Day 28 - The South Rim & the Kaibab Trail
Its fair to say that both myself and George have seen some impressive scenery in America so far, but I don’t think either of us were prepared for the Grand Canyon.
We left our Walmart car park at 6am, hoping to get to the National Park by 9am before it got too busy. We quickly checked out the visitor centre and got some advice from a ranger on which hike would be the best to do that day (its often too hot to do full canyon hikes in the summer and overnight hikes need a permit). The ranger was really helpful and we jumped on the free shuttle towards the Kaibab trail.
The warning signs are there for everyone to see - do not hike too far into the canyon unless you are well prepared! The hiking here is the reverse of what we’re used to (down first and then back up). It would be very easy to get carried away walking down, go too far and then come unstuck on the way back up as there’s no water available (apart from what you carry with you!)
We headed down passed “Oo Ah Point” to “Cedar Ridge”. Cedar Ridge is the second view point on the trail and only 1.4 miles from the trailhead. This sounds pretty easy but we both felt knackered purely from the heat and lack of water (we only had one water bottle each (they advise at least 2 per person)). Cedar Ridge though was awesome. The canyon opens up and you can see it in all its glory. Hiking back up was tough but the view from the trail is unreal, the sheer scale of the place is way bigger than you can imagine and the colours are unbelievable.
We caught the shuttle back to the visitor centre, had lunch and made a plan to try and watch the sunset at Lipon Point in the east after visiting Hopi Point in the west. The ultimate plan was to find a free campsite just outside the park’s east entrance in the Kaibab National Forest. However - the queue for the shuttle in the village was enormous and with the fear of not making it back in time for sunset we reconsidered and made a different plan altogether!
We had both loved the Canyon so much we decided we needed another full day - so that we didn't leave feeling like we had rushed it or missed things we wanted to see. This meant that instead of heading east to find a camp we would drive south instead. With Plan B activated we headed back to the rim (near to the Geology museum) and walked a couple of minutes along the trail to watch the sunset (everyone else was doing the same).
Unfortunately the storm clouds rolling in stopped any chance of a beautiful sunset (it was still pretty cool watching the lightning in the distance) so we walked back around to Mather Point (next to visitor centre) for some dinner. We hoped that if we waited it out the stars would come up as we were at around 7000ft. With clouds still lurking we eventually gave up, packed up and drove out of the park turning straight on to a Forest Service road. We spotted others car camping so found our own spot for Tyrone and got our heads down for the night.
Day 29 - Hopi point, Lipton Point, Grand View and Desert View
Having stayed an extra day we wanted to make good use of it and try and catch the sunrise from Hopi Point. The red route that serves Hopi Point is a “shuttle bus only” road so to give ourselves any chance of making the 5:30am sunrise we had to be on the 5am shuttle. We were up at 4.30am, we parked up near the Bright Angel Lodge at 4.55am and were heading down to the shuttle stop only for the driver to set off while we were literally yards away. He must have seen us sprinting towards him! I was a little annoyed about this! With the option of waiting for the next bus (at 5:30am) and missing the sunrise versus jogging the rim trail to catch what we could - we decided on the latter and set off at 100mph.
Just as the clouds had spoilt the sunset (not completely!) they did a good job of messing with the sunrise too so we didn’t feel too bad that we’re crap at running. We watched it from an outcrop overlooking the Bright Angel Trail instead. After sunrise, we continued on the trail to the various viewpoints before reaching Hopi Point (third time lucky). It was a great view.
With a couple of hours drive on the cards to reach Horseshoe Bend (near Page in Arizona) we set off east stopping at the various scenic viewpoints that side of the park - Grand View, Lipon and then Desert View each provided a spectacular perspective on the Canyon with the Colorado River viewable at the last two.
We arrived in Page late afternoon and hung around town for a few hours before finding the famous Horseshoe Bend just in time for sunset.