After Craig’s down and up trip last spring, we decided it was time for Jennifer to revisit and experience one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It had been over 25 years since she was last there. The boys were little, and as you can probably guess, there was not much “looking over the edge”. We thought it about time to go back, see the Canyon in all its glory and explore the South Rim.
We decided on a nice relaxing six day trip this spring as the temperatures would be cool and we would be there before school let out and might even beat the crowds. We were fortunate on both counts. We stayed in the RV campground in the park near the Bright Angel area. It was a very convenient location to have as our base camp and the facilities and full hook-ups were handy. We were even visited by a small group of elk each evening right at our campsite.
Our main objective, at least Craig’s anyway, was to get Jennifer below the rim. My experience hiking down to the bottom and back really made an impression on me, and I wanted to share some of it with her. We decided to try hiking down Bright Angel trail. There is a nice resting point about 1.5 miles down and we thought that might be the perfect opportunity for her to experience the canyon from another perspective. It was a good hike and Jennifer did GREAT. The way down, ironically, is harder. Your footing is so much more important and the stress on knees and hips is greater. There are two tunnels to walk through, one about a 1/4 mile down and the other about half-way. Hard to imagine them cutting through the rock to make them. The Bright Angel trail was originally a Havasupai-people trail down to the waters of the Indian Gardens area. In the 1890s it was further developed and extended down to the Colorado River. Back then they charged $1 to use the trail and for water and facilities at the bottom. It is now the main park visitor’s path down and one of the most popular trails in the park. One of the highlights of our hike was watching the mountain goat for the final half-mile.
Our trip to the Canyon was about exploring areas we had not previously visited and do some hiking. The South Rim is full of trails. In fact, it is one giant long trail along the rim, some paved, some not. Stretching out both east and west from the Bright Angel area the Rim Trail is the main way to see the Canyon. We took a couple walks along the trail, the first out towards the South Kaibab trailhead on a windy morning. Quite a few great views of the South Kaibab trail along the knife ridgeline. However, it was not long before the trail diverged from the rim, that, combined with the wind turned us around.
One of the special activities at the Canyon is sunset. There are many great viewpoints to watch the sun descend. We picked Yavapai Point as our viewpoint. It is a fairly big area with plenty of room to sit and watch. We found a great place near the edge and had a short stone wall to sit on. It is a popular spot. While our view was great, it seems it is also a favorite spot for Instagrammers. Check out the video and watch them move constantly in and out in front of us, with their Instagram poses and photos. The sunset was beautiful regardless, and well worth the stop.
One of our new experiences was a hike out to Hermit’s Rest along the Rim Trail to the West. There is a shuttle bus that takes visitors to Hermit’s Rest with stops along the rim. We elected to take the bus to the halfway point and walk the remaining 4 miles along the Rim Trail. Hermit’s Rest Trail is one of the original trails down to the bottom. It was built by horse thieves in the 1890s and was improved significantly in the early 1900’s by the Santa Fe Railroad to compete with the Bright Angel Trail and provide a way to avoid the fee. There was a camp the railroad operated below the rim until the 1930s when the Park Service took over Bright Angel Trail and removed the fee. The Rim Trail out to Hermit’s Rest is very close to the edge and rustic. The views are outstanding.
We took the Shuttle from Hermit’s Rest back to the half-way point where we started and hiked the other half of the trail back to the Bright Angel shuttle stop. Our plan, as it worked out, was to take the shuttle for the uphills and hike on the downhills. At Powel Point, besides the monument to Major Powel, who was the first to run the Colorado River, there is a monument to the Freemasons where they conducted one of their ceremonies in 1913. The highlight of this section is the Trail Viewpoint which is an overlook of the Bright Angel Trail. You can see all the switchbacks, climbs, trails, tunnels, and rest areas. Seeing it in its totality really drove home our accomplishment of hiking even a short way down and back.
Twenty five miles to the east of our campground was the East Entrance to the Park called the Desert View area. There is a nice drive out there with numerous overlooks. With a forecast of up to 30 mph winds, we decided to spend the day driving instead of hiking. Once in the Desert View area, there is a 70’ tall watchtower. Unfortunately, it was closed so we were not able to go up in it, but the visitor center there had some beautiful views. It was fascinating to see the wind blowing the cloud shadows across the red of the canyon.
As always it was a fun trip. The hiking was great and the views even just a short distance below the rim are well worth the effort. The canyon truly is spectacular, a true Wonder of the World.