In April this year we traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada and toured the Hoover Dam. If you missed that post, you can read it here. Since we aren’t what you might consider “party people,” we used the opportunity to visit two national parks during our vacation.
The first national park we visited was Grand Canyon National Park. Neither of us had ever been before and it had always been a dream of mine. While a quick day trip to the park was not near long enough to see everything there is to see, it was a good introduction to the park and we were able to see some stunning views.
There are dozens of tours that will take you from Vegas to the Grand Canyon, but Matt and I opted to drive ourselves in the rental car so we could be on our own schedule. Since we traveled in April, the North Rim of the canyon was closed, which left the West and South rims for us to choose from. After doing a bit of research we chose the South Rim for a couple reasons: 1. it seemed like the more central part of the park with a visitor center, and 2. the West Rim seemed a lot smaller. If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon from Vegas and don’t care as much about hiking, etc, the West Rim may be a good option for you as it is a significantly shorter drive.
We ate breakfast at our hotel and left at about 7:30 in the morning (later than intended but that’s pretty much how we live our lives). The drive is long but pretty easy and scenic. Near the beginning of the drive, we passed through a scenic overlook of Lake Mead National Recreation Area that was quite nice.
We stopped in an adorable quaint town called Williams. The town is right before the turn off to the Grand Canyon and is the self-proclaimed Gateway to the Grand Canyon.
If you are on a budget, I recommend eating lunch here. We made the mistake of skipping this McDonald’s cause it was “too early for lunch” and stopped an hour later at the McDonald’s closer to the South Rim… huge mistake. Each meal there was $10. Not worth it.
Parking at the South Rim fills up by about noon or 1pm each day, which was right around the time we were arriving. We lucked out and got a parking spot, but if you’re not as lucky there is a shuttle you can take from Tusayan, a little town right outside the park entrance.
We started our visit at Mather Point, which is a popular overlook of the canyon. If you, like me, have never visited before, you’ll think “hey, this doesn’t look like the movies! I had no idea there was a fence between me and the canyon!” and you’ll be right. Keep walking along the trail and the fence ends.
Mather Point was extremely populated and I expected the crowds to die down a bit as I continued along the trail but for the most part they did not. However, once you get past the fenced area, there are some points of the canyon that stick out that you can climb down to if you’re feeling more adventurous. We climbed down to a point that had about 10 people on it and from there climbed down to a second point that only had a couple people on it.
I loved being down on the points. It was quiet, calm, and serene. It was exactly the feeling of “getting away” that I wanted from a National Park, and that I thought I wouldn’t get from the crowds of thousands above me. If you are able, I highly recommend hiking down the canyon a little bit to getaway from the crowds.
After we climbed back up (much more difficult for someone like me who is not in the best of shape), we walked along the paved trail just to see the canyon some more, but we didn’t have a lot of time so we didn’t get to do anymore hiking. As I said, I’d love to go back and stay longer one day and do the mule rides and all that, but this one day trip to the canyon was a great introduction and a great way to view the splendor of the canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park stats:
- Ease of access: Easy, but not necessarily a quick drive depending on where you’re coming from
- Price: cheap, $30/car admission
- Clothes: If you’re the type who just wants to visually see the canyon from atop the paved sidewalk, any. If you, like me, want to actually hike down a bit, I recommend hiking shoes and comfortable hiking pants/capris. I had to sit and scoot on some rocks to climb down the canyonside, so I was glad I chose to wear capris and not shorts for the sake of my thighs.
- Crowds: HELLA – I cannot believe how many people were there. It’s been confirmed to me that it was indeed Spring Break for some areas during the time I traveled so that’s my bad, but still. Prepare for just outrageous crowds.
- Recommend?: Yes. It really is a sight to behold – one you can’t really imagine until you see it in person.
I said we visited two National Parks during our trip… stay tuned to hear all about the second one next week! If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, leave a comment! We’d love to hear your take on it.
National Park Count: 1/59