It’s difficult to describe the Grand Canyon without using the words enormous and spectacular. And while both adjectives are correct, I couldn’t really fully appreciate the immensity of the canyon until I saw it for myself. And so, after 2 days in Zion National Park, we headed south to see it for ourselves.
We began on the south rim of the canyon, the most popular area to visit. The canyon itself is 277 miles long and the National Park spans most of that. However, only a small portion is accessible by car. From Zion, we took Highway 89 south to Arizona Route 64, the main road into the park. The first stop was the Desert View visitor center, tower, and overlook, which provided us with our first views of the canyon, both from the viewpoint and from the top of the tower. As you can see, enormous and spectacular is a pretty accurate description.
From there, we headed to the opposite end of the 25-mile long Desert View Drive to Grand Canyon Village, Visitor Center, and Mather Campground, our home for the next 2 nights. From the visitor center, South Kaibab Overlook, Mather Point, and Pipe Creek Vista were just a short distance away. There were also two picnic areas in the vicinity.
The rest of the day was spent restocking our cooler, relaxing, and taking a break from the heat. But all in all, a very successful first day in the park.
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: from US Highway 89 or I-40, follow US Highway 180/AZ Highway 64 to Grand Canyon Village
- Fees & passes: $30 for a 7-day pass; Interagency Annual Pass is accepted
- Camping: Desert View Campground is located at the east end and Mather Campground at the west end of the park road. Mather Campground ($18 per night) accepts reservations; Desert View ($12 per night) does not.
- Hiking: the Rim Trail extends west from Grand Canyon Village; 4 trails lead various distances down into the canyon
- Other: It’s hard to go anywhere in the park without seeing signs warning of the dangers of attempting to hike down to the river and back up to the rim in 1 day. Summer temperatures in the canyon typically exceed 100°F, weather is unpredictable, and the RT hike is 28 miles with an elevation change of 6,000 feet