Subscribe!Get all the best of On Walkabout by subscribing.

On Walkabout At: The Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Basic Information

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Narrative

During my family’s trip to Arizona the highlight of the trip was supposed to be our visit to the Grand Canyon National Park.  This would be the fourth time I have visited the Grand Canyon, but my wife and kids have never been there before.  However, the weather forecast was not looking good with rain expected to roll in around lunch time which could really ruin the trip.  In order to get the best views possible of the canyon before the rain rolled in we left where we were staying in Prescott, Arizona at 6:00 AM and arrived at the park around 9:00 AM.  I can assure you that trying to get my two young kids moving that early in the morning was not easy!  The drive from Prescott to the Grand Canyon via Williams, Arizona took about 3 hours.


View Larger Map

At the park entrance gate I was able to drive right on through since I have an annual National Park pass.  For those without a park pass it costs $25 per vehicle to enter.  It was already pretty cloudy out when we arrived at the park which you would think would have limited the number of visitors, but it did not matter because the parking lot was a madhouse.  After finding a place to park we immediately walked over to the canyon’s rim instead of walking over to the visitor center in order to get what views we could before the canyon was clouded in.  Even with all the clouds the Grand Canyon is still quite a sight:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Considering the parking lot I thought the crowds at the nearby viewpoint would be worse, but it appears many people were staying in the visitor center hoping the clouds and the cold wind it brought with it would pass:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

From the viewpoint we then began to walk east along the rim and here is a view looking back towards that viewpoint:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Here is another view of visitors along the rim of the canyon as we continued to follow the rim trail to the east:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

The walls of the Grand Canyon are as always extremely impressive no matter how many times I have seen them:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

The various colors of the rock in the Grand Canyon were created over time by the forming of various layers. The top limestone rock layer of the Grand Canyon is believed to be about 230 million years old while the oldest rock on the bottom is believed to be about 1.5 billion years old.  As the rock layers were formed by volcanic activity and erosion over the years they were eventually pushed up by geological forces which eventually led to the the Colorado River to begin carving out this canyon about 17 million years ago:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

At times when the clouds parted enough there were a few iconic views of the Grand Canyon that could be seen:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Picture from the Grand Canyon

We could even spot the Colorado River roaring through the canyon over a mile in altitude down below:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is all above 7,000 feet in altitude while the North Rim is even higher with it being above 8,000 feet in altitude.  Considering how flat the drive to the rim of the canyon is, it is hard to believe at times how high you really are until you reach the rim and look down into the huge hole that is the Grand Canyon.

Despite the clouds and cold wind we had yet to get rained on during our walk along the rim, but looking out across the canyon we could see the rain coming:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Due to the incoming rain we turned around and began walking back towards the Visitor Center.  Along the way back we took in the views once again that we had just seen:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

No matter how many times I see the Grand Canyon I never get tired of taking in these views:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Here is a picture looking back in the other direction at the main viewpoint near the parking lot:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

It looked like the viewpoint had many more people on it now than before when we were there.  Here are a couple of panorama photos I took during our walk along the South Rim:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

IMG_2929

From the rim trail we then walked over to the Visitor Center:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

The inside of the Visitor Center was packed and it had all the usual displays you would expect from a National Park visitor center:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

This large map they had on the wall I thought did a really good job helping visitors understand the scale of the Grand Canyon:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

This National Park is absolutely huge measuring at 1,904 square miles (4931 square kilometers) in size.  However, the Grand Canyon encompasses more than just the park land by being 277 miles long with some points of the canyon being 18 miles wide.  This is why it is impossible to see the park in one day, it is just too big.  However, the South Rim where most people visit, like my family and I were doing is the best place to experience the park for those with only one day to spare.  Our plan after checking out the visitor center was to follow the Desert View Drive road along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to check out its various viewpoints:

Grand Canyon South Rim Map

Our first stop along the road was at Yaki Point:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Fortunately the clouds were actually beginning to thin out a bit thus providing some better views:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

IMG_2930

The next stop on the road was at Grandview Point:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Our third stop was at Moran Point:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

From here we actually had a nice view of the Colorado River that carved out this canyon way down below:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

There was also plenty of good views of the adjacent canyon walls:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Our final stop on Desert View Drive was at the appropriately titled Desert View Visitor Center:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

We went inside to check out the Visitor Center, but the park ranger yelled at my 3-year old for eating a granola bar.  Apparently food is not allowed in the visitor center.  Unlike most National Park employees who are actually quite nice, this guy was a jerk so we left without checking anything out in the Visitor Center.  You would think a park ranger could just politely ask me to have my daughter eat the granola bar outside instead of snapping at a 3-year old.

Anyway we decided to next walk over to the nearby Watchtower:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Here is a closer look at the Watchtower:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

The Watchtower was built by architect Mary Colter who the National Park Service hired in 1930 to design a gift shop and rest area for this section of the Grand Canyon.  She designed a Watchtower that blended in with the canyon’s natural surroundings as well as highlighting the region’s cultural traditions.  The Watchtower opened up with much fanfare in May 1933.  Colter went on to construct other structures in the park as well:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

The gift shop inside of the Watchtower was absolutely packed and actually hard to move around in; so we did not spend too much time inside there.  Instead we immediately began to walk up the stairs to checkout the paintings inside the Watchtower followed by going to the roof to take in the views.  Hopi artist Fred Kabotie painted this mural called “The Snake Legend” inside the Watchtower:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

There was plenty of more Native-American art painted inside the Watchtower which we enjoyed checking out as well:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

After we finished seeing the interior of the Watchtower we then went to the rooftop viewpoint to take  in the views of the Grand Canyon:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

The weather had improved considerably with some blue sky that could be seen:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

The Colorado River roaring down below felt close enough to touch from the Watchtower:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Looking towards the West it appeared that more rain clouds could be coming in for later in the day:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

To the East though the weather had improved and we could see this isolated mesa hovering over the Grand Canyon like the Watchtower we were standing on:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Even further out to the East I could spot some of the smaller side canyons that extend into the Grand Canyon:

Picture from the Grand Canyon

Picture from the Grand Canyon

 

Here is a panorama photo I took of the Grand Canyon from the Watchtower:

IMG_2932

Conclusion

In my opinion every American really should visit the Grand Canyon.  It really is an amazing place to see.  I have been to the Grand Canyon four times now and never get tired of visiting the place.  Everyone I have took here for the first time always has a sense of awe the first time they see the canyon.  The size and scale of the place is such that pictures cannot do it justice, you have to see it for yourself to really appreciate it.  With that said though I really want to do a hiking trip in the future when my kids are a little older so they can really appreciate the canyon.  I hiked down into the canyon 15 years ago and it was quite an experience.  I can’t wait to do it again some day with my family.  There will definitely be a fifth trip for me to the Grand Canyon and hopefully many more after that.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *