I've been inspired reading many of the other trip reports here on these forums, so I thought I would share our own experience visiting the Grand Canyon last month. My wife and I had visited the Grand Canyon 9 years ago for a quick 2-night, 1-day stay. This year we returned for a 3-night stay with our 13-year old daughter and 12-year old son, as a part of a larger trip to the Grand Canyon and Utah's "Mighty 5".
We stayed three nights at Yavapai East. Our basic trip was driving from Vegas to the South Rim on June 10, arriving in time to catch the sunset along the Rim Trail. June 11, we spent the morning around Bright Angel and the afternoon on the shuttle buses going out to Hermit's Rest. Then on June 12, we took a morning hike down the Kaibab Trail to see the sunrise Ooh Aah point, and we drove out to the Desert Watchtower that afternoon. We left early on June 13 to make the long drive to Arches National Park.
So rather than detail every day and what we did, I thought I would just share some general impressions of our stay.
Sunsets -- Our first night, we headed up to the Visitor Center and started wandering west along the Rim Trail. We ended up at Yavapai Point and the Geology Museum right as the sun was setting. Now, I'm pretty certain that every other person who was at the South Rim that day was also at Yavapai Point, waiting for the sun to set. They were scattered along the trail and sitting out on the rocks, and we saw a lot of idiots who were scrambling way farther out than anyone should ever be. It's amazing that more people don't fall off the rim every year.
But despite all that, it didn't feel crowded and we walked up at the last minute and had a clear view of the sunset, right outside the door of the geology museum. It was as quiet as any other time we spent on the rim, and when the sun finally set, the crowd broke out in applause, which I thought was particularly cool to see and hear. Our second night, we returned to Yavapai Point and found the same basic scene. We took our same spot right outside the museum door, but this night, the exact moment the sun was setting, two girls came from nowhere and jumped out on the rocks in front of everyone to take selfies. They disappeared just as quickly as they came. So idiots come in all varieties, I suppose. The guy next to me, with his expensive camera and tripod who must have been waiting there all day, I thought his head was going to explode.
Sunrise -- I'd been reading these forums for months before our trip and one bit of advice that really stuck in my head was to hike down the Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point to see the sunrise. Now we're not hikers by any means, and we live in a state (Pennsylvania) where "mountains" can be as little as 1200 feet in elevation. But we didn't want to have the "typical" tourist vacation, and we wanted to make this a memorable trip for our kids. So we took the advice, and on our second morning, June 12, we caught an early shuttle from the visitor center to the Kaibab trail head and headed down. There was plenty of early morning light, which was good because the mules had gone down the trail just before us and that gave us just one more reason why we really needed to watch our step. We got to Ooh Aah Point around 5:10 am, and the sunrise was at 5:20.
There were only a dozen or so people there, including us, plus others on the trail who were going all the way down. (We met a man later who told us it was pretty crowded that morning on Yaki Point.) The sunrise was absolutely amazing, by far the best experience of our stay at Grand Canyon. We didn't stay long, as we had no idea how quickly the sun would rise over Yaki Point and how long it would take us to hike out. Overall we were in the canyon under 2 hours, but it did seem longer than that.
Hermit's Rest and Desert View -- We enjoyed the shuttle ride out to Hermit's Rest. We stopped at most of the viewpoints and hiked between a number of them. It was a nice way to spend a leisurely afternoon. As for Desert View, that was fine but I don't see it being an essential part of a visit, unless you have the spare time or you are going that way anyway.
Food -- We brought groceries with us so we can't say much about the food options at the South Rim. The pizza pub in Maswik Lodge was really good, but breakfast in the Yavapai Lodge (pancakes and bacon/egg/cheese biscuits) was disappointing. The general store seemed to have decent choices for groceries. We found Pringles to be our snack of choice on this vacation. The ice machines in several of the Yavapai West buildings were broken, though.
Water -- I had read about this water bottle thing before we came out, so we brought our Camelbak bottles and bought a 24-pack of water bottles before reaching the South Rim. I have to say, I was really impressed. The water refilling stations were easy to find, and the water was clean and cold everywhere we went. We barely touched the water bottles we bought outside the park.
People -- Everyone we talked to, from visitors to employees to rangers, were just the greatest people. That's one thing that struck me throughout our whole vacation, that the people we met had a friendliness to them that you don't find in your normal walks of life. It was just one more thing that made the escapism of a vacation worthwhile.
Overall, we had a great stay. After our last night we made the long drive to Arches National Park, and then backtracked to Bryce Canyon and Zion before returning to Vegas for the flight home. Others have said this in their trip reports, but I think it's worth repeating, as a newbie I found this site to be immensely helpful in planning our trip. From our sunrise hike to Ooh Aah Point to the decision to drive all the way out to Arches (we went back and forth on that idea so many times) to the hikes we took at Bryce and Zion (the Narrows was outstanding), all our ideas came from here, and they were the best parts of the trip.