Our trip to the Grand Canyon was one for the books. Not only was it one of our favorite National Parks on our cross-country journey, but by far one of the most epic travel experiences to date.
We spent four nights at Mather Campground in the South Rim, which is the more accessible side of the park. The North Rim is harder to get to depending on which direction you are coming from and closes for winter, so it wasn’t an option this time around. We’ll definitely be adding this to our bucket list for our next trip to the big hole in the ground.
After lots of research, this is the itinerary we came up with for getting the most out of our stay.
1. Set up camp at Mather Campground
We were surprised to find that Mather Campground was one of only two options for camping within the National Park at the South Rim. We chose a spot on the Pine Loop, which is one of the quietest loops on the grounds as they do not allow generators. We set up our tent (home away from home) and settled in for the next four nights.
2. Visit General Store for firewood and snacks for tomorrow’s sunset
Unlike many other National Parks, there are plenty of markets, restaurants and private lodges within the gates. Just around the corner from Mather Campground is the General Store, which has a great selection of groceries, souvenirs, craft beer and (expensive) firewood. While it’s definitely cheaper to stock up on food and wood outside the park, it’s was nice knowing we could run around the corner in case we forgot something. We grabbed a block of cheese, a baguette and a fancy beer for day two’s sunset.
1. Make breakfast at the campsite
We were so excited to get up and going to finally see the canyon, but a big breakfast is a necessity before journeying below the rim. If you’re short on time, the General Store has a section for hikers on the go. Be sure to pack lots of salty snacks and extra water.
2. South Kaibab Trail to Ooh AhhPoint
The South Rim has two main trails that descend all the way to the Colorado River — South Kaibab and Bright Angel. We hiked to the Ooh Ahh Point on the South Kaibab Trail, which is just about a mile below the canyon rim. This was a great warm up hike to adjust to the elevation changes and test our endurance going back up. Hint - it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, so if you’re feeling up to it head a little further down into the canyon.
3. Make an early dinner at camp
Since we opted for a shorter hike on Day 2, this left plenty of time to head back to camp for an early dinner before the sunset.
4. Head to the Rim Trail to watch the sunset
Going to the Grand Canyon and not seeing the sunset is like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids. It’s a must! We gathered our cheese, baguette, fancy beer and lots of layers and headed to the South Rim Trail at Mather Point. We walked along the trail until we found the perfect secluded spot to watch the sun sink below the canyon. Pure magic.
1. Explore the history of the park and rest up for tomorrow's hike
Day 3 was all about exploring the history and geology of the canyon. If there was one place to view the canyon to take in its diverse formations, it is the Geology Museum at Yavapai point. We learned about the mighty power of the Colorado River and the different types of rock all with a sweeping 180 degree view. Also, admission is free!
Other sites to see on the South Rim are the Hopi House, Kolb Studio, Grand Canyon Railway and Desert View Watchtower.
1. Bright Angel Trail to Three Mile Resthouse
Now we’re rested and ready for the big hike! On day four we adventured three miles down into the Grand Canyon along the Bright Angel Trail. The views along this path were much more dramatic than the first mile of South Kaibab. If you only have time for one, I would definitely recommend Bright Angel. This path is 17.7 miles to the Colorado River, but it is not recommended that anyone complete the full trail in one day. There are several mile markers along the trail, and we decided three miles in (six miles round trip) was perfect for us.
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