18 Apr
2016
Posted in: travel
By    Comments Off on Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park

Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016.

We spent years talking about visiting Grand Canyon National Park. We couldn’t ever peg down a good time of year to visit. There were other national parks ranked higher on our wish list. Excuses piled for why we never chose the iconic American spot. This year was the year. No more excuses. Three weeks ago during spring break we experienced the beauty of the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

South Rim Grand Canyon

Before every vacation we prep the kids with facts about where we’re going, like historical, geological or national significance. We’ve visited multiple national parks that sport glorious canyon views. Honestly, we all knew Grand Canyon was THE canyon to top all canyons in the U.S., but we went into the visit a tad underwhelmed like it was any other canyon we’ve visited. Of course, it’s not underwhelming, and you realize it as soon as you have your first glimpse at its expansive grandeur.

family on a South Rim Grand Canyon overlook

Our first look over the rim was Mather Point which happens to be the first look for the majority of visitors to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. It’s located near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center making it the closest overlook to the largest parking area on the South Rim. We were in the park before 8 a.m., which I highly recommend. Grand Canyon is very busy. The weather was chilly and ridiculously windy during our day visit, but that didn’t keep the crowds away. Being in the park before 8 a.m. gave us great parking near the visitor center and a few overlooks with only a small amount of visitors to fight for prime viewing space.

lone tree South Rim Grand Canyon

South Rim Grand Canyon

Arriving early also had us in the visitor center when it opened at 8 a.m. which meant we didn’t have to wait in line long to chat with a park ranger, pick up junior ranger workbooks, look at maps and figure out the shuttle system. I like to query park rangers about their favorite places in the park and must-see spots. I do a lot of research before visits, and I’ll ask rangers about things I’ve read. Talking with a park ranger led us to an under-used overlook in Grand Canyon that had no people and our favorite views on the South Rim. If you’re making a visit, drop me an email and I’ll let you in on the secret. I promised to try and keep it semi-secret.

woman standing on South Rim of Grand Canyon

Using the shuttle system at Grand Canyon is easy and a time-saver. We rarely had to wait for a shuttle, even with large crowds. We took the shuttle from the visitor center to the Bright Angel Trailhead and hiked almost two miles down into the canyon before heading back to the rim. We had no intention of hiking to the bottom of the canyon on this trip. Our youngest is six years old, so we hope to make it back to Grand Canyon in a few years with older children to hike to the bottom of the canyon. Bright Angel Trail is busy. It’s the most popular trail to the bottom of the canyon and is a steady flow of hikers with the occasional mule train. Hiking is one of our favorite family past-times, but I’m not a fan of busy trails. Our children have hiked some crazy trails with metal rings and ladders to aid in the hike, so we weren’t too worried about safety. Remember, it’s a canyon so there are plenty of exposed dropoffs. If you’re hiking with children, chat about safety before proceeding and keep them close on the trails.

South Rim Grand Canyon National Park

grand canyon south rim

After hiking a portion of Bright Angel, we hopped on the Hermits Rest shuttle route. There are nine stops on that route. We got off at the second stop, Maricopa Point and then hiked to Powell, Hopi and Mojave points on the rim trail before getting on the shuttle again. Maricopa to Mojave is a hike under two miles that, for the most part, stays on the rim. It’s an easy trail with wonderful views. Each point offers a slightly different angle of the canyon. Hiking the rim trail felt like we were by ourselves. Most people were sticking with the shuttle to get from one point to the next even though they were relatively close together.

outside Desert View Tower South Rim Grand Canyon

After a picnic lunch, we watched a short movie about the park at the visitor center. It was interesting and engaging, even for our six-year-old. By the time we were ready to drive to the eastern end of the canyon, there were lots of vehicles circling the parking lots like sharks. Be certain you’re prepared to give up your spot before leaving this area of the South Rim. Parking in the afternoon seemed difficult.

inside desert view tower south rim grand canyon

Desert View Watchtower was the last viewpoint before we left the South Rim. Check the time the tower closes while you’re visiting. It was one of our favorite parts of the park. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower to get a better vantage point of the canyon. The artwork inside the tower is beautiful, but the stairs to the top levels of the tower closed a half-hour before the small gift shop at the bottom of the tower.

man sitting on South Rim of Grand Canyon

The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park has lots of amenities. There’s no shortage of things to do and see besides the canyon itself. We spent one long day on the South Rim and found it adequate for what we wanted to accomplish on the trip. We learned the cultural history of the canyon as well as the geological story the canyon tells. We’ll definitely head back to conquer the bottom of the canyon in the future.

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