Grand Canyon – Southwest USA Road Trip (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Southwest USA Road Trip 2012

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.  

In October 2012, Ken and I took a two week road trip around the Southwestern United States.  We flew to Albuquerque, NM and then drove from Albuquerque, New Mexico >Canyon de Chelly, Arizona > Moab, Utah > Monument Valley, Utah > Lake Powell, Arizona > Grand Canyon (South Rim).

The last “big” stop of our Southwest USA Road Trip was the Grand Canyon. Our trip would officially end with one night in Las Vegas, but since we’d both been there twice in the last several years, we weren’t planning on much for our one night there.

We stayed on Grand Canyon property for all three nights. Specifically, we stayed at the Thunderbird Lodge, which I had booked nearly a year in advance. If you want to stay within the Grand Canyon grounds, you MUST book far in advance! By the time I had booked, the El Tovar, the hotel I preferred, was already completely sold out! I was actually quite impressed by the Thunderbird Lodge though, and we even had a partial canyon view!

View from Thunderbird Lodge at Grand Canyon Thunderbird Lodge - Grand Canyon Hotels

On our first evening, we walked around the South Rim, near the hotels.

Sunset at the Grand Canyon Folks standing near the edge of the grand canyon viewing cameras at the grand canyon

Later that evening, after we had gone to dinner at a neighboring Grand Canyon hotel, I had to go to our parked car to pick up a few things. As I walked back to the hotel, I looked up and said to myself, “Wow, I don’t remember seeing that elk (or whatever) statue when we first got here.” Then the damn thing MOVED. I yelped, not quietly, drawing the attention of folks down the walkway. I just calmly said, “Oops, sorry. Nothing to be concerned about. I was just startled by this GIANT ANIMAL.”  Nice going Melissa.  Being startled by nature WHILE IN NATURE.

Elk at Grand Canyon

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

The next morning, we woke up early to enjoy sunrise at the Grand Canyon.

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon Sunrise at the Grand Canyon Sunrise at the Grand Canyon Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

South Rim Trail

After some breakfast, we started on a few of the very easy trail hikes on the South Rim. We took the Grand Canyon shuttle bus to Mather Point, and began the three mile hile back to Grand Canyon Village, where our hotel was.

Mather Point at the Grand Canyon View of the Grand Canyon from Mather Point

There were a few signs at Mather point telling visitors not to throw coins in the canyon.

Coins Can Kill - Grand Canyon

The next viewpoint on the trail was Yavapai Point.

Yavapai Point at the Grand Canyon View from Yavapai Point

At Yavapai point, there was an indoor science building explaining the history and geology of the canyon. There were also binoculars available for visitors to use.

Using binoculars at Yavapai point Graphical depictions of the Grand Canyon Graphical depictions of the Grand Canyon

Along the trail, there are pieces of stone and rock from each time period layer of the Grand Canyon. Here’s one of the newer ones at 1.190 million years old

Grand Canyon Supergroup Bass Limestone

Hermits Rest Trail

After our three mile easy hike along the South Rim Trail, we rested our legs at the hotel room, and then took a shuttle bus to the very end of the Hermit’s Rest Trail. We then took the shuttle to each lookout point along the trail. There is an option to hike the entire trail, but it is very long, and unfortunately we didn’t have the time.

View from Hermits Rest Trail at the Grand Canyon

Some folks liked getting really close to the edge. Ken and I were not among those people.

People standing close to edge of Hermits Rest Trail Lookout points along Hermits Rest Trail Lookout points along Hermits Rest Trail Lookout points along Hermits Rest Trail

At one of the lookouts along Hermits Rest, there were National Park Rangers investigating reports of individuals hunting or otherwise using guns inside the Canyon, which is a big no no. They were radioing down to Rangers stationed inside the Canyon once they pinpointed their location.

Park rangers at Grand Canyon Park Rangers looking for illegal activity at Grand Canyon

We finished up all the lookout points along Hermit’s Rest.

View of Grand Canyon from Hermits Rest trail lookout View of Grand Canyon from Hermits Rest trail lookout View of Grand Canyon from Hermits Rest trail lookout View of Grand Canyon from Hermits Rest trail lookout

We could even spot the Colorado river and some rapids all the way from the rim!

View of Colorado River from South Rim of Grand Canyon along Hermits Rest Trail View of Colorado River from South Rim of Grand Canyon along Hermits Rest Trail

After the slightly unnevering experience of seeing those giant elk in front of our hotel the night before, what did we see the next night when we went to the hotel next door to go to dinner. EVEN BIGGER ELK, this time males. Look at those antlers!

Elk at Grand Canyon Elk outside Thunderbird Lodge at Grand Canyon

When we went to dinner, we told the waiter about the sighting. He said that the Elk LOVE that grassy area in front of the Thunderbird Lodge, because it is one of the few irrigated areas along the canyon rim. So they love the refreshing watered grass!

Bright Angel Trail

The next day, we decided to try a small segment of the Bright Angel Trail. For those not familiar, Bright Angel Trail is one of the two trails that will take you all the way to the canyon floor. There are MANY signs warning you not to hike down and back in the same day. Our goal was the reach the first “rest house” and then turn around and hike back up to the rim. We didn’t make it to the rest house (we’re THAT out of shape), but it was still nice to descend into the Grand Canyon, even if just for a little bit.

Bright Angel Trail sign Instructions for what to do if you see a group on mules Hiking down the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon Hiking down the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon

And we spotted these fools way beyond the dangerous overlook sign.

Danger signs along Bright Angel Trail Danger signs along Bright Angel Trail

There are mule ride options down Bright Angel trail. Maybe on a future trip, we can do that!


I must say, the trail was very well maintained, and there was very little to trip on, which is always a relief to my klutzy self! I’m not terribly afraid of heights, so the steep cliffs didn’t bother me too much, but it helped that the trail was nice and wide so you never had to get too close to the edge.

Ken hiking along the Bright Angel Trail

After we hiked back up to the rim, we basically took it easy the rest of the day. We always seem to peter out on the last one or two days of a vacation. We hit up some gift shops at the Grand Canyon, had some dinner, and that was it!

If you go to the Grand Canyon, I definitely recommend staying on Grand Canyon property! We literally went three full days without having to leave Grand Canyon grounds, which is a good thing, because it was probably a 20 mile drive just to EXIT the park. Everything you could possibly need is available at the Grand Canyon. Yes, there is a bit of a price premium, but it’s not that bad. Heck, even their bottled beers were six bucks, which is cheaper than you can get a beer at a restaurant here in the DC area! Restaurants, hotels, gift shops, and even a small grocery and general store is available.

Have you visited the Grand Canyon?  What did you think?

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