Scenic alternatives to Arizona's most hard to visit places


Lately, we've seen a growing trend of travelers using vacation rental sites instead of booking with hotels. While some may have their highlights, there's also a lot of risks associated with places like Airbnb. Are you really ready to take a gamble on your vacation for a slightly better deal? Beyond just looking so much prettier, hotels provide higher quality services that most vacation rentals just can't compete with. We spoke to multiple travel agents on why else hotels and resorts are the safest way to go. 
Slide 1 of 40: Water flows from Mooney Falls, one of the waterfalls that draws tourists from the U.S. and elsewhere into Havasu Canyon.
Slide 2 of 40: Mooney Falls from above. Nov. 2, 2016
Slide 3 of 40: The trek down to Mooney Falls is challenging on Nov. 2, 2016.
Slide 4 of 40: Water flows from Mooney Falls, one of the the Havasupai waterfalls. The waterfall is 220 feet tall, higher than Niagra Falls.
Slide 5 of 40: HAVASU FALLS: Water flows from Havasu Falls, one of the Havasupai waterfalls that draw campers from around the world.
Slide 6 of 40: Reader photo - Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Reservation. Credit: Ken Ogrodowski, Peoria, kogrodowski@yahoo.com.
Slide 7 of 40: Campers walk near Havasu Falls, one of the Havasupai waterfalls. Permits are difficult to obtain, so if you're one of the lucky ones, be sure to take a selfie or two.
Slide 8 of 40: Aravaipa Canyon may be a lesser-known destination in Arizona, but it offers stunning scenery.
Slide 9 of 40: Water runs through Aravaipa Canyon all year.
Slide 10 of 40: The trail through Aravaipa Canyon crosses the creek several times.
Slide 11 of 40: Due to its fragile nature, The Wave hosts just 20 visitors a day.
Slide 12 of 40: The Wave, Vermilion Cliffs.
Slide 13 of 40: If you can't secure a permit to The Wave, White Pocket offers the same type of rocky landscape.
Slide 14 of 40: No permits are required to visit White Pocket in northeastern Arizona.
Slide 15 of 40: A rocky dome is reflected in the water at White Pocket.
Slide 16 of 40: Few people know the charms of White Pocket in northeastern Arizona.
Slide 17 of 40: A low sun brings out the colors in White Pocket.
Slide 18 of 40: White Pocket is difficult to get to but worth the effort.
Slide 19 of 40: Small cabins at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The accommodations are the bottom of the Grand Canyon are so popular, reservations are awarded by lottery.
Slide 20 of 40: Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, as seen in 1922.
Slide 21 of 40: The Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge offer unparalleled views of the canyon.
Slide 22 of 40: Visitors to the North Rim may camp or stay in one of the many cabins.
Slide 23 of 40: Pull up an Adirondack chair and enjoy the view from the patio of the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge.
Slide 24 of 40: The view from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a textured depth not found at the South Rim.
Slide 25 of 40: Visitors to Canyon de Chelly must hire a guide to tour the floor.
Slide 26 of 40: Those who hire guides can learn much of the history and culture of Canyon de Chelly.
Slide 27 of 40: Canyon de ChellyNational Monument is located in northern Arizona within the lands of the Navajo Nation.
Slide 28 of 40: The Canyon de Chelly National Monument is one of Arizona's lesser-visited gems.
Slide 29 of 40: Susan Allen, who is afraid of heights, looks down on Skywalk, January 17, 2018, at Grand Canyon West, Arizona.
Slide 30 of 40: Visitors have their photo taken, January 16, 2018, on Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, Arizona.
Slide 31 of 40: The view down from Skywalk, January 17, 2018, at Grand Canyon West, Arizona.
Slide 32 of 40: Leo Ajero cleans the glass, January 17, 2018, on Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, Arizona.
Slide 33 of 40: Visitors enjoy the view from Skywalk, January 16, 2018, at Grand Canyon West, Arizona.
Slide 34 of 40: Visitors enjoy the sunset from Horseshoe Bend near Page, Ariz. May 9, 2018.
Slide 35 of 40: The sun sets over the Colorado River at Horseshoe Bend in the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area near Page.
Slide 36 of 40: A woman offers a scenic pose on the edge of the Horseshoe Bend overlook, April 24, 2018 in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Slide 37 of 40: Tourists gather along the rim of Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, on April 24.
Slide 38 of 40: Visitors traipse up the path from the parking lot on April 24, 2018 at Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page
Slide 39 of 40: Johannes Vu takes in the view at Horseshoe Bend, April 11, 2018, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona. Some tourists are more daring than others when enjoying the overlook.
Slide 40 of 40: Visitors nap at Horseshoe Bend, April 11, 2018, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona.

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Havasupai waterfalls in Arizona

Havasu Falls

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Havasupai waterfalls in Arizona

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Exploring the Wave

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Arizona Sunsets

Glen Canyon Dam Colorado River Unnatural resource: The Grand Canyon’s twisted ecology defines a tamed river’s challenges

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You know a place is tough to get into when there’s a long line, a velvet rope and someone at the door with a clipboard.

Yet the most difficult places to visit in Arizona have none of that. Some don’t even have indoor plumbing. What they have are stunning views and extremely limited access.

Fortunately, you have alternatives. The backup sites may not be quite as spectacular as the originals, but it beats staying at home and moaning about life’s inherent unfairness, as you did when “Hamilton” came to town.

In fact, officials at the Arizona Office of Tourism urge visitors to explore those paths less taken, as some destinations are too popular for their own good.

“Those areas with a tough ticket to get into are over-loved,” said Scott Dunn, AOT’s senior director of content and communications. “And lesser-known locations are just as visually spectacular.”

Here are five Arizona destinations that are difficult to get into, with comparable alternatives.

1. Havasu Falls

Why it’s so popular: Hikers find a string of waterfalls along a creek running through the Grand Canyon, each plunging into a shimmering turquoise pool. The unique landscape draws travelers from all over the world.

Why it’s difficult to visit: Each February, the Havasupai Tribe opens reservations for campsites in one of the most wondrous places on Earth, and those precious reservations go quickly. Within hours, all that’s left are a few times in the less desirable winter season (November and the following February; campsites are closed December and January).

Alternative: Aravaipa Canyon

How it’s like Havasu Falls: Aravaipa is a lovely desert canyon with a creek that runs all year and a waterfall during the rainy season. Every now and then hikers might hear rocks fall from the ledges above, a sure sign that  coatimundi are about. The long-tailed, raccoon-like mammals are native to the canyon.

How it’s different: The 12-mile canyon isn’t nearly as deep or picturesque as Grand Canyon, and the water isn’t turquoise. It’s closer to Phoenix but there is a lonely remoteness to it, perfect if you want to get away from it all. With entrances at the east and west ends of the canyon, there’s no need to hike 10 miles in and more than 2,000 feet down, as you do with Havasu Falls.

Why it’s easier to visit: While just 50 people are allowed in each day, the demand isn’t nearly that of Havasu Falls. You may secure the required permit three months out. Weekends go quickly, but weekday permits often are available just a week or two in advance.

Details: www.blm.gov/visit/aravaipa-canyon-wilderness.

2. The Wave (Coyote Buttes North)

Why it’s so popular: The curved and flowing stone of The Wave looks as if freshly raked, something right out of a Japanese zen garden. Each swooping ridge curves elegantly along rock polished over eons by wind and water. It would seem impossible if you didn’t see it with your own eyes.

Why it’s difficult to visit: The 20 daily permits are issued by lottery, and there are hundreds of entrants each day. The cost is $7 per person per day. You must enter four months out, pick three days as options and pay a nonrefundable $5 lottery fee. The online calendar lets you know how many people have entered each day. Even the least popular days can have 500 or more people vying for a permit.

Alternative: White Pocket, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

How it’s like The Wave: Tucked in the far northeastern corner of Arizona, and in the same general vicinity of The Wave, White Pocket boasts an alien landscape. It’s as if a lake of bubbling stone was suddenly frozen in time, capturing cones and ridges of white rock. The floor seems to flow like hot wax, rippling across the landscape.

How it’s different: You won’t find the mesmerizing patterns that make The Wave so popular.  

Why it’s easier to visit: Permits are not required, but suitable transportation is. The road to White Pocket is rugged and you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle, preferably with four-wheel drive.

Details: www.blm.gov/visit/white-pocket-trailhead.

3. Phantom Ranch

Why it’s so popular: Phantom Ranch at the bottom of Grand Canyon has everything hikers appreciate after long hours on the trail: cold drinks, freshly prepared food and bunk houses with air conditioning. Add to that the convivial atmosphere generated by a shared experience and you have what may be the best place to stay in the national park.

Why it’s difficult to visit: The accommodations are remote, requiring a steep 7-mile hike. Demand for the bunk houses and cabins is so high that spaces are reserved a year in advance by lottery.

Alternative: Grand Canyon North Rim

How it’s like Phantom Ranch: The North Rim is remote compared to the much busier South Rim, requiring a six-hour drive from Phoenix as opposed to four hours to the South Rim. That’s one reason why the North Rim attracts less than a tenth of the visitors (500,000, compared to 6 million at the South Rim). The result is a more serene visit.

How it’s different: Grand Canyon Lodge is perched on the edge of the rim, offering a panoramic view of the lesser-visited side of the park. Whether enjoying a meal in the restaurant or relaxing in the lobby, you’ll enjoy expansive views. Better yet, head to the patio, pull up an Adirondack chair and enjoy sunrise or sunset.

Why it’s easier to visit: The hike to the lodge is considerably shorter – a few minutes from parking lot to front desk. The North Rim is only open May 15-Oct. 15. Reservations for rooms and cabins don’t require a lottery, but it’s best to book as early as possible (a year out is not uncommon).  

Details: www.grandcanyonforever.com.

4. Floor of Canyon de Chelly

Why it’s so popular: Sandstone cliffs, some more than 800 feet tall, burst from the canyon floor and rise straight up, almost as if carved to protect those who lived within the canyon. The area is home to dwellings that date back nearly 1,000 years. Families still live within the canyon’s confines, offering a peek at a rich culture.

Why it’s difficult to visit: It’s not all that problematic compared to the destinations previously mentioned, but visitors must arrange for a guide to take them into this scenic canyon on the Navajo Reservation. There are a dozen authorized guide companies, and costs generally range from $75 per person for group tours, or double that for private tours. Be sure to comparison shop to find the right tour for you.

Alternative: White House Trail, Canyon de Chelly

How it’s like the canyon floor: Same look and feel, but you’re limited to the trail to the White House Ruins, part of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The only self-guided trail in the canyon gradually descends 600 feet over about 1.3 miles, offering a great look of the canyon’s grandeur, especially when you reach the two-story structure.

How it’s different: The trail offers a small sample of the scenery and culture of Canyon de Chelly. And without a tour guide, you’ll learn nothing of the canyon’s history or significance to those who live in and near it.

Why it’s easier to visit: Canyon de Chelly is off the beaten path for tourists and the trail is moderately trafficked. No need for reservations or payment, simply park and walk. If you don’t even feel like walking, you may cruise the paved North- and South-Rim drives. Each offers several scenic overlooks.

Details: www.nps.gov/cach.

5. Grand Canyon Skywalk

Why it’s so popular: If you want to feel as if you’re dangling over the ledge, hundreds of feet above the canyon floor, this is the safest place to do it. Some visitors will feel as if they’re floating, others will hang onto the metal rails for dear life. Beauty (or terror) is in the eyes of the beholder.

Why it’s difficult to visit:Located at Grand Canyon West and operated by the Hualapai Tribe, the Skywalk’s remote location and relatively steep admission ($62 and up) may be a barrier to some.

Alternative: Horseshoe Bend

How it’s like the Skywalk: The ground drops away dramatically to reveal the Colorado River hundreds of feet below. The water bends in a tight curve around cliffs carved over eons by the processes of erosion. The result is a unique and picturesque formation popular with tourists.

How it’s different: A small viewing deck offers guard rails between visitors and the sheer drop, but the rest of the rim remains in its original, potentially dangerous state. Some approach the ledge cautiously for selfies, others sit on the edge with feet dangling hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. Either way, by very careful. People have fallen to their deaths.

Why it’s not as difficult to visit: Horseshoe Bend, just a short drive south of Page, is right off U.S. 89 and open daily. The parking lot recently was expanded and the city charges $10 per vehicle. Visitation is limited only by available parking spots. When the lot is full – and it may be on occasion during the busy summer travel season – you’ll have to try another time.

Details: horseshoebend.com.

Have any tips on relatively unknown, must-see destinations in Arizona? Reach the reporter at [email protected] or at 602-444-8773. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_Craven2.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Scenic alternatives to Arizona’s most hard to visit places

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