Updated: Nov 3
As you gaze at the majesty and vastness of the Grand Canyon, you understand why it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Although I had visited the Grand Canyon once before, on my recent visit I was awestruck by the sheer size of the Canyon. It covers 1950 square miles. We spent a day absorbing its grandeur and contemplating the power of the Colorado River which created the canyon through millions of years of erosion. The Grand Canyon is an easy day trip from many areas in Arizona. The south rim of the Grand Canyon is 2-3 hours north of Sedona and 3-4 hours north of Phoenix, depending on traffic. It is open 365 days a year. The entrance fee is $35 per vehicle.
There are also Day Trip Tours available to the Grand Canyon from Sedona as well as Phoenix.
Oak Creek Overlook
Whether you drive from Sedona or Phoenix, The Oak Creek Overlook makes a great rest stop. If you are coming from Sedona, you would take 89A north through the Oak Creek Canyon. As the roads winds upward, you will find the Overlook at the top of Canyon on your left. If you are coming from Phoenix , this stop is better done on the return trip. Take I-17 south to just past Flagstaff and pick up state road 89A there and head south on 89A towards Sedona.
Oak Creek Overlook is in the Coconino National Forest that surrounds the town of Sedona. Over hundreds of thousands of years, Oak Creek helped carve Sedona and the Verde Valley into the stunning beauty you see today. Oak Creek is fed by natural springs and has some water flowing through it all year long. Because of this water source and the protection of the red rock caves, Natives Americans have lived in this area for thousands of years.
On the day we traveled the Grand Canyon, snow had blanketed the higher elevations from a storm the night before. This route allowed us to have magical snow views of the canyon and the desert, including Mt. Humphreys in the center photograph. When the weather is good, you can purchase art, jewelry and crafts from Native Americans at the Oak Creek Overlook.
You drive through lush Ponderosa Pine forests between Sedona and the Grand Canyon as you climb to 7000 ft above sea level. Arizonians refer to Ponderosa Pine forests as "sky islands" because they are an oasis of green occurring at high elevations. As you come down from the forests you cross the Colorado River plateau which is largely high desert to reach the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
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South Rim of the Grand Canyon
For day trippers, the best place to begin Grand Canyon explorations is "The Village" on the South Rim. The Village has scenic overlooks, hotels, a historic Lodge, restaurants, snack bars and gift shops. Parking is available on the south side of the railroad station. You can walk up to The Village just as the first visitors did in the middle 1800's. Take your time and absorb the vastness and majesty of the largest canyon in the world. Consider that Native Americans from the Havasupui Tribe have been living in and around the Grand Canyon for 800 years.
Grand Canyon Village
The Village offers panoramic views of the Canyon, plus services for day visitors and lodging for overnight visitors. There is a visitors center, restaurants, gift shops and rest rooms. Depending on the time of year it could be very crowded. The Grand Canyon gets 5 million visitors a year. We brought a cooler of cold drinks and a picnic lunch to enjoy with the spectacular views of the Canyon. There is a 12.7 mile trail that goes along the South Rim. It is an easy point to point trail that is appropriate for all skill levels. Much of the trail is stroller and wheelchair accessible. The Village is in the middle of that trail. You can set out in either direction from the Village.
The Road to Hermits Rest
The Road to Hermits Rest runs along the Rim Trail to the east. In the summer months, the Road to Hermits Rest is accessible by shuttle bus or hiking. In the winter months personal vehicles are allowed to make the drive. There are 8 overlook stops including Hermits Rest. The views are different from each overlook. We stopped at several to view the canyon from different angles. We also enjoyed our picnic lunch from one of the overlooks. Many of the overlooks have restrooms and picnic facilities.
Hermit's Rest was the stopping point of the horse drawn carts that brought visitors from the train station at Grand Canyon Village to the beginning of Hermits Trail. From Hermits Rest travelers could hike down into the Canyon. As with many of the buildings on the South Rim, Hermit's Rest was deigned by Mary Colter, an interior designer and architect that worked on Grand Canyon buildings from 1901 to 1948. Her structures are protected as National Historic Landmarks.
Top Seven Tips for Day Tripping in the Grand Canyon:
Get an early start.
If you want breakfast, stop on the north side of Flagstaff. You will be through any traffic and there are good local restaurants along the route. I have heard good things about the All Day Cafe.
Be prepared for crowds, bring a picnic and cold drinks.
Hike part of the Rim Trail or Road to Hermits Rest to better absorb the grandeur and magnitude of what you are viewing, The Grand Canyon is so much more than a giant hole in the ground.
Get your Grand Canyon swag at the shop in Market Plaza. They have a large parking lot, a good selection of cold drinks and snacks plus the largest selection and best prices on souvenirs and outdoor gear.
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