Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: January 2023
The Grand Canyon is one of the biggest canyons in the world. It is located in northern Arizona and measures 446 kilometres long, nearly 30 kilometres wide and over a kilometre and a half deep. Grand Canyon National Park encompasses much of the Grand Canyon and it is divided into two main sections, the North Rim and South Rim, each with their own visitor center, scenic drives, viewpoints and hiking trails.
After spending the morning in Lower Antelope Canyon, a narrow slot canyon with tight passageways, we made our way to the ultimate canyon in the United States, the Grand Canyon. The quickest way to get there from Page is through the east entrance. Technically the North Rim is closer, but it’s only open from mid-May to mid-October. We arrived at the east gate in the early afternoon and drove along the Desert View Drive, a paved path that is 35km long and contains six viewpoints. Our game plan was to hit up each of these viewpoints as we made our way across the South Rim towards the visitor center.
The first viewpoint is at Desert View. From the parking lot there’s a paved path that passes the Desert View Watchtower. The weathered stone exterior was designed to look like it’s rising from the canyon. The watchtower was open, so we took a look inside. There’s a gift store on the main floor and a staircase that winds up the tower to an enclosed viewing platform. We appreciated being able to see the canyon while being sheltered from the wind. We made our way down and continued along the paved path to the viewing platform overlooking the rim of the canyon.
We hopped back in the car and continued the drive along Desert View Road, stopping at the other viewpoints to admire the views and learn more about the history and geology of the Grand Canyon. Lipan Point features a spectacular view of the canyon and Colorado River, showing the tilted layers in the rock.
Moran Point showcases some of the beautiful colours in the rocks, along with the three main rocks groups of the Grand Canyon. The viewpoint was named in honour of Thomas Moran, an artist whose work inspired tourists to visit and helped create some of the national parks in the western United States.
Some of the formations in the Grand Canyon take on interesting shapes that resemble things, like a Duck in the Rock (which doesn’t really look like a duck to me).
We finally made it to the visitor center. After checking out the exhibits, we walked to the Mather Point, which provides another panoramic view of the Grand Canyon.
We then headed to Yavapai Point where the Yavapai Geology Museum is located. It was built in 1928. A group of geologists chose this site near the rim of the canyon because the views here were the most representative of the geology of the canyon. In addition to the nice views, there were also a series of displays to highlight the different types of rocks found in the area, along with information about the geology of the area and how the Grand Canyon was formed by geological activity and erosion by the Colorado River.
We continued driving west to reach Hermit Road, an 11km scenic drive that contains nine scenic viewpoints and other unnamed overlooks. Typically this road is only accessible to shuttle buses and bicycles for most of the year, but one of the benefits of visiting in the winter was that we could drive along this portion of the road with our car.
The viewpoint at Trailview Overlook provides a nice vista of the Bright Angel Trail and the series of switchbacks that lead deeper into the canyon. The path looked icy and super challenging. It was not for us.
At this point the daylight was beginning to fade so we drove to the end of the scenic road to Hermits Rest. There’s a stone building that was built near the edge of the canyon to resemble an old miner’s cabin. It was still open for a few minutes, so we popped inside to take a quick look. There was a small gift shop inside. This should come as no surprise, but there was also a nice viewpoint of the canyon.
We drove back towards the visitor center, stopping at the other series of viewpoints along Hermit Road. By this point we had already stopped at over a dozen viewpoints and overlooks, but the views just never got old. I started to lose track of all the various names of the viewpoints though.
We managed to visit every single viewpoint on Hermit Road before it got dark. And just as we were driving out of the park, it started to snow. The forecast was calling for heavy snow in the evening, so we were eager to get going.