If you have been following the blog for a while, you will know that the biggest disappointment of our trip thus far was having to cancel our Grand Canyon reservations in March due to snow. After this week, though, we are disappointed no more!
Returning to Arizona this fall was never in our plans. We had planned to stay further north, but once mid to late October hit, it started to get COLD! We both enjoy cooler temperatures and don’t like to be hot, but single digits are a little extreme. Temperatures that cold add a whole new level of complication to camping, so we made the decision to get south. Once we knew that we needed to head south, the idea of trying again to see the Grand Canyon emerged, but we were not optimistic that we would be able to get a site in Mather Campground. While we weren’t able to get in to one site for as long as we wanted to stay, we were able to piece together two different sites to allow us six nights in the park! The campground is really nice with some sites large enough to fit us and nice paved parking pads. There were also some resident elk who made their way through most mornings! Our only complaint is that the dump and fresh water fill station is the most poorly laid out facility we have ever used and doesn’t allow nearly enough space or facilities for the number of people who need to use them.
One thing about our visit to note: The North Rim of GC was only open for day use during our visit. The campground there was closed and it is a long drive from one rim to the other so we only visited the South Rim. We will have to check out the North Rim on a future visit!
We spent the few days leading up to our stay in Page, AZ so we entered Grand Canyon National Park from the east and our first view of the majestic canyon was from the Desert View area. Jeff had visited the Grand Canyon with his family when he was young, so he had an idea of what to expect, but this was Heather’s first visit. That first look was awe-inspiring! Of course, she has seen pictures and videos from other folks who have visited, but that can not even begin to capture the scale and vastness of this place! Of course, we will include pictures in this post to show some of what we enjoyed, but trust us when we say that the Grand Canyon is best seen in person!
One of the great things about the South Rim is the Rim Trail that runs 13 miles along the rim of the canyon from the South Kaibab Trailhead to Hermits Rest. For the most part, it is an easy walk with little elevation gain, and a good bit of the trail is paved. Don’t think that because it is easy, though, that it should be skipped. At least in this case, easy does not mean lack-luster; the views here are beyond spectacular! There is also a section of the trail called the Trail of Time that walks you through the history of the canyon and shows examples of the rocks that were formed during each timeframe. It is super interesting for anyone who is even the least bit interested in geology.
There is an overlook area of the park called Shoshone Point that you won’t find on any of the park maps they hand out. It is an area that is used for special events, especially weddings, but when there are no events scheduled it is open to the public. It is an easy two mile round trip hike to a rocky out-cropping allowing spectacular views of the canyon! There were also lots of elk along this trail!
It doesn’t seem right to go to the Grand Canyon without hiking a least a little below the rim. For this, there are two main options. There is the Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab Trail. Since Bright Angel is a little less steep and offers more shade, we opted to go with that one. We will be honest; we allowed ourselves to get intimidated by the numbers and decided to only go as far as Three-Mile Resthouse before turning around. That means we hiked three miles down into the canyon before turning around to hike three miles and 2,120 feet of elevation gain back up to the rim. That sounded like so much elevation gain already that we didn’t dare go further. Once we got back to the rim, though, we both agreed that it wasn’t nearly as bad as we expected and that we could have (and should have) gone to at least the next stop at Havasupai Gardens. We will know for next time! Regardless, it was a fantastic hike! Seeing the canyon from another perspective was great and we also saw some bighorn sheep, the famous pack mules returning from a supply run to Phantom Ranch, and 312 million year old reptile fossil tracks! Not a bad day!
While we were visiting, the road between the Bright Angel Trailhead and Hermits Rest (Hermit Road) was closed to personal vehicles. To access this area of the park, you can take a free park shuttle, walk, or bike. This seemed like the perfect time to put the the trusty e-bikes to use! Hermit Road is another great area along the rim of the canyon with multiple overlooks and interpretive signs. It is only a seven mile stretch of road, so we thought a half day would be plenty to see it all, but we underestimated the amount of time we would want to spend at each overlook. We should have planned a whole day to explore the area so we wouldn’t have been rushed. The changing perspective offered different and interesting views at each overlook!
As usual, we feel like we only scratched the surface of this park. We would love to do some further hiking into the canyon on both the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails, we would enjoy doing some more bike riding, explore the village, and of course, visit the North Rim. There is no shortage of things to do on our next visit! For now, though, it is time to move on and see what the next adventure holds!
Until next time!