Any itinerary suggestions would be appreciated. My family is driving from NJ and we have a tight schedule – we need to get to Page for a houseboat trip on Lake Powell so don’t have much time. Do we have time to go into the Canyon? We’re thinking of staying at the Mather campground for a night.

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Categories: Dear UBI

One Response

  1. sascoaz says:

    You can see and do a lot at the canyon in a single day (I assume you are visiting the South Rim north of Flagstaff and I-40?).

    One of the best experiences for new canyon visitors at the South Rim is to take the free shuttle that runs from the main lodges out along the West Rim Drive to Hermit’s Rest and back. The driver points out things along the way and the shuttle stops at various overlooks so that you can get on and off as you want. You can get on this shuttle at the little waiting area below the Bright Angel trailhead (near the railroad tracks on the west edge of the lodges).

    The canyon also has a lot of historic buildings that are worth checking out including the grand famous El Tovar lodge (built in 1905), the nearby Hopi House curio shop (built to look like an indian pueblo), Lookout Studio and the Kolb Brothers photo studio (which often has free art exhibits).

    I would definitely recommend doing a short hike (or walk) into the canyon as it is a much different and more imersive experience than just looking at it from the rim. Given your limited time, you probably don’t want to do a serious hike (and should not attempt one unless you are prepared), but even doing a half-mile walk down the nicely maintained Bright Angel trail near the lodges would be enjoyable and rewarding. Wear comfortable shoes, bring water and remember that coming up the trail is a lot harder than going down.

    Mather campground is a nice developed car-camping type spot with designated areas that have picnic benches and firepits. Note that you can make reservations online (see below) and it is a good idea to do so, as they fill up quickly in summer.

    Also note that if you were to go in the park at the main south entrance (along US64 north of Flagstaff and Williams) and then exit out the less-used East gate near Cameron, this would put you right on the road to Page and Lake Powell (and also give you a chance to visit many of the excellent and less-crowded overlooks along the drive to the east of the lodges).

    Keep in mind that if you are planning on going sometime between now and Labor Day, that this is the prime season at the canyon (and Northern Arizona in general) and the South Rim can often be a zoo on weekends with lines at the gate and difficult parking at the main areas (and no vacancies at campgrounds and lodges). Be prepared and have reservations well in advance. Weekdays are generally less-crowded than weekends and overlooks and other spots are less crowded early in the morning or after sunset.

    A few other notes about that area:

    The historic Cameron Trading Post (along 89A between Flagstaff and Page) is an interesting little stop with clean restrooms and a nice cafe serving an excellent Navajo Taco.

    Also along 89A near Cameron are the very interesting, but often overlooked, Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments. Sunset Crater is an extinct volcanic field with cinder cones and lava flows and Wupatki is a large prehistoric indian pueblo.

    The historic La Posada hotel in Winslow (an hour east of Flagstaff on I-40) is a facinating historic Santa Fe RR hotel from the golden age of rail travel (it was designed by the same architect who did many of the historic buildings at Grand Canyon). The hotel’s restuarant is one of the best in the southwest.

    When you are at Page, you will be near the famous Antelope Canyon slot canyons (with the curved sandstone walls and light beams). This is just a few miles southeast of town and worth a visit.

    Have fun! It is a great area.

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