How to Make the Most of Your Trip to the Grand Canyon


How to Make the Most of Your Trip to the Grand Canyon

By Burt Carey

Travel to bucket list locations should be just as special as the place you’ve selected to visit. Unfortunately, most of the 5 million annual visitors to the Grand Canyon drive up to the South Rim, take a few photos, buy a trinket or two, and then leave. Been there, done that, got the panoramic shot.

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They’re missing the true aura of one of nature’s most spectacular settings.

Sure, looking across an 18-mile-wide canyon with its incredible geologic formations and vast, eroded earth with a seemingly tiny Colorado River down below is something to behold. But even if your time in Grand Canyon National Park is limited, there are ways to enjoy and appreciate this natural wonder that will help you avoid the crowds.

The vast majority of people coming to the South Rim use Highway 180 to Highway 64 from Flagstaff. My favorite entry point, however, is through Cameron, on Highway 89. Take Highway 64 to the East Gate where the famed Desert View can be seen from several lookouts. Down below will be the Little Colorado River Gorge, and farther along the East Rim you’ll find Grandview Point. The views are stunning.

If you really want to avoid crowds, enter Grand Canyon National Park from the North Rim, taking Highway 89 south out of Kanab, to Highway 67 to the rim itself. Mind you, traveling from the North Rim to the South Rim requires a drive of 220 miles. The park’s North Rim is open from May 15 to Oct. 15 each year. The South Rim is open year-round.

Before you go, be sure to check with the National Park Service’s Grand Canyon website. It’s loaded with great information about the park, lodging inside and outside the park, food, camping, shuttle information, maps, ranger presentations and other helpful tools to make your visit more enjoyable. The site also has information about hiking trails, mule rides, bicycle paths and other ways of exploring the canyon and removing yourself from the masses of people along the South Rim.

Did I mention mule rides? Here’s a recommendation: Take one. The animals may smell funny and the ride might be a bit bumpy, but this is the part of your trip that you will talk about most when telling friends and family about your time here. There’s a 3-hour Canyon Vistas Ride that meanders along the South Rim and an overnight ride that takes a deep dive to the bottom of the canyon and includes a stay at the Phantom Ranch.

Accommodations inside the park can be made. Most visitors who stay inside the park make their reservations months in advance. Reservations at Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge and Maswik Lodge are handled by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. The Yavapai Lodge is operated by Delaware North, which also handles reservations for the Trailer Village RV Park.

Seven miles south of the park is the community of Tusayan, where other lodging is available. The National Park Service provides a free shuttle from Tusayan to the South Rim.

Entrance into the park requires a pass, even for those riding shuttles. Permits are issued by vehicle ($30), motorcycle ($25) or for individuals ($15). Visitors who plan to return multiple times to the park can purchase an annual pass for $60. Permits can be purchased at the park entrance station and at some businesses in Tusayan.

The National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Entrance to Grand Canyon NP is free Aug. 25-28, and again Sept. 24 (National Public Lands Day) and Nov. 11 (Veterans Day).

Source:  Baret News