Logs or Cacti? What route in AZ?
February 28, 2023 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Spending time in the Southwest later in March and trying to make some decisions about what to see/do in conjunction with routing options. Arches or Antelope? Saguaro or Petrified Forest?

We’re driving from the Midwest to the Southwest at the end of March. Several days in Santa Fe and about a week in Sedona. Debating a few options based on routing. Will have a dog with us and one person with some limited mobility. Short walks and limited stairs ok, longer hikes and scrambling less optimal. Mostly there for change of scene and to do a blend of relaxing and seeing cool things. What would you choose based on the following either/or options? With the exception of the Grand Canyon, don’t want to do much in the way of long day trips out of Sedona.

Over the course of two hotel nights: Arches National Park and drive Monument Valley OR Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon (yes, some tix still available)

Painted Desert NP and one day shorter return trip OR Saguaro and White Sands NPs and one day longer on road?

Due to routes and airport drop-offs, it isn’t really feasible to combine the above in a way that doesn’t push the amount of driving per day more than we want to do. Know weather can be unpredictable in March, especially the higher the elevation.
posted by HonoriaGlossop to Travel & Transportation around Miami, FL (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I do not know why this says in and around Miami… my geography is a bit better than that!
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 9:31 AM on February 28

Since you'll already be seeing a lot of amazing landscape at Grand Canyon and throughout the region, I'd probably choose the Antelope Canyon / Horseshoe Bend option over the Arches N.P. / Monument Valley option. It's all beautiful, but if you have the opportunity to see a slot canyon like Antelope I say you should take it.
posted by theory at 10:17 AM on February 28 [1 favorite]

We just got back from the Grand Canyon, Antelope Slot Canyon, and Saguaro National Park.

Upper Antelope Slot Canyon was phenomenal. More accessible, but a very bumpy off road shuttle ride in. The exit now goes up and over the canyon to bring you back to the shuttles, and that did have a long ramp up, and a staircase down, maybe three flights of stairs at a reasonable pitch. Reviews that predate the pandemic may not mention it because in the past, you walked back through the canyon at the end. They did a very good job of spacing groups apart, so you could see the entire spaces and take pictures like you were the only ones there. Lower Antelope Canyon involved a very steep staircase/ladder or two to get in it. Some parts of the canyon had me contorting to get through. It was much more packed and they didn't pace groups in the same way, so most shots were looking up. I loved it, but if I had access concerns, I'd choose Upper. There are at least six other slot canyons with tours too, so you could try to check out accessibility with them too.

I could take or leave Horseshoe Bend. It's a super easy walk in from the parking lot. If you are already in the area, why not? Saguaro National Park was fun if you want to see a lot of big cacti and muse about their personalities. The petroglyphs at Signal Hill were cool to show the kids, but apparently they are renovating the Signal Hill parking, so it might be a mess to get back there. It was already a little crowded for parking last week without that construction.
posted by advicepig at 10:34 AM on February 28

This video shows you the walk out of Upper Antelope Canyon.
posted by advicepig at 10:42 AM on February 28

They have added shade over the walk since the video was shot
posted by advicepig at 10:43 AM on February 28

There's almost no place on earth less impressive than Petrified Forest.
posted by bowbeacon at 11:13 AM on February 28 [1 favorite]

Slot canyons were intersting and unique.

Horseshoe Bend felt like it wasn't anything too special, but it's reasonably close to Antelope Canyon so it didn't take much additional time to see.

I liked Arches a lot -- mainly because we had a good guide who took us in the backway in a 4x4 and helped make sure we saw everything.

I wish that if I was going to be near Arches I had made time for Canyonlands. Sounds like that may be the better of those parks based on what various guides and people were telling me.

Monument valley was OK, but I feel like I saw similar things elsewhere and the road is pretty rough and it was a bit out of the way based on our trip.
posted by willnot at 11:48 AM on February 28

Not sure how this helps but White Sands, Petrified Forest and Saguaro can be done in drive-throughs. I did all 3 last year, and they're all equally impressive, entirely different and definitely worth 3-4 hrs each, and you can drive through each in a few hours or less. Saguaro has a loop on the east side specifically for this. As for hiking, it adds to the experience of course for all of them - they have paved paths that I know of in Saguaro and PF, not sure about WS, but it was fun to hike up the white sand dunes. If I had to rate them: 1, Saguaro; 2, Petrified Forest, 3, White Sands.
posted by j810c at 4:23 PM on February 28

I did Moab (Arches, Canyonlands) -> Monument Valley -> Horseshoe Bend at the end of '19. Horseshoe is worth seeing at sunrise, but the drive there from MV is a bitch (I think I left around 4:30am, and this was in December; it's a good few hours).

I loved Arches, because there's plenty of good on-foot stuff to do. Canyonlands was pretty, but aside from one or two breathtaking views (Mesa Arch and the view therefrom, for example) it wasn't quite as good as Arches was. The drive from Moab -> MV is a decent day, but with nothing much to stop for en route unless you're like me and you want to stop every five minutes to do some drone photography. Monument Valley itself was gorgeous but also… kinda sad-feeling. The landscape isn't that much different from what you've been driving through for the last 90 minutes, but the road is much worse (I wouldn't recommend it in a car that didn't have a high ride).
posted by gmb at 1:57 AM on March 1

Since painted desert is literally on the way btw Santa Fe & Sedona, is there any reason you can't stop there for an hour or so while traveling between cities? And then do Saguaro/White Sands as that option? Painted desert is neat, in a super desolate sort of way, but not somewhere I feel compelled to spend a lot of time. It does seem a shame to be so close and not stop though!
March is an excellent time to visit Saguaro, and it's also as easy as you want to make it - I'd suggest mostly doing it as a drive through, but taking the time to do a short hike on one of the paved paths.
Either Arches or Antelope Canyon are excellent choices, I think it really comes down to how much driving you want to do. The region is having a fairly record-breaking winter this year, so definitely do keep an eye on the weather as it gets closer!
posted by csox at 6:39 AM on March 1

Response by poster: gmb, what made the drive from MV to Horseshoe such a challenge? Length, early start, or road conditions themselves? I think I’ve decided to go an hourish out of the way to do Moab to Page via Monument Valley and then Page to Sedona after an Upper Antelope Canyon tour, but know what Google Maps tells me and actual time/conditions do not always align.

We’ll have a 4wd SUV and time zone shenanigans on our side.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 7:46 PM on March 2

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