Day 1. Arrive in Phoenix, rent a car, drive to Flagstaff, stay overnight in Flagstaff. Mike, my boyfriend, and I stayed at the cheapest hotel I could find, the Ramada West –Grand Canyon. It was clean, cheap and open at 2am when we checked in.
A quick note about driving in Arizona: You drive through deserts with cacti and forests with fir trees that seem to go on forever… there are mountains and steers and I’m fairly certain they only play 1970s funk music on the radio. Arizona is a magical place.
Day 2. Flagstaff is neat. We spent a half-day in Flagstaff checking out the cute downtown. We then drove to the Grand Canyon (about 2 hours from Flagstaff) and took a walk around the edges.
A note about lodging: Mike and I had originally planned to sleep in the Mather Camp Ground in tents (it was September and we are relatively outdoorsy) because the hotels in the park were all booked. However, the weather report called for rain. So, two days before we left I called Xanterra Resorts (the people who run the in-park hotels), and got us our own cabin literally feet from the Grand Canyon’s edge in Bright Angel Lodge because someone canceled. I HIGHLY suggest this hotel. Sure, I didn’t see any other places, but I don’t see how it could be better.
Mike and I got to the South Rim in the mid afternoon just in time for check-in at our fabulous private cabin. It had been raining, but just as we approached the edge for our glimpse of the vast amazingness that is the Grand Canyon… a double rainbow appeared. I lack the vocabulary to describe it so here’s a picture:
That night we ate at the El Tovar Dining Room. You will need to make a reservation and the food is good. Definitely eat there because it’s the best around, but don’t expect Le Bernadin, as some of the reviews make it out to be. [Comment from Mike: I don’t know what Le Bernadin is, but I agree with the sentiment. The steak was OK but overpriced. The baked potato was just a baked potato.]
Day 3: Hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and Back from the South Rim.
South Kaibab Trail down to the Colorado River.
- 6.3 miles from the Trailhead to the River
- Took us about 3 hours because Mike made us run
Bright Angel Trail back up to the top:
- 9.5 miles from the river back up to the Trailhead, which was conveniently located next to our cabin.
- Took us about 7 hours, but that includes stopping for water
- It is best to take the route we did because ONLY Bright Angel Trail has water fountains to fill up your water bottles (NOTE: bring a few water bottles, you’ll thank me when you hike up a particularly nasty part of the trail called “The Corkscrew”). [Comment from Mike: The South Kaibab trail has the best views, but it is steep so you don’t want to walk up it. The Bright Angel Trail is the one with the gentlest incline, although it won’t feel very gentle by the end.]
What does hiking down to the bottom and back in one day entail?
1. You must ignore the hundreds of signs that say “DO NOT TRY TO HIKE DOWN AND BACK IN A DAY”.[Comment from Mike: You also need to ignore all the articles online that your girlfriend shows you the night before about people needing to be rescued and almost dying of severe dehydration and gruesome injuries. Seriously, those articles are out there, but if you give yourself enough time and you’re in decent shape (decent enough to be walking uphill for 7+ hours) you’ll be fine.]
2. Pack your own lunch. There is an outpost/grocery store in the park. Stock up on cliff bars, Powerade, sandwiches and trail mix. Snacking is necessary on the way back up!
3. Wear layers. When we started our hike at 6:30am, at the top, it was 37 degrees. At the bottom, around 9:30am, it was 95 degrees.
4. Get up early. We caught the 6am hiker shuttle bus in front of Thunderbird Lodge (a two minute walk from our cabin). If you want to do the hike in a day, be an early bird!
Day 4: Drive back to Phoenix via Sedona
Don’t take the most direct route back to Phoenix. Instead, go through Sedona via route 89A. It’s a beautiful drive complete with red rocks. Sedona is beautiful. You should see it. We just drove through mainly because the town itself seemed a bit touristy, but the landscape is fabulous –even after you’ve spent the last few days oohhhing and awwwing over the Grand Canyon.
We then continued onto Phoenix to the resort where Mike had business meetings. Mike spent the rest of his time in Arizona in meetings (DON’T) and I spent the rest of my time by the resort pool with a banana daiquiri (DO).
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