Grand Canyon of Arizona: The Big One

Over the four years of this blog, I have written about different states having their own versions of the Grand Canyon.  You can read about them here:  Washington, Hawaii, South Dakota, Georgia, North Carolina, Minnesota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Utah, Louisianna, Mississippi, Colorado, and Idaho.  Of all the Grand Canyons in the different states, none of them really compare to THE Grand Canyon of Arizona.

The Grand Canyon of Arizona is the king of the canyons.  Nothing else is as spectacular as this shining jewel in the National Park system.  I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time when I was 13 years old and it made a lasting impression.  I didn’t return for 25 years, and then I had to drag Tom to it.  He kept telling me he had “seen pictures” and I told him the pictures didn’t do it justice.  As soon as he saw it in person, he agreed.  Since then, we have been back numerous times and now can see it out our living room window every day.

Map of Grand Canyon National Park

Most people see the Grand Canyon from the South Rim, which is more developed and more accessible.  The campgrounds are crowded and you have to make reservations a year in advance for the mule rides into the canyon.  There are lots of hotels and amenities but the hotels fill up, especially in the summer.  Over 6.5 million people visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon annually, but the average stay is just four hours.  This means that the crowds lessen in the evenings and early mornings.

It also means that if you hike on the trails you will be away from more people.  But the trails at the Grand Canyon are very challenging.  The trails are very steep and narrow.  My vertigo worsens every year and there are fewer places I can walk without getting dizzy.  Tom and a group of Boy Scouts hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim in 2006.  I drove around the canyon and met them the next day on the North Rim.  I rode a mule from the top of the North Rim to Roaring Springs and enjoyed it very much.

Mule Ride into canyon
Tired hikers made it out
Angels Window
Performing a wedding in 2006
North Rim campground
Inside the canyon

Tom and I enjoy the North Rim more than the South Rim.  Because of its remoteness, the North Rim only gets 1/10th the visitors of the South Rim.  Even though those visitors all come in the five months that AZ 67 is open, it never feels as crowded as the South Rim.  There are plenty of overlooks to enjoy and it often feels like you have them mostly to yourself.  I wrote about Tuweep Overlook a few weeks ago.

We recently returned to the main area of the North Rim.  Tom walked to Bright Angel Point while I enjoyed a nice wide place to rest.  Then we both walked the Transept Trail to the Campground and back to the Lodge.  Although the Transept Trail has some beautiful views of the canyon, the trail isn’t right on the edge.  We had lunch in the Lodge (reservations required for supper) with its wonderful views.

After lunch we checked out the Visitors Center and the gift shops.  Then we drove to our favorite Grand Canyon overlook:  Point Imperial.  Point Imperial is the highest point on the Grand Canyon at 8,803 feet.  From Point Imperial you can see the Painted Desert, Marble Canyon, and Lake Powell as well as the eastern part of the Grand Canyon.  If you can time it between tour buses, there usually aren’t too many people at Point Imperial.

Toroweap Overlook
North Rim Grand Canyon Lodge
Imperial Point

If you have never been to the Grand Canyon, you must put it on your list of places to go.  Pictures don’t show the awesomeness of the place.  It is amazing what a little water will do to a bunch of rock, given enough time.