This summer, we had the amazing opportunity to visit Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon National Parks. A-maz-ing.
So far I have shared tips about all of the trip except the Grand Canyon. So, without further ado, let’s get started so you can make plans for your vacation to this amazing part of the world! Read from the beginning of this vacation blog series.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only toured by 10% of Grand Canyon visitors. But don’t let that discourage you as it is definitely worth the trip. Because of the significantly less people, it is a more relaxed and less stressful atmosphere than the populous South Rim. It offers a different view of the canyon as there are more trees creating a canopy of shade for a much cooler experience (image above). Snow closes the North Rim during the winter months.
Visiting the North Rim was a day-trip for us. Because it is off the beaten path, it can be quite a trek to get there. Traveling from Page, Arizona, it took us 2 hours one-way. Be sure to have plenty of food and gas as there are very few options between here and there. If you pack a lunch, there are plenty of places to have a picnic and enjoy the breathtaking views.
Once again, Sweet Pea saved us a little cash as 4th Graders and their families get into National Parks for free. We printed a form online and took it to the check-in station. This saved $30 per National Park. Sweet Pea had to be present to use the card and the rangers specially talked to her.
Bright Angel Point
If you are interested, several day hikes are available. We took the 1/2 mile-roundtrip path behind the Visitor’s Center to Bright Angel Point. While very short and a spectacular view, this hike is not for young children and those afraid of heights. On both sides of the 4-5′ wide, paved path are extreme drop offs. Made this momma crazy-nervous! But as you can see from the above image, the view is breath taking. We watched a storm role in.
We also drove the 11 miles from the Visitor’s Center to Point Imperial. It is the highest point on the North Rim and shows layers of red and black not visible at other points. There were several pull offs to enjoy the amazing views.
You will immediately see a difference when visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is the most visited and has many amenities including restaurants, cafeterias, stores, and lodging. It is open year around and is easily accessible from several large cities. There is even a train ride that you can take into the park. It is also more family-friendly with paved paths. Sadly, it is heavily commercialized, which for me took away from the experience.
Lodging and Meals
Trying to save money, we stayed in Grand Canyon Village just a few miles south of the National Park. Sadly, I don’t think we saved a penny as visiting the Grand Canyon is very expensive if you plan to stay overnight. We did our best to save where we could by making sandwiches, carrying water, and bringing our own snacks.
Of all the National Parks that we visited on this trip, this one appeared to be the easiest to camp at. There were several camping spots for trailers and tents. We felt the prices were pretty reasonable comparatively. Finding parking spots inside the park was never an issue.
One thing that we found interested about the Grand Canyon verses other parks is the amount of international travels. We heard so many dialects. Super cool. On the reverse it meant that when enjoying the pool at the hotel the expectations of dress and behavior were a little different than what we are used to in the States. Brought up some teachable moments with the kids.
Desert View Watchtower
The Desert View Watchtower provides a 360 degree view of the canyon and Colorado River. But because it is the first stop that visitors come to at the South Rim, it is very populated. While plenty of parking was available, it was hard to get up the narrow steps to the top of the tower (image above). Definitely worth the view, but wouldn’t be doable with a stroller.
While we didn’t hike the entire 12.8 mile trail, the Rim Trail is the easiest way to enjoy the Grand Canyon on foot. Following the rim, the trail is mostly flat and smooth. We walked between several of the lookout points along Hermit Road. Some of the path is paved. This trail gives you a continuous view and doesn’t go too close to the side. Praise Jesus!
Bright Angel Trail
As soon as you mention going to the Grand Canyon, people ask, “Did you hike to the bottom?”. Our answer was “Not this time.”
With our children being pretty young (6 1/2 – 12 years old) we knew that it wasn’t feasible to hike all the way down. Hopefully some day! But we did attempt a portion of the Bright Angel Trail to journey a ways down.
If you travel this trail, take lots of water and snacks. It is very steep and has multiple hairpin turns. You can see in the image above that you can also travel down the trail on mules. Since I struggled walking the narrow path with a drop off side, there wasn’t a chance I would raise myself 5′ higher in the air and ride a mule.
While we didn’t find the trail to be too difficult, we were disappointed that the view didn’t change even when being 1 1/2 miles down the trail. We would wait until we can go further down before doing this trail again.
As I stated in the first post in this series, “If I had to do it over again, we would have waited a couple of years for this trip so that we could enjoy more of the hikes without fear of the littles falling” off the edge!
Traveling Hermit Road on the shuttles was our favorite part of the visit because it wasn’t as busy as the Village portion of the park. With 8 viewpoints and the Rim trail connecting each point, there was ample amount of places to take in the beauty. What amazed us is that with each turn the canyon looked different.
Hermit Road is closed to private vehicles from March 1 to November 30 but a shuttle system is available. Thinking we would follow the same plans used in the other National Parks, we caught a shuttle and road to the end to begin our sightseeing journey. What we failed to understand is that the returning shuttles do not stop at each viewpoint making it impossible to jump from viewpoint to viewpoint as desired. Only the Westbound route stops at each point. Unfortunately, it meant more walking and missed stops. But we made it work.
And because we were traveling right beside it, we stopped on our way back to Las Vegas at the Hoover Dam. It was incredibly hot but we enjoyed walking along the dam. We found free parking by driving over the dam and parking in further lots.
Visiting Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon and other stops along the way was a trip of a lifetime. If you have the opportunity to do this trip with your family, I hope that these tips have been helpful and make your time taking in the beautiful creations of our amazing God even sweeter.
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