After leaving Sedona we stopped for a beautiful hike at the West Fork Trail and then continued on to Flagstaff where we made a quick stop for lunch.
From there we took the beautiful (great open spaces and wide vistas) and very quiet (as hardly any other cars) route 180 up to the Grand Canyon.
Thanks to the great advice on this forum we decided to spend a night at the south rim and succeeded a few months back in getting a room at the El Tovar hotel which was just steps from the Grand Canyon rim. Upon check in we asked if any upgrades were available and for an addition fee (reasonable) we were able to stay in one of the suites. We had read on-line that the rooms there were small and expected such but when we walked into the suite we could not believe how large it was as it was almost two rooms in one.
We then headed down to the shuttle bus route that went out along the section towards an area called Hermit’s Rest. The shuttle buses were free and came promptly every ten minutes this time of year. What was nice about this shuttle route was that it was closed to private cars and therefore relatively quiet. The bus stopped at many BEAUTIFUL viewpoints along the way and it was easy to get off, take in the amazing views, and get on the next one.
The real highlight came when we decided to actually walk between two of the shuttle bus points. It is fairly easy to figure out which section to a walk as a free map is provided that shows the walking distance between the various shuttle bus view point stops. The section we did was between Mohave Point and a view point know as The Abyss. Walking this 1 mile section of trail was one of the highlights of our entire ten day trip as we found ourselves pretty much completely on our own along this trail and were able to just stop whenever we wanted to take in the INCREDIBLE views with no one else around. We saw elk along the way and even a rainbow appeared. For anyone looking to get away from the crowds and experience the awe of the Grand Canyon in peace and quiet I highly recommend this option.
My wife and son had elected not to walk the trail and headed back to the El Tovar where they were fortunate to be able to get a table for dinner even though they did not have a prior reservation. My daughter and I walked into the Bright Angel lodge and were promptly seated and had enjoyable meals. On our way back to the El Tovar in the dark we stumbled upon a number of elk eating grass on the hotel’s front lawn – magical!
The next morning I was up early and jogged along the paved rim trail to the Yavapai Viewpoint in the hope of catching sunrise which I had read can be beautiful from this point. Unfortunately it was overcast so there was not much of a sunrise but it was nice to see the light appear along the canyon walls while standing quietly next to people from all over the world.
We checked out of our hotel and drove to the Visitor’s Center where we parked our car and caught the Orange shuttle bus that took us out to the South Kaibab Trailhead (no cars allowed there). We then all hiked down the first section of the trail (1.5 miles each way; took us 25 minutes to go down) to a spot called Ooh Ahh Point. The views were spectacular and it felt good to be down in the canyon. We decided not to continue on down another 1.5 miles to the next spot called Cedar Ridge as we knew that we had quite a walk back up with the kids.
We arrived back at the top some 40 minutes later and caught thw shuttle back to the Visitor’s center. We grabbed a quick lunch bite at the little food place they have there next to the bike rental place (which looked like another un way to explore this area).
We then drove out along what is known as Dessert View drive and stopped at a number of the spectacular overlooks along the way.
In all we only spent 24 hours in this section of the Grand Canyon but we were so glad we did – the scenery just defied description.
From there we made our way north along a beautiful stretch of highway to the town of Page and the magnificent Lake Powell which I hope to describe in Part 3 soon.