If you’re looking for a unique and adventurous way to explore the natural wonders of Arizona, then a vanlife trip might be just what you need. With a camper van you can travel at your own pace, sleep under the stars, and wake up to breathtaking views every day. In this blog post, I’ll take you on a journey from Saguaro National Park to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, sharing my experiences and tips along the way.
I have some experience in ownership and rental of camper vans and knew our triad would need plenty of space to sleep, shower & spread out when at our campsites so I opted for a van with two beds (one a pop-up), a shower & toilet along with a cook top and sink so we could cook most of our meals.
My friend group and I flew into Phoenix with an early morning arrival and picked up our van from Indie Campers who were located near the airport, had a helpful staff member who walked us through the features of our vehicle and then headed out of town for our four night adventure.
This park is home to thousands of giant saguaro cacti, which can grow up to 40 feet tall and live for over 200 years. Thanks to the winter rains, our April visit was met with gorgeous flower blossoms in the Sonoran Desert.
We spent the afternoon sunbathing at our scenic campsite then went into Tucson for some shopping. In the evening we took some scenic photographs during magic hour and caught sunset from Valley View Overlook.The next morning we hiked the short but scenic King Canyon Trail while admiring the cacti and ecology.
Tip: Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as the desert sun can be intense. Also, be respectful of the cacti and wildlife, and stay on designated trails. Wear footwear that will protect your feet from pricks, snacks & scorpions.
Grand Canyon National Park
From Saguaro National Park, we drove north to the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most famous natural wonders.
We spent the evening at Mather Campground which positioned us perfectly for our earl morning hike into the canyon. Wehiked into the canyon at sunrise with the plan to hike 17 miles but one of us wasn’t feeling up to the task so we turned back around midday. This allowed for a gentle ascent with several scenic stops at overlooks to take in the stunning vistas from all angles, which was a truly magical experience. We even saw some wildlife, including elk and mule deer.
Tip: Book your campsite or lodging in advance, as the Grand Canyon is a popular destination and can get crowded. Be sure to bring warm clothing, as the temperature can drop significantly at night and be sure to have water and food for your hikes. Also, check the shuttle bus schedule to maximize your exploration of the trails, visitor center & rim restaurants.
Our final stop was Sedona, a picturesque town surrounded by red rock formations and canyons. We ate dinner at the Secret Garden Cafe before disperse camping at a spot that sits about 15 minutes South of town.
After breakfast the next morning we did a four hour ATV then drove on the permit only Soldiers Path. We then visited the Boyton Canyon trail which is one of the vortex sites (believed to have spiritual energy). Before heading south to Phoenix we stopped at Local Juicery for some refreshments then heeded back south to position for an early morning flight out.
Tip: I recommend allowing for more time in Sedona if your schedule allows so you can soak up more of the art, spiritual culture & scenic topography. Be sure to carry lots of water and sun protection.
Cynthia is a recovering Travel Director turned TV host, creator of Her Drive Podcast, and lover of all things adventure, unicorns, van life, and wellness-focused. She can be found dining wherever octopus is on the menu.