Off the Beaten Path: Northern Arizona

The thing about traveling (especially extensive traveling) is that it’s easy to get caught up in visiting a specific place or seeing a specific thing that you miss some really special things along the way. While I am a seasoned traveler, I still have to remind myself regularly to be open to the possibility of veering off the path I have planned. Being a good traveler is more than just following a guide book and sticking to an itinerary.

Last week I took a trip to Northern Arizona with a friend to visit Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. The drive from Phoenix is about 5 hours. We had originally planned to get to Horseshoe Bend to watch the sun go down, but traffic was thick and with about an hour left to get there we knew we weren’t going to make it before the sun went down. After a quick search on our phones we found that Coal Mine Canyon was only about 30 minutes out of our way.

Coal Mine Canyon, ArizonaCoal Mine Canyon sits right outside of a little town called Tuba City off of AZ-264. Although this canyon is absolutely beautiful it’s terribly hidden and very hard to find. Luckily, we found a wonderful website with perfect directions as to how to locate this hidden gem.

ArizonaNot only is the road to get to the canyon not paved, but it’s dirty, muddy, filled with pot holes and looks like it’s someone’s private land rather than a public canyon. There is no sign of any kind pointing towards the canyon or indicating it’s near; so we hesitantly drove my little SUV through an open field into what seemed like a bad situation.

Wild horses in Northern ArizonaOnce we got there we quickly realized our decision to veer off course was the right one. We had the entire canyon to ourselves and the views did not disappoint. Coal Mine Canyon, ArizonaAs we sat there taking in the scenery, we both couldn’t help but smile at the fact that this stop wasn’t in our plans at all. Our original plan merely fell through and we didn’t want to settle for checking into our hotel early and flipping through lame channels on the cable.

Coal Mine Canyon, ArizonaSeeing landmarks and going places is a special thing, but the best part about traveling is when the unexpected comes up and you stumble upon something you never planned on. Being a good traveler means not getting stuck in the mindset of going somewhere that you forget that getting there can actually be pretty special too.

Coal Mine Canyon, Arizona

Getting off the beaten path in Northern Arizona was one of my favorite things about our road trip. Abandoned canyons, wild horses, and an amazing sunset are just a few of the things we witnessed.

Have your travel plans fallen through? How did you handle it?


Where did you get your permit to access the rim? I know you need a permit but am not sure where to get one. Great pics!

Hi Megan, I didn’t need a permit for anything I visited mentioned in this post.

This is spot on. So glad we got to experience unlaid travel plans together!

Add Your Comment

Fine Print participates in select affiliate programs. This means that if you make a purchase through certain links on the site or any related social media platforms, may make a commission at no extra charge to you from that purchase. You can view our privacy policy here.