The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Day 1

We left our hotel around 8am and arrived at the park around 9am. I had already planned out where we would park, and luckily there were plenty of spaces. We got out and immediately walked over to the closest spot on the rim so we could get a view. Breathtaking at first sight (it was at Mather Point).

We walked along the rim for quite a while, taking in the views and taking a lot of pictures. Next we hiked down into the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. We went down to the 1.5 mile resthouse, so about a 3 mile round-trip. My mom and I did some practice hikes before this trip, but nothing with elevation comparable to hiking in and out of a canyon. She was a champ though!

While hiking down the trail we heard a bunch of rocks falling and saw a big horned sheep wandering around high above us. When we reached the 1.5 mile rest house we stopped to have a snack and a mule tour came by us. I think I’d be kind of afraid riding a mule on these trails! They are steep!

Hiking back up we took a lot of breaks. The trail was pretty crowded, as it’s the most popular trail for getting into the canyon. When we reached the top we were both hungry but there weren’t great food options (ideally you would probably pack a lunch for trips like this, but, being that we flew here we didn’t want to buy everything we needed to pack lunches).  We ended up just grabbing something quick - a hot dog for my mom and an unsalted, dry pretzel for me with no cheese. Not very satisfying, but, oh well! We hopped on a shuttle to get back towards where we parked.

Before our trip, I had booked us a sunset jeep tour through Grand Canyon Jeep Tours. We had to meet for that around 3pm, just outside the park. I wasn’t really sure what to expect for this, but I thought it would be a good option for seeing more of the park while being off of our feet (I was a little nervous that the whole trip would be more hiking/walking than my mom might enjoy). We were both pleasantly surprised with our jeep tour!

There were only 4 other people on the tour with us- a young couple from Italy who were on their honeymoon, and an older couple from Pennsylvania. Our tour guide was Colleen, who happened to be born in Buafflo, NY. The “jeep” had the body of a pickup truck, with stadium seating in the back - I think it could hold 14 people. The truck cab had no glass in the back of it, so we could talk to the driver and she had a microphone she was talking into to tell us facts about the area. The sides of the jeep were soft and were rolled up, so the back was pretty open. There were blankets in there for all of us to use, which we did!

We started off and drove through the Kaibab National Forest. The whole time we were driving, our guide talked about the area -- the town of Tusayan (right outside the park entrance), wildlife, history of the park, geology, what it’s like living there. I learned so much! This area only gets about 15 inches of precipitation a year, and it’s mostly from monsoon rains. You can also camp for free in the Kaibab National Forest, but not inside the park.

Eventually we made our way from the forest into the national park. We stopped at a number of lookouts for about 10 minutes at each one, and got out of the jeep to look around while the guide took pictures for us if we wanted, and told us more about the area (another thing I learned: there is a little village inside the canyon where people live and work. It’s the only place the US postal service still delivers by horse. Afterwards, I looked this up online and found this interesting article explaining it).

Our final stop of the tour was at Grandview Point. There were lots of people there to watch the sunset. We found a rock to sit on and covered up with some blankets (it got significantly cooler over the course of this 3 hours tour). The sunset was really beautiful. More than actually watching the sun set, we were watching the sunlight over the canyon change.

After the sunset, we piled back into the jeep. Our guide had put the sides of the jeep down and had the heat blasting so it was pretty warm and comfortable even though it was cold outside. While driving to get out of the park, all the traffic was stopped. Our guide said it was probably some wildlife in the road - and sure enough, a large male elk wandered by! It was huge, with really big antlers! Cool.

It was 6:45 by the time we got back to our car and we were starving. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant close to where the tour started. It was good. We drove the hour back to our hotel in Williams, and promptly went to bed.

 

Grand Canyon Day 2

We awoke and ate our muffins that we purchased at the grocery store the night before, packed up our stuff, and checked out of our hotel. We drove back to the Grand Canyon, and parked in a different spot so we could see different parts of the park.

The free shuttles the national parks offer are amazing. SO helpful. We decided we were going to walk out on the rim trail towards Hermit’s Rest, which was about 7 miles, and could jump on the shuttle at any of the 9 stops along the way if we felt like it.

We ended up walking pretty slowly because we kept taking pictures and were gawking at everything. I was shocked at how not-busy the park was. I had read so much about super long lines for parking and shuttles, I thought there would be crowds of people everywhere. Some places were busy, like the Bright Angel Lodge and trail, but on the rim trail we were often by ourselves. After a few miles, we hopped on the shuttle for 2 stops to save ourselves some time.

We walked the rest of the way to Hermit’s Rest, then took the shuttle back towards the Village. We transferred shuttles and went to the post office/market/general store area where we had lunch and got some souvenirs. We shuttled bussed back to the car, then drove towards the east side of the South Rim.

We stopped at the Desert View Watchtower, which is at the east end of the park, about 22 miles from the Visitor Center. You could climb inside this watchtower, which had really cool views. The tower itself was really cool too, with old pictograms inside. We got an ice cream cone at the little shop that was there, then headed out for our drive to Zion.

 

Overall Impressions

A very easy park to navigate. We obviously didn’t see EVERYTHING there, but with 2 full days I felt like we saw a really good amount of things. Of course you could keep walking along the rim and take in the views, but by the time we left I didn’t feel like we had really missed out on anything. 2 long, full days were sufficient to see a lot. Obviously if you wanted to hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon, you would want more time.

The rim trail, for the most part, is easy to walk on so it’s a nice way to be able to see great views without crowds and without having to tire yourself out too much. The binoculars I brought came in handy a few times - for viewing the mountain goat, for looking down into the canyon at bridges, and looking across the canyon at buildings on the North Rim.