1st National Park - The Grand Canyon
The long drive started from Albuquerque, New Mexico, about six hours to our base camp in Flagstaff. Once we crossed the Arizona border, the flat land turned into much bigger hills, and luscious green mountains. Once in Flagstaff the weather was delightful. Albuquerque in the middle of August was not surprisingly scorching hot. The breezy cool air in Flagstaff was refreshing, calm and quiet.
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, The Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River in Arizona.
Length: 277 miles
Max Depth: Over a mile (1,857 m)
Width: 4 to 18 miles (6.4 to 29 km)
We planned on doing a tour of several National Parks throughout the USA so it really made sense for us to buy the America the Beautiful Federal Lands Access Pass. It only costs $80 for the year. Highly recommend it even if you plan on just two or more National Parks. It can also save time when entering the park since there are quicker lanes for those with prepaid entrance fees.
August 14th, 2017
DAY 1 at the Grand Canyon
Our time was limited to two full days at the Park. We tried to make the most of our time. We started on the most popular side, the South Rim.
*Reminder: The main parking lots usually fill up by 10 am, get there early for a spot!*
We started our journey with the South Kaibab Trailhead. It was an easy walk and offered some wonderful draw dropping views. However, since it was a shorter easier walk, it was also very crowded. Definitely, try starting your day early to avoid the congestion. There is a 7 AM ranger-led hike into the canyon down the South Kaibab Trail. If you try it, remember to bring plenty of water for the hike.
After we finished that trail, we leisurely walked back towards the Visitor Center to stop for lunch. We brought own packed lunch, so I cannot speak much for the restaurants and eateries the park has to offer. After lunch, we started off towards the Yavapai Geology Musuem. It was a pretty hot day but thankfully there are places along the way where you can refill water bottles or purchase water.
August 15th, 2017
Day 2 at the Grand Canyon
We woke up early to make the two hour drive from Flagstaff. There are two routes one can take. I highly suggest taking the scenic route to the East entrance. You will end up driving along Route 85 and the breathtaking Desert View Drive. We chose to start off the day by watching the IMAX movie "Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets". It plays daily at the National Geographic Grand Canyon Visitor Center. The theater is located outside of the park in Tusayan. Do not get this confused with the main Grand Canyon Visitor Center that is actually inside the park. You can purchase tickets online here.
*Did you know: The condors were reintroduced to the Grand Canyon in 1996?
The movie was great! I learned a great deal about how the natural wonder was formed over hundreds of years. Since there are a couple different shuttles that connect the main stops throughout the park, we decided to leave our car parked at the IMAX theater. We knew that since it was later in the day, we were not likely to find any empty parking spots inside the park. Not a big deal, we caught the next shuttle, and headed for the opposite end of the South Rim, Hermits Rest.
Free shuttle buses:
1) Village (Blue) Route - In Service: Connects the Visitor Center with lodges, campground, and other facilities.
2) Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route - In Service: Fastest way get from the Visitor Center to canyon views.
3) Hermit Road (Red) Route - In Service March 1 through November 30. Outstanding scenic views along an historic road.
THINGS TO KNOW WHEN RIDING THE SHUTTLES
Buses come every 15 to 30 minutes
Routes interconnect but do not overlap
Stops are located approximately every mile on the 13 mile Rim Trail.
We only had about half a day left so we decided to hop on and off the shuttles to make better use of our time and make it all the way to Hermits Rest and back. Without a doubt this side has the best views. It was a also a bit less crowded which made it feel a bit more intimate. Although, how intimate can you really be with such a gigantic land mass?
August 16th, 2017
Day 3 at the Grand Canyon
It was our last day at the Canyon. This time we took a different route to the North Rim. Our destination was Horseshoe Bend. It is located in Page, Arizona. The turn off point for the trailhead is easy to miss so watch out for the sign. Look out for a big group of parked cars and tour buses and you will find the unpaved parking lot. The hike up to the overlook is a little less than a mile. The trail is mostly rock and sand so be sure to take sturdy shoes.
The hike isn't long but it was hot so make sure you bring along a water bottle. Once at the rim, although it is advised not to go to the very edge of the overlook, I had to in order to take my quintessential picture of the bend and the blue greenish Colorado River. This was by far my most memorable part of the entire trip. I walked to the very edge, sat with my feet hanging over the rim, in complete awe. The view lived up to the hype! This is a not to be missed part of the Grand Canyon experience.
Want to go into the canyon but not sure if you can make it on foot? Take alternate transportation. Mule rides are offered year round from the South Rim and May 15th to October 15th from the North Rim. Be sure to book in advance since the spots can fill up as early as 13 months in advance.
Check with the National Park Service for additional information and latest weather updates and alerts.
Take a drive out to Desert View Point - there is a Watchtower that is 70 ft. tall (21.5 m) and has a fantastic panoramic view. The climb to the top is 85 steps.
Yavapai Point is a great way to see deep into the inner Canyon and the Colorado River.
A great place to see the sunset is Mather Point. You can see the rock pinnacles called Vishnu Temple and Temple of Zoroaster.
Plan your unforgettable trip and see the amazing views of the Canyon!