Grand Canyon National Park – Gazing Upon Earth’s Beauty
On our drive home from Arizona Spring Training, we decided to take a longer route home to make a visit to Grand Canyon National Park. While Matt’s visited a few times, it’s always been on my bucket list to go.
We did have the dogs with us so there weren’t any hikes or helicopter rides. It’s not a travel guide or itinerary but we are sharing our experience visiting a National Park, with two dogs in tow. We’ll save that for another trip.
A Little About The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon isn’t something I have to introduce to anyone. We’ve all heard of it, seen photos and video, or perhaps even flown over it on a trip to Vegas, like I did years ago. Regardless, here are some fun facts that may interest you.
- You can fit the entire state of Rhode Island inside of Grand Canyon National Park. The park measures at 1,904 square miles while Rhode Island is 1,212 square miles.
- Just under 6 million people visit Grand Canyon National Park a year.
- An Indian tribe lives inside the Canyon. The Havasupai tribe inhabits a Reservation at the base of the Canyon which is inaccessible by roads. Mail is delivered by mules to the tribe of 208 members. Other Indian tribes who inhabit the area include the Navajo, Hopi, Paiute, and Hualapi.
- The Grand Canyon was named by John Wesley Powell, a Civil War veteran. He along with nine companions traveled the Colorado River for 1,000 via wooden boats in 1869. In 1871 he first used the term “Grand Canyon” and the name obviously stuck.
- There are only eight species of fish in the Canyon. The Colorado River is heavy with silt add to that the extreme weather changes in the area from sub-freezing winters to extremely hot summers and you don’t have an easy habitat for fish. Six of those eight species are not found any where outside of the Colorado River.
The Night Before/Driving to the Park
We left from Surprise, Arizona the day before visiting and decided to stay in Williams, Arizona, about an hour drive from Grand Canyon Village. This kept costs lower than trying to stay in or as close to the park as possible and we had the dogs with us, which adds to room rentals.
The drive through Sedona, Arizona was gorgeous. This is now another place added to our never ending list of places to go. Ignore some spots on the pictures. We tried cleaning the windshield as much as possible; but the bugs had a death wish and loved our newly clean glass.
We’d like to go back to Williams sometime to stay for a weekend and explore as well.
Entering Grand Canyon National Park
The drive from Williams to the National Park Sign as you enter the park took us a little over an hour. We moved slowly in traffic as we expected. Visits to National Parks come with traffic. It’s part of the territory. It wasn’t that bad. Our furry co-pilots behaved way better than expected, other than seeing the occasional dog in another vehicle.
Costs for Entry and America the Beautiful Pass
There are a number of different park entry fees as you can see below (information is as of March 2021).
A private vehicle 1-7 day pass is $35/day, with motorcycles at $30 and bicycles/pedestrians at $20 for the same amount of time.
Then you have your various passes, for all National Park Services the America the Beautiful Pass is $80/year, more on that below. A Grand Canyon specific pass is $70/year, seniors (age 62+) can obtain a lifetime pass for $80 or $20 for one year. Active US Military are free.
This pass allows you free or discounted entry to National Parks/Monuments and State Parks/Monuments for a period of 1 year. There are a variety of other passes available depending on Military/Veteran status and even one for fourth graders in the US! For more information on that click here.
Public Service Announcement
Now, my only complaint. This is not directed at the National Park Service, their employees and volunteers do so much to keep our parks accessible, safe, and clean. This is for you the other 5.9 million visitors annually to Grand Canyon National Park – CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF. Whether its on a trail at a picnic area, or where I saw the problem, in the bathrooms. I will never understand what goes through the head of people who leave a lavatory disgusting. Why?
Excuse the bathroom photo below, but this is ridiculous. Parents, make sure you check on your children after they go, and teach them not to do this. Adults, if you are still doing this, STOP. Immediately. I’ve seen this at parks, rest stops, amusement parks, even restaurants. Just take a second and don’t be disgusting.
Considering the traffic we encountered on our way into the park, as it bottlenecked and then paused while people purchased or presented passes, parking was easy everywhere we stopped. Keep that in mind, and if there is a view point that doesn’t seem too busy, pull over and take a look. As we experienced, things seem to go in waves, some spots we pulled over with barely any cars around, and until we left the viewpoint, there was a line waiting to get in. Another part of the territory. If you can get ahead of or way behind the crowds, you may find a less busy experience.
But without any further adieu, I present the beauty of Grand Canyon National Park.
Visitor Center Area and Rim Trail
We begin at the area around the Grand Canyon Visitor Center located on South Entrance Road.
We didn’t enter the Visitor Center buildings other than the bathrooms. There was a large crowd, tour groups, school groups, some kind of groups, and with two dogs in tow we weren’t getting involved in that mess. We stayed in the area between Mather Point and the water tower you can see on the map above.
From here we got plenty of breathtaking views and the dogs got in a great walk, and lots of pets from passersby.
Speaking of the dogs. I’ll just get their Grand Canyon experience out of the way now. This was the only spot they visited, as we left them in the heated car with their blankets and beds on our other stops that day.
We stayed along the Rim trail on this first part, not going off of the main path. We didn’t have proper shoes or hiking gear, plus the dogs aren’t allowed off the main area. This is for their safety, your safety, and the safety of the wild life on the trails.
Desert View Watchtower
After our time at the area surrounding the Visitor Center, we decided to head East a bit. We drove 47 minutes to the Desert View Watchtower. The idea behind this was that this was the furthest East we would go and therefore we could back track on our way out of the park and avoid crossing traffic to access any view points.
The drive is lovely, you almost forget for a second whats not far off the forest road.
The Desert View Watchtower is 4 stories and stands 70 feet tall. It was designed in 1932 by architect, Mary Colter. Unfortunately due to the National Park Services restrictions during the pandemic, we were not allowed to enter the tower as is normally allowed. Learn more about the Desert View Watchtower from their article on the National Park Service website.
The view near the Desert View Watchtower is remarkable. No wonder the tower was built in this spot!
We made two more stops along the way at the Moran Point and the Navajo Point.
We even spotted some local wildlife on our way between Navajo and Moran Points!
And last a view from Moran Point. Sums up our short day trip to the Grand Canyon, with pups in tow!
After leaving the park, we drove to a hotel for the night to rest before getting on the road once again to head home. Finally, Rudy could catch up on the weather report and all slept well after a day’s adventure.
Grand Canyon National Park – Final Thoughts
I loved it. I thought perhaps I’d be underwhelmed as I have been with other monuments. But this was not the case at all! We’d love to go again sans canines and take a hike or perhaps a helicopter ride down into the canyon. It doesn’t disappoint with activities and sights. If you already have or are planning to purchase the America the Beautiful Pass and want to get a time restrained experience.
Have you been to the Grand Canyon or any other National Parks? Let us know which ones in the comments!