Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Our short trip to the Grand Canyon would be Sissy’s first and my first since I was a kid. We were wrapping up a two week road trip from Reno to San Francisco and all the way down Highway 1. I vaguely remember thinking as a child that the canyon looked like a painting and not overly real, so my expectations weren’t astronomically high as we drove in from Vegas. It took us about three hours by car to get there, and as we neared the entrance Sissy called out that she saw some deer on the side of the road. We parked and walked toward where she saw them. As we got close we saw they were larger than any normal deer and had manes around their necks. We got pretty close to the group of what turned out to be elk, snapped some shots, and headed off to the canyon.

Grand Canyon Elk
An elk we saw on the side of the road before the south entrance

We decided to head into the south rim entrance and skip the skywalk, which would’ve been a much shorter drive, for a few reasons. First, the road to get to the skywalk is unpaved and a bit rough, which means you can pay $43 per person for a bus to drive you in which includes entrance to the park, then pay another $40 per person to actually walk on the skywalk. Second, the south rim of the canyon is supposed to be great for day hikes, and we were really excited to journey in. We drove the extra ways south, gladly paid our $30 for both of us which was a 7 day pass, and drove in.

When we parked and walked toward the edge of the canyon, we weren’t prepared for the sight that was opening up in front of us. The canyon took my breath away, and I had been there before! No longer did it look like an unreal painting to me, but a gorgeous, vast expanse of earth that stretched as far as the eye could see. We walked along the rim for a bit, and ventured down a little ways in here and there, forgetting how tired we were from the drive. It was evening, and after wandering around for over an hour, the sun was getting ready to set and we still didn’t have a hotel picked out.

Grand Canyon South Rim
Sitting on the edge of the canyon was a great experience

We made our rounds through the canyon hotels and lodging, but we were there in January and the only places that were open started around $150 on the low end. We headed to nearby Tusayan and after reading some reviews we chose the Best Western Premier for our stay. I’ve stayed in plenty of Best Westerns and knew what to expect, and for $45 for the night I couldn’t complain, however this time we were pleasantly surprised. The room was larger and more modern that I had seen in any Best Western, the staff was very pleasant and gave us a discount without us asking for it because it was low season, and the lobby area was nicer than expected. Breakfast the following morning was included and was much better than the standard continental breakfast that we came to expect from everywhere else we stayed on the trip.

We set out after breakfast on the 10 minute drive back to Mather Point on the south rim of the canyon to figure out where we should start our day hike. After reading a bit we decided on the South Kaibab trail, and that we’d head a ways down, but not to the Colorado River, as it was highly discouraged to go so far and back in one day. We took a free shuttle from the parking lot to Yaki Point, which is near the start of the South Kaibab trail. As we started hiking down, we kicked through a thin layer of snow and started the relatively steep descent into the canyon.

South Kaibab Trail
Snow at the start of the South Kaibab trail

We transitioned from a cold, snowy climate to a warm dry one within a half hour or so, as we dropped a couple hundred feet to our first stop 3/4 of a mile in, Ooh-Ahh Point.

Ooh-Ahh Point
Our first rest stop at Ooh-Ahh Point

We continued down the well made, mule dropping filled trail for another half hour or more to Cedar Ridge, where we stopped to enjoy the view and to use the only restrooms we would see on the trail. Heading on from there we saw even more spectacular views that only the Arizona desert seems to be able to provide.

South Kaibab Trail
Descending toward Skeleton Point

After three total miles of descent, we ended up at Skeleton Point, which provided us our first view of the Colorado River. We toyed with the idea of heading further down, but remembered that for every step we took down, we’d have to take that many steps back up. I had to get back to work within a few days and had a long distance to cover in that time, so camping was out of the question. We admired the scenery for a bit, ate some lunch we had packed, and turned and started the three mile journey back up the canyon.

Skeleton Point
Skeleton Point would be our turn around point on the hike
South Kaibab Trail
Sissy pointing at where we started. I had seen her look more excited before

Heading back up wasn’t quite as hard as it had looked from Skeleton Point, but I was glad we had brought enough water and were in decent shape. The scenery continued to amaze us over the next few hours as we made our way back to the top of the canyon rim. As we wrapped up the final section of the hike, we knew we would have to leave the canyon to head back to Las Vegas for the night, but we both wish we had more time there. Luckily, after Vegas we would get to journey on to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, so we had plenty more outdoors to look forward to!

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