Desert View (elev. 7,438 ft) with a view of the Colorado River. The layered rock shelf in the background is 12-plus miles away.
Exploring the South Rim of a Natural Wonder
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Snap a thousand pictures, it’s not enough. Try to envision it, but it’s too vast to contemplate. Try to explain it, and words fall short. And once your travels finally get you there, there’s nothing to prepare you, once you're standing on the edge peering down — all your senses falling, toppling head over heels in wonder, awe and delight.
The Grand Canyon is, and remains, one of the most stunning natural landscapes on earth: a dazzling array of colorful rock layers, awe-inspiring buttes, and shadowed rock. You can literally drive to a point, get out of your car and just stare. The changing play of light and shadows from the wind and sunlight creates a hypnotic, almost ethereal effect.
How to See It
If you’re a first timer, you’ll likely be visiting the South Rim. Entrance fee is $25 per vehicle, $12 per person, which lasts a full week. After you’ve cleared the park gate, hang a right on Desert View Drive and get busy checking out the six scenic points along Hwy 64 (about 25 miles between the South and East entrances). If you go left, you'll run right into Grand Canyon Village, a nest of hotels, museums, artist studios, grocery stores, amusements, bus tours, etc. While these amenities are nice, they're a bit of a distraction. All you need is what the park ranger hands you at the gate: a park map, The Guide newspaper and your ticket stub.
Pictures and Video. Make sure your camera is charged with an empty memory card before you go. It’s easy to snap off 300 pictures in about an hour or two, so have plenty of memory. We have a car outlet converter for when our camera battery needs a boost. Also, Market Plaza in Grand Canyon Village sells camera accessories, food and sundries to fresh-off-the-bus tourists who don’t mind paying the upcharge. Pack water, snacks, and a picnic prior to your trip to save some cash. With a little planning, you can avoid unnecessary expenses.
Sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen and water are all you need to make a memorable journey into the canyon’s rugged terrain. Be prepared for some awe-inspiring views, but be careful. Some trails offer miles and miles of steep terrain with little shade. Remember that a hike back up can take twice as long as the hike down. A couple of ambitious hikers we met part-way down had left at 10am and were getting back at 3pm. Park rangers at the Backcountry Information Center have a lot of good information on how to have fun exploring and maintain safety.
Who You'll Meet
The Grand Canyon’s fame spans the globe, and it entertains an international clientele. In the six hours we were there, we had our picture taken by a couple from Germany, and woman from the Netherlands; watched a Frenchman's picture slideshow; rubbed shoulders with a Russian group; nodded “hello” to a Japanese couple; and smelled the cologne-and-motor-oil wafts from a crush of Harley-Davidson-riding Italians.
Our Favorite Point
Desert View point gets our vote for most magnificent and panoramic of all the Grand Canyon’s majestic vistas and overlooks. Desert Point is also the place for the Watchtower (pictured right) a four-story bricked tower, built in 1932 by architect Mary Coulter as an homage to the Navajo and Hopi tribes of the Grand Canyon. From the fourth story, you can see some of the best views of the Grand Canyon. The photo below was taken looking out of the second story window.
South Rim: From I-40, take State Highway 64 at Williams and head north. Coming from I-40 West, you can option for a more scenic bypass by taking U.S. Highway 180 through the San Francisco mountains in Flagstaff that connects with 64.
North Rim: From I-40, take U.S. Highway 89 from Flagstaff and go north and through Marble Canyon (the southside of the Vermillion Cliffs Nat'l Monument); take Byway 89 to Jacob Lake; turn left on State Highway 67 going south.