Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Weekend Wanderings: Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is one of the most recognizable National Parks in the United States with its distinguished layered bands of red rock. Formed over millions of years, the Canyon runs 10 miles across and a mile deep. After plenty of research and a successful five-day trip, here are some of my tips and a few pictures (though these don’t do it justice). Honestly, you need to put it on your list—I can’t put into words how magnificent and stunning it is to experience in person. 

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A view from the Rim Trail. Grand Canyon, AZ.

Getting there 

You can either fly into Las Vegas or Phoenix. When we booked, the price was about the same, but the drive from Phoenix to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is about one hour less than from Las Vegas (3 hours 45 minutes versus 4 hours 30 minutes). However, it depends on what you’re looking for. In Vegas, you can stay a night at a ritzy hotel with a pool, indulge at a buffet, gamble, and catch a show before driving the next morning. From Phoenix, there’s less to do, but we did stop in Sedona for lunch on the way to our bear-themed Airbnb cabin. 

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Airport Mesa Loop Trail. Sedona, AZ.

We stopped at Mariposa for a leisurely lunch with a breathtaking view. The menu had plenty of food and drink choices for our group—make sure to order the yucca fries.

Grand Canyon South Rim 

I was excited to see the Grand Canyon, but I had no idea how I would feel actually being there. The vastness made me feel so small, a tiny speck in time, and in awe of nature. 

We rented bikes from the only rental place: Bright Angel Bicycles (conveniently located right next to the main parking lot/visitor center). It’s $12 per hour or $30 for 1/2 day (up to 5 hours). We opted to use them for 1/2 a day and it was possibly the best decision we made. This way, we could traverse the entire rim trail in the heat much easier than by foot. We stopped at many points along the way to sit, eat lunch, and take photos. 

There are many shuttles that will take you to and from the different viewpoints and points of interest. As the afternoon was turning to dusk, we hopped onto a shuttle to Hopi Point, the highest point in the South Rim to watch the sunset. 

You could easily spend two to three days exploring different parts of the South Rim. Then, allot another two days or so and make the four hour drive to the North Rim as well. We didn’t get a chance to do the popular Skywalk, but I’ve heard it’s definitely a must-see. 

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Lower Antelope Canyon. This is the natural color with no filter. Words cannot describe.

Antelope Canyon

From the South Rim, it’s a scenic 2 hour 30 minute drive to Antelope Canyon. 

There are tours that explore the upper and lower Antelope Canyon and we chose the Lower Antelope Canyon Tours for $30 per person. It was honestly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We also picked the perfect time to visit—the weekend right after Memorial Day—so crowds were sparse. We waited less than five minutes to go down into the Canyon (our tour guide told us groups waited two hours the weekend before). 

We spent about 50 minutes walking through the Canyon and admiring it in all its orange glory. We had plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos and our tour guide was entertaining and knowledgable. 

If you have time, definitely check out the Upper Antelope Canyon as well. 

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Horseshoe Bend. Page, AZ.

Horseshoe Bend 

From Antelope Canyon, it’s a short 15 minute drive to Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River. It’s the perfect place to watch a sunrise or sunset. From the parking lot, it’s about a 10 minute hike to the ledge. The lush green-blue water amidst the desert landscape was striking and spectacular. 

If you want to be in the water, spend a half a day on a guided kayaking and rafting trip through Colorado River Discovery or Lake Powell Hidden Canyon Kayak

Photos by Jennifer Liu. 

About Jennifer Liu

Despite the rain, Jennifer loves Seattle and is a rare native. From the gorgeous summer weather to the drizzle the other 9 months, this may be her forever home. She graduated from the University of Washington and has a master's degree in counseling psychology. She loves to travel, volunteer, and host themed dinner parties. You can find her eating, hiking, hanging out with her awesome dog, or napping. Ice cream, burgers, and sushi are some of her favorite things.
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