Nothing can prepare you for your first sight of the Grand Canyon. Photos, videos and drawings fail to live up to seeing this iconic landmark’s expansive size and striking reddish hues in person. In fact, it can take months to fully explore the Grand Canyon and appreciate its rivers, scenic points and geology, and the park is one of those unique places you can return to at different times and see an entirely new side of it.
Visiting the Grand Canyon at all is a treat for the eyes and senses, but to fully appreciate its beauty and rugged landscape in a short space of time, I would recommend exploring the park over the course of several days at different times. Not only will you be able to avoid the crowds of tourist buses at peak times, you might also be able to see sites and critters no one else gets to see, or even have the park to yourself!
Sunset at Desert View Watchtower
After spending hours driving between Las Vegas to Tusayan, driving even further from the Grand Canyon’s Village to a viewpoint miles away along the South Rim filled us with apprehension – what if all our efforts were met with crowded walkways and whacks in the face with selfie sticks?
Seeing the sun illuminate the canyon’s deep ridges and gorges with only a handful of people however easily beat the effort of driving a few extra miles. With panoramic views stretching for miles, as well as seeing the Colorado River snake through the canyon, the Desert View Watchtower is an excellent spot to sit and appreciate the beauty of this iconic landmark as long as you wish.
The site of the watchtower itself makes for dramatic scenery (as well as some cool photos). Built to reflect the style of the ancient Puebloans that once lived in the Grand Canyon, it is open in the day to enjoy panoramic views from its observation deck as well as items from the gift shop (come on, you knew a shop was going to be sneaked in somehow!).
Sunset means cooler temperatures and less crowds, which also makes it an appealing time for the local wildlife to make an appearance. If you’re lucky, you might spot some of the Grand Canyon’s famous elk wandering around!
Sunrise Walk into the Canyon
Avoid the heat and busloads of tourists by rising early for a walk down into the canyon. There are several trails, but the most popular is Bright Angel Trailhead, as it is largely a paved trail and close to several restaurants. For a more ‘off the beaten track’ experience though, explore the South Kaibab Trail. Featuring aptly named scenic spots such as ‘Ooh Aah Point’ and more foreboding spots such as Skeleton Point, the trail is easy to follow without being too touristy. Remember to take lots of water though, and do not go farther than the park rangers advise – the deeper into the canyon you go, the hotter it gets!
Stargaze in the Grand Canyon
With no light pollution around for miles, the Grand Canyon makes a surprising and unusual place to cosy down with a blanket and do a bit of stargazing. The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you can enter anytime and try looking for Orion’s Belt. Or if you’re anything like me, just making up your own constellations.
The Grand Canyon Village and surrounding walkways are deserted at night, so you can explore at your own pace. Just remember, there is very little lighted walkways provided, so make sure you bring your own flashlight.
Time your visit right and you could even attend one of the Grand Canyon’s ‘Star Parties’!
Have you got any secret or scenic spots in the Grand Canyon? Share them below!