The Grand Canyon is known world-wide for it’s vast beauty and greatness. The mighty Colorado River carved into the canyon creating a masterpiece people from all over the world travel to witness and gaze upon each year.
It is literally breathtaking, but can be overwhelming when trying to plan a trip to this impressive landmark. We had an amazing first trip to the park and here is what we learned during our visit to the South Rim of the mighty Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon offers a few different options when it comes to camping. If you enjoy boondocking, then you are in luck. Mather Campground is the most popular and open year round for camping. It is located near the south entrance of the park in Grand Canyon Village. This campground allows reservations, although you do need to make them months in advance, to score a spot in these sought after sites. What makes this campground popular is the convenient location. The south entrance is home to restaurants, a food market, popular trails and much more. This campground also offers the conveniences of a dump station, water fill, laundry, and showers.
If you didn’t reserve in advance, don’t get give up hope on camping in the Grand Canyon. Desert View is a first come first serve campground located on the east Entrance of the park, 25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village. Not only do you get a beautiful drive as you enter through the East Entrance, but you also get solitude on this side of the park. Well as much “solitude” as you can get in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon anyway.
This tends to be a less busy end of the park, as most visitors will come in the South Entrance near Mather Point. We have come to love first come, first serve campgrounds due to the success we have had scoring a site. We like the flexibility of not having locked down reservations, but on the flip side we take the risk of not getting to camp in some of our top choice campgrounds.
First come, first serve campgrounds give those without 6 month plus reservations an opportunity to have a campsite as well. If you plan on giving them a try, you likely want to
- Arrive early in the morning. Desert View will fill up by 10am according to the camp host.
- Show up during the week. Most of your weekend campers will show up on Friday, so if you can show up Sunday-Thursday you will have a greater chance of beating the crowds.
Desert View is open mid April to mid October and offers no hookups. You are a short walk or drive to the Desert View Watchtower from this campground which offers some incredible views within minutes of your site.
If you are the full hookup kind of campers (And lets be honest here who isn’t?), there is one campground that offers this luxury in the park. Trailer Village is located in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim and open year round and is a concessioner operated RV park. This is a great alternative for those who who enjoy the hookups, but would love to stay in the National Park.
The Grand Canyon has some of the most beautiful hiking in the country. You can not choose an unattractive trail. Every turn is more beautiful than the last. There are numerous hikes in the park. One of our bucket list hikes for later in life is even hiking rim to rim. For this visit we did 4 amazing hikes.
South Kiabab Trail
This trail is challenging, but offers spectacular views. Steep switchbacks wind around the canyon side as you descend down witnessing breathtaking views. This hikes offers day hikes that range in distance up to 6 miles (round trip). There are lookout points along the way so don’t be afraid to try a portion of this trail to be rewarded with some of the most beautiful views in the park.
Bright Angel Trail
Everything I said about the beauty of South Kiabab trail can also be said about Bright Angel. They offer in our opinion very similar, but unique views. This trail can range in distance up to 12 miles. The park recommends if you are doing the full 12 miles, to get a permit and reservation to stay at the bottom of the canyon and not to go from rim to river and back in one day hike. We hiked a portion of this trail and turned around after 3 miles to complete 6 miles round trip. The views are incredible, but do require steep switchbacks.
If you are looking for hikes that are a little less challenging, but offer incredible views the Grand Canyon has you covered. We hiked a hidden gem that you will not find on the suggested hikes map, but can easily accessed if you know to look for it. Located just west of mile marker 246 on Desert View you will find the Shoshone Trail. It is not clearly marked and you will not find trail signs marking where to pull off, but there is a small pull off with a gate.
If you are coming from the south entrance, it will be on the left side of the road after the mile marker. Enjoy the solitude of this unpopulated trail that is an easy 2.2 mile roundtrip flat hike to some amazing views. We had this spot all to ourselves until lunchtime. It was a great get away from the crowds and worth the easy stroll. There are bathrooms and picnic tables, so don’t forget to pack a lunch and enjoy.
The Rim Trail extends from the village area to Hermits Rest. You can begin at any viewpoint and customize your hike by walking or getting on and off the shuttle buses to meet your hiking needs. You can walk as short or as long as you wish on this mostly paved trail for some excellent quiet views of the inner canyon.
The Sunrise and Sunset
If you plan on visiting the Grand Canyon one of the most beautiful sites to witness will be the sunrises and sunsets. Every rise and set looks different as the colors dance off the canyon to display a light show that you will never forget. If you have seen one, then you have not seen them all as they say. Every vantage point makes for a unique experience.
While we visited, we debated on getting up and catching and early sunrise. Getting up early and waiting in the cold almost kept us away, but after reading a travel blog I was given some great advice. The blog encouraged a sunrise and he didn’t want the lack of going to be because of laziness. That gave me the motivation to go and I am so glad we got to experience a beautiful moment together even if it meant setting the alarm.
There is something for everyone at the Grand Canyon and our bucket list just keeps growing as we learn more about it. Ride a bike, ride a raft, ride a mule, or ride whatever it takes to check out this fascinating National Park.