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Grand Canyon and a Bright Angel Experience

We started our latest roving retirement adventure on our trip from Scottsdale to Las Vegas with a visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. To get to the South Rim, you have to drive in 60 miles after you leave Interstate 40 and the only way out is on the same road. The 120-mile round trip deterred us from a visit on our way to Scottsdale, but not this time.

Visiting The Grand Canyon

I read that the average time people spend at the Grand Canyon is 17 minutes. This describes my first visit to the South Rim of the canyon some (cough…) 40+ years ago. Mike’s experience was much the same. That said, we spent a few days on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon with the kids a long time ago. This time, we opted to spend the night on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

On The Way

After I got over being sad to leave our wonderful temporary home in Scottsdale, I was pretty excited about visiting the Grand Canyon. Most of the ride took the same route through the mountains that we took to get to Sedona. But as we got closer to Flagstaff, there were bigger mountains and more trees.

We did entertain ourselves with the scenery and all of the different deer crossing signs on the highway. Apparently, some Arizona deer have their feet stuck in the mud, others just stand there on the side of the road, and yet others leap across the road right in front of your car. Amazing, the things you notice on a driving trip.

When We Arrived

My one recollection from my visit to the South Rim all those years ago is that you can’t see anything until you park and walk along a trail to the edge of the canyon. That is still the case today, only now you have to walk even further than I remembered. Admittedly, back then I had all of my original parts in good working order. But the paths all looked new and some of the old viewing points had long since crumbled into the canyon so there were nice new guardrails. My other recollection from the first time I visited was walking up to the edge, looking out, and saying something along the lines of “holy sh..t.” I did the same thing this time and I heard other people saying the same thing. That made me chuckle.

While I’ve included a bunch of beautiful pictures, there is no way to capture the sheer size of the canyon. It is, as always, absolutely magnificent and something everyone should see for themselves in person at least once.

Staying At Bright Angel Lodge

We spent at least half an hour walking the Rim trail and checking out the closed Visitor’s Center before heading to the Bright Angel Lodge. (I know it sounds funny, but there were a bunch of interesting maps and facts on big boards outside of the Visitor’s Center.)

It turned out that I forgot a lot of stuff I used to know about the canyon. For example, I forgot about the mule rides to the bottom of the canyon. I never knew that the mules and hikers take the same Bright Angel trail to get into the canyon. I happened to pick the lodge that is right at the top of the trail, which gave us a lot to look at. We stayed in a rustic little cabin, with a private bath a minutes walk from the canyon.

Sunset And Dinner At El Tovar

Because of COVID, there was really only one dining room available in the area, at the El Tovar Hotel. We were told that there was also a “food court”, but that wasn’t what I had in mind. The El Tovar was also recommended as a good place to see the sunset, a great twofer in our book. So, about an hour before sunset, we headed up to the El Tovar. We drove over, even though it really would have made for a nice walk. But I’m just not up for the 1/2 mile yet. When we arrived at the El Tovar dining room we were told that it was an hour and a half wait for dinner. It actually took longer to get a socially distanced table in the dining room.

In the meantime, we watched the sunset and got a cocktail in the beautiful old lodge built-in 1905. I don’t know if there are actually moose at the Grand Canyon, but there are two of them in the lobby of the hotel. Dinner, once we got a table, was really good. I had stuffed trout and Mike had roast duck, which was great once it showed up. Our waiter had some issues but the manager was quite attentive and we got a free dessert. Boy was I stuffed.

As expected, the sunset was spectacular as were the pictures from the camera and our phones.

Sunrise At Bright Angel Lodge

I don’t actually condone getting up for sunrise, but if you are already awake, as we were, you might as well take advantage of it. So we threw on some clothes and headed to the Rim Trail near our cabin. We got some beautiful golden light pictures and the woman in the lobby even brought me a cup of coffee.

Being at the top of Bright Angel Trail had its advantages because we got to listen to the entire orientation for the mule ride. After all of the instructions, all 9 riders mounted up and headed down the Bright Angel trail for their Grand Canyon adventure. We also got pictures of early risers going down the trail on foot.

I have to say that our experience at the Grand Canyon was so much richer for having spent the night so close to the canyon. Our 20 hours at the canyon, while not even a whole day, was so much better than the typical 17 minutes. If you are nearby, definitely go for an extended stay.

When was the last time you visited the Grand Canyon?

7 Comments

  1. This brought back a lot of fun memories! I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail when I was in high school. I saw people taking the mule rides, and promised myself I would do that some day! After my divorce, I had 10 things on my bucket list and this was one of them. My daughter and I went down by mule one April, on her spring break. It was everything I thought it would be and more! We stayed overnight at the Phantom Ranch at the bottom and other than the saddle sores, it was a dream come true! A hot shower never felt so good after that dusty trail! Later, I did a seven day white water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. The beauty of the Canyon never gets old! Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures!!!

  2. Mark and I hiked down to bottom of the canyon last April and stayed at the Phantom Ranch for 2 nights and then hiked back up and spent 1 night at Bright Angel Lodge. Had a wonderful meal at El Tovar too. Glad you got to experience it. It’s an amazing place!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful visit. I have been there twice over the past few years, and your descriptions are correct! We did encounter large deer, no moose, in the parking lot.

    • When we were on the North Rim 10+ years ago, a doe was fairly aggressive. She attempted to join us for lunch at our pic-a-nic table.

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