USA series: Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Abyss vantage point along the south rim

6:00am
Alex and I are at the Bright Angel Lodge on the south rim of the magnificent Grand Canyon in Arizona.

We arrived yesterday afternoon having driven our rental Mustang the 4.5 hours from Las Vegas (via the Hoover Dam).

Waking early, we are trying to catch a canyon sunrise but it seems to be already light by the time we get up.

Daily condition report for the Grand Canyon

Daily condition report for the Grand Canyon

It takes us all of 2 minutes to walk from our room to the viewing platform.  It is so disappointing to see that the canyon is heavily misted and the view from our backyard is a whiteout. Bugger

The Grand Canyon is down there somewhere

The Grand Canyon is down there somewhere

The Grand Canyon according to Wikitravel:

“The Grand Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located entirely in northern Arizona and is one of the great tourist attractions in the United States. The massive canyon encompasses several distinct areas, most famous of which is Grand Canyon National Park, a United States National Park. The national park is itself divided into two main areas: the remote North Rim and the more accessible (and therefore more crowded) South Rim. All of the sections of the canyon offer amenities for visitors, but the national park, and in particular the South Rim, is by far the most popular destination and the best equipped to handle the millions of yearly visitors.

The Canyon is an overwhelming experience, and nothing can prepare a visitor for the sight. The Grand Canyon is a massive canyon carved over several million years by the Colorado River. Grand Canyon National Park boasts an elevation change of nearly 7,000 feet (2130 m) from Point Imperial (at nearly 9,000 feet or 2740 m) to the banks of Lake Mead (at just over 2,000 feet or 610 m). The canyon itself is, from rim to river over a mile (1610 m) deep. In spots the rock layers exposed in the canyon display over two billion years of geologic history.”

7:00am
The Grand Canyon Village has 3 free shuttle buses servicing the south rim with constant loops of the area, running every 15 minutes.

Grand Canyon Shuttle busses according to Wikitravel:

“Several viewpoints and trailheads in the park have limited or no parking and must be reached using the park shuttle system. The National Park Service runs an extensive shuttle service on the South Rim with three interlocking routes. The service is free, and generally runs from before sunrise until after sunset, depending on the route. Service is more frequent from May through September and includes additional routes. In addition, during the summer the park service operates a shuttle from Tusayan into the park.”

We decide to take the longest loop which is 11km long and heads to Hermits Rest.  The Hermits Rest loop has about 7 different vantage points and takes about 80 minutes.

This means we have time for breakfast in the Bright Angel Lodge before getting the shuttle at 8:00am.  This will allow us to do the full Hermits Rest loop, including getting off at a couple of the stops to take photos.  We can then be back to the Bright Angel Lodge by 10:30am, perfect for our 11:00am checkout.

8:00am
Apart from being misted over, it is now raining and I am now not hopeful of any real view of the canyon.  We wait in the shelter for the red shuttle bus.  I am pleased to hear the driver explain the conditions further along the route can be varied and that there have been vantage points where the canyon is clear and he has even had glimpses of sun… things are looking up.

Alex and I stay on the bus for the first couple of stops before deciding to get off the bus at “Hopi Point”.  The view here has a smattering of cloud but there is more of a breeze here, which is allowing openings through the clouds and occasional clear views to the canyon floor and the Colorado River below.

Hopi Point view

Hopi Point view

The next stop we get off at is called “The Abyss”.

Approaching the Abyss

Approaching the Abyss

This vantage point provides even clearer views.

The Abyss in morning sun

The Abyss in morning sun

The size and volume of the canyon is simply amazing.

The Abyss vantage point along the south rim

The Abyss vantage point along the south rim

Every time you think, ok, I have enough photos, you look again and are driven to take just one more photo.

The Abyss panoramic

The Abyss panoramic

Hermit’s Rest is our final stop and, while it doesn’t offer the best view it does have facilities and drinks etc.

Hermits Rest marker

Hermits Rest marker

Hermits Rest view

We wait for the next shuttle to arrive at the Hermit’s Rest stop. We board this bus and take this all the way back to our original pick up point near the Bright Angel Lodge.

10:30am
Time to grab our bags and check out.

Alex is driving the rental Mustang for the first section of our drive back to Las Vegas today. We will drive back the 4.5 hours with one stop for lunch in the Route 66 town of Williams.

12:00pm
We arrive in the town of Williams.  If you need Route 66 memorabilia… this is your town.

Williams according to Wikipedia:

“Williams is a city in Coconino County, Arizona, west of Flagstaff. Its population was 3,023 at the 2010 census. It lies on the route of Historic Route 66, Interstate 40, and the Southwest Chief Amtrak train route. It is also the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway, which takes visitors to Grand Canyon Village. There are numerous inns, motels, restaurants and gas stations that cater to the large influx of tourists rather than local residents, especially during the summer and holiday seasons.”

Williams is a good place to stop for lunch and take a look at the shops along the length of its main street.

Williams' main street

Williams’ main street

Williams has your usual selection of cafes and shops, and of course as much Route 66 memorabilia as you can handle.

Williams has lots of Route 66 stuff to buy

Williams has lots of Route 66 stuff to buy

Giant Route 66 sign anyone?

Giant Route 66 sign anyone?

1:00pm
We follow the same route we travelled yesterday from Williams back to Las Vegas.  We do a couple of driver changes along the way.

5:00pm
We are both a bit exhausted from the early start and long drive and are both very pleased to drop the car off at the car rental company.

Fox is the car rental company we booked the car through.  I like to mostly be positive about things and was brought up that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.  Although Alex might argue as to whether I practice this with him?

Anyway, I digress, being positive and all that, I will say of our rental car company Fox, I am positive I will never rent through them again… why?

  • firstly, they are located off-site from the airport rental terminal, which was never very clear when booking;
  • the car was dusty when we picked it up which I can understand given we are in the desert so will let that one slide;
  • the car rental process took forever;
  • most of the staff were rude and un-friendly;
  • Alex then discovered they appeared to have charged the credit card twice for the transaction. This took some time to be corrected.

As for the car, it was the only part of the whole transaction we found satisfactory. Gotta love a Mustang.

Anyway, while it has been a long drive, we had a fantastic time at the Grand Canyon.  We will put the unfriendly people at Fox behind us and remind ourselves we are in the happiest place on earth… no not Disneyland… Las Vegas baby!

7:30pm
Dinner back at the Luxor Hotel is followed by gambling, of course.

Over the rest of the night we wander around and explore the two levels of the Luxor.

Interior of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas

Interior of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas

From the Luxor we visit the two hotels that sit either side of the Luxor and which can be reached via internal connecting passages complete with travelators.

Travellators get you from casino to casino

Travellators get you from casino to casino

 Excallubur sits on one side of the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay on the other.

Casino floor

Casino floor

Of all three casinos the nicest is Mandalay Bay.

12:00am
Total money donated by Alex and I to the casinos, USD$200 (insert sad face here).

Ok casinos, you win this round but we’ll be back!

Tomorrow we have a full day to explore more of the casinos along the Las Vegas strip. For now, time to get some sleep.[showmyads]

For previous USA series post see Hoover Dam
For next USA series post see Las Vegas hotels and casinos from Caesars Palace to Wynn