The Grand Canyon.
To be honest, I’ve always been a little skeptical about all of the hype surrounding this National Park. Sure, it offers pretty views and spectacular sunsets. And of course there’s that fancy designation as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. But isn’t it just a canyon. And at the end of the day, is it possible that The Grand Canyon is just a glamorized giant reddish-brown trench in the ground?
As the second most visited National Park in the United States there was clearly something that I was missing; and I was determined to figure out exactly what that “something” was. (And because I know you’re curious… the most visited national park in the U.S. in 2016 was the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee). The time had come to explore the supposed Grandness that is the Grand Canyon, and as our trip began I asked Cody the rhetorical question, “Exactly how Grand is it?”
In order to maximize our time for adventure we reserved a room at the Yavapai Lodge. The Lodge is located within the national park and only a mile away from the South Rim, which allowed us to avoid the hassle of a commute, excessive traffic, and parking by staying within the park itself and then utilizing the free shuttle to get around. And to make it even better, a shuttle stop was located just outside of the Lodge.
The East rooms at Yavapai Lodge are newer, very clean, and spacious, and most importantly, offer air-conditioning (non-negotiable in the mid-August heat). Market Plaza is just across the street and includes a restaurant, tavern, post office, bank, and a small market for any essentials that were accidentally left at home.
It was early afternoon when we hopped on the shuttle and began exploring the famous South Rim. We slowly made our way through the park — from the Desert View Watchtower in the east, all the way to Hermits Rest in the west — and while we didn’t cover every stop along the shuttle route, we did manage to experience some breathtaking viewpoints along the rim.
I may have had a slight panic attack when my sweet
sometimes clumsy husband decided to stand SO close to the edge…
And as the sun began to set over the many layers of rock dating back 1.8 billion years ago, Cody and I found a perfect spot near Hopi Point to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of staying too close to the shuttle stop, so the area became super busy right before sunset — which wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for.
Before our trip I had scoured the internet, Instagram, and other travel blogs to find the perfect spot to watch the sunrise, and eventually decided on Yavapai Point. The photos looked incredible and it was just down the road from our home base at Yavapai Lodge, so it was a win-win. (I mean, I can’t be the only one who opts for convenience at 5:30 in the morning. Am I right?). 😉
Standing at the very edge of the Grand Canyon in the pre-dawn darkness a massive crowd of sunrise-watchers gathered (for the record, I counted three people, including myself). 🙂 Sheer cliffs and deadly drop-offs surrounded the lookout and whenever I looked over the edge vertigo seeped into my senses and my knees became unsteady. The strong gusts of wind near the ledge felt as though it was trying to knock me off balance and I constantly worried about dropping my camera into the deep abyss below.
Those brave enough to face the early hour, brisk winds, and chilly temperatures were treated to an impressive, colorful sunrise over the Colorado River far below. And while we began the morning with a small “crowd,” there were at least fifty other shutterbugs crowded into the same small viewpoint by the time the sun began to rise over the horizon.
That guy in the blue jacket has cojones of steel! (haha!) For real though…
If I can give you only one tip for your trip to the Grand Canyon it would be to make a point to get away from the crowds. The main shuttle stops are almost always crowded, so explore the areas outside of the main stops in order to have some space to think and a place to yourself. They aren’t kidding when they say this canyon is Grand, so there’s plenty of space for everyone as long as you’re willing to look for it.
While I am grateful that we were finally able to explore this National Park — and I think that everyone needs to see the Grand Canyon at least once in their lifetime — I don’t see ourselves wander-lusting to get back any time soon. To be honest, there were way too many people during our visit and when it comes to right down to it, I’m a little more partial to some of the National Parks closer to home (Arches and Zion: I’m lookin’ at you). One thing I do know for sure is that at some point I would like to see the Grand Canyon from above and I know just the place to make that happen. 🙂