A photo essay by Jason S. Sullivan, 05-07-20
Arizona is my favorite place to vacation. Part of the appeal is the landscape. Some people like beaches, but I’ll take the canyons, deserts, and rugged landscape of Arizona over any tropical paradise.
In May 2019, my wife and I took our second vacation to Arizona. The first time in 2016 was terrific, but the second time was even better. I’m looking forward to the third time — even though we haven’t set a date yet. Our next trip will likely focus on the northern part of the state.
In 2019 we were there for seven days. We drove 850 miles across the state, visiting Tucson, Phoenix, Sedona, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon South Rim.
For the anniversary of the trip, I wanted to post some of my favorite photos. Unfortunately, I wasn’t into photography a year ago. So that means that many of the photos were your typical “vacation pictures” that are generally terrible. Tons of rookie mistakes! But I was able to salvage some of the photos. A few even turned out decent, especially after editing. (Even a “bad” picture of Arizona can still be awesome.)
I notice that I didn’t take tons of photos while we were there, yet I vividly remember many details and moments from this vacation. I was too busy enjoying myself and having fun. Vacation photos are a pleasant reminder of the trip, but memories often make better souvenirs.
Here are some of my favorites from the trip. Trust me, the scenery is much better in person! If you’ve never been to Arizona, you’re missing out!
Tucson is only about 60 miles from Mexico. It’s a beautiful part of the state, with a variety of scenic landscapes. Desert, canyons, forest, and mountains — it’s all here.
I took these photos in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, and Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway. I recommend doing all three of these if you’re in Tucson.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a nature area, botanical garden, and living museum all in one. It’s one thing to see the beauty of Arizona from your car or a distance. Here, the hiking trails are right in the midst of it. This is one of my favorite places in Tucson, and it’s a MUST DO for whenever I visit in the future.
Saguaro National Park is another scenic location that gets you up close to cactus and desert plants.
The Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway is a scenic drive. It starts at road-level, goes through the desert, climbs in elevation, goes through the forest, and then ends at the top of the mountain. There is a small town, Summerhaven, at the top with various restaurants and shops.
Known for its rock formations throughout the area, Sedona has tons of scenery. The rocks are almost unworldly. I’d never seen anything like it.
The first photo with the clouds is one of my favorites from the whole trip. I look at that photo, and it just immediately takes me right back to Sedona. That photo doesn’t have tons of editing, either. That’s how it looks in Sedona — and yes, the sky is very blue.
I could spend a whole vacation just in the Flagstaff area. It’s a fun combination of Americana, a small college town, and a picturesque mountain resort. In fact, the whole town has a mountain resort feel to it. You feel like you’re somewhere in Colorado instead of two hours north of Phoenix. On both of my trips to Arizona, there was still snow at the top of the mountains. I didn’t realize Arizona had mountains, and certainly didn’t expect to see snow!
Mountains and forests are the main attraction of Flagstaff, but check out the nearby Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monument. Both are unique and add to the allure of the Flagstaff area.
Grand Canyon (South Rim)
Last, but not least — The Grand Canyon. It’s understandably a bucket list item for many people. Seeing it in person gives a much different perspective. Photos often only show a portion of it, and it can be deceiving as to how deep and expansive it is.
My wife really likes the first photo. I admit it’s not terrible. The black and white aspect makes it look like another planet.
In the last photo, I swear the darker brown rocks (just to the right of the middle) look like a bear or a raccoon. And, in other places, the rocks look like skulls or skeletons. Only in Arizona!
And that is a small sample of natural beauty in Arizona. Indeed, it’s the most beautiful state I have visited. If you thought Arizona was just cactus and the Grand Canyon, you’d be surprised at the variety in the landscape.
My next trip to Arizona can’t get here soon enough. I expect that the photos — and memories — will be even better than the first two visits.