The Grand Canyon has been on our bucket list for years! We finally made it a reality and at the right time too as the November weather in Arizona was just perfect for outdoor activities… mostly. There may or may not have been a snowstorm in the middle of our trip but that didn't stop us from seeing the best of the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park is located in Arizona and includes 277 miles of land around and along the Colorado River and the 18-mile wide Grand Canyon. The different layers of rock in the Grand Canyon show a geologic history of millions of years and the views from around the canyon are extraordinary. The canyon has a North Rim and South Rim. We spent our time on the South Rim, mainly because it's where our RV park was. The South Rim has so many beautiful sights, museums, restaurants, and pretty much everything you need for your stay there. The only thing it doesn't have is decent wi-fi. We spent quite a few days traveling into the nearest town of Tusayan to use the Starbucks wi-fi which was very popular!
The Grand Canyon Visitor Center area has a café with coffee and cocoa, a book store with souvenirs, bus stops, and bike rentals. The Visitor Center has Grand Canyon history, science, and movies. There are also rangers available to assist with signing up for tours and can provide hiking information. The Grand Canyon Village is where the action is. It has a few restaurants, a food court, grocery/supply store, post office, and bus stops for different routes.
The area out by the El Tovar Hotel has another book store with souvenirs and a couple of other boutiques for your Grand Canyon gifts. It is also is where the famed Bright Angel Trail begins. The Bright Angel Trail is a steep hike down into the canyon where you spend the night and come back up the next day. This is definitely for the more experienced hikers.
Finding an RV park at the Grand Canyon may be difficult during the summer months as it's so popular. We were lucky that we chose to go in November because there were lots of openings. The Trailer Village RV Park is the only one with full hookups in the National Park and is super convenient to the bus stops and trails. If you are looking to see wildlife, this is the place to stay. There are elk everywhere and they especially like those RVs with leaky water connections so they can get a drink! At $38 per night, this RV park is a steal with large, pull through spots, picnic tables and is paved in most areas. There are many restrooms throughout the park but you have to travel next door for laundry. The Mather RV Park has a really nice laundry facility with super-size washers and dryers, a small store, and hot showers for the campers. Overall, Trailer Village RV Park is a really nice stay and convenient to the best of the Grand Canyon!
I suggest you begin your Grand Canyon visit in Tusayan. Located a few miles from the park entrance, Tusayan has many exciting things to offer first-time visitors to the Grand Canyon as well as many places to stay if you can't stay in the park. You can start at the Visitor's Center and watch two movies that introduce you to the Grand Canyon and how it was formed. Then, there are many tour options including helicopters, mules, jeeps, and more, there is something for everyone. We chose to do the Pink Jeep Tours, mainly because Corbin was excited about it.
Pink Jeep Tours offers many different tour options ranging from 2-3 hours and taking you all over the South Rim. We decided to do the Desert View Grand Canyon Tour (for $118/adult & $107/child), a 3-hour tour with multiple stops along the South Rim ending at the Desert View Tower. The jeeps are open in the back unless it's raining or cold and all the seats have a good view. The tour guides are so knowledgeable about the history of the area and ours had jokes which Corbin liked. I recommend taking a tour if you are unable to explore on your own or are short on time.
If you don't have your own transportation, the Grand Canyon bus system is a great way to explore. The Grand Canyon bus system has been around for over 40 years! It has many routes that typically run from March through November depending on the weather. The bus routes are color-coded and buses come every 15-30 minutes. The best part, the buses are free!
Buses can accommodate a few bicycles so you can bike along the trails and catch a ride back. There are many stops along the routes so you can choose the sights you want to see, get out and catch a later bus to the next one. You can also ride to the end of the routes and hike back. There are some routes that do not allow vehicles so the bus is the way to go. With so many options to choose from, seeing the best of the Grand Canyon is very easy. Check out the bus routes here.
There are so many wonderful routes and trails to drive, hike, walk, and bike on that unless you're staying for a long time, it would be difficult to do them all. These are the routes and trails that we did and they were all amazing, with great views of the best of the Grand Canyon! Keep in mind that we visited in November and had a sudden snowstorm that made the trails a little slick and slowed down our exploring.
The Canyon Rim Trail is one of the best ways to view the canyon as it drops nearly 6,000 feet below. The Colorado River can also be seen from many of the viewpoints and you can see the beautiful work this river did over 70 million years ago. Below are some of the trails and routes we took.
Hermit's Rest is the last scenic stop along the Canyon Rim Trail, west of the Grand Canyon Village. The trail heads out to Hermit's Rest, along the South Rim, and is about 7 miles long with the most beautiful views. The easiest way to Hermit's Rest is to take the bus as you can't drive out to Hermit's Rest between March and November. There are nine stops on the bus route and the Canyon Rim Trail follows along. We decided to ride the bus to Hermit's Rest and hike most of the way back. You can get on and off the bus at any stop heading to Hermit's Rest and a couple stops on the way back towards the village.
Hermit's Rest has a nice little store with souvenirs and food options, restrooms, and a picnic area… the only food and water on this side of the trail. The building, designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter, “the architect of the southwest”, was made to look like it was built by untrained mountain men. In addition to its amazing views, we also spotted elk drinking out of the water bottle fill station! The hike from Hermit's Rest was easy on a very well-worn path, both dirt and paved in areas. Each stop provides a different view of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon with the layers of rock and shadows from the sun delivering a multitude of beautiful colors.
The Desert View Drive is a 25-mile route along the South Rim going east from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. We did this drive first on the Pink Jeep tour and then a couple of other times because we wanted to spend more time at the different stops viewing the best of the Grand Canyon than we had on the tour.
The Desert View Watchtower is at the end of the drive and is quite a beautiful sight. The tower was also designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter. The tower, modeled after houses built by the ancient Puebloans, was constructed of uncut rocks so it looks as though it's part of the landscape. The building, completed in 1932, is a work of art on the inside and out. The walls and ceiling inside the building have exquisite paintings representing Hopi life and are very captivating. There are 85 stairs that lead up to the different floors and have outstanding views of the canyon and the Colorado River. You can see up to 100 miles across the desert on a clear day!
Lipan Point is the next to last stop on the way to the Desert View Watchtower. We heard from other people that this was a good place with the best views for sunsets. It did not disappoint but in November it was really cold once the sun went down. There's a good-sized parking lot with many different places to set up your cameras or go pros to get the best view. It is a relatively popular spot so if you are there during the peak season, I would suggest bringing some snacks, chairs, and getting there early. Check out these awesome sunset photos! !
After the snow finally went away, we decided to get our bikes out and take one of the many Greenway Trails. If you don't have a bike, you can rent them at the visitor center. We hadn't been on the South Kaibab Trail and this was easily accessible from Trailer Village RV Park. The bike path goes along the rim all the way to the beginning of the South Kaibab hiking trail. It's a very nice, smooth, and hilly trail which Corbin enjoyed very much.
If you want to go on the South Kaibab Trail, you would need to park your bikes here. The trail goes down into the canyon to Ooh Aah Point, Cedar Ridge, and Skeleton Point. This is a day hike that was a bit more than we wanted to do with a 7-year-old. Maybe next time. We did, however, see many elk just hanging out at this stop, probably because of the mules that have a barn here. You can take a mule tour down into the canyon but there are age and weight restrictions so check the website when you are planning your trip.
We had almost two weeks to see the best of the Grand Canyon and I think we did. The snowy weather didn't stop us and actually made for some beautiful pictures. We thoroughly enjoyed the many trails and routes we took and got some of the most amazing pictures that will last in our memories forever. We look forward to coming back and seeing more of what the Grand Canyon has to offer.
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