I love road trips with my parents because it means my dog Maddie gets to tag along and I don’t need to drive! Our itinerary is pretty specific to certain areas, but you can definitely consider pieces of our trip to add to your own. We did a 5 night, 6 days trip from LA area over to the greater Phoenix area, up to Sedona and Monument Valley, over west through Zion and made our last stop in Vegas. We always try to stay at a Hyatt Place hotel because they are pet friendly (no extra charge for ESAs) and it’s great value for the points.
Old Town Scottsdale
Old Town Scottsdale has a wild west feel to it. It’s a pretty touristy area whose shops all appear to sell similar knick knacks. It’s a cute place to wander around, but I felt like I was entering the same type of shops each time. The vibe is really laid back and still recommended to visit!
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro (pronounced sah-wah-roh) National Park is actually broken into East and West with Tucson in between. The drive between the two visitors centers is just under an hour. If I had to pick just one to go to, I felt the East side had more viewpoints, dog friendly walks, and better landscape backdrop. Maddie enjoyed her time in the sunshine, but we were lucky to have cloudy skies. I can only imagine how brutal the sun can be during a clear day. If you bring your pup with you, be sure to check her paws! Maddie got some burrs underneath her paws that I had to dig out. Recommended attractions: Desert Discovery Trail (West), Mica View Dirt Road (East), Cactus Forest Loop Road (East).
First stop, Devil’s Bridge Trail! This is the most popular hike in Sedona for its iconic arch that overlooks the valley. It’s about a 4 mile moderate hike with a vertical incline near the end, but it’s totally doable and there’s plenty of space to put your feet. We drove the 2 hours up from the Phoenix area and started on the hike around 10:30am. There are two trails you can take to Devil’s Bridge, both listed in AllTrails. We parked at Mescal lot and took the trail from Long Canyon Road, which proved to be the better choice as there was easy parking and the trail itself was really nice! I read that the other trail was more popular but it’s just a dusty road where 4×4 cars drive through.
After the hike, we grabbed some Mexican food and headed over to the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. This is a quaint area with a bunch of art galleries and artist shops. Everything here was a bit overpriced and definitely for wealthier people who collect art. Next up was visiting the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a famous church that’s built into the side of the rocky cliffs. There are great views of Sedona from the chapel.
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest is a pretty under-the-radar type of national park. There’s no shuttle system or fancy lodging for you to stay within the park itself. It’s really minimal, and it’s a real piece of history! In the middle of the desert, this national park was formed by trees that fell into a river 218 million years ago, and the internal plant material got replaced by sediments and minerals from the river. When the river dried out, the petrified logs were left there. So each chunk of petrified wood is super dense and heavy, and has a rainbow of colors due to the quartz and other minerals.
We came in from the northern entrance, and would have recommended coming in from the southern visitor’s center and working your way up north. There’s a short educational walk at the southern visitor’s center where you can read about the history of the park and also the biggest piece of petrified log is up for display.
Then as you drive along the single road in the park, you can stop by all 11 main attractions. Our favorite was the Blue Mesa, which featured a unique blue-ish hue among the undulating landscape, plus a 1 mile loop you can walk through the valley.
What was the the most anticipated part of this trip was actually the most disappointing. The scenic drive closes to visitors at 2pm (we arrived at 3pm), but they still want to collect $20 per vehicle if you just want to go to their visitors center. There’s an iconic view of Monument Valley just from the visitors center that I thought the place was just trying to make money off of. So we didn’t end up going in, as like many other vehicles who decided not to as well. If you decide to come here, be prepared to fork over $20 and arrive early. There’s the famous Forrest Gump point that I realized faces West, so if you come anytime in the afternoon, the sun will be directly in your face and you won’t get a good photo of Monument Valley.
Lessons learned: all the monuments face West, so plan to arrive early. Sunrise > Sunset.
Zion National Park
The drive into Zion coming from the east entrance was great and breathtaking going into the valley. But this national park is probably the least pet friendly one I’ve been to yet. Cars are not allowed along the road that leads into all the attractions and hikes – only shuttles, which aren’t pet friendly. There is only one trail just outside the visitor’s center, the Pa’rus Trail, that you can walk your dog, but it’s not shaded and generally quite boring. I will need to return to Zion without Maddie in the future!
Maybe this wasn’t THE MOST pet friendly road trip, but it was still enjoyable and Maddie had a great time regardless! I got to collect 3 more national park stamps in my booklet, and I look forward to more!