Owning a timeshare in Flagstaff makes taking a day trip (or more) to the Grand Canyon National Park very easy. Last time we stayed at our timeshare we took a tour day-trip to the Grand Canyon. This year, we opted to do an overnight making the most of two days at the park.
The drive is pretty easy, less than two hours regardless of which route you choose. See the "experience review" that is also part of this journal with highlights and observations on the routes you can take. For me, the drive to the Grand Canyon is as much about the viewing and scenery as is the national park itself.
Upon arrival at the Grand Canyon National Park, you will have to pay your $25 admission fee which is for your car and all riders. You can also purchase the US National Parks annual pass for $80 which allows you free access to all of the park system locations for free for one year. If you have a parks pass, be sure that you still receive the park guide booklet and maps.
During our stay in the park, we fully utilized their shuttle bus system. There are two routes that are your only means to access these areas of the Grand Canyon. The Hermit Rest (red line) goes seven miles along the western end of the canyon's south rim and has only just recently been reopened after a year of renovation. Along this trip, there are several stops that allow you differing vantage points of the Grand Canyon and two nice views of the Colorado River below, including the muddy rapids. At the end of the road is Hermit Rest which has restroom facilities, a gift shop and a snack food type cafeteria. We met several people along our journey who were hiking the seven mile length to Hermits Rest with plans to ride the shuttle back to the village connector point.
The other shuttle bus line, the green bus, went out to Yaki Point . . . another spectacular overlook of the Grand Canyon. The green bus line also takes hikers to the popular Kalbab Trail. Many people hike and camp beneath the rim from this point. The Pipe Creek overlook is also along this route, and is accessible by private vehicle. This is where we opted to take in the sunset which was lovely. On our ride back after dusk, we came upon a herd of six or seven elk grazing on the limited grassy groundcover along the road. Unfortunately, it was too dark to get any decent photos of these guys!
The park is full of wildlife. While riding on the blue shuttle we did see elk earlier in the day near the Grand Canyon Association offices right in the village. Also after dinner at the El Tovar we saw four mule deer eating on the front lawn of the lodge. They didn’t seem too spooked by people and allowed us to photograph them without disturbing their supper.
The blue shuttle bus runs through the village area and connects all of the lodges, restaurants and the two connector points for the red and green lines. All in all, the shuttle system is very efficient running every 10-15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes early in the morning and later in the evening. We found the buses generally very comfortable and not too crowded. Not sure what to expect however, during the high season of summer. I would assume they would have to put more buses out during peak tourist season.
There are evening programs hosted by park rangers and you can also spend a lot of time in the main visitors' center learning about the Grand Canyon. Because we had been here a few years ago and only had a limited amount of time to explore and see the great views available, we didn't partake in these activities. If you are making your first, and perhaps only trip to the Grand Canyon, please be sure to make time to spend at least an hour at the visitors center by Mather Point.