Grand Canyon, Arizona

Trip on the Grand Canyon Railroad and Walk along the Rim Trail

We arrived in Williams, AZ, and are staying at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park for a week. Today we have booked a trip on the Grand Canyon Railway in the Dome car, to take us on the two hour ride to the Grand Canyon for our first visit. We were treated to a Wild West Shootout prior to boarding the train, and these same Cowboys sang and entertained us on the journey. We arrived at the Grand Canyon historic Depot around 11:30 am and walked up to the Rim to view the awe inspiring vistas of the Grand Canyon. We ate lunch at the Arizona Room in the beautiful old Bright Angel Lodge, built in 1935. Then we walked the 1.3 mile Trail of Time along the rim between Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Yavapai Geology Museum. It is a geological timeline of the rock layers in the Canyon, and you can touch the rocks from each of the canyon layers, including rocks nearly 2 billion years old in the bottom of the canyon. We got the shuttle bus back to the train which departed at 3:30 pm for our return trip to Williams. We enjoyed some snacks and a complimentary glass of champagne, and the notorious Cataract Creek Gang boarded our train for a mock train robbery. The train ride was relaxing but I would not recommend it if you want to experience scenery from the train as it is flat and dry the entire way.

We decided in order to experience the true beauty of the Canyon we needed to go down into the heart of the Grand Canyon, but we needed permits. We went to the Backcountry Office and received the number 6, to get into the lottery for a permit to be able to camp in the Canyon. We returned at 7:45am the next morning and got in line for a permit, at 8am the Ranger started to call the numbers, luckily numbers 2,4 and 5 were no shows, 6 was called and we got two permits to camp at Bright Angel Campground and Indian Garden Campground, two nights! We were so excited, now we had to get our camping gear together which we have not used since 2008. Fortunately there was an Outdoor store in Flagstaff, where we bought food and a camp stove just incase we didn’t have one. When we got back to the RV we discovered that we didn’t have sleeping pads, so it was back to Flagstaff, 25 miles, for another purchase. Finally we were ready.

Rim Walk from Hermits Rest

A series of views we experienced as we walked about 4 mi from Hermits Rest to Powell Point.

Backpacking into the Grand Canyon (Down South Kaibab and Up Bright Angel)

Before heading to Flagstaff we had time to take the shuttle bus out to Hermits Rest, and walk back along the South Rim Trail stopping at all the view points. From Pima Point we saw the breathtaking Abyss, where the great Mojave Wall plunges 3,000 feet to the Tonto Plateau above the visible Colorado River. Our next stop was at Powell Point which has a memorial to John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran, who was first to navigate the River in 1869. One of Earth’s most powerful, inspiring landscapes, the views of the Grand Canyon are a unique combination of size, color, and dazzling erosional forms: 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep.

Video of our backpacking trip

Day 1…South Kaibab TRail to Bright Angel Campground

Backpacks packed and ready to go, we drove into the Park from Williams, one hour, and got on the shuttle bus to take us to the South Kaibab Trailhead to begin our 3 day hike into the Canyon. Beautiful sunny day, at an elevation of 7,200 feet, it was cool to start, as we began our descent on the Kaibab Trail with many switchbacks, on a very well maintained trail. The trail is steep with no water, dropping 5,000 feet in 6.3 miles. We passed two mule trains coming up from Phantom Ranch, one with riders and the other with their trash. It took us about 3 1/2 hours to hike down to the Kaibab Suspension Bridge, where they built a tunnel through the cliff wall to get to the bridge, crossing over the Colorado River to Bright Angel Campground where we are camping tonight. We set up camp along the Bright Angel Creek and ate lunch. There are flush toilets and drinking water at the campground, this is luxury camping for us! We spent the afternoon exploring the beach on the river and visiting Phantom Ranch.

Day 2…Bright Angel Campground to Indian Garden Campground

Next morning we were up with the sun at 6am, enjoyed a healthy breakfast and started hiking up the Bright Angel Trail crossing another suspension bridge back across the Colorado River. The trail followed the river before starting its steep ascent to Indian Garden Campground about 4 1/2 miles. We loved being next to the river, as we were mesmerized by the beautiful green color and many rapids of the fast flowing water. It took us about 3 hours to get to Indian Garden and we set up camp in a nice spot with a covered picnic table, toilets and drinking water. There were other hikers that we met along the way enjoying the tranquility, peacefulness and grandeur of this canyon. One Australian was hiking Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, about 40 miles down and up twice in 6 days. We spent the afternoon hiking out the 3 mile Plateau Point Trail with a dramatic gorge overlook where we saw rafters floating down the river. The plateau was a beautiful carpet of blooming flowers.

Day 3…Indian Garden Campground to Bright Angel Trailhead on Rim

The 3rd and last day began bright and early, 6am with the sunrise, and ready to head on the trail by 8am. It was a much steeper ascent today with an elevation gain of 4,000 feet in 3 miles. As we stopped to take pictures and enjoy the views it wasn’t that difficult to climb out of the canyon and we reached the top at 6,840 feet around 11:00am. A fabulous lunch at the El Tovar Hotel, built in 1905, was our reward plus a good beer!