family run Mexican restaurant in Old Town, and you can expect HUGE portions and an extensive menu of all your favorites from tamales to enchiladas suizas.

For a non-Mexcian dinner option check out the Pink Pony Steakhouse, there you’ll indulge in amazing cuts of steak with modern plays on your favorite steak house side dishes. Their sleek modern space is played up with bright accents of pink, interesting vintage art and muted wooden beams.  For dessert you must go to the Sugar Bowl, a retro ice cream parlor serving up the most decadent sundaes topped with things like homemade marshmallow sauce, which will ruin your diet but also make you believe life has purpose. Now it is time to get some rest because tomorrow is a 3 hour drive in the Silvercar (they rent Audi A4’s via a mobile based app) to the Grand Canyon for a hike on the historic and very steep Kaibab trail.

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Kaibab Trail Cowboy

Winter Trip Part 2: Day Trip to the Grand Canyon

Driving to the Grand Canyon from Scottsdale is a uniquely beautiful drive. The mountainous terrain varies greatly from hour to hour, one moment you’ll see desert mesas topped with 8 ft tall saguaro cacti, then coming up on Flagstaff , it looks like Colorado mountains, there you’ll see Snowbowl with its peaks and green trees shrouded in snow. Eventually you reach the canyon where its cold, flatter and windy up top and about 15 degrees warmer inside the canyon.

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Day hikes to the Grand Canyon, Arizona

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What to wear on a December/Winter hike in Arizona

The Kaibab trail is a good winter hiking choice because you can do a solid 6 mile day of hiking without getting caught in the dark. Another benefit to this trail is that since it is relatively sunny there it typically not much ice on the trail. It can be dangerous to hike into the Canyon, since you go down first you can loose track of time and forget that you have to walk back up an intense steep trail. Be aware that your time back up the trail will take about 2-3 time longer than it took going down.

On this route you will get to see many different layers of the canyon, with an elevation of 7,200 ft. at the rim, and if you make it to Skeleton point (pictured in the 3rd picture above) you will even get to glimpse the Colorado River all the way down at 2,420 ft in elevation. It is the oldest trail in the Canyon and it is so amazing to think of all the man power that went into creating this trail in the 1920’s. When you are done with the hike hop back in the car and jam back down to Sedona for more winter hiking and amazing food.

Winter Trip Part 3: 2 Days in Sedona Hiking the Vortex

Sedona Arizona is a magical place, the town has a dark sky policy, meaning at night no one has lights on, ensuring the sky is pitch black and you can see every star twinkling. When you get into town at night after hiking in the Grand Canyon, you won’t be able to see any of the beautiful red stone mountains, which makes waking up to them even more special. Sedona is said to have energy vortexes, which apparently shape the trees into twisted shapes and make people feel a certain way, I’m guessing it is just from how truly awe inspiring the landscape is.

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Bell Rock Vortex covered in snow- Sedona, Arizona

For a good night sleep in Sedona try the Hilton at Bell Rock, or if you want to get really fancy the Enchantment Resort will do the trick. On your first day aim to do a hike at Bell’s Rock, and grab a quick bite to eat at Oak Creek Espresso, where they serve up quiche, organic freshly baked goodies both gluten free and otherwise. Bell’s Rock is one of the vortex sites and it is truly amazing. You can do a number of hikes from this location and make your hike any length you’d like. For more info on hikes in the area or if you need any additional gear, zoom over to the Hike House where they can hook you up. For an early dinner try out Elote Cafe where they serve up inventive Mexcian food with super fresh organic ingredients.

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Brin’s Mesa Hike

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Snow Covered Cacti

On your second day comes the longer hike at Brins Mesa to Soldiers pass & Ciobab Trails (in the 1st picture above) where you’ll really see the extent of the mountain range in the area. Grab brunch at Secret Garden Cafe where they have gourmet sandwiches, pastries and delicious breakfast burritos. Brins Mesa is about a 7 mile hike up and down rock mesas with stunning views and a few landmarks as well; the 7 pool of enchantment and the sinkhole. The trail starts at Brins Mesa then winds down to Soldiers Pass, then takes you back up and over on the Ciobab Trail back to the trailhead where you will have parked. Be sure to bring a headlamp and map (can be gotten at Hike House) just in case it starts to get dark as the trail isn’t as clearly marked as Bell’s Rock.

After working up an appetite all day long you will want to try out Cucina Rustica right next door to the Hilton Resort. It’s a world class Italian restaurant with fresh pastas daily and the best steak I’ve ever tasted in my life. Opt for the burrata appetizer and the chili infused olive oil with fresh bread, then for your main, the filet mignon in gorgonzola sauce with baby red potatoes and broccolini, or try the veal saltimbocca for more traditional Italian fare. If you have room for dessert the flourless chocolate cake with gelato is decadent, rich and perfect.

Hiking in Arizona in the winter is an amazing adventure with plenty of sunshine and star gazing, and if you’re lucky you will get some snow like I did!