The Grand Canyon, the only one of the seven natural wonders of the world that can be found in the United States. After seeing so many amazing Canyons and red rock formations these last few months, we were a little worried that we would be underwhelmed when we got to see the Grand Canyon. Upon entering the park, the lines are very long. Once you enter, the first stop is usually the visitor center which has limited parking considering the number of people that are there to visit. Visiting in March, the park was definitely not as busy as we heard it could be, but also the temperatures were fairly mild. At night, temperatures were in the 20s so if you intend on camping, make sure you pack enough to stay warm and bring your patience to deal with the crowds. Once you find parking, you can relax and enjoy the park. Like most parks, we would recommend going in early to avoid the lines.
The south rim of the canyon is the most visited section of the canyon. You are able to rent bikes to ride the road along the rim, there is a walkway you can walk, or you can shuttle from one point to another. We opted to walk to The Village, which is where the lodge and restaurant are located. It’s about a 7 mile walk from The Visitor Center and fairly easy and accessible. Near the visitor center, we saw several elk, and they we’ll come up pretty close to the walkway where people are. As you turn the corner and get your first glimpse of the canyon , it is anything but underwhelming. Though the formations were quite similar to what we had been seeing, the sheer size of the canyon is remarkable. There are several points along the way that you can stop and take in different views of the canyon. It's a nice walk so take your time and stop off for pictures and to take in the views at each point. Once in the village, definitely stop at the El Tolvar Restaurant. There may be a long wait since it’s the only restaurant and a train stops there for lunch as well, but it was worth the wait. The lunch menu has a small variety of options including some vegetarian options. We tried the Navajo Fry Bread Taco and the Prime Rib Sandwich and both were excellent. Make sure you save room for dessert as well because they have several options to satisfy your sweet tooth!
There are several elk, rock squirrels, and mule deer in this area too. The shuttles actually had to stop a few times for herds of animals crossing the road. From The Village area, hop the bus towards Herman’s rest. You are able to walk this section, but it’s about another three miles. Bikes are not allowed in this section at all, but if you decided to rent bikes, you are able to put the bike on the shuttle. There are approximately 7 stops along the way but Hopi he is one of the most popular for watching the sunset.
Depending on the time, the bus drivers May recommend getting off at one of the first couple of stops to ensure you will be able to catch a shuttle back to the visitors center, unless you want to walk the nine miles back. We explored around the Hopi stop and then walked to the Powell stop. From there, we were able to catch a shuttle back to the Village and then a transfer shuttle back to the visitor center where we watched the sun go down from. We enjoyed a beautiful but chilly sunset from one of the points behind the visitor center, and we didn’t have to worry about competing with hundreds of people for the few shuttles that come back after sunset.
There are a few campgrounds within the National Park, but the only one open during the season was Mather Campground. We were fortunate enough to find one night to stay. The campgrounds are only a few minutes from the canyon and the sites are small, but nice. If you are unable to find camping in the park, or don't want to camp, there are BLM sites available in the Coconino National Forest and on the way in there were some lodges in the town of Tusayan. There are also a few restaurants in this town as well, which is about 15 minutes from the campground.
If you are planning a trip to the canyon, one day is plenty of time to see the South Rim within the park. There are a few hikes that you can take, and you can hire a company to take you down into the canyon with mules, as well as several other outdoor activities in the area that could keep you busy for a few days, but if you are short on time or just want to experience the canyon, one day is all you need.
As we left the next morning, headed towards Lake Powell, our GPS took us East on a road that was marked Scenic Drive when we had entered. The Drive East out of the park had spectacular views of the canyon and as we exited we saw the side gate, which only had two Lane’s to enter as opposed to six or seven, but there was almost no line to get in over there. If you are able to enter from the east side of the park, we would recommend it. Either way, make sure that you take the scenic drive while you are there for more awe inspiring views of the canyon.
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