It’s that time of the year again where I’m declaring there will be double posting per month. I can’t seem to keep up with the double postings for long, but we’ll see how I do this time around. I’ve already been on several trips this year, during the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, so I have a lot of material for the blog. Moving along with the West Coast adventures is…
Grand Canyon National Park, located in Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park is separated into the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim is open 24 hours a day year round whereas the North Rim is only open from May 15th to October 15th each year. Admission to Grand Canyon National Park is $15 per person or $30 per vehicle. The admission fee includes access to both the South Rim and the North Rim, and is valid for seven days. (The NPS has an annual pass for $80 that grants access to various NPS sites if you plan to visit a lot of parks for the year.) The South Rim has two visitor centers: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, which is open from 9am to 7pm, and Verkamp’s Visitor Center, open from 8am to 8pm. The North Rim Visitor Center is open from 8am to 6pm. The South Rim is accessible via car, bus, shuttle or railroad, whereas the North Rim can be reached by car or shuttle only. Regardless of which form of transportation, expect to take at least 1 hour to get to the park or more if you’re coming from further away. Grand Canyon National Park covers a lot of land, however it’s possible to visit a few of the lookout points in a couple hours, but it can take a couple of days to hike down the canyon and back.
The Grand Canyon is majestic; pictures don’t do it justice, you just have to go yourself to see it in all its glory. I wasn’t able to make it to the North Rim during my visit, so this post will cover only the South Rim. The South Rim is the more popular side of the Grand Canyon, receiving about 90% of the visitors to the national park. One of the highly recommended things to do at the canyon is to watch sunrise or sunset (or both). The lookout at Hopi Point provides a great view of sunset and isn’t extremely crowded as it’s further away from the visitor centers. Mather Point lookout is quite popular for viewing sunrise and sunset as it is close to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. (However, a part of the canyon blocks the view during sunrise. You might want to try Yaki Point that lies a bit further east, so it probably offers a better sunrise view, but since I woke up late, I couldn’t make it there in time.) Regardless of where you choose to go to view either, go early as the lookouts are often crowded. Also make sure to dress appropriately, as the temperatures vary widely between the day and night. The lookout points are located relatively close to each other, so it’s possible to walk from one to the next. However, if you don’t want to walk, there are three free shuttle bus routes that connect all the lookout points to one another. For those who aren’t experienced hikers, but want something easy with nice views of the canyon, do the Rim Trail, which is a mostly paved trail with slight inclines. The total distance of the Rim Trail is about 13 miles, however the trail has conveniently placed shuttle bus stops so that one can start and end where they like. I only covered the distance from Grand Canyon Visitor Center to the Grand Canyon Village, which took about 1.5 hours and is about 2 miles. For others who are more experienced, the park offers 4 other trails to explore. In addition to hiking, there are ranger lead programs that visitors can attend free of charge. One can also ride a mule into the canyon, but you have to book early as the mule rides get filled up quickly. (Early as in a year in advance; check the NPS website for more information.)
Grand Canyon National Park has two visitor centers where one can get more information about whatever activities they wish to do. One can view a short 20 minute movie, Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder , at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center in addition to seeing various exhibits containing historic artifacts pertaining to the canyon. At the Verkamp’s Visitor Center, there are exhibits about the history of Grand Canyon Village; what it was like to live and work at the canyon.
Yavapai Geology Museum is located within the national park, so there is no additional admission fee. The museum is open from 8am to 8pm, and is most easily accessible via the Rim Trail or the orange shuttle bus. The small two room museum contains exhibits that explain the rock layer deposits of the canyon and how the Grand Canyon was form. The museum has a topographic model of the Grand Canyon that includes both the North and South Rim to demonstrate the vastness of the canyon. In addition to the exhibits, the museum offers a great view looking out across the canyon. It took about 30 minutes to view everything at the museum thoroughly, so others may take a little less time if they aren’t particularly interested in the subject matter.
My travel buddy and I spent about 2 days at Grand Canyon, which is sufficient as we got to see sunrise and sunset, did a bit of walking on the Rim Trail, and visited the Visitor Centers and the museum. How long one will spend is very dependent on what they want to do there, so plan ahead, but I recommend staying for sunset if you can; the canyon is a lot prettier during that time. Admission to the national park is pretty inexpensive, since it allows access for 7 consecutive days. Most people will probably enjoy a visit to the Grand Canyon, as it’s not something you see every day, and it’s definitely something to see in person. The Grand Canyon is a good trip idea for families with older children as there’s a bit of walking involved and lots of non-enclosed space, so safety might be a concern for younger children. Dress in multiple layers and wear your comfiest shoes to wander in one of the world’s greatest wonders at Grand Canyon National Park.