For those who have never been to this place before, it can be difficult to fathom just how busy the Grand Canyon National Park really is. About 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year, so overcrowding can be a problem during the warm spring and summer seasons. During my first visit, it took nearly 45 minutes just to find a parking space, but after stepping out of the car and breathing in the fresh air, this minor inconvenience was quickly forgotten. The Grand Canyon is a huge National Park, so there actually is plenty of room to roam when setting out on foot!
During my first visit at the Grand Canyon, an overwhelming feeling of anticipating something spectacular to be seen quickly set in and this feeling grew stronger with every step toward the canyon rim. When the Grand Canyon finally came into view after clearing the last few bunches of trees along the trail, all that I could do was just stop and stare. The panoramic view of this majestic canyon stretched from horizon to horizon and my jaw dropped in awe!
Where I stepped onto the Rim Trail was somewhere between Yavapai Point and Mather Point in Grand Canyon Village. The distance between these two famous observation areas is a little less than one mile, so this section is a comfortable walk for people of all ages. The uphill grade to Mather Point is easy to handle and there are plenty of rustic park benches along the way. Near Yavapai Point is where modern conveniences can be found on the canyon rim.
The views of the Grand Canyon from the Rim Trail truly are breathtaking! Mather Point is probably the most popular overlook of them all and it takes a little patience when dealing with the big crowd. The line moves a little slow on the way to the rock outcrop overlook, but the fantastic view is well worth the wait. The view from Mather Point is something that must be experienced at least once in a lifetime, because a full spectrum of colors paint the canyon walls as far as the eyes can see!
Yavapai Point is a natural overlook that also offers unique views of the big canyon. In this area evidence of extreme erosive forces that took place in the ancient past can be seen. It is easy to spend hours wondering about how the canyon mesas and peaks were created. The Grand Canyon Geology Museum is located at Yavapai Point and this is where answers to all questions about the Grand Canyon can be found.
Hiking a little bit further on the Rim Trail will take visitors to Grand Canyon Village, where all amenities are offered. There are several lodges and restaurants in this area. Grand Canyon Village is also where the Grand Canyon Railroad drops off passengers from Williams, Arizona and the tour bus companies do the same. As can be imagined, this is the most crowded part of the park, so be prepared to deal with some out of control selfie sticks!
Near the canyon rim lodges is one of the access points for the Bright Angel Trail, which goes all the way across the canyon to the lodge area on the North Rim. The hike downhill into the deep canyon is fairly easy, but the return trip going back up is a steep strenuous climb, so it is best to be physically fit before taking the Bright Angel Trail on.
There are maps, historic markers and park information placards along the Rim Trail, so a hike on this path can be a learning experience for visitors of all ages. The National Park Service organizes educational group excursions and many private companies do guided tours along the rim too. Participating in one of the organized tour events can provide more insight into this majestic place.
Many of the canyon overlooks are shielded with handrails and fences for safety’s sake. Along the Rim Trail there are also many little foot trails that lead to rock outcrops on the canyon wall that have no safety devices. These natural rock outcrops are like platforms perched thousands of feet above the deep gullies below. Many of the side trails to the perches do take a bit of nerve to manage, because one false step can lead to disaster.
As a reminder, several people fall over the edge of the canyon each year, so it is best to not bite off more than you can chew. There are plenty of warning signs in areas where there are unstable rocks along the rim of the canyon, yet some folks still take the risk. The Grand Canyon is not a good place to play follow the leader, especially if the leader is some kind of a risk taking daredevil. Keeping small children at arm’s length and keeping pets on a short leash is advisable too, because pets and children do not always sense danger till it is too late.
For the most part, all it takes is one look over the edge of the Grand Canyon for most folks to get in touch with that feeling of being scared of heights. As can be guessed, the Grand Canyon is not really a good destination for someone that suffers from acrophobia. After looking down over the rim, it will be nearly impossible to pry someone’s hands off of a guard rail when they are frozen with fear. People frozen with fear holding up the waiting line at a scenic overlook is something that does happen everyday in this place, so learning to cope with it all is part of the routine.
The Grand Canyon is a big place and there is far more to see than what can be experienced in one day. Camping or booking a room at a lodge for several days is really the best way to go. I actually liked the Grand Canyon so much that I ended up working two spring and summer seasons, so I got to know the area well. The Grand Canyon truly is one of the greatest vacation destinations of a lifetime and that breath taking first view certainly is what makes the trip worthwhile!
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