Our second day in south-western USA comprised quite a long journey from Phoenix up to Monument Valley - a distance of approximately 315 miles and taking about 5 hours to drive.
No road trip is complete without a decent breakfast and we found this at Matt's Big Breakfast in downtown Phoenix. While it may not look all that much from the outside and you could easily drive past and miss it, once you are inside, you can see why the streets outside are so quiet - because everybody is in here! If you come here, you can be sure to be given a good hearty breakfast made with great-tasting ingredients and all this food goes perfectly with unlimited coffee refills to set you up for the day.
Driving out of Phoenix heading northwards, you can notice the sudden transition from miles and miles of rocky mountains dotted with Saguaro cacti to dry scrub land completely devoid of these large cacti and instead dominated by tussocky grasses and low-growing bushes. Before you know it, you'll be entering Coconino National Forest which holds a great diversity of habitats ranging from dry, rocky deserts to mountainous pine forests.
We couldn't complete this journey without stopping at the beautiful town of Sedona to admire the famous red rocks; they were a spectacular sight! We visited the Red Rock State Park, a 286 acre nature reserve offering many hiking trails with fantastic views of the surrounding red rocks including the well-known Cathedral rock. These rock formations have formed over millions of years, beginning at a time when an ancient sea existed in the area before drying out and depositing a mixture of sediments forming layers that eventually settled into hard rock. Even now, these rocks are constantly changing, undergoing the processes of natural weathering and erosion.
The Sedona Red Rock State Park predominantly comprises desert habitat and scrub. In addition, there is a small creek that flows through the park providing another habitat and attracting additional plant and animal species. In this area you can hear a number of different birds singing in the trees and may be lucky enough to spot the curious Mule Deer peeking at you through the bushes, unmistakable with their oversized ears. There were also many signs indicating the presence of rattlesnakes in the park and, despite being constantly on the lookout, we were unsuccessful in finding these elusive creatures. We did however come across several Sonoran Whipsnakes in addition to the many lizards that were darting across the trails.
Leaving Sedona, our route also took us through Flagstaff, a popular base point for tourists visiting the nearby attractions including the Grand Canyon National Park, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona Snowbowl and the historic route 66. The city is fairly touristy and therefore has a selection of hotels and restaurants to choose from if you do decide to stay here, and is just under a 3 hour drive away from Monument Valley.
There is so much to see and do in Sedona and the surrounding area, I only wish we could have spent more time there! If you do get the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend spending at least a few full days there in order to fully appreciate it's beauty.