The the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular national park destinations in the United States as it is second to only the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Some 4.4 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year and 90% of those visitors come to the south rim. While the north rim of Grand Canyon is spectacular and should not be missed, it is quite remote and one of the better viewing areas on the north rim is a 45 minute drive from the main visitor’s center and that is after you drive 14 miles from the park entrance.

What makes Grand Canyon south rim more popular is that it is located much closer to larger population centers and there is a shuttle system that will take you all over the park without any additional cost once you pay the $25 per car entrance fee (If you travel a lot, buy an America The Beautiful pass for $80 that gets you in to all federally managed parks for 1 year from time of purchase. It will save you lots of money). It is also popular because the Grand Canyon Railway stops there and there are also a number of lodges including the famous El Tovar Hotel, shops, activities such as lots of hiking trails and places to eat that make being in the park easy and enjoyable.

Of course the best thing about being in the Grand Canyon is the vastness and the stunning beauty of the canyon itself. The first time you see the canyon, it may be such an unexpected sight that it can bring tears to your eyes. On our third visit to the canyon this vacation, we took the Grand Canyon Railway and as soon as you get off the train you walk up a 47 step stairway and proceed immediately to the rim. It was interesting to watch the reactions of people who were gazing upon Grand Canyon for the very first time. What people were experiencing seemed to be a sense of astonishment and awe. Wow! is the usual exclamation for first timers and one young lady I was watching exclaimed, OMG, OMG, OMG! as she was obviously overwhelmed by her senses. The canyon can do that to you.

The nice thing about the south rim is that there are so many different overlooks that you can either walk to yourself or take the shuttle bus to. Each and every overlook gives you a different perspective and there are several places along the south rim where you can see the Colorado River meandering along its path some 5,000 feet below. In one particular place along the canyon rim drive, you can make out a rapid (and even hear it if conditions are right) that looks small from your vantage point, but is actually one of the most spectacular rapids in the canyon. It ranks an 8 on a scale of 10 (Grand canyon has its own rapid classification system) and even though it looks small, if you can hear it from being 5,000 feet above it and being probably 4 to 5 miles linear distance away, just imagine what it is like going through it on a raft.

To get some perspective on this picture, look to the far, middle right and notice the thin flag pole. It is about 50 feet tall (Look closely, it is very hard to see.).

If you can visit the Grand Canyon in the fall when the crowds are thinner your visit will be all that more enjoyable. While in mid October the park seemed somewhat crowded to us, we can’t imagine what it would be like in the summer. Grand Canyon Village was bustling with people especially around the restaurants and snack bars and the end of October is the off season. While the entire Grand Canyon National Park is much larger that most other National Parks, the area that a large percentage of people visit is relatively small. Most people come just to see the rim of the canyon while in a place like the Great Smoky Mountain National Park there are more than 850 miles of trails, Cades Cove, multiple campgrounds and an area of over 500,000 acres to easily explore. It is not like that in Grand Canyon so make sure you plan your vacation accordingly and if possible avoid the summer crowds.

However and whenever you choose to visit Grand Canyon, it will be a visit that you will surely remember and talk about for many years. There is no place quite like it anywhere on Earth.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>