I am just returning from a visit to the Grand Canyon. My first question when my husband said he wanted to make a detour from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon was, where do I go? IT IS SO BIG. To start you can visit either the West Rim, closer to Las Vegas. When you book a tour from Las Vegas, this is probably where they will take you.
On the West Rim you will be able to access the Skywalk, a bridge that goes forward inside the canyon. Since we were going in March, the North Rim was not open to visit. It is accessible only as of the month of May or June, according to the weather. So since we had a few days to enjoy the canyon we opted to visit the South Rim. A five hour drive from Las Vegas. Let me tell you that I had no idea, it was going to be so beautiful. Pictures or videos do not come close to demonstrate the vast beauty that awaits everyone.
We rented a hotel room in Tusayan, the last village before entering the Grand Canyon. Tusayan is more a series of hotels, motels and restaurant than an actual village. If I had known I would have paid a little extra and rented a hotel inside the canyon village. To enter the park there is a 30$ fee, good for 7 days. The money goes to maintain the park and all of the services. Inside the park, there is a great food market where you can buy all you need. The market is much better than the one in Tusayan. Many restaurant are available, some more expansive than others.
When I talk about service, well we were impressed. There are shuttle buses that take you all around the South Rim canyon. There is lots of free parking to leave your car. All you have to do is choose which route you wish to visit, which by the way, all give a wonderful view of the canyon. Several stops are available along each route and people get on and off the buse to admire the view. The bus schedule is really accurate, every 10 minutes, a bus comes alongs and it is your choice to get in and continue or to stay and enjoy the canyon.
Along the route, people can also opt to walk along the rim, to wherever they choose, for as long as they wish and then decide to jump on a bus at whatever bus stop they elect. We did the three route but also decided to trek inside the canyon. Best decision of all. We started with the South Kaibab Trail.
The South Kaibab Trail is accessed to the trailhead by shuttle bus (Kaibab Trail Route). Offers day hikes that range in distance up to 6 miles (round trip). Best views for a relatively short hike. Medium trail, no water, little shade. Water available seasonally at the trailhead. Upper portion of the trail may be extremely icy in winter or early spring. Apart from the first half kilometre there was no ice. The trail is extremely well maintained. Normally I have fear of height but the trail is large enough that I was able to enjoy every second of the hike.
The South Kaibab trail is the most popular trail. IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL. Words cannot express the beauty. To go down inside the belly of the canyon is a wonderful feeling of peace, joy and awe. Although the trail is graded as strenuous, I found that almost anyone can do it. You can opt to return at any time, and whatever a person may be able to do, it is worth it.
The second trail we did was Bright Angel Trail. The Bright Angel Trail begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge and offers day hikes that range in distance up to 12 miles (round trip). Some shade. Seasonal water subject to pipeline breaks. Check at the Visitor Center or Backcountry Information Center for water status. Upper portion of the trail may be extremely icy in winter or early spring.
This trail in march is more demanding, due to the icy condition. We did it without crampons, MISTAKE, MISTAKE! Conditions were icy for about 1.5 mile. Crampons cost a few dollars. They are worth it. So if anyone goes in winter, bring or buy crampons. Nevertheless, we managed to cross the ice, and afterwards it was simply amazing. This trail is alongside the mountain, but I did not find it scary at all. I was more scared to watch it from above. I almost did not do it because it seemed so dangerous. I am glad my husband talked me into it.
The previous night I had watched videos on youtube. The trail was well shown and I knew what to expect. We hiked two hours down and came back, although we could have continued several kilometres more, I was starting to feel tired and I am glad we decided to turn back. It was enough for me. Also, when half your water is gone, head back.
Personally, I preferred the South Kabad Trail. The view is larger, wider and further. If you have time for only one trail, I would recommend the South Kabad Trail. For those that are fit, you can go down one trail and come up the other. We met someone who did it in 9 hours. He was really really exhausted. His legs were shaking and he was pale. Every year hundreds of people are evacuated by helicopter in the canyon. WHY, they overdo it. Not enough water. Like us, no adequate shoes. People underestimate how hot it gets inside the canyon. Or how cold it can get when it rains and at night. Rule of thumbs, listen to your body and respect the environment. Read the guidelines before going down the canyon.
Do to a lack of parking and areas that you cannot drive to, shuttles are the way to go through the park. The shuttles are free to ride. You can get on and off the shuttles as you wish. They run every few minutes, so don't worry about missing one.
The park paper you get at the entrance has the best map of this. If you need to park to get on a shuttle, go to Grand Canyon Visitor Center. You can catch the most shuttles from this point. Animals are not allowed on shuttles.
Hermits Rest to Village Route is a shuttle only area. The shuttle stops at each point on the way to Hermits Rest, but only stops at 3 places on the way back (Pima Point, Mohave Point, & Powell Point).
Hermits Rest to Grand Canyon Visitor Center shuttle does not have the same stops in the loop for east and west bound shuttles. Pay attention to which direction you need to go. Only at Shrine of the Ages and Market Place does the shuttle stop going both directions.
Yavapai Geology Museum to Yaki point meets the other shuttles at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. This is where you transfer on and off of the shuttles. It runs to the east side of the canyon.
Without any doubt this is one of the Great Natural Wonders of the World and it is so accessible. There are options to stay within the National Park and you can get around on the shuttle buses. I chose to stay in nearby Flagstaff which is about 90 minutes away by car using Highway 89. This route will take you into the canyon from the east. You can then follow route 64 heading west and stop off at various look out points before reaching Grand Canyon Village. After visting the Village you can then head back to Flagstaff via Highway 180. This can all be easily in a day.
"He fell wholly in love with this Timeless Wonder - this Grand Canyon - calling it “The Place for all time, “ and his wife knew it was true. Here he pursued his quest to live fully, and be forever learning, to grow in spirit.” Gravestone of M.W. Gustafson
This quiet, shady corner has a lot of stories to tell but not a lot of visitors. Here rest some of the earliest, non-indigenous settlers of the canyon, individuals who served the NPS or the military, who worked at the lodges, or who simply lived within the boundaries. They were range riders, trail builders and guides, blacksmiths, CCC workers, park rangers, scientists, senators, park superintendents, artists, teachers, Harvey Girls, miners, husbands, wives and children. Although not officially designated as a cemetery until 1924, the earliest recorded burials date to 1919. Among some of the notables interred or commemorated here are:
Capt. John Hance - first locator at the Grand Canyon, and first white settler. First person known to be buried on these grounds (1919)
William and Ida Bass - another first settler, Bill established Bass Camp, the stagecoach line from Williams, and first rim-to-rim trail across the canyon His ashes were scattered over Holy Grail Temple in the canyon.
Raymond Miner Tillotson - 17-year Superintendent of the Grand Canyon, 1922 - 1938
Glen E. Sturdevant - ranger and first park naturalist of the Grand Canyon, 1925 - 1929. Drowned in 1929 with ranger Fred Johnson while trying to cross the Colorado River. Ranger Johnson’s body was never recovered although a memorial was erected in this cemetery.
Dr. Edwin McKee - second ranger naturalist at the Grand Canyon, 1929 - 1940
Dr. KcKee fell for a pretty girl, Barbara, who was working on the North Rim, and often made the arduous hike both ways across the canyon to see her. They married in late 1929, and she is buried here as well.
Carol Anne Martin - one of the first women superintendents of a National Park (Tuzigoot National Monument)
Emery Kolb - famed pioneer photographer of the Grand Canyon, and resident for over 60 years.
Emery married a Harvey Girl, Blanche Bender, who is also buried here.
Ellsworth Kolb - author and photographer, brother of Emery
Ralph Henry Cameron -U.S. Senator and (fraudulent) claim holder of property within what is now Grand Canyon National Park including Bright Angel trailhead and Indian Garden, for which he collected user tolls. It’s ironic that he’s here as he was a fierce opponent of the Antiquities Act, and waged a long and bitter battle against the establishment of the park.
There is also a large memorial to the victims of the worst U.S. air disaster of its day: the 1956 mid-air collision of United Airlines and TWA aircraft over the canyon almost directly north of Desert View, killing all 128 passengers. Remains of 29 unidentified victims were interred here in four coffins, and the majority of the rest in a mass grave in Flagstaff. That disaster led to the formation of the FAA, and the (unrevealed) crash location was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2014. You can read more about the unfortunate event here:
Want your own plot? From the park website:
"To qualify for burial an individual must have lived at Grand Canyon for no less than three years or must have made a significant and substantial contribution to the development of, public knowledge about, understanding of or appreciation for Grand Canyon National Park."
If you are arriving via the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams, you’ll alight at the same depot as visitors over a century ago. The expansion of Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe service to the canyon in 1901 made getting here a whole heck of a lot easier, and the station was built in 1909-19010 to receive a growing number of tourists. The railroad also financed the construction of a large number of hotels and other facilities on the South Rim, including the El Tovar hotel which, conveniently enough, is very near where the railroad decided to place this station.
But just as tourism expanded at the canyon, so did the network of U.S. highways: by the 1950’s - 60’s the vast majority of visitors were driving their own vehicles to the park. The railroad discontinued all but freight service in 1968, and abandoned the line altogether in 1978. Rescued from demolition in 1988 by Max and Thelma Biegert, trains were again shuttling passengers between Williams and this station by the following year. The Biegards sold the operation to the park’s concessioner, Xanterra, in 2006.
It is an intentionally unassuming structure, built in what is best described as "National Park Rustic”, that is only one of three log-construction depots still in existence, and the only one where logs are more than just window dressing. It’s also the only train station inside a national park, and appears little changed from the days when ladies in hobble skirts and gentlemen in bowler hats lounged in the waiting room. Be sure and browse the photographs on the walls of some of the famous faces who have come through here!
Grand Canyon Depot is a designated National Historic Landmark, and we found it open for a peek around the hours trains arrive or depart so check the schedule at:
A formal description of the structure before the line was re-opened:
Located along the Rim Trail just east of the main lodge areas and Grand Canyon Railway train station, this little store provides a number of books and maps that are useful for those wishing to tour the Grand Canyon area. The museum provides a number of historical items and a timeline of the development of the canyon.
At one time, this building was the home of a privately operating concessions shop, which had been doing business on the rim of the Canyon since 1898 (and continuously in this very building since 1906).
Grand Canyon Village is not just a location for tourists, but there are a fair number of people who live here as their place of employment is at the Grand Canyon. It takes quite a lot of people to support the various operations going on here.
Therefore, it should be no surprise that there are also various worship services that occur here, and a number of those services occur within the building known as "Shrine of the Ages".
There are also a number of evening ranger programs that occur in this building.
The bulletin board outside the Shrine of the Ages gives the timetable of events, including ranger presentations and worship services for those conducting worhsip in the building.
The building is actually fairly good sized, but it is proportioned well and hidden well within the trees, so that unlike many of the buildings in the park of equivalent size it would be very easy to walk right past it without noticing.
Running from the Pipe Creek Vista west all the way to Hermit's Rest (approximately 11.5 miles, or 19 km), the south rim trail leads to a number of viewpoints and other points of interest along the rim of the Canyon.
In areas near the Grand Canyon Village and other major points of interest, there are railings or fences to keep people away from the edge of the Canyon. However, further away from these major points of interest, you will find that there is nothing much preventing visitors from throwing themselves over the canyon edge, if they so desire. Keep in mind that the edge of the canyon is unstable in a number of locations, so you probably don't want to venture too far into areas where the trail isn't officially located. There's a reason they avoided putting the trail on certain rock outcroppings!
Restrooms are available along the length of the trail at major points, but this does not include the Pipe Creek Viewpoint at the eastern end of the trail.
Shuttle buses operate on routes that parallel the Rim Trail. While no one bus will take you the entire length of the trail, it is possible to travel its length by transferring at two transit centers where the bus routes intersect.
Much of the trail is paved and may be used by wheelchair users. However, in some locations the trail is only dirt (particularly on the west side of Grand Canyon Village, such as between the points named as "Maricopa Point" and "Monument Creek Vista". There are other places where the trail has a gravel section that is only suitable for walking, but there is a paved branch trail that is not as steep or narrow that can be traversed by wheelchairs.
There is no significant elevation gain over the length of the trail, but the altitude may have a huge effect on walking speed. Read the various cautions issued by the Park Service, as there are places here that don't give a lot of room for error.
The little village of Tusayan is about 6 miles south of the Grand Canyon Village and only 1 mile from the National Park entrance. It contains several private hotels, a few restaurants, grocery stores, souvernir shops and even a small airport.
The small airport is available to private aircrafts and has some commercial flights into the larger airports of Flagstaff, Phoenix or Las Vegas. But most of all it services by air tour companies, which was our purpose of visiting this airport.
We were supposed to leave at 16:00u for our scenic flight, but we had some delay. We were already checked-in and were waiting near the runway for our plane to arrive. Just to kill time we walked around and saw some nice old planes, it was like an open-air museum. I guess we had our own personal tour!
07:00 - 19:00u, every day.
At the Southern Rim, if you keep driving west from the Visitor's Center along Hermit Road, you will pass through many incredible look out points - Maricopa Point, Powell Point, Hopi Point, Mohave Point, The Abyss and Pima Point before finally reaching Hermit's Rest.
Hermit's Rest is the begiinning of the tough Hermit Trail. Did not have time to do the trail. But the stone structure is an interesting stop.
Note: The Hermit Road is closed to private vehicles from mid-March to mid-October due to the crowds. Use park shuttle instead.
If it is your first trip to Grand Canyon, choose Southern Rim. Though more crowded, it is more accessible from the Interstate Highway, have more available facilities and services and have greater range of vistas.
Besides the Visitor's Center, there are two museums Yavapai Museum and Tusayan Museum.
If you have time, you can go trekking the Bright Angle Trail, all the way or part of the way.
I don't know what this photo shows, except that I know it was taken from the South Rim, because it was so late in the season that we visited that the North Rim wasn't open.
If anyone knows what this is a picture of, I'd appreciate knowing.