I was told that the Grand Canyon sucks once you’ve seen Bryce Canyon. This is true. In my opinion, Zion is greater than the Grand Canyon. But it’s famous and I lived an hour away and you can’t not see it because it’s the Grand Canyon. I don’t know, maybe I did it wrong or something.
The first time I went to the Grand Canyon, I was bored and just decided to go. I was wearing a dress and flip flops. It was really spur of the moment. One thing I didn’t expect was the climb my car had to make when driving to the North Rim. I guess it makes sense. If you’re going to look down into a canyon, you first have to get to the top. But while driving up, the trees got taller and taller and soon there were little turnoffs. Campsites! I had no idea.
The drive leveled off and then there was a National Forest right before the Grand Canyon. I assumed it would be all desert-y, but there were trees and grass and buffalo! Side note: please be careful when driving, especially at night. There is no fence and I almost hit a buffalo who decided the best place to hang out in the middle of the night was smack dab in the middle of the road (also about 20 feet in FRONT of the Buffalo Crossing sign. Someone teach these guys to read or something). I’m pretty sure if I hit a buffalo, I’d be dead and the buffalo would be all, “What was that? A mosquito?”
The gate was open for some reason so I headed straight to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for free! When I went later with my parents, we had to show our National Park Pass.
I only went a second time with my parents because my dad has this weird thing about needed to see the Grand Canyon. We’ve actually been close to the North Rim several times but it was always during the off season. My dad was like, “How do you close a National Park? I’m paying for it.” But I think it’s for safety because apparently the roads can get bad. So before you come here, check to make sure it’s open.
At the North Rim, there is a lodge, visitors center, restaurant, cabins, museum, and loads of people. And apparently the South Rim is worse. The North Rim is known as the less-commercial rim. Geesh, I never want to go to the South Rim.
Anyway, if you head towards the left, you can bypass all that and get to the Grand Canyon. You know, the thing you came to see. Keep going left and you’ll find you’re on a path that travels along the edge of the canyon and to an overlook that juts out into the canyon.
Or, you can jump up onto the natural rock fence between the path and the sheer drop off of the canyon and you can get really good views! Don’t worry, everyone was doing it. The second time I went it was sooooo windy. That was actually the coolest part – the wind whipping through the canyon and playing with our hair.
Here’s my thing about the Grand Canyon. It’s too big. It’s hard to really get a sense of the place. Because you’re on top, looking down into it, it feels kind of small. Whereas at Zion, you’re in the canyon looking up and YOU feel small.
The one thing I didn’t expect was all the colors. From the pictures I’ve seen, it was always brown rock. But there was white, orange, red, brown, plus all the trees and bushes.
We went to the visitors center and asked what we could do with only a day there. The rangers are super duper knowledgeable about the park and have personal experience hiking it. We were told to do the Cliff Spring Trail and to stop at the Walhalla Overlook on the way.
We got in our car and drove about 20 minutes, heading east. The Walhalla Overlook was clearly marked and we stopped our car to take a look. We saw a natural bridge. It was pretty cool and all. But then we saw people ON the natural bridge! They were so tiny it took us a minute to see them!
We found the trail pretty easily once we knew to look for it and ended up on the bridge. I’m not sure if the views are any more spectacular on the bridge or not, but it was extremely cool to be IN the canyon instead of looking at it from the outside.
Cliff Spring Trail
This was the favorite hike of the ranger we talked to. She said it wasn’t crowded and you could go into the canyon without having to take much stuff for survival – just water. A lot of the trails into the Grand Canyon require backpacks and basic survival skills of which we have none.
The trail was well marked and there was a parking area that could hold maybe five cars. We grabbed our water and took off down the trail. Immediately, we started going down a gentle slope and we soon came upon an Anasazi granary, which was unexpected and very cool. There was a HUGE No Touching sign that literally blocked your view so we had to duck under the sign to get a good look. Which I found hilarious.
The forest slowly starts to grow walls that get higher and higher. We were in the Grand Canyon! That part was actually very cool. We could finally feel the power of this place. Now, we were told that the Cliff Spring Trail is so named because there is a spring that comes out of a cliff.
We found an overhang covered in moss that was dripping a little bit of water. Was this it? We kept going and met an older couple who weren’t sure if that was it either and did the same thing we were doing. The trail got very narrow and disappeared under small shrubs. The old guy and I kept going while our families waited on an outcrop. Very quickly the trail ended and we were at risk of becoming a news story so we went back. I guess that moss thing was it.
But really, the moss thing didn’t matter. What mattered was we were in the Grand Canyon and we didn’t have to take a mule or spend days inside. It was an impromptu hike that showed us a little of what the Grand Canyon had to offer. We actually hung out on that little outcrop for quite a while, just taking it all in. The older couple left and it was just us, hanging out. With the Anasazi granary nearby, you could easily imagine an ancient people sitting on the same outcrop we were, just hanging out.
I think we didn’t do the Grand Canyon right. We didn’t really plan anything except ‘go to the Grand Canyon.’ I know there is a lot of stuff to do there but you have to make reservations and get permits and pack food for most of them.
I’m sure the Grand Canyon can be amazing with some effort. But here’s the thing. Once you visit Zion and Bryce Canyon, you’ll wonder if the Grand Canyon is even worth the effort.