Phoenix (Tempe) and the perfect daytrip to Tuscon.
January 23-26, 2020
I needed a short getaway with some sun so using my only flight booking tips, I found a flight from Vancouver to Phoenix return for $250 (Cdn.)
Below are my top tips for a short trip to Phoenix:
– if you want a younger, trendier, more down to earth area, consider staying in Tempe. The Mill st. downtown strip has all the shops and restaurants you want in a downtown core, without the grimey parts of a large city downtown. Staying in Tempe allowed us to walk to almost everything, including Papago park, the arts center along the waterfront, and the LRT station which provides easy access to downtown Phoenix. If you aren’t planning to rent a car, Tempe is where you want to stay.
– as an alternative, Scottsdale is a pretty tourist friendly area but does require you do have a rental car.
– downtown Phoenix doesn’t offer much however there is a funky artsy area along Grand ave. and some great vegan food options along 7th st.
– although there are some great hikes in and around Phoenix, consider getting out of the city for a day or two. There are some beautiful national parks a short drive away (Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree) as well as amazing red rock hikes near Sedona, or as you’ll read below, an epic hiking area near Tuscon.
– the Phoenix area is a very spiritual area, even moreso if you go north to Sedona. If you are wanting to try plant medicines, this might be the spot to find a ceremony. Since they aren’t all entirely legal, it may require some networking.
– there are a ridiculously high number of stray and adoptable dogs and cats. We found two beautiful stray dogs on our visit and stopped at the shelter where there were over 100 beautiful, healthy, adoptable dogs and cats available. Consider saving a life and bringing one home with you.
– sadly Phoenix has even less regard for other animal species and has two animal prisons. A zoo and an aquarium. Please do not support these cruel places that confine non native species into tiny cages. When we were at Papago park we could see some of the zoo animals sadly pacing back and forth in their small cages. Instead, consider getting out into nature and visiting some of the local wildlife in their habitat.
– maybe it’s because I ate at vegan restaurants but I found eating out and drinking in Phoenix to be incredibly expensive. Like Manhattan expensive. There are deals to be found, but sadly not at any of the vegan spots (still worth it).
– although I didn’t get out for too much nightlife on this particular trip, Phoenix does have many options from concerts, to clubs, to craft beer. Shout out to Pedal Haus for their vegan menu and solid craft beer options – I pretty much went straight here my first night in town and plan on returning.
– if you are planning to do a few hikes, look into the National Park annual pass. In addition to access to the major national parks, I was pleasantly surprised to find it would give us access to the Subino Canyon Recreation area.
There are so many daytrip options from Phoenix. Since I had visited the Sedona area on a previous trip, I opted to head down to the Tuscon area for a day trip. This blog will focus on that perfect daytrip from Phoenix to Sabino Canyon park.
We left Tempe for the 1.5 hour drive to Tuscon with a plan to pick up some vegan donuts before heading to a hike at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in Coronado National Forest. I had noticed on Happy Cow that there was an Irene’s Holy Donuts in Tuscon. I remember this place fondly from my pre-vegan trip to Hawaii.
When we arrived at Irene’s Holy Donuts I nearly died when I saw cinnamon buns in the vegan case!!! If you take one tip from this blog, let it be that you need to go here and get a cinnamon bun! I remembered these as the BEST cinnamon buns I had ever had before turning vegan but didn’t realize there would be a vegan option!
We snagged a healthy snack option at the food coop nearby and set out for the 8 mile hike to 7 falls in Sabino Canyon. This was rated a top hike by several sites so we decided it would be a good half day option.
We arrived and were waved through after flashing my National Park pass (which waives the $8 entry fee – do not forget to put it on the dash of your car) and set out to follow the Bear Creek trail to 7 Falls.
We came across a couple who were heading the same direction as us and pointed out there were no longer signs to the trail.
We were lost.
We turned around and went back to the visitor centre, refilled our water bottles, and grabbed a trail map.
We knew we were on the right trail when we hit the first water crossing. I carefully took off my shoes and socks and waded across. I would do this eight more times before starting the switch backs up to the waterfall, delaying our hike considerably.
After the water crossing were some fairly easy switch backs before we arrived at 7 falls. Yes, it was just as spectacular as we had imagined, maybe even better.
We hung out at the falls for quite awhile, taking some stunning photos and soaking in the view before heading back.
At this point, I gave up on keeping my feet dry so trudged through each water crossing with my shoes and socks on. And seriously regretted not buying the Vessi waterproof shoes I had looked at the week before.
We ended the hike at sunset, watching the sun disappear behind the mountains with the red/orange/purple sky lighting up behind each cactus plant. Below are some essential tips for doing the 7 falls hike:
– pack lots of water. I mean lots. Even in January. I would suggest 1.5 – 2 litres for each person at a minimum.
– follow the trail map and signs carefully. There are so many trails in Sabino canyon, it is easy to get lost.
– there are no bathrooms on this trail. Do what you need to do in order to prepare for this.
– you will be crossing up to 18 water crossings, some higher than your knees. Consider wearing waterproof shoes such as Vessi brand shoes (bonus: they’re vegan!) or bringing an extra pair of shoes and socks as taking them off at each of the 18 crossings is rather time consuming.
– you may also consider bringing a walking stick since these crossings can have slippery rocks in the water.
– prepare for the weather. This is the desert meaning the temperature drops FAST as soon as it gets dark. We finished the hike at sunset but if we had been out any later we would have been pretty uncomfortable with our soaking wet shoes and pants in the cold desert night air.
– despite all of the above, this is a very easy hike. Even the switch backs were a very mild grade and not at all challenging. This is a great hike for anyone who can manage an 8 mile walk as there isn’t much altitude gain.
– this hike took us 4.5 hours after getting on the right track. Without stopping for 200 photos as we did (not an exaggeration) or taking off your shoes and socks at every water crossing, you could easily do this in under 4 hours.
We were tired and wet from our 12 mile hike (yeah I know, it was supposed to be 8 miles – that’s how off the trail we got) and were hungry for some authentic Mexican food.
We quickly looked on Google maps for a spot with good reviews and found ____
We walked in and saw a huge line (always a good sign), authentic Mexican people speaking Spanish behind the counter and the largest salsa bar I’d ever seen! As we waited in line and looked at the menu, we realized they did not have any vegan options and very few vegetarian options. I was pretty set on that salsa bar and they were more than accommodating in making me a vegan burrito with a few adjustments. Vegan friends, don’t shy away from this spot, the salsa bar is worth it.
With full bellies (and feet still soaking wet) we headed back on the 1.5 hour drive to Tempe after the absolute perfect day trip.
I found my 3 night trip to be the perfect amount of time to get in one solid day trip and explore the Phoenix/Tempe area with some local hiking, yoga, vegan eats, and even a spirit plant medicine ceremony.