If you’re interested in reading other travel adventures on our cross-country road trip, here’s where you can find my recap of our visits to Custer State Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park–complete with information about park fees and our recommendations for camping in the area.
The last stop on our cross-country road trip from Minnesota to the Bay Area was the Grand Canyon. Eric had visited previously but I’d never been there before, and visiting together has been on our bucket list as a couple for years. So even though we had very little time left before we were supposed to be in California and sign our lease, I knew we had to plan a short visit into our trip somehow!
In this post, I’ll tell you how we spent our time during the nine hours we got to spend in the Grand Canyon. We hiked, picnicked, took way too many pictures, and overall had an awesome time. If you’ll be traveling in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon on a trip, I highly recommend stopping by for a look-see. It’s worth it even if you’ve only got a few hours!
We arrived at the South Rim of the canyon around 9am on a Tuesday and got in quickly (no line). I recommend visiting on a weekday if possible, though, because the park was still packed by lunchtime! The cost of a 7-day entrance pass is $30/vehicle.
Hiking the Rim Trail
First, we drove to Grand Canyon Village to start our morning hike. There are several parking lots around the village, so finding parking wasn’t difficult. It was fun to walk past the mule barn and the old-fashioned lodges on our way to the trailhead!
We started our hike along the Rim Trail from Bright Angel Trailhead at the edge of Grand Canyon Village. The Rim Trail is nearly 13 miles long in total and extends most of the way across the South Rim. There are several access points; Bright Angel Trailhead is the westernmost trailhead on the paved portion of the trail.
The Rim Trail is perfect for people who–like me, after a few intense days of hiking in Colorado!–don’t want something too challenging. Most of it is paved and there isn’t too much uphill and downhill hiking. Also, there are several outlooks along the Rim Trail where you can stop for amazing photo opportunities (which may or may have contributed to my choice of trail ;P). One of the free Grand Canyon shuttle buses also runs along the westernmost portion of the trail, so if you can’t hike to the vantage points, you can ride!
We hiked about two miles west from the trailhead and back, stopping frequently for pictures and simply to admire the landscape. It’s absolutely breathtaking. I kept telling Eric that I couldn’t believe I was looking at a real landscape. Gah. We really saved the best for last on this trip!
Visiting the Grand Canyon Visitor Center
We finished our hike around lunchtime and drove the few miles back to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center for lunch. I saw my first (and only) wild elk on the way, which was pretty cool! Anyways, the visitor center has a big covered outdoor picnic area (important when it’s in the 90s!) and lots of public restrooms. It can be tricky to find parking close by, though, so err on the side of an early lunch!
After lunch, we toured the visitor center. Unlike some national parks, the Grand Canyon Visitor Center is very well-maintained and has a lot of interactive displays to teach visitors about the park’s history and geology. I enjoyed watching a few short films about the park’s “discovery” and learning that the maximum depth of the Grand Canyon is over a mile from rim to floor. (Although it also made me question how close I’d gotten to the edge of the rim hiking that morning!). Then, we hiked the half-mile from the visitor center to nearby Maricopa Point for some more glorious views.
Finally, we returned to Grand Canyon Village and spent the remainder of the afternoon hiking the Rim Trail in the other direction, heading east, and taking as many more pictures as we could before leaving around dinnertime! At least one restaurant in the village does have allergy-friendly options–the restaurant at Bright Angel Lodge–but due to logistics, we had to revise our plans and head out before dinner to get to our next hotel on time.
Cheap Lodging Near the South Rim
The night prior to our visit, we stayed at a hotel an hour and a half away from the park because prices at hotels any closer were exorbitant. We stayed at the Quality Inn at Navajo Nation and recommend it! One night was $185, although prices depend on availability and time of year. The local grocery store in Tuba City had plenty of yogurts, fruit, and other food to throw together a snacky dinner. Breakfast was included in the cost of our hotel, although it wasn’t allergy-friendly.
The night after our visit, we had to get on the road to California right away and stayed at the Sleep Inn at Barstow, CA, about six hours west of the Grand Canyon. (Pssst: there’s a Chipotle on the way there if you need somewhere allergy-friendly to stop for dinner!) One night was $80. Breakfast was included and there were allergy-friendly options!
And that was our whirlwind tour of the Grand Canyon–and the last stop on our road trip–in a nutshell!
Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon before? What natural wonders are on your travel bucket list?