3 Days at the Grand Canyon
This past week I got to visit the Grand Canyon. This was my first visit, and it was just as spectacular as I had hoped. The grandeur is basically impossible to capture in photographs which doesn’t mean I didn’t try. I spent 3 days at the park taking it all in, hiking, biking, and snapping a thousand pictures. Here’s the rundown:
Just outside of Grand Canyon National Park you will find Kaibab National Forest, where there are a handful of options for boondocking. I chose to stay off of Forest Road 688, about 5 miles from the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. It was very convenient to be able to stay so close to the park entrance for FREE. Details here.
My site was quiet and wooded and lovely, my only complaint being that for some reason this entire section of the forest is littered with elk bones. Like a SHOCKING amount of bones. Slightly creepy, but I can guarantee you that if Max was writing this review he would declare this the BEST CAMPSITE EVER!!!!
Dr. FrankenMax tried to reconstruct his very own elk from discarded body parts and I can confirm he came impressively close to succeeding. GROSS! But he was so happy…
In other bone-related news, one night at dusk while I was walking alone, I found the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen in the forest: This arrangement of bones into the shape of a star.
I suppose it is fortunate that it was so over-the-top creepy that it made me laugh. Like you have GOT to be kidding me, how is this even my life? Hilarious, weird, horrifying, and I decided my only real option was to dismiss it and not worry about it. Sometimes you find a bone-star in the forest and you just have to deal with it. We’ve all been there.
On to my itinerary:
As soon as I parked at my campsite Friday afternoon, I set off for the Grand Canyon – around 4pm. I highly recommend going to the park at this time of day, the light is fantastic and the crowds are thinning so you can get some good 1 on 1 time with the canyon.
I parked at Bright Angel Lodge and walked west on the Rim Trail towards Hermit’s Rest. The trail is about 7 miles one way, with designated overlook areas every mile or so. A free shuttle bus runs up and down the road next to the trail every 10-15 minutes, so you can scrap the hiking whenever you get tired and hitch a ride on the bus. Very convenient!
I was truly surprised at how few other people were hiking this trail around dusk. I had the canyon to myself for much of the hike, which was totally exhilarating. I took this opportunity to snap 5,000 selfies without judgmental looks from innocent bystanders. Excellent.
The evening light was gorgeous and cast a golden glow on everything.
I got about 4 miles of hiking in and then took the bus out the Hermit’s Rest and back again. A great introduction to the canyon!
My main goal for day 2 was to get my ass kicked. Mission accomplished. I have a sick obsession with hiking until my legs feel like they’re going to fall off. I don’t know why, but I crave that in my life. I wanted to hike down as far as possible into the canyon to get a closer look at everything.
There are signs everywhere that strongly recommend against trying to make a single-day trip to the bottom of the canyon. I decided to heed these signs and do the longest day-hike that they recommend: the South Kaibab trail going to Skeleton Point. Advertised as a 6 hour hike, but of course they always over-state these things, and I was done in about 4. Disappointing because I now know that I TOTALLY could have made it to the bottom and back in one day. Regardless of this disappointment, the hike was pretty epic and my legs were extremely sore by the end so I suppose that will have to do for now. NEXT TIME I have big plans to reach the canyon floor. A couple of photos from the hike:
Making my way down the trail (this was the easy part).
Waved to some mule-friends on their way back up.
Insane views for pretty much the whole walk.
Day 3 my thought was to give my legs a little break after the previous day’s hike and get around on a bicycle. You can rent a bike at the park for 5 hours for $30 which I think is very reasonable. Somehow in my mind I had memories of biking being easy and quick and painless. This is true for maybe the first couple of miles, but I once again had ambitious plans to see as much as possible in my day. I ended up biking 20 miles in total and let me tell you the last couple miles were really wicked. My entire body hurt. My day of biking ended up being just about as painful as the hike the day before. I got more than I bargained for! But I did have a blast.
Taking a break to check out the views.
Peeking down at the Colorado River.
One of the highlights of bike day was running into wild elk in The Village. They were so cute and fuzzy and of course not at all afraid of tourists. Much to everyone’s amusement, there were multiple elk in the parking lot, and one of them decided that one particular car looked tasty…. It was coated in what must have been a delicious dirty and salty film. I watched this elk lick this car for at least 20 minutes before I stopped to wonder what I was doing with my life and decided it was time to move on.
Tongue marks are going to be pretty confusing for the returning owner of this car.
Again, by the time I was done biking, I was COMPLETELY exhausted and excited to go home and sit down. Which I did.
Thus concludes my weekend of exploration! Monday it got very cold and dark and even SNOWED and I spent the day nursing my extremely tired body back to health from the comfort of my bed.
One of the greatest things about Grand Canyon National Park is that it has something for everyone. If you want to get an insane workout and hike to your heart’s content, knock yourself out. Alternatively, if you don’t want to hike (or can’t hike due to physical impairment), then there is the free shuttle bus system that you can use to visit all the viewpoints.
This was my first visit to the canyon and it won’t be my last. I would love to do a multi-day hiking trip there, and I would also love to try to get on the river which I can only imagine would be a spectacular experience.
By the end of my canyon trip, I had been boondocking alone for a total of 8 days, and I was pretty desperate for some socializing time. Lucky for me, 2wanderaway, wanderwasi, and the rvenegades were all meeting in Flagstaff for a night and we were able to have a brief impromptu get together and go out to Historic Brewing Company. We tried a 20-beer sampler and it was GLORIOUS.
We drank, we talked, we played Cards Against Humanity. It was all I had dreamed it would be.
Next up: Santa Fe, New Mexico!