Recently a colleague of mine and her husband did a massive driving vacation from Portland, OR down to Las Vegas with some stops along the way. Two weeks in a car just the two of them.. she was very brave! She wrote reviews along the way and she graciously let me share one of hers on the Grand Canyon. I hope you find it full of good tips and ideas for when you visit!
Around five million people each year see the 1-mile-deep (1.6 km) Grand Canyon each year. The canyon is 277 river miles (446km) long, and up to 18 miles (29km) wide. Most visitors (90%) see Grand Canyon from the “South Rim” from overlooks accessed by free park shuttle buses or by their personal vehicles.
A much smaller number of people (10%) see the canyon from the North Rim of the park, which lies just 10 miles (16 km) across the canyon from the South Rim, (as the California condor flies) but is a 220 mile/ 354 km drive by car.
On our recent visit, we stayed at the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel, established in 1901, located in Williams, Arizona (a neat little nostalgic town) about 60 miles from the Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim. From there we rode into the Grand Canyon on the Grand Canyon Railway.
The railway offers 6 distinct classes of service from the Pullman Class to the Luxury Parlor/Luxury Dome Class. There are free shuttles that take you all along the rim but we opted to take a motor coach with a guide/driver to take us along the rim and tell us more history and show us those hidden spots. We only had about 3 hours to visit before our return train to the hotel so we were limited on our choices of sightseeing.
The south rim stretches about 32 miles from end to end with lots of things to see and do in between. We only got to see a small portion around the Village and three overlook points on our tour. All the views were amazing. There are several overlook points, trails, restaurants and lodging along the rim. The notable areas include Hermit’s Rest, Village, Market Plaza, Visitor Center and Desert View areas. There are lots of hiking trails, bicycle rentals and don’t forget the all so famous mule trips to the bottom. Camping is allowed in the canyon but check for rules and regulations before venturing into the canyon. For all other campers, they do have year-round camping areas with RV hookups (I hear are normally booked out a year in advance).
In order to visit the entire South Rim, we suggest staying at the Grand Canyon, at least overnight, at either one of the lodges or RV park on the property. The dynamics of the landscape change throughout the day and evening so it would definitely be worth hanging out as long as possible to see everything. There is so much to see, the views of the canyon are so incredible and you can even see rafters traveling down the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon (with binoculars of course).
The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year. There are lots of special activities planned throughout the year at several national parks. You can find out more by visiting www.nps.gov and to find out more information about the Grand Canyon you can visit www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm .