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Grand Canyon Railway Overnight Trip Advice

Atlanta, Georgia
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Grand Canyon Railway Overnight Trip Advice

November 5-8 we are planning the Grand Canyon railway trip to celebrate my daughter's 3rd birthday. My 73 yr old Mom will be with us as well. I realize the majority of the posts suggest skipping the train but the main draw of this trip IS the train ride - my daughter love trains. So, the train is happening.

I am looking for advice on how to spend our time in South Rim in between train rides. I know we would like to explore without being dangerous, eat at one of the places overlooking the canyon, see some wildlife and not be rushed.

As you may be aware, the train trip is from Williams, then drops off in South Rim around (11am) We will be staying at Maswik Lodge overnight and then going back to Williams via train the next afternoon (around 3pm)

I would appreciate any help you could give me. I want to have a plan so that we make the most of our time while at South Rim. Thinking exploring using shuttle bus on day we arrive, find a nice spot with a sunset view to end the day and then dinner at Maswik Lodge. The next morning we would like to take a little hike and explore. Was considering reservations for breakfast or lunch at El Tovar.


Sedona, AZ
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for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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1. Re: Grand Canyon Railway Overnight Trip Advice

Normally I discourage using the GCRR. But since your daughter loves trains and you understand that it's all about the train and nothing about the Grand Canyon, at least you realize what it is.

Other than the exorbitant cost and the wasted time it takes to get to the GCNP, the main reason I don't like the train is that it dumps you at the park with no way to get around, other than your feet and occasional shuttles. With a 3 yo and a 73 yo your mobility will be limited. The park includes almost 30 miles of the south rim going in each direction from the train depot and hotel zone. With only a single over night, you probably will only see a tiny part of it all.

If you can catch a ride to Desert View and back, try to do that. The other choice is the shuttle going west to Hermit Rest and back. Both of these transport options will get you to about a half dozen view points and will require a few hours.

The rim path at the GCV hotel zone is home to excellent views and several historic buildings and sites. Don't miss Kolb Brothers Studio, Hopi House and the Verkamps visitor center. Keep in mind that Verkamps was always a privately operated family business until government regulations forced the family out of business. A tough lesson to learn in such a beautiful part of our country.

You can make reservations for dinner at El Tovar, but not breakfast or lunch. Breakfast is the best meal they serve there IMO and well worth waiting for. Lunch should be a picnic outdoors on the rim. Understand that none of the eateries look out into the canyon. At best you'll see the lawn, the rim path and the canyon beyond. Dining at the GCNP is not about the view. You need to be outdoors for the views, and there's no shortage there.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
Destination Expert
for Grand Canyon National Park
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2. Re: Grand Canyon Railway Overnight Trip Advice

The seasonal visitor's guide ("newspaper") is a good resource for everything from restaurant hours to shuttle schedules and sunset/sunrise times. You'll get a paper copy when you enter the park but I would browse through it online for planning purposes. Ranger programs might be of interest (see the schedule in the newspaper) - the 'Condor Talk' is excellent and a favorite, and there is also an 'Elk Talk' as well.


Personally, I would just plan to eat at El Tovar for dinner, as well as breakfast. Make reservations for dinner. They will accommodate your daughter with food choices as well as reduced prices. You won't need a reservation for breakfast or lunch. While the window tables in the Arizona Room and El Tovar can be nice, none of the dining rooms are really designed for views, so don't plan around that. I would focus on avoiding a long wait for a table.

If you need some indoor time, Kolb Studio (right near Bright Angel trailhead) always has interesting exhibits. The Visitors Center is good, as well. My favorite of the "souvenir shops" in the Village is Hopi House, right next to El Tovar.

Without your own vehicle, you're basically limited to seeing the western viewpoints on Hermit Road that are accessed by shuttle. They're excellent though. You get some nice broad views of the Colorado River from Pima Point. At 'Monument Creek Vista', you can see right down Monument Canyon to Granite Rapids.

The first week of November is one of my favorite times to be at the park. That said, I've seen rain, sleet and snow... so be prepared for winter temperatures. You will want to spend most of your time outdoors, so have winter outerwear, including hats and gloves!

Edited: 22 September 2013, 17:27
Destination Expert
for Scottsdale
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3. Re: Grand Canyon Railway Overnight Trip Advice

Sounds like a great family adventure! Your little one might enjoy watching the animated movie CARS before you travel, the setting is in the southwest similar to what she will see. When my kids were that young we loved buying postcards of what we would be seeing and then "hunt" for those things as we toured around...so perhaps hit the gift shop first thing.

Food service in the GCNP always seems slow to me, I would rather be outside exploring, and with a large group it might feel that way as well. With the exception of El Tovar, food is average. Breakfast there is unique and highly recommended. If you eat in the AZ Room, go as early as you can for dinner to avoid a wait and then watch the sunset or night sky from the rim, just steps outside.

If the 3 yr old will still sit in a stroller, the Rim Trail is paved and you can walk between the overlooks along the forested edge.

Destination Expert
for Fountain Hills
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4. Re: Grand Canyon Railway Overnight Trip Advice

My MIL always enjoyed sitting on the huge rockers on the porch of El Tovar and just people watching from there as it is such a central area. She would do this when she got tired. If she got chilly she would move inside and sit in the lovely lobby.

5. Re: Grand Canyon Railway Overnight Trip Advice

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