South Rim Grand Canyon - Grand Canyon for Dummies

April 3, 2017

The Grand Canyon was never on the list of places I thought I was going to go.  I'm not an outdoor person, so why would I feel the need to go there??  But I was going to Arizona.  Once I realized the Grand Canyon is right there, I couldn't not go.  It just felt wrong.  Especially since I have a shiny new camera that I need to test out.

But here's the thing.  I didn't go in with a game plan.  I kind of figured I could wing it and see what happens.  Which is not a thing I actually recommend for anyone.  It usually ends up poorly.  But this time it actually worked out so much better than I could have ever expected.  That being said, there are a few tips I have for anyone thinking about going to the Grand Canyon for the first time while doing very little research in advance.

#1 - Figure out Where You Want to Go

There are at least two parts of the Grand Canyon you can visit in Arizona.  The North Rim or the South Rim.  For me it was a really easy choice, since the South Rim was the only part that was actually opened.  Once I realized where I was going I set Google Maps for the Visitor Center.  The Visitor Center is always the best first stop when you're going somewhere you don't know.  It gives you a sense of what you can do and where you can go.  And usually there's a restroom.  Which, in the outdoors is a good thing.

#2 - Know When You Want to Get There

Normally I'm a "get up and go "kind of girl. I like to get places right as they open so I miss the crowds.  But today, I had other plans.  I drove 30 minutes out of my way to see a meteor crater and then had to double back to get to the Grand Canyon.  I ended up getting to the park around 1130a.  That time actually worked pretty well for my day, except for the parking.  According to the National Park Service, the parking lots near the Visitor Center are normally filled by 11a. Luckily, I found a spot without too much trouble.  Even though the signs say a parking lot is full up, it isn't always.  It wasn't on this day.

Side note, it will cost you $30 per car to get into the Grand Canyon.  The payment is good for seven days, so plan accordingly.

#3 - Pay Attention to the Weather

It should come as no surprise I really didn't have the right gear for a trip to the Grand Canyon.  I wore a pair of gym shoes (because, traction), had a pair of rolled up jeans, a T-shirt, a light cardigan and a random (fashion) scarf for good measure.  For whatever reason it was colder than I had expected to be at the Grand Canyon.  So I was a little chilly most of the time. A wise thing to do would be to check the weather a little closer to the time you actually show up.  This is something I did not do.

#4 - Its Not Just About Hiking

I thought it would be.  I thought going to the Grand Canyon meant you were hiking.  Kind of like we did when we were in Machu Picchu.  And hiking by yourself is not great.  Doing it with others also sucks, but that's a whole other conversation.  But here's the thing.  There wasn't any hiking.  I mean, you could hike if you wanted to.  But not me.  That's not my thing.  Instead, I walked the Rim Trail.

The Rim Trail is a mostly paved trail that runs about 31 miles.  I did not go that far.  Walking 900 feet from the Visitor Center gets you to Mather Point.  Which was my starting off point for the Rim Trail.  From there, you could walk as far as you wanted to.  Once you got tired, or decided you wanted to head back, you could jump on the shuttle bus that would take you back to just about wherever you wanted to go.

#5 - The Grand Canyon is Spectacular

I had visions of myself walking up to the Grand Canyon, looking at it and thinking well that's just a big hole in the ground. Sure, I would think it was impressive.  But what do you do when you're actually there?? 

There was no reason to worry.  The Grand Canyon is truly a wonder.  It’s also a wonder that you can’t actually explain in words.  No matter how hard you try.  So I'm not going to try.

#6 – Plan for Food

There are a few places to eat around the Grand Canyon.  I ended up at a “high end” hotel with garbage food.  Learn from my mistake.  Eat your own food.

#7 - Drive the Whole of 64

I came in from Flagstaff on 64. But 64 coming in on the south side.  That's where you get the Visitor Center almost immediately.  But if you drive 64 Eastbound, you see more than just the Visitor Center.  Like any road near nature, there always seems to be multiple places for cars to pull off to the side of the road.  I stopped at a few of those places.  But then the weather began to turn, so I decided it would be great to leave as soon as possible.  Though I did end up taking about 400 pictures, so all was not lost.

Side note, you will not have cell service in most of the area around the park.  Bring a paper map to get you back towards where you want to end up after your visit to the Grand Canyon.  And don't try to post much while at the park.  It won't go through and you'll use up more of your phone's battery than you want to.

I didn't expect the Grand Canyon to be so majestic.  I keep using that word, but it's the only thing I can really think of to explain what I saw.  While I didn't spend a ton of time at the canyon, I know that I will go back one day.  There's just so much more to see.


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