Bucket List: The Grand Canyon

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?”

Grand Canyon

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.

Yavapai Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park

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.

Grand Canyon Map

Grand Canyon

I may have had a slight panic attack when my sweet sometimes clumsy husband decided to stand SO close to the edge… 

Grand Canyon

Hermit's Rest, Grand Canyon

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.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

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.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

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. 🙂

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Have you been to the Grand Canyon? What was your favorite part?

18 Comments

  1. January 25, 2017 / 5:04 PM

    Have we been to the Grand Canyon? several times. Well, we do now live about an hour away form the South Rim, so. On my bucket list, is to stay in the cabins on the North Rim as well as at the El Tovar and just sit! I want to just take it all in. Just sit. Watch the changing light, the weather coming in and then retreating; people watching is fun too, It’s all so overwhelming for a little gal from Hawaii.
    A hui hou

    • January 26, 2017 / 9:40 AM

      El Tovar has to be the PRIME spot if you’re staying at the Grand Canyon. It’s so central. Staying at the North Rim sounds fun! I’ve heard it’s less busy, so maybe I should check it out sometime, too! 🙂
      A Hui Hou Auntie!

      • January 26, 2017 / 11:07 AM

        From what I understand about lodging in any of our National Parks, it’s best to reserve a year ahead. For entry to any Park, we have the Senior Pass, but I hope that you have the America The Beautiful Annual Pass…some of the Parks have hefty admission fees.

        • January 27, 2017 / 10:33 AM

          Auntie,
          That’s a GREAT tip. I’ve heard the same thing about booking early because they fill up fast. We booked our room last minute and it was slim pickings, but we were super happy with the Yavapai Lodge. 🙂
          Unfortunately, I did not purchase the Annual Pass last year. However, I was lucky enough to piggy back off my brother and sister in law’s pass a couple of times when I traveled with them. I will need to get it this year if we travel to some of the other National Parks in Utah. 🙂
          Enjoy your weekend!

  2. January 25, 2017 / 5:45 PM

    I’ve been to the GC twice, but not for over 15 years!! I’d love to bring my husband there, and have contemplated it on a trip or two to Vegas, but there was never enough time. I think it should be added to our list!

    • January 26, 2017 / 9:43 AM

      Hey sweet girl!
      Adding it to a Vegas trip is a great idea! 🙂 I know you can take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon that departs from Vegas. I’d like to check that out sometime in the near future!
      Have a great day!
      Krystle

  3. January 26, 2017 / 6:58 AM

    I’m so excited now for planning our trip later this year. Thank you for the tips!

    • January 26, 2017 / 9:43 AM

      I hope you two have so much fun! 🙂 It will definitely be a memorable Anniversary trip!

  4. January 26, 2017 / 8:22 PM

    This summer, I took my family to the Grand Canyon. I have been several times, but they had never seen it. Like you, I think everyone should see it once. They ventured out for the sunrise and were freaked out by people getting too close to the edge.

    • January 27, 2017 / 10:37 AM

      Rick,
      As a veteran visitor to the GC, do you have a favorite spot in the park? That has to be a wonderful memory for you to see it as a family. 🙂 I was totally freaked out by people getting too close to the edge as well. I don’t know why I’ve developed this slight fear of heights, but I was shocked at how close some people came. Ahhhh, it makes my knees weak just thinking about it now.
      Hope you have a great weekend!

      • January 28, 2017 / 7:20 PM

        I wouldn’t call myself a veteran. The first time I went, we parked and walked to the edge. My dad said, “That’s an awfully big hole.” A few minutes later, we left. I guess my favorite view was from the helicopter. It was private and serene.

        • January 28, 2017 / 8:41 PM

          A classic “National Lampoon’s Vacation” moment! 🙂 I would LOVE to see the Grand Canyon from a helicopter. I’ve read about the tours out of Las Vegas, hopefully one day I can add this little side excursion when we’re adventuring in Vegas.

  5. February 9, 2017 / 11:46 PM

    I’ve always dreamed of exploring the Grand Canyon, it’s one of those places that you just got to see 🙂 I’d sure love to see it from above! Thanks for the tips, will keep them in mind if we make it there one day 😉

    • February 10, 2017 / 9:05 AM

      I couldn’t agree more! It’s definitely somewhere that everyone should see. They offer helicopter tours out of Las Vegas so hopefully we’ll be able to check that out sometime soon.
      Have a great weekend!

  6. February 22, 2017 / 10:18 PM

    Hi, Krystle,

    Magnificent Post, Lovely Images!!

    For all the lights of Vegas, for all the concrete used to make the Hoover Dam, looking upon such a great natural wonder should be on everyone’s bucket list.

    There aren’t any words to describe the canyon.

    It is grand, for sure, but grand is such a small word for something so immense.

    It is simply magnificent and, since I’m afraid of heights, not a little terrifying, with cliffs and no fences what would stop me from tripping and falling 6000 feet.

    But looking at the layers of rock, at the colors, at the way the light and shadow made each formation, each outcropping, or landmark or feature utterly breathtaking made me realize how beautiful, beautiful can be.

    Thanks for renewing my memories dear.

    ~ Kelly

    • February 23, 2017 / 11:26 AM

      Hi Kelly,

      Thank you so much! You describe the canyon in a way that is poetic. I struggled to put into words the beauty that we saw (how do you describe something that is so grand yet so intricate?), however your comment sums it up perfectly. 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

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