Grand Canyon National Park is a bucket list item for many Americans (including my dad) and foreigners alike. After a 4 hour drive from Las Vegas we arrived in the dark at Mather Campground located inside Grand Canyon National Park on the South Rim. This was our first stay inside a National Park and we were excited to see what it was all about. We had made our reservation several months before and were able to book a full week. The campground was great! There were hot showers for $2 and even laundry onsite which is a big plus when you live on the road. Our spot was located right next to the bicycle trail which made getting around the park super easy. We were really happy to park the rig for the week and not have to drive anywhere. In addition to the bicycle trail is a free shuttle bus taking you all over the park and into the closest town. We took full advantage of the bike trails and used them to get around during our week stay.
One of our favorite activities at the Grand Canyon was attending the ranger talks. We learned about the endangered California Condor and the efforts to save the species from extinction. We listened to several other talks on wildlife found in the canyon like elk (we saw lots of them!), coyotes, and rattlesnakes (thankfully we saw none), and we took part in a hawk watch after a talk on birds of prey. One of our favorite evenings was spent riding our bikes from the campground over to the visitor center for an astronomy lesson. The group walked out to Mather Point on the edge of the canyon where a ranger used a powerful laser pointer to point out constellations in the night sky and tell the stories of them. Beautiful!
We spent a day riding our bikes from camp over to the South Kaibab Trail Head where we parked our bikes and hiked the narrow trail down below the rim 1.5 miles to Cedar Point. About a mile down we stopped at Ooh-Ahh Point to enjoy the view and some sandwiches before continuing down. This trail is not for the faint of heart! It’s pretty narrow with the canyon wall on one side and nothing but air on the other, in a few places it’s air on both sides! There are also mule riders that use this trail, luckily the mules were just exiting the top of the trail when we started our descent and we didn’t have to worry about meeting them on our hike. One of the best moments of our entire trip was running into a Big Horn Sheep right on the trail. He was walking up as we were walking down. We stayed to the inside wall and he just kept walking right towards us, as he got closer he sort of picked up his pace and scuttled past us quickly looking at us out of the corner of his eye like “don’t mind me, just passing through.” He was gorgeous! A great hike and it was funny to see how cheerful people were on the way down but not so cheerful hiking back up. If you want to do the mule ride down to the bottom of the canyon, they book out 6 to 8 months in advance. If you want to hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon a back country permit is required and you must camp down there, it is not recommended to hike all the way down and back out in one day. Permits have to be applied for 4 months in advance but they only grant so many. We had applied but didn’t win the lottery. I’m glad we were still able to do a day hike below the rim, even though we didn’t get to go all the way to the bottom it was a great experience!
The Grand Canyon is rich in history and the National Park Service does a wonderful job of preserving the architecture and the stories of the people who made their lives here. Go check it out!