For the Memorial Day long weekend in 2014 we three friends decided to visit one of the most popular and widely visited national parks in US which is the Grand Canyon National park in the state of Arizona.
We three met up at the airport after our day at work and took the late evening flight to reach Phoenix and as expected due to it being a long weekend our flight was delayed by an hour.
Our hotel for the night was booked at Flagstaff which was a good 2.5 hour drive from Phoenix.
Considering the flight was delayed; we reached the hotel pretty late after our rental car pick up. (It was almost 2am!)
The next morning's plan was to tour the lower and upper Antelope Canyons which was located at a place called Page further 2.5 hour drive from our hotel location in Flagstaff. So after sleeping for about 3-4 hours we again got ready and left.
These slot canyons are truly unique and one of a kind destination. These canyons are naturally formed marvels consisting entirely of Navajo sandstone and formed mostly from flash flooding and erosion.
The canyons offer visitors spectacular vibrant colors when the sun shines overhead; producing deep contrasting textures and layers of sandstone.
The Upper Antelope canyons are the more popular canyons and the tours so offered are more rushed and crowded.
Since it was better to visit the Antelope canyons around midday to view the strong beams of sunlight so produced we had pre booked our tour for the Lower Canyon for around 10am. ~ Had taken the Ken's Lower Antelope Canyon tour. ((928) 606-2168)
Both the slot canyons can be visited only via an Navajo authorized guided tour.
The lower canyon tour leave every 20 minutes and the canyon by itself is half a mile in length and takes about 1.5 hours to complete based on photographs individuals take. (There are specific Photo tours also available)
Thereafter we reached the Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours to visit the Upper Antelope Canyons.
The Upper Antelope Canyons are located pretty away from the US 98; so once you park your car in the Navajo parking lot the tour operator/ guide takes the individuals who are part of the tour along a dirt road.
As mentioned above; the Upper Antelope canyons were a lot more crowded due to the sun beams and also it being flat in nature unlike the lower canyons where individuals are required to descend down. ~ Hwy 98, Between Mile posts 299 and 300. There is no specific GPS location but it's easy to locate the tour operator location.
One of my friend is an avid photographer and he had a great time snapping pictures of the canyons and color formations due to the sin light falling on the Navajo sandstone. I was just happy posing and getting my pictures clicked.
The slot canyons are formed due ti flash floods and tour operators generally cancel the tours when there is possibility of raining. So make sure to check the weather for the day before you head out.
You can then visit the Carl Hayden Visitor Center to view the Glen Canyon Dam over Lake Powell; though it's not as enormous as the Hoover Dam but it is still is an impressive structure.
We then proceeded to view the Horseshoe Bend.
Horseshoe Bend is the name for a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River located near Page, Arizona. It is located five miles (8.5 km) downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, about four miles or six km southwest of Page. Horseshoe Bend can be viewed from the steep cliff above. The overlook is 4,200 feet above sea level and the Colorado River is at 3,200 feet above sea level making it a breathtaking 1,000 foot drop. It is a short ¾ of a mile hike from US Route 89.
The overlook has a lot of hills which people tend to climb in order to get a better view of the bend (I did that too) and the 1,000 foot drop is definitely not for the faint hearted or a person who is scared of heights.
Since it was the last spot of the day we spent some good time overlooking the river and enjoying the good weather. It was truly a peaceful experience looking at how the mighty Colorado river has shaped the canyon. It is one of the most widely photographed spots in the US.
After visiting the Horseshoe Bend we drove to Maswik Lodge (Grand Canyon Village) ~202 Village Loop Dr, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023 for our night stay.
The next morning we woke up around 3.30 am in order to view the sunrise from Hopi Point.
Unfortunately it was a little cloudy that time and we didnt have an extremely amazing sunrise as we had hoped for.
However once it lighted up and we saw the GRAND canyon for the first time it was just amazing. You feel you are so small compared to natural beauty and how it has been shaped over thousands of years by the wind, the water (Colorado river). ~ we had taken the Red bus from the Grand Canyon village.
After the sunrise we returned back to our lodge to freshen up and checked out.
The next destination was hiking which was the most exciting part of the trip. (for me at least)
We had decided to undertake the Bright Angel Trail-head right behind our lodge which continues down till the river bed ~ 10 miles one way but the trail is decently paved (dirt paved) in the first 5 miles up till the Indian Garden area. Thereafter there is no proper steps/ dirt road and with the sun at the top it is really a good strain on your body. We could hardly find people on the way and with the strong sun we were always thinking when will we reach the river!
Generally it is advised that if you are hiking down till the river then you should camp for the night at the river bed and then hike the next day but we didn't have that option considering we had to catch a flight back the early morning and had to return to Phoenix for the same.
With such a big hike you need to ensure you carry plenty of water, energy bars to ensure that the body doesn't get dehydrated and has sufficient nutrients.
Once we reached the river bed we relaxed a bit along the river and started heading back towards the starting point of the trail-head way at the top.
We then visited Yaki point for sunset and we were not disappointed during sunset and were able to view the sun setting behind the Grand Canyon.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is very convenient to visit and travel due to the bus services offered by the National Park Service which take you to the different points within the park and if you are someone who enjoys viewing the magnanimity of nature it is certainly worth the trip.
You can walk along the Rim trail or even visit the different spots by drive along the Desert Drive.
Thereafter we drove back towards Phoenix which was almost 4 hours away and after returning the car we spent time (slept) at the airport as we waited for our early morning flight back to Chicago to conclude one of the best trips I have had with my friends.