There really aren’t words to describe the feeling of awe and general amazement you experience as you gaze into the vast chasm that is the Grand Canyon for the very first time. The color, the size, the natural beauty….it doesn’t even look real.
- The Grand Canyon was formed by the Colorado river (by a river!)
- The Canyon itself is 18 miles wide and 277 miles long
- It may look like a barren land of just rock, but the truth is, there are approximately 91 species of mammals, 373 species of birds, 18 species of fish, and 58 species of reptiles and amphibians that call the Canyon home.
- Almost 5 million people a year visit the Canyon
When to go:
June – August is peak season, which means that campsites and lodging book up months in advance. It’s also really hot, which considering most of your time at the canyon will probably be spent walking or hiking, is something to take into consideration.
The South Rim is open year round, but Spring and Fall are considered the best times to visit because there are fewer crowds around the major viewing platforms and the weather is much more tolerable (and consistent).
The North Rim is only open Mid – May to Mid – October and roads there become much harder to access as the weather shifts.
The South Rim (where I visited):
The South rim is designed around the “Grand Canyon Village”, which boasts, various types of lodging, restaurants, art and artifact museums, souvenir shops, and plenty of stunning vantage points (for those who don’t want to hike the trails). The South Rim can be done in a day or over the course of a few days, depending on your itinerary.
Popular Vantage Points:
Sunrise from the observatory at Powell Point:
Sunset from somewhere between Desert View and Navajo Point:
*Warning: there are no easy trails in or out of the canyon. With the exception of the rim trail, which doesn’t descend into the canon, the trails are steep, and in some cases, quite narrow. A good rule of thumb is to hike down into the canyon for only a third of the time you’re planning to hike for the day because it will take you twice as long (and about 10x as much effort) to come back up. Also, wear layers. The temperature at the rim is much cooler than those you’ll experience as you descend into the canyon.
- The South Rim Trail is a relatively flat, paved path that runs 7.5 mile around, you guessed it, the rim of the canyon. The trail extends from the village area to Hermits Rest and offers a variety of lookout points and shuttle service along the way.
- The Bright Angel Trail is a well maintained trail that conforms to a fault, meaning it keeps to the back of the canyon for the first few miles, and offers day hikes that range in distance up to 12 miles. There is a moderate amount of shade, covered rest houses and, seasonally, running water (the pipes are shut off in the colder months).
- The South Kaibab Trail is a maintained dirt trail that follows a ridgeline and offers day hikes that range in distance up to 6 miles. This trail has very little shade and no water refill stations along the way. Also, there will be mules on this trail. Lookout points along the way include: Ooh-Aah point (at .9 miles), Cedar Ridge (at 1.5 miles) and Skeleton Point (at 3 miles).
Best lookout spot = Yaki Point. This picture doesn’t do it justice, but there’s a ledge that extends out into the canyon where it feels like you can see it in it’s entirety from end to end and where straight ahead it looks like the canyon just drops off the side of the earth. The shuttle wasn’t running to Yaki Point that day so we were the only 3 people up there for a while, which likely won’t be the case if/when you decide to go, but it was the perfect spot to sit, away from the road and the trails, to really just quietly reflect on this awesome place (and to take epic pics, of course.).
My cooking skills are usually limited to foods that call for less than 5 ingredients, require only a few steps and take no more than 20-30 minutes, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from campfire cooking. Turns out, there are a lot of things that can quickly and easily be cooked over the camp fire, including: bacon and eggs, tacos, spaghetti and meat sauce, grilled cheese (or any sandwich really) courtesy of a pie iron, hot dogs, smores (duh) and even coffee (thank god!).
We ended up logging 10+ miles each day we hiked, which don’t get me wrong was amazing, but also physically pretty brutal. My legs have never, ever, been that sore. I also used to think that waking up in the middle of the night with a charlie horse was a unique form of torture, but have you ever had a permanent charlie horse? No? Well, you will if you hike the canyon trails for 4 days straight like we did. Fair warning. Anyway, mother nature must have sensed my pain because one morning we woke up to 6 inches of snow outside our tent. Initially I was pretty bummed, but quickly realized that meant a much needed break for my legs (thanks, girl!)
Sidenote: You are in the desert, so the temperature at the canyon fluctuates from day to night, getting pretty chilly at night. During the day it got up into the 60s/70s, but every night it dropped back down into the 30s/40s. No joke, I went to bed every night with 2 layers of clothing on under the fuzziest sweatshirt I own (thank you Disneyland), a thick winter hat, high socks, a North Face puffer vest and soooo many blankets. The downside to going off season I guess, but for us, definitely worth missing a majority of the crowds. To each’s own though, just something to keep in mind.
SO, like I was saying, if you ever get caught in bad weather, or maybe you just need a break from all the hiking, you should keep the town of Flagstaff, AZ in mind. It’s a little over an hour drive from the canyon, but a great day trip if you’re looking to do something a little different. They have a multitude of coffee shops and breweries (which is where we spent the majority of our day), a variety of great shops and boutiques that create a cute small town main street vibe and an assortment of casual restaurants that offer everything from po’ boys to pizza.
Recommendations: Macy’s European Coffee House and Bakery, Mother Road Brewing Company, Lumberyard Brewing Company, Flagstaff Brewing Company, Historic Brewing Company + Bottle House, Old Town Shops (Includes 10 locally owned shops and restaurants), and Fratelli Pizza
And now for the best part…pictures! (from the Canyon Portion of the trip)