Vegas. At every turn there is something that will awe you, overwhelm you or at least cause you to shake your head in disbelief. It is the ultimate saturation of the senses.
But however grand Las Vegas is – the Grand Canyon will impress you more.
Last week, I went to Vegas with a friend from out of town – from France to be exact. And he made a request. He said, we must also visit the Grand Canyon. He could not possibly go back to Europe and explain that when traveling to Las Vegas he hadn’t also visited the Grand Canyon.
As an American, or rather as a Los Angeles native, I reasoned with him saying, nobody from here assumes visiting Vegas is synonymous with going there as well – it’s too far away. But he wasn’t budging on this. So, to the Grand Canyon we went.
We drove from Vegas to the Grand Canyon National Park in a little less than 5 hours. The drive was stunning the whole way. The purple mountains in the distance separated the blue sky and the golden grass fields. It looked like we were on an African Safari – minus the, well, safari animals!
We timed it just right to arrive at the canyon rim at sunset – to watch the setting sunbeams hit the crevice walls – enhancing the colors. If you want to do the same, check to see what time sundown is. But also don’t forget that there is a time zone difference between Nevada and Arizona from early November through mid-March.
Our destination was on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, an area fortified for overnight travelers. It costs $25 to enter the park by car. And inside the park itself there are a string of lodges along the rim with small restaurants and shops.
Honestly, the rooms were over-priced for what they provided. Our walls were paper-thin. And for $80/night you’d think you’d get your own shower!
But of course, we weren’t there for the room or the food (which was mediocre and pricey too). We were there for the canyon. And I would do it all again if given the chance. I just might bring my own pillow!
We set our alarms for 7am to watch the sunrise. When my alarm did sound I was sure I woke up the entire lodge with those porous walls. But ultimately, I realized everyone was already up and out ready to catch the sunrise too.
It was chilly – being February – there were snow patches on the ground. And the temperature as the sun rose could not have been more than 35 degrees. I had not planned ahead for this trip with the right clothes so I shivered in the morning light in my sweater. But who cares, look at that view!
After taking in the views we grabbed a good, old-fashioned American breakfast at the Bright Angel Lodge. And I dropped in to the shop to get some gear…
Then we headed over to the visitor’s center where we caught a bus to the Kaibab trail. We were warned to bring water and salty snacks. And we were told to keep in mind that as long as it takes to go down, it takes double that time to get back up.
And because a little snow and ice was on the trail, we bought strap-on cleats so we wouldn’t slip. These things worked great!
Then it was down the Kaibab trail we went – the trail itself goes all the way down to the bottom of the canyon with a few different lookout points along the way.
I can imagine it being easy to get carried away by all the beauty and just keep going down and then realizing, oops! Now we have to walk back up! We decided to just hike down to the first lookout point – Hoo Ahh Point (pictured below). It took us 30 minutes to get down and 40 to get up.
That’s me feeling a little afraid of heights as I tried inching toward the edge.
You can hike further down of course – but this was all we had time for. You can also take a mule ride down and up the canyon, hire a hiking guide, or arrange for a helicopter tour. I enjoyed our low key choice. And for those super short on time, motivation or athletic ability – you can simply ride the buses from the visitor’s center between different look out points.
I promise, whatever you decide to do, a trip to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim is totally worth the drive. It’s calming and invigorating. And that feeling of peacefulness stays with you well after you leave.