In 2012, we did a driving trip to three US National Parks, Grand Canyon in Arizona and Bryce and Zion in Utah. The first park we visited was Grand Canyon. We drove there from Vegas, the drive was about 5 hours and my first experience with the desert landscape of South West US. It's an enchanting drive, the view on both side of the road looks just out of a painting. As you drive through this region, the landscape is mostly bare but still changes constantly.You drive through vastlands with small bushy vegetation and then high mountains with high cliffs and rocks and then canyons with rivers meandering through them. The colours, the features, the contours of land changes constantly. Its tough to put it in words, the many shapes and colours you see on the drive.On the way, you pass by many casinos too as gambling is legal in Nevada. You also get to see a glimpse of the other side of US, the mid-west and the southerners, who are quite different from the Americans in the north-east US definitely. The roads here are all well maintained, you can drive at good speeds (and cruise too!) and there are many patches in between where there are no cars and no people for miles at a go.On the way to the Grand Canyon from Vegas is the Powell Dam and Lake Mead area. The lake looks like an emerald blue drop against the yellow and brown hungry looking land all around. I think there are a couple of activities to do here, but since we did not stop there, am not sure.Anyways once in Grand Canyon, we stayed in one of the lodges on the south rim of the canyon, Yuvapai Lodge. There are 4 more lodges inside the park, and the other four overlook the canyon; so if you ever plan to go there, do book a room at one of those lodges. Its definitely worth it, staying right on top of the canyon, though it does require you to book way in advance.
The first evening we reached the park, we walked along the rim on the canyon, called the rim trail. It passes by all the lodges and is just a flat trail moving along the rim of the canyon giving views of the depths beneath. The first view of the canyon is mesmerizing, its like nothing else I had ever seen before.
The vastness and size of the canyon really amazes you. And its a photographers delight! The canyon from different angle looks even more view-worthy (though later on you can't distinguish between these views anymore!). The Canyon looks ever more amazing during the sunset, with light falling on some of the peaks on the North rim bringing out many more bright colours as the sun sets.
We also saw some elk while in the park, eating away to glory unaware of all the crowds around them clicking pictures furiously!
The next morning we did a trail in the canyon, the Bright Angels trail. There are multiple points on the trail where you can stop and come back depending on how much time and energy you have. One negative point about the trails at the Canyon is that you go down first! So the first part is easy and then comes the tough part, coming back up!
Since we did not have much time, we trekked till after the 1.5 mile restplace (upto 2 miles). It was a good trek, slightly strenuous but we did descend a lot into the canyon. It looks a little different looking up, than looking down. It was quite hot though, so is advisable to carry lots of water.
On the way back up, we also saw some cave paintings, apparently pre-historic men used to stay here!
If you have time, you should definitely go down into the canyon till you can see the river up close. Also if you have a couple of days, you can definitely do a trek to the Phantom Ranch which is just next to the river and is 9 hours one way. And if you have even more time than that, you can even trek from the North Rim to the South Rim, crossing the canyon. We met a group of people who had done just that, they had been trekking for 5 days. Surely something to look to do someday!!
After the trek, we just took the shuttle bus to look at the viewpoints while on the way to Hermits rest. We stopped at Powell, Hopi, Abyss, Pima viewpoints, each providing a different view of the canyon. The best of course was Hopi point, which provides a very expansive view of the Canyon, from east to west showing how the Colorado meanders through the Canyon. The Colorado water was brown currently but I guess when its blue, it must look divine; sapphire blue flowing water in the middle of the red and brown stone all around.
The colours in the canyon are truly amazing; the different layers of stone in the canyon are all from different periods of the earth's history, they all have a different structure and different colour. The Canyon is huge, the distance between the two opposite ends of the canyon being almost 10 miles! And the depth is about 1.6 miles! Its truly scary to look down, you don't even know how down it goes.The Park has a couple of good eating places too. The Canyon Cafe at Yuvapai opens at 6, which is helpful for trekkers starting early to avoid the heat while trekking. The El Tovar restaurant has a rustic feel about it, made of wood, with a native American theme and giving a complete panoramic view of the Canyon outside the window. The Arizona Room at Bright Angels Lodge also offers decent South-west American food and a good view.There is lot of stuff to do in the Park other than the treks. On the East side of the park, you can drive on the Desert Drive to see the other end of the canyon. There are activities conducted across the park to keep people busy. The amphitheater plays movies of the Canyon; there are native american programmes held at the Lodges; there is white water rafting conducted on the Colorado river; you can even take a helicopter tour of the Canyon. Basically, enough to keep you engaged while in the Park.I loved my experience at the Grand Canyon, because its so different than anything else I have seen. It makes me wonder how something so amazing could have been molded by nature. There are loads of explanations given but I still find it unimaginable.
I also wonder how the first person to stumble on it would have felt? The Canyon comes about so suddenly, you are passing through normal green forests and suddenly there is this fall before you. Not a small one, but one extending to 10 miles and 1.6 miles deep, with various shades of colours visible across the mountains. What a bewitching sight that would have been, what a feeling!For people planning to visit it, just one point. I don't think there is that much to 'see' here, as after a point the canyon starts looking the same. The best way to enjoy the park is to trek there, go down and see the canyon from below. That is when you will feel a part of the park, rather than just visiting and clicking pictures!
This post was originally published on Travelfreak.