In January 2020, when we planned a 10-day trip to California, Nevada and Phoenix, we were aware of COVID-19: a new and highly-infectious virus centered in Wuhan, China. And we took what we thought were appropriate precautions, such as wearing a cloth mask during flights; disinfecting door handles, light switches and remotes in our hotel rooms; and hanging the "no service please" sign so that housekeeping stayed out for the duration of our stay. But we enjoyed eating out three times/day, joined throngs of people exploring Las Vegas at night and didn't hesitate to get up close to the eyepiece of the Clark Telescope at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. We certainly didn't imagine our 10-day getaway would be our only vacation in 2020 and into the foreseeable future. And now I sit, more than 4 months after our return to Calgary, writing the wrap-up post for a holiday that seems like it took place a lifetime ago...
So many great hiking trails, so little time...It's challenging to choose just one hike, but we eventually opted for the 8 km (5 mile) loop comprised of a long section of the Brins Mesa, Soldier Pass, Jordan Road and Cibola Pass trails. Highlights included fantastic views, the Seven Sacred Pools, Devil’s Kitchen and The Mitten. We completely missed the Hole in the Sky and Soldier’s Arch in our trip planning, so that means we have a ready-made reason to return some day.
Connected by a lovely scenic drive, Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments make for a great half-day trip out of Flagstaff, AZ. Wupatki appeals to those with an interest in anthropology, archaeology and nature, while Sunset Crater Volcano has a couple of short hiking options and appeals to those with an interest in geology and nature.
For day trippers based out of Flagstaff, AZ, winter is a great time to visit Grand Canyon National Park's South rim. There's plenty of parking, visitor services are open, Hermit Road is open to private vehicles, and there's still great shuttle service for those wanting to hike at least part of South Kaibab Trail.
Valley of Fire State Park is an excellent (and very manageable) day trip out of Las Vegas. Highlights include red sandstone formations, a scenic drive, a few short hiking trails, petroglyphs, and desert flora and fauna. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch, sunscreen and plenty of water!