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Grand Canyon National Park

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Grand Canyon National Park...
Grand Canyon National Park might be considered the premier National Park in America. I would contend it's Yellowstone, but I didn't name Grand Canyon as one of the Seven Wonders Of The World. But do notice it's not in my list of favorite National Parks.

I think Grand Canyon suffers from two main problems. The biggest problem, like many of the National Parks, is it is a victim of its own success. The crowds routinely overflow the parking lots at the major view points, and even if they had a decent shuttle system, it would be impractical for many driving through the park. (Let me add that crowds are insane at sunset, but almost non-existent at sunrise. The last time we arrived there, we just bypassed the last few viewpoints before the Village because of the crowds (about 4PM local time), but when leaving the next morning, those same overcrowded viewpoints were deserted. Of course, the canyon looks quite different at sunrise than at sunset...)

By the same token, facilities like food service is both overwhelmed and underwhelming at the same time. We weren't hungry when we passed through Cameron, but we spent a couple hours at the Little Colorado River Gorge and by the time we entered the park, we decided to eat. The only place available for miles was at Desert View. Not only did the lines go out the door, but the food was abysmal, both in selection and taste. We had dinner at the Arizona Room on the rim in the Village, and couldn't give it any rating above just okay. Back to Top

Grand Canyon Map
Full map of Grand Canyon National Park, from Lake Powell to Lake Mead. Click on the map for a larger view. (A map from the East Entrance to Grand Canyon Village is below.)
The other... issue I have with the park is the same as I had with the Tetons. The canyon is enormous. However, once you get comfortable with that fact, the first 1/2 mile of your view may change from viewpoint to viewpoint, but the background begins to look alike. In addition, the actual drive along the canyon's South Rim, and the access to the North Rim, only shows you a small area of the actual park, thus you're only exposed to a fraction of the Colorado River and the canyon it carved here.

Now that I've said that, I'm sure my experience there would be completely different if I hiked into the canyon (like having that heart attack trying to climb back out), or if I invested the time and rode a raft down the Colorado. But I haven't, and have learned my lesson as a sea-level flatlander that heavy exertion at a mile above sea level isn't my thing. It's a nice place to visit, but I do like my oxygen...

While there are other places higher on my list to visit than Grand Canyon, everyone should probably see it. It is, after all The Grand Canyon. If you're a casual tourist and plan no serious hiking down into the canyon, then I'd suggest one night in the park, if you can get a room. Coming from where ever you're coming from, a full afternoon (and sunset) on day one and a full second day will probably cover the South Rim, including the museums and other side attractions in the park.

This does not include a visit to the other rim of the canyon. (See the North Rim below.) Back to Top

Grand Canyon - South Rim

Grand Canyon Map
Perspective map from the East Entrance to Grand Canyon Village. Click on the map for a larger view. (A map of Grand Canyon Village is below.)
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Desert View
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Navajo Point
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Lipan Point
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Tusayan Museum
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Moran Point
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Grandview Point
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Unnamed Pullout
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Yaki Point
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Mather Point
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Yavapai Point
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Grand Canyon Village

Grand Canyon Map
Grand Canyon Village map. Click on the map for a larger view.
Grand Canyon Village is where the main Visitor's Center is located, as well as other facilities like hotels, restaurants, museums, stores and the post office. This is also where the rail station is, should you come by train.

It is also the meeting of the Desert View Drive and the South Entrance road, which leads to Tusayan, the overflow town should you not be able to get a room in the Village.

It's a good place for sunset photos if you're staying locally. Just turn off the flash on your camera...

Grand Canyon Village
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Maswik Lodge

A word about the rooms at Maswik Lodge. (Well, as of 2008, things may have changed, check someplace like Trip Advisor.)

There are two types of rooms. Newer rooms with air conditioning, and older rooms without. (I only mention the air conditioning, since that seems to differentiate the old rooms from the new.)

If you check the ratings for the hotel on any travel site, some reviews will be glowing, some will be... less favorable. The glowing reviews are the new rooms. Get one of the new rooms.

Maswik Lodge Room Interior
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North Rim

It's less than 10 miles from the South Rim to the North Rim as the crow flies (and there are a lot of crows at Grand Canyon), but if you drive, it's over 200 miles.

Should you drive there, a visit to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area might be in order. You could easily spend a day or two there, should you want to visit Rainbow Bridge NM and the Glen Canyon Dam.

On the way to Glen Canyon is Page, Arizona, the only city between the North Rim and South Rim large enough to have a Wal-Mart and other major businesses should you need one.

At the very least, a stop at Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry is a must.

North Rim
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Final Thoughts

Yes, you should see the Grand Canyon. But if you're driving and planning a vacation around the park, keep in mind that less than a half day's drive from the South Rim is Monument Valley, a must see on the list of things you should really see, along with a stay at Goulding's Lodge. Zion is a couple hours from the North Rim, with Cedar Breaks and Bryce another couple hours beyond that. It wouldn't be hard to spend a week just visiting the general area... Back to Top

Related Links:

Colorado River
Colo River Link The Colorado River starts as a small stream in Rocky Mountain National Park, and gathers hundreds of other streams and rivers along the way to become the lifeline of the Southwest, providing water, electricity and recreation to millions in the five states the river flows through or touches.

I've actually followed the river in one form or another, from Rocky Mountain National Park to Grand Canyon. I've also done more river miles on the Colorado than any other river...

Colorado, Utah and Arizona / 55 Images. Visited Sep 2005, Sep 2008.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Glen Canyon Link The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area encompasses and products the Colorado River (and many of its tributaries) from Canyonlands to Grand Canyon National Park. It is mostly a creation of the Glen Canyon Dam, which creates a reservoir behind it (Lake Powell) a hundred miles long.

Included on this page is the Navajo Bridge and the Lees Ferry Unit of the park, river level access a dozen miles below the dam.

Arizona, Utah / 47 Images. Visited Sep 1997, Sep 2008.

Little Colorado River Gorge, Navajo Tribal Park
LCRG Link If you're heading to Grand Canyon from US-89, the Little Colorado River Gorge is a side-stop along the way. You can step up right next to the gorge, and if the sheer cliff face doesn't bother you... Then you're a better man than I.

This area is a Navajo Tribal Park, and is part of the Navajo Indian Reservation. An entrance fee is required.

Near Cameron, Arizona / 16 Images. Visited Sep 1997, Sep 2008.

Trip Report: Sep 1997, Sep 2008.

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