The Grand Canyon is a totally iconic American natural landmark, and there is such a hype about it, that it makes sense why many of us put it on our bucket lists. I don’t really keep a bucket list, but I do have a list of things I want to do before I turn 30, and the GC was on it. In fact, I’ve been to the Grand Canyon three times!
With this year being the national parks centennial, there’s never been a better time to go and #findyourpark! Keep reading for your guide to one amazing weekend adventure and be sure to let me know if you’re checking it off your bucket list!
One drawback of visiting a natural wonder is that it often means a bit of a drive from the nearest airport, and the Grand Canyon is no different. You’ll want to fly into Phoenix and drive up to the canyon, which is about a three or four hour drive away, so, yes, you need to rent a car. Phoenix is a cool city, so I recommend arriving a day or two early or adding an extra day or two after your visit to the canyon. You’re heading to the South Rim of the canyon if you’re coming in from Phoenix, which is where the park, the lodges and most of the people are. (If you’re an avid camper or really adventurous, you can research the North Rim, but this post is focused on the South.)
There are a few notable locations along the way to break up your drive, my favorite being Sedona, home of stunning red rocks. I’ve been there a few times and always wish I had more time there to hike around. Totally worth a night at a hotel if you want to break up the trip a little. You can also check out Montezuma Castle and the Sunset Point Rest Stop and Scenic Overlook.
There are a lot of options for sleeping at the Grand Canyon National Park, from camping to hotels of varying distance and cost. Once you enter the park, you probably don’t want to leave until you’re heading home, so I like the hotels in the park area.If you’re looking to save money but want to stay in a hotel and are going to the canyon for just a day, you could look into budget hotels in Flagstaff. They’re going to be much less expensive than anything near the park, but Flagstaff is about an hour away, so you’ll likely want to wrap up your whole experience of the canyon in one day (in my opinion, totally doable). If you’re a camper, go for it, but I am not, and be forewarned–there are real wild animals in the park, so if that’s not your cup of tea, you might want to splurge for a cozy, creature-free bed.
The most deluxe option in the park is the El Tovar hotel. I’ve stayed here twice and I absolutely love it for its history (it opened in 1905!) and the quality. If you routinely stay in 5-star hotels, it might be a little more rustic than what you’re used to, but it is very comfortable and the location is perfect, right on the edge of the canyon. You can even get suites with balconies overlooking the rim–the perfect spot to enjoy your morning coffee. Or your evening cocktail. Or, let’s be real, just sit any time of day.
Pack your hiking shoes and weather-appropriate clothes, because the Grand Canyon is all about enjoying the outdoors (no surprise). In the winter it will get really chilly because of the elevation, so pack your winter coat and be prepared for some areas to be closed because of snow and ice. The main activity on offer at the canyon is hiking, and there are options for people of various fitness levels and skills.
If you’re really inexperienced or just don’t want as difficult of a day, the paved rim trail is really nice and offers plenty of opportunities for selfies.
Otherwise, I suggest that you try out the Bright Angel Trail, which is the easiest trail that actually dips below the rim (ahem, amazing photo opportunities!). There’s a place to fill your water bottle 1.5 miles down, but be sure to bring plenty of water and stay hydrated. You should also remember that, unlike most hikes where you climb before descending, the first half of this hike is going to be way easier than the second. Plan on the climb out taking you about twice as long as the walk in, and don’t be afraid to turn around when you need to! No shame in turning around and saving yourself from an emergency situation–this climb is not easy if you aren’t a strong hiker!
Foodies will want to schedule an extra day or two in Phoenix, since the food options at the canyon are pretty limited. You’ll want to make a reservation if you’re hoping to dine at the restaurant at El Tovar, which is a bit of a splurge but also the most edible option in the park. During the daytime, there’s an ice cream place and another hotel restaurant, but, like I said, don’t expect anything amazing. For that, I’d stop in Phoenix at my favorite taco place, Barrio Queen. Their spicy margarita is perfect and they make the guacamole right at the table.
Are you planning on heading to the Grand Canyon? If you do go or already have, tag me in your photos on Instagram (@DarcyACoulter)–I always love to see beautiful canyon photos.
Tell me in the comments which places are on your travel bucket list!
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