Take A Vacation To The Grand Canyon
A vacation travel guide to the Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world.
The Grand Canyon must be seen to be truly appreciated. Photos and descriptions hardly do justice to the vast, multi-colored canyon walls sculpted from the earth over the millennia by the mighty Colorado River. The canyon is a geologic museum of epic proportons, where nearly half of the earth's 4.6 billion-year history is displayed. It's a place all Americans should see at least once in their lives and a place to hope to visit again soon.
Perhaps the Poet Carl Sandburg said it best, "There goes God with an army of banners."
There are two primary ways to visit the Grand Canyon, either at the North Rim or the South Rim. Overall, the north rim receives less visitors, partly because it's only open from mid-May to mid-October due to its higher elevation.
The south rim on the other hand, is open year round and has the most lodges, restaurants and amenities. In addition, the south rim has much easier access from Phoenix or Flagstaff. At the South rim, we stopped at the Visitors Center to pick up literature which included helpful maps and listings of daily activities.
We drove to the canyon from Phoenix, but stopped along the route for two nights in Sedona to savor the red rocks. Directly from Phoenix, the drive to the canyon (south rim) takes about 4 to 5 hours.
One popular lodge at the South rim is the El Tovar Hotel, built in 1905 of native stone and Oregon pine in the style of European hunting lodges. Years ago the famous Harvey Girls, outfitted in prim black dresses with white collars and aprons used to set the standard for genteel hospitality here. An exhibit in the El Tovar commemorates the early days of tourism in the canyon.
The Bright Angel Lodge is another good option. Besides the main building, Bright Angel includes individual cabins perched on the rim. Our cabin had a fantastic rim view and for $100 per night, I considered it an excellent value. Although rustic by some standards, they do have TV, telephone and full bath, but no air conditioning.
Mule trips into the canyon are a perennial favorite, however you should expect to make reservations months in advance. For a mule trip you must be over 4' 7' tall and weigh under 200 pounds. Other options include: horse rides, smooth water and white water raft trips, as well as bus trips.
If you prefer to go at your own leisurely pace, as I did, follow a portion of the rim trail, a gently-sloping, paved sidewalk, which hugs the canyon rim from Yavapai Point to Maricopa Point. This trail is recommended for adults hiking with children. Along the way you can stop at Hopi House, Lookout Studio and Kolb Studio for souvenirs. Great photo spots can be found all along this route, but especially in the vicinity of Lookout Studio. Our cabin was very close to Lookout Studio.
If you choose to go into the canyon, remember for every hour you go down, it takes two hours to come back up. Any trip into the canyon is rated strenuous to very strenuous, thus there are no "easy" hikes into the canyon itself. Plan to bring your own water and use common sense. Many unfortunate hikers have died at the canyon, from heatstroke and dehydration.
Sunrise and sunset are highlights of any day spent at the canyon. In fact, it's one of the few places you'll find hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people out of bed and roaming the trails at five in the morning, eagerly anticipating the sunrise! I can confirm, it's an inspirational way to begin or end a day.
Keep in mind, between 4-5 million people visit the canyon annually. Summer time parking could be your worst nightmare; 6000 cars and only about 1500 parking places! Spring or Fall might be the best times to avoid the crowds and carnival-like atmosphere. A shuttle bus service circulates around the lodges to alleviate the congestion.