The Horizon Sun

The Best Summer Road Trips of 2018

Selina Fluty, Editor of Student Opinion

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As June 7 approaches, Horizon Honors students have an expanse of weeks without any plans, except maybe a vacation or two. There’ll be days of boredom, never leaving the house, and lots of fun, at least until summer assignments are due in a week. So, until procrastination catches up with you, take some time to check out some of Arizona’s most beautiful sites, all with the glory of the road trip.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, which attracts millions every year, is only a four hour drive away from Phoenix. The views are beautiful, and whatever hike you choose to take, whichever side you end up on, you’ll see something truly amazing. The drive up is beautiful, too, as hills and plains are ruptured by the massive canyon.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, there’s a portion of the canyon called Havasupai Canyon. Home to the Havasu people and an eight-mile hike into the canyon, reservations need to be made months in advance, and quickly. There are four waterfalls to explore, secret hikes, a cave hidden behind a waterfall, and a beautiful hike in the heart of Arizona’s greatest treasure. The quaint town that has been populated for potentially a millennia still uses donkey trains to get its supplies from the top of the canyon, and the village hardly touched by time is a nice break from the outside world. It takes some effort and training for at least a few months, but as someone who has hiked down there twice, it’s definitely worth it.

However, if you can’t hike seven miles, then hike another mile directly up the cliff face of the Grand Canyon; there’s a helicopter that comes and goes about every 30 minutes, but you have to be in line by 4 a.m. to get out by 1 p.m., and villagers and supplies get priority. I recommend just doing the training for the hike, taking frequent breaks, heading out early to keep out of the sun, and drinking lots of water in order to get out in a reasonable manner (about 3.5 hours both in and out of the canyon).

Flagstaff

If you’re going to be traveling this summer, take the two-and-a-half hour drive up to Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s cooler than the Sonoran Desert, and the ponderosa pines have a unique, reddish hue to their wood. Northern Arizona University calls this town home, and the colonial-style buildings lining the downtown streets are gorgeous photo backdrops. This place also gets lots of snow in the winter, so if you want to spend a day playing in the snow without having to shovel a driveway, rent out a cabin (they’re a little pricey, but worth it) and head on up to get your own snow day.

Sedona

The gorgeous red rocks that make Sedona a national treasure are on full display in this busy little town less than two hours away from Phoenix. The roads are poorly designed, so don’t expect to get anywhere too quickly, but the views are worth it. Take a drive up to the Oak Creek Canyon campgrounds and take a dive in the pools of Oak Creek. Although in the summer it’s almost as hot as Phoenix, its best moments are in the fall, where the changing leaves start to match the red of the earth behind them. If you want a scenic route home, take 89A to Cottonwood, and take lots of photos of the mountains in the distance that hide the pretty city of Jerome, which is a treasure in and of itself.

Jerome

An ex-mining town that lines the steep sides of the Black Hills, Jerome’s narrow, winding streets are lined with tons of mom-and-pop shops that carry a variety of items, from luxury kaleidoscopes to vintage clothing. This town is said to be haunted, and a variety of ghost tours are available to take and help you understand the rich history of this small town.

Prescott

Although Prescott isn’t my favorite town, it still belongs on this list as being a little over an hour away from Phoenix with some beautiful hikes and beautiful views. In the summer, it is hardly cooler than Phoenix, but the small-town feel and the temperate trees so uncommon in Phoenix make it worth visiting. The food scene here is great, with some killer pizza parlors and family-owned cafes that are worth the drive up. Winter and spring are the best seasons to visit, since the snow and the greenery add a certain charm to the place, but it’s worth checking out any time of the year.

Payson

It’s a small town, but it’s not so much the town but the hikes around it that really make this place such a good day trip. Watering holes and hikes litter the hillsides, and wineries (that serve things other than wine, so kids and those under 21 can grab something too) are not uncommon in the area. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, as the cooler temperatures here bring out lots of the fauna that aren’t so common in Phoenix.

Southern California

Okay. These drives are a bit longer, topping out at eight hours, but are they’re worth it. Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and any of the coastal regions of Southern California, lovingly called SoCal, are fantastic for vacations. My favorite of all of these SoCal cities is L.A., merely because there’s so much to do. Then again, the traffic and driving times are horrendous. Whether you’re heading to Disneyland or want to spend a relaxing day at a San Diego beach, be aware that the place is expensive, and that the roads are kind of crowded. But, then again, beaches, celebrities, and California weather—it’s worth it.

Las Vegas

As much as this place is a gambling city, there’s so many attractions that it’s a shame not to at least visit. From Food Network stars’ restaurants to the designer brands lining the halls of the massive hotels and casinos, Vegas has everything for everyone. The Strip (where all the hotels are) can be crowded and loaded with pickpockets, but the hotels like the Cosmopolitan, Caesars Palace, and the city-based hotels (New York, New York, Paris, etc.) are all filled to the brim with attractions for all ages. Be prepared for a six hour drive and a hectic atmosphere with a Southwestern treasure at the end.

This is just a short list of places near Arizona and driveable from Phoenix, and each of them has its own unique qualities. From Sedona to San Diego, Phoenix lies at the center of a beautiful region of the United States, and since we have all of summer to explore, go with family or friends to some brilliant views.

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News & Campus Life for the Students of Horizon Honors
The Best Summer Road Trips of 2018