Ready to plan that next great vacation? The Grand Canyon, south rim, is a wonderful destination. You can plan a half-day, full day, or multiple day stay to suit your family or personal vacation needs.
WHAT TO DO: HIKING
Once you drive through the entrance gates, you will park near the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor’s Center. Check in with the rangers and get a map and suggestions for a strategy to suit your needs. You can rent a bicycle, hike from Mather Point, or combine hiking with shuttle rides to reach the Grand Canyon Village. If you are in for a half-day stay, have lunch at one of the restaurants, buy some souvenirs, and head back to the Visitor’s Center to get your car. The El Tovar Lodge houses a nice restaurant for a scrumptious sit-down meal, or you can have a more informal meal elsewhere.
If you are staying for a full day, then head to the Bright Angel trail for a little hiking into the Canyon itself. You take a short hike, or if you are staying multiple days, you can hike the Bright Angel Trail as a separate day venture. To round out your full-day trip, stop in at the Verkamp Visitor Center. At the Yavapai Geology Museum, the kids can get the National Park Passports stamped and participate in other ranger programs. Also, take some time in the Kolb Studio.
If you visit on multiple days, I recommend parking at the Visitor’s Center and taking the shuttle to the Grand Canyon Village to begin your second day’s exploration. Parking is difficult in the park. Visitor lots look more convenient on the map to places of interest or shuttle stops than they are in reality; so, let the shuttle do the navigation. Once you have hiked Mather Point to the Grand Canyon Village, you are set to hike toward Hermit’s Rest. This hike is less populated than the Mather Point route. I recommend a combination of hiking and shuttling on this route. We did this route as a half-day exploration on our second day.
WHAT TO DO: RIDES AND TOURS
If you want to take a helicopter tour, book it in advance. These tours can be a little pricey for some budgets, but the view is well worth it. The park also offers donkey rides into the canyon. These leave in the morning, so plan your day accordingly if you decide to ride down. We chose not to take a donkey ride based on the experience of some friends. Donkeys can be uncomfortable and unpleasant.
WHERE TO STAY
The Grand Canyon National Park boasts six lodges of varying prices and comfort. Staying in the park affords an easy opportunity to catch a sunrise or sunset. The park also hosts a Trailer Village for campers. Immediately south of the entrance gates is a small community of hotels and restaurants for those who do not want to stay in the park, for whatever reason. About 15 miles south of the South rim is the Grand Canyon Inn. It is a basic hotel with a suitable restaurant and small bar.
ABOVE AND BEYOND
First and foremost, bring water bottles. In an effort to cut down on litter, the park does not sell bottles of water. However, water stations are conveniently located along the trails and near the restaurants and other attractions. Hydration in the dry climate, especially if you visit during hot seasons, is of ultimate importance. Because the air is dry, bring saline nose spray to head off nose bleeds. Our server at El Tovar said she addresses the dry air problem by coating the inside of her nose with Vaseline.
Even if you do not plan to walk extensively wear comfortable walking shoes. Layer your clothing for heat. In the hot season, wear a light overshirt to help prevent sunburn, but also wear sunscreen. Sunglasses and a sun hat are also quite helpful.
Phone reception in and around the park is spotty, even with a 4G network, so expect some disruption of service. Practice your best acrobatic stances that usually help improve phone reception.
Finally, when you enter the park, if you are a senior and do not have a senior pass, you can get one quickly at the booths. This pass allows you and anyone in your car to enter free of charge. This pass is also good at all National Parks.
If you have never been to the Grand Canyon, it is a must-see destination! Since my first visit, I refer to the natural marvel as the “OMG Canyon.” However, you must see it for yourself, so start planning that great vacation now.