It was the 3rd day on our 2 week trip out west. We got up rather early, still hadn’t adjusted from US Eastern Time which was 2-3 hours different depending on where in Arizona you were. Boy was that confusing, parts of the state don’t observe daylight savings time–good thing my phone auto adjusted the time! We packed and gathered our things, ate some snacks for breakfast in the common room and said goodbye to a few of the people we met there, then left the old historic Grand Canyon Hotel where we stayed for the night- which was a great hotel, I highly recommend it if you’re ever in Williams!
It was only an hour drive to the Grand Canyon, I couldn’t wait! It was one of my dreams to see it for years now. I took my camera out of the bag and got it ready and we set off on our way.
Driving to the Grand Canyon was not what I expected it would look like. It was way greener than I imagined, and there were no views of the canyon till you got up close(we were driving up north from the south). Anyway, more info and pics of the drive here: On the Road Again! Williams, AZ to Grand Canyon
As you drive into the park, you have to stop at the ranger station to pay the standard National Park entrance fee. It’s $20 for a vehicle with 4 people, or you can purchase a yearly park pass for $80 which is a much better deal if you place on visiting more than 2 parks a year.
I had already gotten the annual pass, which is like a plastic credit card, so we showed it to the ranger in the window, they handed us a map and newspaper and we continued on our way. It was still a few miles down the road to the visitor’s center and any look out points, and with evergreen trees on either side you still couldn’t see the canyon. Keep an eye out as you drive for wildlife though. Elk and mule deer are frequently spotted which is pretty awesome that you have a good chance of seeing one!
The Visitor’s Center
So we finally arrived at the main parking area. It’s a big lot, but I imagine in the busy season it gets pretty packed and you may have a hard time finding a spot, so always try and get there early. I think we arrived around 10-11am as we took our time. The visitor’s center, gift shop, restrooms and little concession shop are right there, along with lots of signs about hikes, how long they’ll take, and how much water you should bring.
Speaking of water, I couldn’t believe how dry it was out west! It really is a desert climate, and you really do need to drink a lot of water…along with use a ton of moisturizer on your hands, and chapstick throughout the day. It felt like the dryness of winter back where we’re from! Luckily, all the parks that we visited had water bottle filling stations. So it was great, we bought a big pack of water bottles when we first got there, and just kept refilling and reusing them!
Ok, sorry for the little sidetrack there, but it’s a good thing to note.
Anyway, getting out the car, first thing we noticed…it was cold! Well, really chilly! Good thing I brought my winter jacket! We crossed the parking lot and went over to the visitor’s center to check it out. Like most, there’s the standard gift shop, and information desk, signs to read, videos, etc. Just behind the visitor’s center there was a path that lead to the rim–and that’s where we were headed!
It was a short paved walk, with more evergreens, which I later learned were Ponderosa Pines and Juniper trees, and then all of a sudden, there it was. The most magnificent view I have ever seen in my life. The Grand Canyon. It truly is Grand in every sense of the word. All I could do was just stare at it for a while in silence…and just say, “Wow.”
It’s incredible. All of the colors in the rock, the enormity of it, I just can’t say “wow” enough times. No picture can convey just what it’s like. You have to see it in person, in 3D, with all your senses. Over 1 mile deep, 10 miles across North from South, and 2770miles East to West. Where we were standing, at Mather Point, the elevation was 7,120ft above sea level.
Mather Point is named after Stephen T. Mather, who was the first appointed National Park Service director, in May 1917. Luckily we came in the off season, there were a lot of people but not throngs of crowds, so we really got to enjoy it overall. All else I can say is, if you have the opportunity, go. You won’t regret it. It truly is a sight everyone will be impressed by.