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Bucket List: Grand Canyon

For many people, a trip to the Grand Canyon is high on their bucket list. I know it was for my Dad's friend. We headed out from Indiana by train to the Grand Canyon so he could fulfill a life-long dream.

We were fortunate to get a last-minute reservation at the Yavapai Lodge in the park itself. Although the room was basic, it had all we needed and was a short walk from the Visitors Center and some restaurants and shops. It is also a short walk from Mather Point, one of the spectacular overlooks at the South Rim.

Grand Canyon National Park is an immensely popular attraction and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Said to have been carved out by the Colorado River over five million years ago, the Grand Canyon exposes nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history.

The canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and in some parts up to one mile deep!

The Grand Canyon is divided into three major sections: North Rim, South Rim, and Grand Canyon West. The North and South Rim areas are in the National Park. The West section is on Native American reservation land.

South Rim

The South Rim is the most visited portion of the park and is open year-round. In the summer there are large crowds so consider visiting during the slower seasons. Plan your day so that you end at either Yavapai or Hope Points for the best view of the sunset. I'm not an early riser, but if you are sunrises are spectacular and the viewpoints are less crowded.

Since 1901 the Grand Canyon Railway has taken passengers from Williams, AZ to the South Rim. During the summer there is also a hop-on shuttle service that runs from the Visitors Center.

While most visitors see the canyon from the top, if you are more adventurous, there are mule rides down to the floor of the canyon. You can also raft the Colorado River. There are numerous hiking and biking trails to explore.

There are historic lodges within the park and numerous hotels and campgrounds in Williams and Tusayan that are convenient for exploring the South Rim.

North Rim

The North Rim is closed in winter and is only open from May to October. Check with the National Park Service before you go because opening and closing dates can change each year. There is one campground at the North Rim and the Grand Canyon Lodge is the only hotel in the park at the North Rim.

If you don't want to hike, take the North Rim Scenic Drive from Point Imperial to Cape Royal.

Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim at 8,803 feet (2,683 meters), overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of the Grand Canyon. Here the canyon transforms as the narrow walls of Marble Canyon, visible only as a winding gash, open dramatically to become "grand." Layers of red and black Precambrian rocks, not visible at Bright Angel Point, add contrast and color. Part of the viewpoint is accessible.

Cape Royal provides a panorama up, down, and across the canyon. With seemingly unlimited vistas to the east and west, it is popular for both sunrise and sunset. The sweeping turn of the Colorado River at Unkar Delta is framed through the natural arch of Angels Window. Look for the Desert View Watchtower across the canyon on the South Rim. This popular viewpoint is accessible via a paved, level trail

Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon West is a convenient day trip from Las Vegas and offers some of the most spectacular views of the Grand Canyon and is filled with plenty of sightseeing opportunities. It is a tribal enterprise of the Hualapai Tribe and is home to the famous Skywalk, a glass bridge that extends 70 feet out over the rim of the Canyon.

Guano Point provides one of the most rewarding views of the canyon, and at the point, you can still see remnants of a historic tram that stretched 8,800ft from the canyon to a guano mine.

Visit Eagle Point, where there are Native American village walking tours that feature replicas of authentic dwellings from the different American Indian tribes that used to inhabit the area.

If you want to get the wild west experience, Hualapai Ranch is a western-style ranch with activities like roping, quick draw and wagon rides for the full cowboy experience.

Contact me if you are ready to cross the Grand Canyon off your bucket list and I'd be glad to help you plan the perfect trip.


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