Grand Canyon, heard of it? Most of us have; it’s widely considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Did you know that there are many different ways of seeing all of the sights that the Grand Canyon National Park has to offer? You can hike it, raft it, drive it or just let your mule do all the walking. Whether you want to take a 3-week river cruise or you’re just passing through, there’s plenty to do. The South Rim is open all year and is the hub of activity at the canyon with lodges, shops, restaurants, a campground, a business center and the visitor center. The Historic District transports you back to the early 1900s and boasts one of the oldest standing wooden train depots in the United States, the Grand Canyon Railway Depot, which remains an active train station today. The North Rim, only visited by 10% of all canyon visitors, has lodging and food service available mid-May through mid-October. As the road less traveled, the North Rim or “other side” of the Grand Canyon can be hiked from the South Rim, (21 miles to the North Rim) or drivable from the South Rim (220 miles/5-hours to the North Rim).
Other ways for intrepid explorers to get around by themselves or for more hesitant adventures to be shown the sights by professionals include jeep/van tours, air tours, rafting trips, mule trips, guided hikes, bicycle rentals and bus tours.
The Desert View Drive (East Rim Drive) follows the rim of the canyon 26 miles east from the South Rim to Desert View (open all year), the east entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. The Desert View Watchtower stands 70 feet tall at the eastern end of the South Rim. The 1932 replica of a prehistoric Indian tower possesses a breathtaking view of the horizon from the San Francisco peaks to the Painted Desert with the Grand Canyon and its winding Colorado river nestled in the center.
Our own Jeff blazed a trail along the Desert View Drive:
“What a way to spend a day! We started off early with a good breakfast and made a day of a round trip excursion to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff. The weather was nice, the traffic light and the scenery was spectacular. On this particular Tuesday, there was not the usual throng of people mobbing all the scenic overlooks, making it all the more spectacular. Standing on the rim, it truly is hard to take it all in. The more you stand and look, the more you see. Break out the camera, and even more comes to life. Add a telephoto lens and you might as well pack a lunch ‘cause were going to be here a while!’
Desert View Drive follows the rim, so it’s an entertaining drive in its own right. The drivers among us will find it hard to resist the call of that road with its twists and turns, gradual curves, switchbacks and brief straights. We obeyed all (ok, well most) of the traffic laws but oh so tempting. All this and you look to your right, and oh yeah by the way, here’s the Grand Canyon! Every scenic overlook was just that – endless views, fascinating rock formations, the occasional glimpse of the Colorado River and the odd animal. Pictures simply cannot do this justice as much as you want them to. Panoramic shots cannot even capture the scale and beauty of the canyon. And the calming energy of the wind and peaceful nature of the park add to the overall experience.
It’s really remarkable when you stop to think about how varied the terrain is in Arizona. One drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and back will highlight and underscore that, especially when taking the less-traveled roads back.
Out of Flagstaff on 180 to 180/64 to the Grand Canyon Village. Head East through the park on Desert View Drive. Take your time, enjoy the scenery and take advantage of all the pull-offs and vistas! Exit the park via the East exit on 64 to 89. Take 89 back to Flagstaff. Excellent day trip, the length of the drive is enjoyable and incredibly scenic, even when not in the park.”