The Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is definitely a must-see place, is a bucket list destination for many – including me. No photos or videos can do the vastness of the view justice; it is one that simply has to be seen with your own eyes. And despite being able to tick it off our lists a couple of years ago, it was right there at the top of our list again for this road trip.
The Grand Canyon, South Rim.
We pitched our tent in Williams, about an hour south, for a couple of nights so we had a full day to explore the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We’d done our research and knew that the carparks would be full by around 10.30am, so made sure we were inside the National Park well before then, thinking that we’d use the bikes to ride along the rim, stopping off at the various viewpoints and points of interest along the way. When we got there (about 9.45am I think) the signs indicated that the first parking lots were already full, but it’s usually possible to squeeze a couple of motorbikes in somewhere so we headed to Lot 1 anyhow – and discovered it was mostly empty. I think people were heeding the warnings and heading to other areas to park. After parking up and having a gander at the leaflet handed to us at the entrance (always super useful in the Parks), we decided we’d make use of the included shuttle buses for the day instead.
No visit to the Grand Canyon would be complete without a photo standing close to the edge.
The visitor’s guides for National Parks always recommend you start with the Visitor’s Centre to get up to date information and to watch the introductory film. There is one for each of the National Parks, some are much better than others, and I have to say this one was particularly interesting. As an aside, we had stopped at the National Geographic Visitors Centre on the way to the park (it’s a handful of miles south of the entrance), but unless you want to pay to see an IMAX documentary about the National Park or buy Nat Geo merchandise it’s probably not worth bothering.
Stormy sky over (and in) the Grand Canyon.
The Shuttle Busses in the Grand Canyon National Park are split into four routes – blue, red, orange and purple. The blue route stays around the centre of the South Rim, the red route goes out to Hermit’s Point on the west, the orange one goes to Yaki Point in the east, and the purple route goes down into the nearby town so people can leave their cars at their hotel instead of driving in. They were frequent (every 10-15 minutes or less) and stopped at various viewpoints, points of interest, trail heads, campsites and amenities. Very usable. It’s worth noting that in the summer months you cannot drive to either Hermit’s Point or Yaki Point so the only way to see them is by using the provided transport – a good idea if you ask me, some other National Parks we visited have serious parking problems as people have to try and park their car in small and busy areas to see the best views. We were able to find a seat for most journeys, we stood for perhaps one or two stops.
The Colorado River way down there in the abyss. And to think all this was its fault.
The sky was particularly angry looking all day, and at times we thought we were within a few seconds of getting instantly soaked. The dark clouds hovered over and then in the Canyon, which certainly added to the drama of the place. On this occasion, though, the clouds did not break over us and there was no thunder and lightening to escape from – both a relief and a shame as I’m sure some fork lightening would look pretty awesome over the abyss.
Grateful we didn’t get wet.
We spent all day exploring the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, constantly being awestruck at the sight. One mile down to the Colorado River, which looked like a tiny slither of a stream from where we stood – actually over 400 feet wide and a deep and fast flowing force in places. It is so difficult to get a sense of scale, you just have to believe me when I say the cliffs are SO big and SO far apart.
Take a few moments to look and take it all in before you take your photographs. Your memory will thank you.
The Grand Canyon is a place, a view, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of. I am so pleased we made time to go and see it again, and spend a bit more time standing and looking. I will be back. Next time I would really love to hike down into the Canyon, possibly giving the rim to rim challenge a go, but more likely one of the shorter hikes to see the space from a completely different angle.
If you’re interested in doing a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon, check out this post.