This year I decided that since I spent last year traveling all around Australia to look at rocks, I wanted to go into the desert in my own back yard to look at a giant hole or the missing rock. The Grand Canyon is considered to be one of the World’s 7 Natural Wonders (not to be confused with the 7 Wonders of the World) and enjoys both National Park and UNESCO World Heritage status. There are a lot of decisions when deciding to do the Grand Canyon. After doing a bunch of research, I decided I was going to go to the more crowded and popular side, the South Rim. Because the canyon rims are over 200 miles apart in driving distance, doing the North Rim and a few other national parks in Utah is easily its own trip.
I wanted to get out and take it all in. The rumors you really can’t take it all in from a picture are true. While the pictures are stunning, they cannot convey the magnitude accurately. Thus, pictures only give you a flavor of what it’s like.
I decided to experience the canyon in a couple different ways. I wanted to hike into the Canyon and around its edge. If there was time, I was ready to experience Grand Canyon Village.
Hiking the South Kaibab Trail
We got on the appropriate bus and arrived at the trail head for the South Kaibab Trail, our first trail of the day. We topped up our water bottles at the trail head because there is no water on the trail. We got started hiking straight down through various switchbacks. Hiking the Grand Canyon is like hiking a mountain, in reverse. You do the easy decent first, and then you hope you haven’t misjudged your ability to climb back up.
I really enjoyed the trip down into the canyon. There are wonderful views along the way, and the descent allows you to see various levels of the canyon from a different perspective. There were a good number of people on this trail but I didn’t find it unpleasant or feel it was too crowded. This is a trail with mules, which we knew to expect from researching the South Rim’s trails. When you see them likely depends on luck. We didn’t see them until we arrived at Cedar Ridge and encountered a group climbing their way up the trail, but we did see evidence of them. If you’re planning to hike a trail with mules who also are on it beware of there will be a lot of mule excrement on the trail. It will stink and likely make you hyper-aware of exactly where you are putting your boots. Furthermore, you must give way or yield to the mules, even if they’re going up the trail slowly and stopping a lot. If you do get passed, I recommend putting a little distance between you and them because they’re fragrant in a way that isn’t pleasing to the nose.
We only went as far as Cedar Ridge, turning around at the plateau since our trip was in late May and it was a hot day.
Per trail information we followed the Summer day hike advisory stopping at Cedar Ridge as we were only doing a day hike. If we return to the during autumn or spring, it’s pretty likely should we find ourselves on the South Rim we will do this portion of the trail and go all the way to Skeleton Point.
The Rim Trail
Once we had completed our journey down to Cedar Ridge, and back up we took a rest and admired the view. Then we went for a walk on the Rim Trail. The rim trail is a dramatically different experience from the South Kaibab Trail. It’s flat paved and pretty wide, and most surprisingly wasn’t particularly crowded. I suspect the reason the trail was wonderfully free of people is because there are shuttle stops at most of the points of interest so it’s not strictly necessary to walk between locations. We walked between various points of interest taking photos along the way.
Grand Canyon Village
Once we reached the visitor’s center (again) we boarded a different shuttle bus that took us in the direction of Grand Canyon Village. This seems to be the route containing the in park housing, restaurants, shops, bank, train station, and a general store. After finding food at one of the restaurants, we were ready to begin exploring this much more crowded side of things. The village provides a lot more opportunity to learn of the history of the people who lived there. There were rooms detailing the history of the area and prominent people from the past. There were art galleries located in buildings on the canyon. In the evening, we attended a ranger talk regarding the conservation effort to save the California Condors who live in the canyon.
At the end of the day we were pretty tired. It made for a very long day. We drove to Williams for the night and decided we weren’t going to go back for a second day. We really felt like we experienced what the South Rim had to offer, though if we had gone back the plan would have been to hike the Bright Angel Trail and then take the shuttles to other sights we didn’t see. We decided to head back to Los Angeles via Las Vegas. I’m very pleased with the trip and think next time I’ll be visiting the North Rim which is roughly 10 miles as the crow flies, but 212 miles as a car drives (1). Given that sort of distance, I’ve decided it’s logical to fold it into a different trip which I’m already planning.
The National Park Service operates free buses along various routes to different parts of the South Rim. Find information relating to the routes here.
For trail information for the South Kaibab Trail from the National Parks Service click here.
For the National Park Service notes regarding the Rim Trail click here.
If you’re interested in hiking the Bright Angel Trail you can get the hiking information here.
*Check with the National Park Service for current advisories and warnings at your time of visit.
- How Do I Travel to the North Rim? National Park Service accessed 6 June 2016