Grand Canyon National Park
No photo I’ve ever seen of the Grand Canyon does it justice. It is so much bigger and more beautiful than I imagined.
Ben and I pulled into the national park just as the sun was setting and drove immediately to the nearest viewpoint, so I got my first look at the canyon right at sunset. My mouth dropped open when I saw it. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and I have to say again—it is so much bigger than I imagined. It’s impossible to capture the scope of it in a photo or description.
We didn’t have enough time on this visit to try anything too adventurous, like hiking to the bottom and camping, or rafting, or a mule ride, but Ben and I did parts of several hikes. Our time was all spent at the South Rim, and we had about a day and a half to explore.
- We hiked the Bright Angel Trail near the South Rim Visitor’s Center to the first rest stop and back up, which was about 3 miles round trip. The rest stop had water and bathrooms and a phone for emergencies. A ranger was also patrolling the trail.
- We walked along the paved Rim Trail from Mather Point to the start of the South Kaibab Trail.
- We hiked the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Ahh Point and back up, which was about 2 miles round trip. There were no restrooms at Ooh Ahh Point and the trail had no water access.
The park staff and many many signs warned people not to attempt to hike too far. It felt pretty easy to go downhill into the canyon, but hiking back up was not a joke. Even with plenty of water, sunscreen, good hiking boots, and some previous hiking experience under our belts, the short distances Ben and I hiked up out of the canyon were exhausting. I could see how someone might want to “just keep going a little further down” and get in a really rough situation on the way back up.
In addition to the sunset and a beautiful day of hiking, we got up to watch the sunrise over the canyon near Mather Point and drove to the Desert View Watchtower and see a different view.
Helpful supplies & Tips for exploring
- Sunscreen! We brought tons of sunscreen and other gear to keep from getting sunburned. The South Rim is 7,000 ft. in elevation so you are that much closer to the sun. Ben has a “sun hoodie” and I have a long-sleeved sun shirt that are specifically designed with cool, breathable fabric so you can wear them in the heat and protect your skin.
- Water. We both brought along CamelBak bags with hydration packs full of water. Our hike day at the Grand Canyon is actually the first time I’ve ever finished all of my CamelBak water on a day hike.
- Snacks. We brought sandwiches and snack bars along on our hike day.
- Clothes for cold, windy conditions. It was very windy, which made it feel cold at times even during the day. (That may not be the case visiting during the summer but it was in mid-May.) I witnessed one person’s hat blow away over the edge of the canyon. I was glad to have a jacket and long pants to wear in the evenings.
If I have the chance to return to the Grand Canyon at some point, hiking to the bottom on the Bright Angel Trail and camping for a night would be at the top of my list. Rafting would also be amazing, though that would be (quite) a bit more expensive than camping.
Have you been to the Grand Canyon? What was your first impression? What would you do if you went back?