Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Beautiful, Wonderful, Amazing Grand Canyon

Of all the places we visited on our Arizona trip, the Grand Canyon was my favorite. I guess that's not a huge surprise, I've heard people talk about the Grand Canyon in awe many times, seen pictures, saw it on TV, but none of it was like seeing it in person. The Grand Canyon is absolutely breathtaking. 

We went on a Sunday in March, and the park was relatively empty, a perk because I've heard one of the worst things about the Grand Canyon is the crowds. It is $25 per car to get into the park, but we didn't spent a lick of money once we were there. (Not that I'm opposed, support your National Parks!) Since we had a limited time and could not linger at the park, we decided to take the shuttle bus to Hermit's Rest. Shuttle buses run all over the park and are free. Before embarking on our shuttle bus journey we stopped at the main visitor's center for the South Rim to get a stamp for our National Parks Passport and shuttle bus map, and then went out to Mather Point to see the canyon for the first time. 

The above pictures are taken from Mather Point and do not come close to really looking at the Grand Canyon. Mather Point was the most crowded place we stopped along the Grand Canyon, but a must see at any rate. 

On to the shuttles. From the visitor's center we hopped the blue shuttle to the red shuttle transfer. The blue shuttle services cafeteria's, guest lodges, and gift stores; all great places to stop if you have time, but for us, this was boring and took us away from mission of seeing the canyon. I would recommend parking as close as possible to the red line to skip as much as possible of the blue line (unless of course you would like to use any of the handy services mentioned). The blue line-red line transfer is the trail head for Bright Angel Trail, the trail for donkey rides and many hikers and yet another amazing view. 

Above is a picture of the view and trail by the blue line-red line transfer. After getting on the red line, you have a choice of stopping at every stop, some stops or just riding as a sightseeing tour. We choose to stop at Powell Point, Mohave Point, Pima Point and Hermit's Rest. Below are a picture and little blurb on each...

Powell Point

Powell Point has a memorial to John Westley Powell, which is cool in and of itself but can be climbed to get an even better view of the canyon. To get out to the memorial you walk on a thin land bridge without guardrails so if you don't like heights this maybe a scary place for an outlook. If you have time, I would suggest getting off the shuttle at the previous stop and walking to Powell Point and/or walking to the next stop Hopi Point, all of these stops are close together and the trail runs right next to the canyon. 

Mohave Point

Mohave Point was probably my favorite stop of the day. From here you can see the Colorado River, the outlooks are expansive (both railed and not), and the point is large giving you lots of view points of the canyon. This outlook is not to be missed on the "West Rim". 

Pima Point

Another beautiful lookout area, though we weren't there for either, I would guess this point is prime for sunrise and sunset, as Pima Point jets out into the canyon giving amazing views in all directions. 

Hermit's Rest

Along with it's amazing views, Hermit's Rest has restrooms, snacks and a gift shop. The Rest was designed by Mary Colter in 1914. It is the westernmost stop on the South Rim, and the trail head down to Hermit Camp in the canyon. After stopping here, we boarded the bus back to the red-blue transfer, this trip was significantly faster on the way back. That is until we got to the blue line, at this point in the day the stops in this area were tedious, with the only highlight being that we saw a coyote from the bus. All in all we were at the park for about 4 to 4 1/2 hours, which is not enough time to scratch the surface of amazing things to do and see here. We are already planning our next trip which will surely include seeing sunrise and sunset, the Watch Tower (also built by Mary Colter) and some hiking below the canyon rim...who knows maybe even a donkey ride the canyon floor. 

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