Destinations: Sedona, Arizona
CONVERTING RENTAL VAN INTO DIY CAMPER VAN
In December 2017 we flew down to Arizona on some spare airline miles we had. Our plan was to fly into Phoenix, pick up our rental van, remove the seats, and turn the rented Chrysler Pacifica into a makeshift DIY camper van. The first step on our mission was to head to the local craft store to pickup some black construction paper and tape, with which we fastened up some DIY blackout window shades. Then we setup our backpacking air mattresses, sleeping bags, and our awesome Luminoodle light rope. Since we only brought carry on bags on the plane we couldn’t fit everything we needed to convert the van, so the last step was to stop and get some pillows, a little cooler, ice and some food. Once we finished all the prep work setting up and converting the rental van we headed north out of Phoenix. We weren’t sure where we were going to go, but after a little google searching en route we decided Sedona looked pretty cool and headed that direction.
Neither Laura or I had ever been to Sedona before, the only thing we knew about the place was what we found in our quick google search: rad red rocks, decent weather, hiking, etc. Our first day in Sedona we got in late so we drove through town, ate some food and then found some free camping on FR525 just outside town. We drove up FR525 in the dark and lot of the spots were already taken. After a few miles in on the road we found what looked like the best spot available. We parked the van and slept with coyotes howling around us all night. When I woke up in the morning I super stoked to discover that we had a front seat to some amazing red rocks views.
The first thing we did after waking up at our awesome free campsite in Sedona was to continue driving up FR525. We had seen a sign for some ruins when we drove in the night before and we figured we might as well check them out since we’re here. After a bumpy but passable drive up we parked at the end of road in the mostly empty parking lot for the Palatki Ruins. We walked up to the entrance area and were greeted by a forest ranger that informed us we would need to sign up for a free ranger guided tour of the ruins. Apparently, reservations are generally needed for this site as they only take groups of 10 or less at a time, but we got lucky and were able to hop right in a group.
The ranger/guide who took us up the short hike to ruins was pretty awesome. He had a deep knowledge of the area and a lot of interesting history to share with us about the ruins and the people who lived there. The ruins themselves aren’t huge, probably why they only take small groups as the area is relatively confined, and the steep terrain wouldn’t allow for huge group access. Overall, the ruins are pretty sweet, plus you get a free guided tour so it’s definitely worth a trip
HYATT RESIDENCE CLUB SEDONA, PINON POINTE
One of the wildest parts of our trip to Sedona is that after our first night sleeping in the van, we didn’t stay in it another night. All that work and we didn’t even sleep in the van?! Correct. After our first night in the van we were offered a free condo unit from a new friend we met along our travels. How did this insanely lucky occurrence happen to us? Well, she had a two unit condo she had booked for herself and a friend months ago. Her friend unfortunately (or fortunately?) was unable to make the trip and her reservation couldn’t be canceled. Shortly after she found out her friend was not going to make it, she coincidentally bumped into us and figured hey why not let these two weirdos sleeping in their van have my extra unit! We of course accepted the opportunity to stay in a 4 star resort and we loved every minute of it.
The Hyatt Residence Club Sedona, Piñon Pointe is located right in the heart of town. It’s a beautifully designed property with gorgeous view in every direction. It has pools, hot tubs, game rooms, fitness center and all the other amenities you would expect from a 4 star resort. It’s walking distance to a ton of place to eat and shop, and it includes parking which can be hard to find in town when it’s bustling. The studio unit was perfect and had everything we need, including a beautiful outdoor space to sit and drink my coffee with ridiculous red rock views. Overall, the experience was wonderful and I would highly recommend staying here.
DOE MOUNTAIN HIKE
The first actual hike we did in Sedona was the Doe Mountain Hike. We got to the parking lot about 2 hours before sundown so we could (hopefully) watch the sunset from up top. The trail is a 1.2 mile hike with a little under 500’ in elevation gain. The hike basically goes straight up from parking lot switching back a few times at a moderate gain. Realistically though once you get to the top of the plateau you can tack on an extra mile or two because you’re going to want to hike all around to check out all the different areas and the amazing views from every side. This hike is definitely worth it, and for how little effort it takes to get here you can’t beat it.
CATHEDRAL ROCK HIKE
We’re not morning people, sorry… It’s just the truth. Laura and I like to take our time in the morning, drink coffee, do yoga and go slow. Every now and again though we make an exception, and we will get up early for something really awesome. That really awesome something on this trip was a Cathedral Rock sunrise hike, and god damn was it beautiful!
We got to the parking lot just as the sun was coming up and headed straight for the trail head. Even though this is a very popular hike, we got lucky and there was only one or two other cars in the parking lot. We basically had the whole place to ourselves for most our time on the trail. The hike up to the top is pretty mellow, with only a few steeper areas that required a little scrambling. The views are never bad at any part of this hike, whether headed up the trail or chilling at the top there is panoramic views in every direction. I would definitely recommend this hike, as it is also very rewarding with only a little effort needed.
BRINS MESA HIKE
Of all the hikes we did the Brins Mesa Hike was my least favorite. Since the road into the trail head is only passable by high clearance vehicles, we had to park the van and walk in for a good chunk of the access road which added on a LOT of extra walking. Now, I should mention we knew we would have to walk in on the access road, and we had assumed we wouldn’t mind a little extra walking, but this wasn’t the case. After walking the extra distance to the actual trail head, we were already questioning our decision.
The trail itself was fine, nothing too steep or confusing. Also, nothing to write home about. The first third of the trail is mostly in a river bed and in the trees with not much for views. Once you get up onto the mesa the views open up more and you can see red rocks in all directions. At the end of the hike is a lookout point with views of Sedona and it is quite beautiful. Overall, I wouldn’t say the hike is bad, but as far awesomeness to effort ratio, I think you can get more bang for your buck on other hikes in the area.
LITTLE HORSE HIKE
The Little Horse Hike was the last hike we did in Sedona. It’s a 3 1/2 mile hike that’s pretty mellow with only 400 feet of elevation gain. We added on a little extra to this hike by hiking up the other side of the valley onto the cliffs for some rad yoga photos for Laura. The only bad part about this hike is that there is a 4x4 access road to the end of the hike where Jeep driving tour guides bring hoards of people who aren’t willing to hike in. If you’re cool with a few extra people hanging around, then this hike is worth checking out.