on October 25, 2011
A visit to Arizona would not be complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon. Once your eyes look upon this natural wonder with its different colors layered on top of each other, you can’t help but be inspired. The Canyon stretches for 277 miles and reaches a mile deep down to where the Colorado River snakes its way through. We started off heading to the Grand Canyon from our hotel in Flagstaff. It is the closest major city to the Grand Canyon and only an hour and half drive from the park. We hopped on Interstate 40 and as we reached Williams, AZ, we headed north on US Route 64. It is a little over an hour drive to the park entrance. This road is heavily patrolled by state police so drive the speed limit. There are two visitor centers, one on the North Rim and the South Rim. It doesn’t seem that the two are that far apart considering that the width of the Grand Canyon is eighteen miles at its widest point. However, it takes about four hours to get to the other side. Because of the remoteness of the North Rim and the fact that it is only open mid-May through mid-October, makes the South Rim the destination of choice for most visitors. The South Rim has more lodging, restaurants, and a lot more people. The North Rim, on the other hand, offers an escape from the crowds while admiring the beauty of the Grand Canyon is the same on either side. We entered through the front entrance and paid our $25 park fee. The fee is per vehicle and it lasts seven days. We made our way to the visitor’s center and spoke with park rangers who are there to assist in helping you navigate the park. We decided to grab a bite to eat first before heading out to the Canyon. We boarded the Blue Shuttle, one of three different shuttle lines that take you through the park. The Blue shuttle took us to Grand Canyon Village. This is the transportation hub of the park. There is a post office, bank, gift shop, and restaurant. After getting some food, we boarded the Blue Shuttle again and took it to our first stop, the Train Depot. The building was built in 1909 and the tracks are still in operation as it is the northern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway. A passenger service that started in 1989 carries patrons from Williams, Arizona to the Canyon. We climbed a set of stairs directly across from the train station that takes you to the Canyon Overlook. The Hopi House, on the right, is another historic building built in 1905. To our left, stood the impressive El Tovar Hotel, which was also built in 1905. Dinner in the restaurant was fabulous, as we ate duck while admiring the view of the Grand Canyon through their large windows. We proceeded down the path that took us right up the ledge overlooking the Canyon. You really get a feel for how massive the Grand Canyon is and what it took to carve this out of the ground. Our walk took us by three other lodges enroute to the Lookout Studio. It is a stone structure built in 1914 and now operates as a gift shop. The highlight of this site is that it offers excellent views of the Canyon and there is stone walkway that takes you a couple of stories down into the Canyon. The trail ends where the Blue and Red Line transfer station is located. The Blue Line will take you back to Grand Canyon Village and then on the to the Visitor’s Center. The Red Line takes visitors on the Hermit Trail. It is a seven mile trail with nine overlooks. It is only accessible by shuttle. We decided to head back to the Visitor’s Center. The Yellow Line services the Desert View Trail. The trail starts right behind the visitor’s center. There are two overlooks, the South Kaibab Trailhead and Yaki Point, which is only accessible by the shuttle. Most of the Desert View Trail is accessed by vehicle with many different overlooks. Also known as the East Rim drive, it follows the Canyon 25 miles to the east entrance. As the road exits the park, it becomes US Route 64. Flagstaff is about an hour and half away. Most of the route goes through the Navajo Reservation. There are plenty of roadside stands selling everything from Indian jewelry to food. Perhaps the best of this route is that you see where the Grand Canyon begins. The ground is totally flat and then it slowly gives way to the Canyon.Theodore Roosevelt said it best about the Grand Canyon when he visited it in 1903, "The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. ... Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see."
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009