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Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

Houston, TX
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Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

So our current plan lands us in Tusayan at appx. 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. on a Sunday evening in a couple of weeks. We will probably need to grab a bite to eat and hopefully see the IMAX movie before going on into the park to check in at Thunderbird.

This seems to be perfect timing as from what I hear, there will be crowds trying to enter the park at that time to see the sunset and they will, hopefully, be exiting the park as we are entering.

My question is this, is this going to be a severe safety problem with the critters on the road? I am a bit concerned because I have seen cautions to others on other threads. If I drive 20 mph will that be okay. It's only about a mile up the road, eh?

Tucson, Arizona
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1. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

If I were you, rather than stopping to eat in Tusayan, drive right into the GCNP, check in at Thunderbird, and go have dinner. You can always drive back down to see the IMAX film.

It is 8 miles from Tusayan to Grand Canyon Village. In addition to the critters, particularly deer and elk, it will be more difficult to find your way around in the park after dark. No lights at all, and there are roads going in several different directions.

Uden, The...
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2. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

What Mike said. Maybe make a reservation for El Tovar close to Thunderbird. No reservations can be made for Arizona room. Don't fret about crowds entering the NP.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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3. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

Driving slowly with high beams on you will most likely be fine. But I agree it is dark in the village and trying to find your way around is extremely difficult if you haven't done it before. And crowds are not really an issue.

Menlo Park...
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4. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

I can't imagine being that close to the rim near sunset and not going to a vista point at you earliest convenience, instead of seeing a movie about what you could see in reality. Get up to Mather Point or if there's time, get checked in. There is no sense of being at the GC until you are practically on top of it, and then as you approach Mather, there it is. You'll see what I mean. Maybe do the IMAX on the way out. And maybe make reservations at the El Tovar restaurant for 8pm. This is prime critter time, so drive carefully.

Edited: 27 May 2014, 16:55
Houston, TX
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5. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

We are spending two nights at Thunderbird. We do plan on seeing the sunrise as well as the sunset. We are driving in from Las Vegas via Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon Caverns and then through Seligman.

Having never driven it I am guessing at travel times though the tour times are given. So a reservation for dinner might not work in this case.

Thanks guys!

Nashville
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6. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

Definitely make the sunset. The canyon is much more magical when the shadows move in and out. While you have 2 nights there is no guarantee that one of those evenings won't be cloudy. I would get that first sunset in to make sure.

If it is physically possible for you, walk a few minutes, at the least, below the rim. The perspective is much different. I went about 15 minutes down and it was remarkable.

If you have never been there, your first glimpse will literally take your breath away. Have a great trip.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
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7. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

OK, I'm as much a planner as the next person but, in all honesty, I think you're over-thinking this.

Sunset in the early-June timeframe is around 7:45. If you're remotely close the Park while it's still light out, I would just get there and drive to the closest / easiest viewpoint. There's no parking at Mather anymore; I think Yavapai may be easier. Even if you have a sunset and sunrise "planned", there are never any guarantees with the weather. I would take the opportunity when you have it.

For food, there's always the option to drive-thru McD's in Tusayan (YES, a Big Mac DOES taste better when you're eating it at Yavapai Point!) I think there's a Subway in Seligman, as well. There are also some casual options in the Park, including cafeteria-style restaurants at Yavapai and Maswik.

I think checking into Thunderbird would be your last priority. Parking near the lodge will be easier after sunset when all the day visitors have left the Park anyway. I would only go see the IMAX movie if you find yourselves with extra time on your hands.

Houston, TX
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8. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

I am so excited I cannot hardly stand it!! I am barely going to need a plane at this point!

Central Florida...
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9. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

Agree. Your first glimpse of the canyon should be "live", not on the movie screen. Get to a viewpoint as soon as you can, plenty of options for meals in the park.

Tucson, Arizona
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10. Re: Driving into Grand Canyon at Night

If you can't get to the rim at least 15-20 minutes before sunset, you won't get to see much of the canyon changing colors as the sun sets. It looks like it may be close, time-wise. If you are there in time, great. Make dinner reservations at El Tovar for 8:30 - 8:45 time frame. That should be a safe bet whether or not you can make it for sunset.

An alternative would be to just go to the Bright Angel Restaurant for dinner, no reservations needed.