Stereotypically known as being home of Navajo and Apache Indian reservations, Northeast Arizona is a part of the Grand Canyon state that is well worth exploring. During our trip earlier this year where we spent a couple of days exploring the stunning landscapes from the best Grand Canyon lookout points, we then made the drive north to the Utah border before experiencing the Mighty 5 national parks.
The drive took us through the edge of Northeast Arizona and gave us an opportunity to experience some of the ‘off the beaten path’ attractions and natural landscapes that make this such an attractive part of the state to explore. I can only imagine what it is like driving through the heart of the Indian reservations but just spending some time on the edge was a real eye-opener…more on that later!
The Grand Canyon State
Arizona is not dubbed the Grand Canyon state just because of the Grand Canyon itself. Of course a trip to Arizona wouldn’t feel the same without a trip to this breathtaking canyon, but as we made the drive out of this national park we were treated to a myriad of other stunning landscapes with canyons and other natural phenomena waiting for us to uncover.
Northeast Arizona is a vast land covered in towering buttes, winding canyons and a plethora of other spectacular sites that we were fortunate to experience some. We want to share just a couple of our favorite spots on the drive from the Grand Canyon to the Utah/Arizona state-line in Page.
Navajo Indian Reservations
Located on the Colorado Plateau like the rest of Northeast Arizona, the Navajo nation is an intriguing part of USA to explore. Whether you want to explore some of the Navajo’s ancient ruins or perhaps just stop by on the side of the road and purchase a souvenir from a typical market stall, visiting this part of Arizona will really help educate you on how others live.
Typified by trailer homes and horses roaming around the landscape, Navajo country is more than just the home of the ancient Anasazi people. With a perfect backdrop of stunning red sandstone among the other natural features that we have all come to admire in Arizona, the Navajo nation will openly welcome you to their lands.
We pulled over on the side of the road a couple of times to check out some of the Navajo craft and art stalls which really have some cool hand-made souvenirs. The locals are always welcome to talk to you and answer any questions you may have on the history and culture of the Navajo nation.
Whether the Navajo reservations receive as much respect as they deserve I am not sure, but as you pass through these landscapes you may gain a much greater appreciation of how these communities survive.
Little Colorado River Overlooks
After leaving the breathtaking scenery throughout the Grand Canyon, you may be forgiven if you think that nothing else can quite compare to what you have previously experienced.
However, the Little Colorado River offers dramatic scenes and panoramic landscapes that you will appreciate if you take time to stop and explore the variety of overlooks available while driving along Highway 64.
A word of caution because depending on the time of year you visit, there may be a few creatures wandering around the sandy landscapes that you will want to avoid…hence the signs that are clearly warning you what to look out for!
One of the most beautiful locations we visited during our trip around Northeast Arizona was Horseshoe Bend just south of Page, Arizona. A short hike from US Route 89 leads you to gorgeous views over the Colorado River.
A 1,000 feet drop is what faces visitors from the top of the overlook, and despite having no safety railings it is well worth the risk. Be careful of your surroundings and you will undoubtedly cherish the memories and images you see around Horseshoe Bend.
You can read more about our awe-inspiring experiences during our Horseshoe Bend hike and how we feel that those that are fearless will be rewarded with lifelong memories!
Glen Canyon Dam
Located in Page, Arizona close to the state-line with Utah, the Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete arch design crossing the Colorado River. Functioning in the same capacity to it’s more infamous counterpart on the Colorado, the Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon provides hydroelectricity to nearby communities while at the same time controlling the volume to the lower Colorado River basin.
Construction of the dam finished in 1966 and its reservoir, Lake Powell, is the second largest artificial lake in the nation.
We parked on one side of the dam (access to the dam is easier than the Hoover Dam as there is no security point to pass through) and then walked across taking in the stunning architecture and of course peering up and down the Colorado River canyon.
The Colorado gorge is breathtaking and just like other Arizona canyons that we experienced earlier in our trip, offers a real unique beauty unlike anything else we have seen on our travels around USA.
One of the most popular attractions in Northeast Arizona that is located in Page is Antelope Canyon. We originally had a tour booked but given the length of time it took to drive from the Grand Canyon, we had to cancel at the last minute.
However, thanks to Abbie Synan from Speck on the Globe, we can now see exactly what we missed as she shares her experiences of exploring the Upper and Lower canyons.
The Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons located in Page, Arizona are a unique set of slot canyons unlike any rock formations I’ve ever seen. The gradient of color is only made more dramatic as the day progresses, the light forces its way through the small openings above you and pours down in small beams. Sinuous, narrow dirt pathways create the perfect opportunity for shadow to cast on the smooth curved rock walls.
The Upper Canyon is more popular with tourist crowds, as it is the place where you can find those elusive light beams easier because of the larger gaps in the canyons top. The canyon entrance is accessible at ground level and the pathways are wider than the Lower Canyon.
Lower Canyon access is sets of steep stairs and the pathways are significantly narrower making it a little more challenging for the less fit and claustrophobic. There are several tour operators at each location, and since both natural wonders are found on reservation ground, a day pass on the property is required.
I’d recommend staying over night so you have the time to tackle both without feeling rushed, they offer two completely different perspectives.
Although we didn’t have time to visit Monument Valley, this is another of the iconic landmarks that makes Northeast Arizona such an attractive part of USA. Thanks to Gemma Orrock from Two Scots Abroad for providing her experience on visiting this gorgeous landscape.
Burnt orange, black sky and sparkling stars. That’s what first springs to mind when I think about Monument Valley, Arizona. Its no wonder that this place has been the backdrop for many cowboy and space films!
During my coast to coast trip around America, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sleep under the stars at Monument Valley with the Dene tribe, which you may known as the Navajo natives. We fell asleep after sunset and rose early to watch the sunrise.
Our guide, Carlos, answered all of our eager questions about weddings, education and the tribes views on life after death. He painted a realistic yet sad description of what life is like for the Dene tribe today.
Northeast Arizona is the perfect environment to explore a myriad of natural landscapes combined with the cultural experiences of mingling with the Navajo communities. When you have natural landmarks such as Horseshoe Bend and of course Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona this is always going to attract visitors.
We are both really looking forward to returning to this part of the Grand Canyon state again in the near future to hopefully uncover some more hidden gems.
Have you explored this part of the country? If so, what would you recommend visiting here?