It was a Thursday in April and I decided to buy tickets for Phoenix, Arizona for the coming Sunday. Last minute trips are always the most interesting. By the time you know it and with little planning, my partner and I took off for one of the 7 wonders of the world. From Whistler, British Columbia, to Arizona and the Utah, here’s how we visited the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park in 5 days.
Getting from Vancouver, BC to Phoenix, Arizona
We decided to take a really early flight from Vancouver to Phoenix on the Sunday, so that we can have most of the day to explore once we land in Arizona. The sun was barely rising when our flight left Vancouver at 6 am. We had a short stopover of 40 minutes in Seattle, and after a change of planes, it would take us 3 hours to fly to Phoenix. In Seattle, going from one terminal to another was really easy, timing was not an issue here. Everything was well indicated and with only 40 minutes to change from one gate to another, we didn’t even have to run to make it happen.
- Seattle Airport
Once in Seattle airport, you can easily locate your arrival and departure terminals and look for the closest train station. Note that there are 3 routes for the “Satellite Transit System” , that’s how they call it. The shuttles are the quickest way to get from one terminal to another. Use it to be successful in catching short connections.
Our next flight was from Seattle to Phoenix, and it took about 3 hours. Our flight with Delta Airlines was pleasant and quick. The flight to Phoenix was awesome. You actually get to see the Grand Canyon from above, and the pilot was nice enough to give us a heads up when we were approaching the Grand Canyon. It looked unreal. It looked like a big crack that just sliced open out of nowhere. It was the most beautiful and grandiose view of a natural element that I had ever seen.
We landed in Phoenix at 10:30 am, ahead of schedule and eager to pick up our rental car. Phoenix was definitely a big change from the mountains of British Columbia. There are cactuses everywhere, the weather was amazing, and we could feel the heat of the desert on our skin.
- Rental Car
Our next step was to get to the Car Rental Center to pick up our rental car which we had previously booked online with Priceline. The Car Rental Center is the best invention ever. Instead of having all the different car rental companies spread out at the airport, there is one separate building, away from the airport, where all of the car rental companies are located. From the airport, there is a free shuttle that brings you to the Car Rental Center. From there, all you have to do is find the company you rented with. You can’t get lost, it’s pretty straight forward once you get there. We rented with FOX rental cars which is a company I had never heard of before this time; it had the longest line of all the rental car counters. I wonder what that means. The staff at FOX rental cars were nice, polite and professional. They offered to upgrade our reservation, to a convertible car, and we obviously went for it. Looking back, it was the best decision we have made for our road trip. I absolutely recommend renting a convertible car for this type of road trip, the open roof allows you to see way more scenery and it also allows you to take amazing pictures. Thanks FOX Rent a Car for the upgrade and the quality of your service and professionalism! The car we rented was ready and there were no line ups to pick up the keys. Amazing start!
Off we go towards our first destination for the night: Flagstaff. Why Flagstaff? Because of its proximity to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, which is our first box to tick off. It feels amazing to already be surrounded by cactuses when this morning we were in the snowy mountains! Driving around and through Phoenix was easy; the roads were wide, clean and the indications were clear. There was barely any traffic and you get to see a lot of different vegetation, special cars, fast food restaurants and desert views. The scenery is really flat, dry and slightly dusty. The weather is beautiful. We are still wearing pants, and a t-shirt and it feels fine. Roof down in the convertible, unmistakably mandatory. Hat and sunscreen are a must, I’m serious here, you are going to burn. Also bring water with you at all times as you are in a desert, never forget that. We are slowly making our way up to Flagstaff on highway 17. We stop every time we see something beautiful. The drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff usually takes 2.5 hours and it is easy driving.
- The haunted hostel
This road trip was not one of luxury or materialistic value. What really counted this time was what we were going to see, not the comfort level of our hotel bed. We chose to stay at a hostel in Flagstaff for the first couple of nights since it seemed like the best cost effective way to stay close to the Grand Canyon’s entrance without paying tourist prices. Staying in a hotel located close to any National Park would not only be pretty expensive but also very busy. We got to our hostel at sunset and we were excited to settle in to prepare for the next day’s adventure. An older looking man greeted us and he was immediately very friendly and helpful. One of the first things he tells us is that this hostel is haunted as the owners of the building got their throat slit back in the 1930s. Wow.
I’m not too sure what to say at this point except: let’s get out of here? We had been driving all day and we had gotten up really early to get to the airport, not in the mood for ghosts. All I really wanted was to check-in and relax. Instead, I am quietly wondering what we are doing here as my partner continues chatting with the man. I tune back into the conversation as the man is now telling us that this building used to be a brothel in the old days. Ok. I guess I can deal with that. The man from the front desk shows us to our room, and as he unlocks the door he also mentions that there are mice in the building ( or rats?). Fun! (Running away in my head.) Ghosts, mice or maybe even rats and a brothel, great combo of things to tell your guests when they check in. Were they all urban legends being told to create a mesmerizing experience ? We thank the man and as he left, we looked at each other and had a small laugh. We were here for the road trip, the views and the stories and this hostel gave us just that on our first day. Needless to say that we didn’t sleep much during our first night, listening to all the sounds of the old haunted building. Tomorrow is another day and the natural wonders that we are about to see would make us look back at this day in a way that is just what it was; unexpected.