Friday, 20 November 2015

Grand Canyon En Famille

Early morning at the South Rim
I've always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. However, as our trip approached, I was more than a little apprehensive. Someone had warned us that, once you arrive and look at the view, there "wasn't that much to do" there -- particularly with kids. I had also been told that the South Rim, where we were going, was far too touristy and it was much better to go to the less visited North Rim. Would it all be a huge disappointment?

But I am happy to report that it was all I expected, and more.

The South Rim is indeed the more touristy part of the Canyon -- the North Rim is much higher, and at this time of year can be closed due to snow. But maybe because we were slightly off-season,  I didn't find Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim too overwhelmingly ruined by other people. It reminded me rather of a ski resort, and was particularly quiet in the early morning and at night, when the day trippers had gone.

We stayed at Thunderbird Lodge - basically a motel, but perfectly OK -- right on the Canyon edge. For food you can eat at Bright Angel Lodge which is right next door and slightly more posh, but with a rustic edge; if you want to go very posh you can stay at El Tovar, which has a very fancy-looking restaurant. We ate our evening meals at the Arizona Room, a steakhouse with particularly delicious food -- it would have had a view over the Canyon, but it was too dark in October to see it even for an early supper; darkness fell at around 6pm.

Descending into the Canyon
The view is just incredible.  I could spend simply hours looking at it. The colours in the canyon keep changing throughout the day, and depending on the light and the weather. You can see why it's called "grand" -- I've been to canyons before, but the vastness and majesty of this one is incomparable. It makes you feel very small and very aware of the power of nature, as if you were standing on the moon or something.

So what do you do there? We went hiking into the canyon. We took the boys down the Bright Angel Trail to the three mile resthouse, then back up again. Down is pretty easy, up is obviously steep and much harder, but the path was well-made, the track easy to follow,

There are hundreds of signs warning you to take lots of water, food, etc and not to overdo it -- I think this must apply particularly in the summer, when temperatures can reach over 140 degrees, but in October it was a very pleasant temperature for walking, cool and crisp in the morning rising to t-shirt weather in the afternoon. We took a picnic, plus plenty of chocolate and snacks for the way up.

Sunset and moonrise
Our six mile walk was over by mid-afternoon, so there was time to do something else. We drove the 20 miles to the Desert View Watchtower, where you get a completely different view of the Canyon, this time including the Colorado River (which isn't visible at Grand Canyon Village). On the way back, we were lucky enough to see the full moon rising just at the time the sun set, which afforded the most glorious palette of colours. As we leapt out of the car to take photos, we weren't alone -- there were, as The Doctor put it, people almost "orgasmic" at the sight.

The next morning we were leaving, but got up early  and walked for a few miles along the Rim Trail before breakfast. This walk would be much more suitable for people with small children, or who aren't into proper hiking; it's paved, mostly flat and you can take a bus back to the village from various points along the way, so you don't have to worry about turning around. And you still get the incredible views.

So - would I recommend taking children to the Grand Canyon? Yes, definitely. What I would say is -- if  you want to walk, go at half term in October, and avoid the heat and the crowds. American schools aren't on holiday in October, either.

In fact we liked it so much, we are planning to go back when our boys are older. The plan next time is to hike all the way from rim to rim, a two day hike, and stay at the romantically-named Phantom Ranch lodge in the base of the canyon. For this, you have to book at least a year in advance. But I don't mind  that-- it's even more of an excuse to fantasise over future holidays.


ADDY said...

I'd love to go there. I got close when I was in LA but never got there on that trip. Photos are lovely.

MsCaroline said...

We lived in AZ for almost 6 years (we're both originally from the East coast) and think we will probably end up retiring there - not in sunny Phoenix (where we lived) but somewhere up north, closer to the Canyon - and I'm sure you understand why. I still remember taking our boys there for the first time in March. It had been snowing, and as we approached the overlook the Canyon was shrouded in mist so that you couldn't see a thing and we all stood there, disappointed, just looking at a wall of white. Suddenly (and I mean suddenly!) the mist cleared and the Canyon was revealed. I'm pretty sure there was a collective gasp. I still remember that first glimpse. Thanks for the little walk down memory lane.