Into The Grand Canyon Part III -> Everything Else
Pre-Post Note/ This has nothing at all to do w/ the Grand Canyon, but I know many of my blog followers are anxiously awaiting news on 2016 Pre-Medicare Health Insurance options. The ACA exchange is opening up shortly and I’ll be writing a dedicated blog post on this sometime next week (so hold on), but in meantime Kyle from rverinsurance has released his 2016 guide which I recommend everyone read. It should answer many of your questions. Click HERE.
So phew… now that my photography craziness post is done (who knew I had so much to write about it?) I wanted to cover everything else we got up to during our Grand Canyon sojurn.
One of the great things about the South Rim is that there really IS a lot to do, and it’s all really easily accessible too. For any “newbie” I recommend going to the main Visitor Center first and watching the Grand Canyon movie (20 mins). That’ll get your interest peaked and prime you for the short ~5 min walk to the rim for that very first breath-taking, gob-smaking, speach-sucking view. I think it’s the nicest way to do the “intro” and it’s suitability dramatic too.
The Grand Canyon kind of appears out of nowhere, which is very typical of many of the canyons of the west. One minute you’re walking thro’ trees and brush, and the next the earth just disappears beneath you and you’re standing on the edge of a ~1 mile deep Chasm. The gasp you make when you first see it is the same one millions of people have made before you, including the very first humans that ever saw it. It seems…inconceivable…that this thing could exist out here, with no prior hint or warning and it’s the results of millions of years of very carefully crafted uplift and erosion. Nature at it’s very coolest.
Once you’ve ooh’d and aah’d like a little kid on Christmas Eve you can start the real exploring, and there’s no end of that to do:
Hiking The Rim Trail
Probably one of my favorite things about the South Rim is the extensive development of dog-friendly (people-friendly & wheelchair-friendly) rim trails.
On the South Rim ALL the rim trails (every single one) are dog-friendly which means you can hike over 15 miles of stunning views with pooch in tow. The only thing you can’t do is take doggie below the rim (into the canyon), but considering the limitations of most National Parks that’s really not much of a limitation at all.
Most of the time you’ll be hiking out and back, but there are a few small “loops” around the central village, and if you’re without doggie you can always hike out and then bus it back to your start point.
We walked every single morning from our campsite directly to the rim (less than 1 mile to Mather Point), picked up a Mocha in the lovely little Bike Shop (which is 100% dog-friendly) along the way, and absorbed the beautiful early morning light with pooch in tow. Early AM there were very few people which made the experience even more special. On average we hiked 3-5 miles each day with doggie entirely within the National Park. It…was…AWEome!
Walking ~2 Billion Years
This is kind of a sub-set of #1 but it really deserves it’s very own section.
One of my fav walks on the South Rim was the 1.3 mile (2.1 km) Trail of Time. It’s a flat, easy interpretive walk between Yavapai Point and the Verkamps Visitor Center that takes you through the Geological history of the Canyon from the very oldest rock near the bottom of the canyon (Elves Chasm gneiss (~1,840 million years old)) to the very youngest at the top of the canyon (~Kaibab Limestone (270 million years old)). At regular intervals you’ll see examples of the rock, learn about the geology and (the most fun part) get to take time-travel steps each of which represent a million years in time. Combine it with a visit to the Yavapai Geological Museum and you’ll come away feeling a few million years more intelligent, and likely better looking too (the two things go hand-in-hand, no?). This thing is frikkin’ geeeenius!
The entire hike is 100% dog-friendly (no dogs inside the Museum or Visitor Center, but dogs OK all along the trail) and if you’re staying at the campground you can make it into a semi-loop hike by going through the Market Plaza along the “Greenway” trail.
Day-Tripping To The Watchtower & Tusayan Ruins Museum
The entire East section of the Grand Canyon South Rim hides quite a few gems that are most easily accessed by car. Two of our absolute favorite were the Watchtower and the Tusayan Museum and Ruins, both of which you can hit in a single, easy few hours.
The Watchtower (by Desert View) is a “modern” building (designed by architect Mary Colter & built in 1932), but it’s modeled after ancient ancestral Puebloan watchtowers, and offers views of up to 100 miles on a good day. What’s even better about it, however, are the internal paintings. Although not historic in nature they are deeply meaningful. They were done by Fred Kabotie, a Hopi from second Mesa and they represent the physical and spiritual origins of Hopi life. They are gorgeous and I was way more impressed than I thought I would be. Honestly this building is beautiful and not to be missed.
A few miles back West of this is the Tusayan Museum and Ruins. It’s a super-small museum but it covers the fascinating history of people in the Grand Canyon from Ancestral Puebloans to modern-day Indian tribes. After the museum you can take a short walk (or guided Ranger Tour) around the ruins that include a kiva and several small rooms. You’ll get no Canyon views here, but you’ll get a much deeper appreciation of Canyon tribal history.
Tusayan Ruins Brochure (pdf download) -> Click HERE.
Note/ Doggies are allowed on all the trails around the Watchtower & Museum area, but dogs are NOT allowed inside the buildings.
Biking It To Kaibab Point
Another superb thing about the South Rim are the endless developed bike trails.
You can bike everywhere there is paved road of course (including to areas such as Hermit’s Rest where cars can’t go), but there are also extensive miles of paved rim trail where you can bicycle right on the rim with glorious Canyon views flying past you. When looking at the trail map, these are the “green” trails and my absolute fav is the one to Kaibab Point (with option to extend to Yaki Point via the main road). If you’re staying on-site you can catch the ride directly from the campground, taking the Greenway trail all the way to the rim. It’s around ~7 miles round-trip if you go the whole way to Yaki Point, a nice, easy bike.
Note/ If you arrived at the canyon bike-less and are dying to see it on two wheels the bike-shop near the main visitor center (Bright Angel Bicycles) offers both bike rentals ($12/hour or $30 for 1/2 day) & tours (5-6 miles).
South Rim Biking Trail Map (pdf download) -> Click HERE. ALL bike trails are also dog-friendly.
Busing It To The West Side
There are quite a few areas of the South Rim that are not accessible by car, especially on the West side and if you’re of limited mobility or you just want to hike a “few” sections of the rim rather than the full ~15 miles, the Grand Canyon has an extensive bus system to take you around all the highlights. Buses run directly from the campground around the central Village (blue route), East to Yaki Point (orange route) and all the way West to Hermit’s Rest (red route). Not all buses run everywhere, so you do have to look at the routes and possibly change from one line to another to get where you want, but they’re all FREE and they’re all wheelchair-friendly. This also means they are often crowded, especially in the afternoon.
We decided to try the bus system one afternoon with Paul’s dad & stepmom to visit some of the key viewpoints on the West side. It took us 3 different buses to get to Mohave Point and then we walked back along the spectacular rim trail to Maricopa Point (well worth it) where we took another 2 buses home. The crowds meant that we sometimes had to wait and push thro’ several buses to get on (does no-one know how to queue outside of the UK?) so I wan’t exactly crazy about them, but it was certainly easy and we enjoyed our short hike on the West side.
South Rim Bus Map (pdf download) -> Click HERE. NO dogs allowed on buses, except for service dogs.
And that, my dear friends, is all we managed in our 9 days on the South Rim.We did have a few RV meet-ups including a rather epic pizza-grilling-in-the-hail get-together (an entire story in itself), but what we didn’t do was hike (or mule-ride) below the rim mostly due to doggie (no dogs allowed on trails below the rim). Several of our RV buddies did though, including Jeff & Deb (Rolling Recess) who did some kind of crazy 20-30 miler in one day, so if you want to read about that click here. Post-pets we’ll definitely need to come back and do something like this.
The Final Question -> North Rim Or South?
I promised in my first post I’d answer this one so here we go. Having visited both rims which did we prefer? North or South? There’s definite advantages and (and certain disadvantages) to each, so it just depends on your preferences:
North Rim -> Less visited, less people, less developed. Some boondocking possible by the rim (far west side), but NO dogs allowed on rim trail within the National Park. Sun tends to “face” you most of the time, so photography can be a bit more challenging.
- South Rim -> More visited, more people (=crowds), more developed. No boondocking on the rim, but closeby campgrounds and dogs allowed on ALL the rim trails. Sun is “behind” you most of the time, making photography a tad easier.
Knowing our boondocking (and less crowds) preferences you might think the North Rim would be our #1 choice, but as is typical in our lives it all comes down to the paws. Of the two rims the South is infinitely more dog-friendly IMHO. There is only one trail which allows dogs on the North Rim & it doesn’t really have any views. On the South Rim however you can take doggie everywhere above-rim including ALL the rim hiking trails (~15 miles worth). Plus I did find photography a tad easier on the South Rim given that the sun is behind you most of the time.
Many of you will probably disagree but for us, despite the crowds, the South Rim was the clear winner. If you don’t have paws, North Rim is a huge draw for lesser crowds & a much more “remote” feeling. And if you still can’t decide? Just GO. You won’t regret it!
- Grand Canyon National Park Main Website -> Click HERE
- Grand Canyon Activities (South & North Rim) -> Click HERE
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