Even though it’s not the deepest, widest, or longest canyon in the world, the canyon in northwest Arizona is the one Grand Canyon.
And for good reason.
Seeing the Grand Canyon in the way we did during the first leg of our trip is a bit indescribable. But, as you might have guessed, we’re going to try and describe it anyway.
We wanted to explore as much of Grand Canyon National Park as usual during our stay, so we blocked out more time in this park than others before it (3.5 days in Great Sand Dunes, 2.5 days in Mesa Verde, 2.5 days in Petrified Forest). With five days in the Grand Canyon, we had more leeway with our planning. Here’s what we knew we wanted to do from our Googling and planning:
- Hit both the South and North Rims
- Venture down into the canyon for at least one night, preferably rim-to-rim
- Hit some of the “touristy” spots along the South Rim
With these in mind, we planned our trip around a rim-to-rim-to-rim hike into and out of the canyon, a 50-mile hike that would take us about 3.5 days to complete and require a difficultly-acquired backcountry permit. We’ll be posting all about this rim-to-rim-to-rim adventure in the next post. But long story short, here’s how our five days went:
- Day 1: Explore the South Rim, attend ranger programs
- Day 2: Begin backcountry hike: camp in the canyon at Cottonwood Campground
- Day 3: Hike out to the North Rim, explore the North Rim a bit
- Day 4: Hike from the North Rim to Bright Angel Campground
- Day 5: Finish hike: hike out to the South Rim
Through these five days of both typical tourism and exploration, we realized exactly what we wanted from our Grand Canyon trip: an up close and personal connection with the canyon. If you are also one of those people, read below about our five tips for finding that off-the-beaten-path peace and quiet.
The Grand Canyon is popular. We were told that its visitation has increased by 25% just this year. It might take a bit more work at times to find the solitude you are seeking, but it’s possible. And it’s definitely worth it.
How to get up close and personal at Grand Canyon National Park
1 – Hike down into the canyon. Although the Grand Canyon sees over 5 million annual visitors, less than 1% hike down into the canyon and stay for the night. If you want to escape the chaotic crowds at the rim’s overlooks, venture deep into the canyon for the day (or even overnight!) We took it to the extreme and hiked a rim-to-rim-to-rim hike from the South Rim to the North Rim and back, but day hikes from the rim are jaw-dropping as well. Read through the warnings, talk to a ranger, acquire the proper permits, and most importantly, know yourself and your abilities. If you want an even more remote hike and avoid the masses of day hikers along the top of Bright Angel Trail, shuttle over to the South Kaibab trail and start your hike from this equally-beautiful but much less frequently-visited trailhead. We caught a gorgeous sunrise from the beginning of the South Kaibab trail.
2 – Visit the North Rim. The difference of vibe from the South to the North Rim was insane! While the South Rim was zooish, with chaos and crowds at almost every overlook, the North Rim was much more chill. We walked up to Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim in the afternoon and saw about twenty visitors drinking beers on the deck, a relaxing sight you wouldn’t see at the more frantic South Rim.
3 – Bring your bike. At the least, you’ll be able to quickly scoot from one side of Grand Canyon Village to the other along the Greenway multi-use trail and avoid trying to find a parking spot. For an even more awesome adventure, head to the east side of the park. Bike the shuttle road (no private vehicles allowed) 7.8 miles to Hermit’s Rest, stopping at the eight overlooks. Relax on the shuttle back to the park.
4 – Attend a ranger program. This might seem like a way to ensure seeing groups of people… and it is. But it’s also a way to add some structure to your visit to the park, thus controlling some of the chaos. In our short time up at the South Rim, we attended four programs, topics ranging from history to geology to art. (We also attended a ranger program at Bright Angel Campground in the canyon). It was a great way to add more color to our visit. We visited many of the overlooks, visitor centers, the Geology Museum, and other historic buildings, but ranger programs seem to tie all of these scattered tidbits together.
5 – Above all, plan ahead! Do a little research. We squeezed a lot into our trip to the park, but we still feel like we scratched the surface of activities available to visitors. If you do a little planning and be creative, you are sure to walk through the masses of people confidently, and with a purpose.
For more on our Grand Canyon adventure, watch our video (HERE) and read our detailed rim-to-rim-to-rim recap (coming soon).
As always, Peace & Happy Adventuring!
Elizabeth & Cole