One place that many hope to visit someday is the famous Grand Canyon in Arizona. Well, during our southwest road trip a couple of years ago, we finally made it all the way to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Impressive? Yes. Beautiful? Yes. Massive? My, oh my, yes!
No matter where you stand near the canyon, you are sure to get an amazing view. The thing is, the Grand Canyon is huge and the only way you can really grasp that fact is when you are visiting it in person. The canyon is so expansive that you can feel like the only person in the world even at the height of tourist season.
What was most interesting was not ‘wher’e you looked but ‘when’. It seemed that the South Rim pretty much looked the same from each viewing spot. However, catching a glimpse at different times of day seemed to create completely different landscapes and enhanced the grandeur.
We were not the adventurous type to take a mule to the bottom and camp out so we mostly did our touring around the rim. There was plenty to do and see including some of the structures built years ago such as the landmark Watchtower.
Not far from the Watchtower was the Tusayan Ruin and Museum. There you can walk around and see different exhibits which show features of the Native American/Indian life that once prevailed here. Kids will need you to bring the exhibits to life by helping them to imagine what it was like living as they did.
Going into town provided us with a bit more culture. At the Visitor Center, The ‘show’ in the center square was a bit strange and, well, kind of dinky. It consisted of one guy with a feather-laden hat chanting and asking for donations while the other flapped around in a circle. Let’s just say that it did not deepen one’s impression of the Navajo culture, which was the purpose of us watching it.
We much preferred touring the Hopi House behind the performers. It was very interesting to see the architecture and some of the native textiles and crafts. The Verkamp Visitor Center was another great feature and I loved the open, clean layout of the displays and accompanying information. Plus, there were a few comfy rocking chairs to rest our tired feet on the porch outside.
Our favorite spot was Hermit’s Rest. The drive up was a bit long but the snack shop was such a welcome sight. Those pre-packaged tuna sandwiches tasted so good after eating the rubber-type offerings in the park. This was a really relaxing and enjoyable stop.
An extraordinary part of our visit was one that we just happened to stumble upon. Due to my father-in-law’s knee problems, we were given a special access code to use the roads reserved for shuttles. Even after the shuttles stopped running, the code was still valid and allowed us to drive the incline that leads to Hermit’s Rest when it was dark. We pulled into one scenic viewing area and just stared at the night sky. Never in my life had I seen so many stars, and so vividly at that. With no lights for miles across the open canyon, it was as if we could peer endlessly into space.
Grand Canyon is definitely a memorable sight to see and one that can only be appreciated in person. However, make sure this is the first stop on your vacation. Other national parks in the area such as Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon are mesmerizing in their own way and may lessen the impact the Grand Canyon has on you. That said, it was truly a privilege to visit this unique place and see why it is called the GRAND Canyon.