The Grand Canyon: Our first glimpse

The Grand Canyon is one of those places that you just know is going to be amazing. How could it not be?

However, before leaving for our US road trip I’d read lots of other people’s blogs about hiking in the canyon and some of them had worried me a bit, as one of the main issues for many of them seemed to have been the crowds. Obviously the Grand Canyon is a huge tourist attraction in America – nearly five million people visit it each year – so it’s unlikely you’re ever going to be alone there. But it surprised me how much of a problem it had been for some people and I was concerned about whether it would impact on our own experience of the national park.

The best way to get away from the masses is to visit the canyon’s North Rim, which is much less popular. However it does take much longer to get there and as we were on a bit of a time limit we decided to stick with the South Rim and hope that we could find some quieter spots.

As soon as we entered the national park and arrived at the visitors’ centre I saw what my fellow bloggers had been saying. The carpark was packed and it took us a good 15 minutes of driving around before we could even find a space. The centre itself was swarming with people and it felt as though we may have decided to visit the Grand Canyon on the exact same day that everyone else in the country had! We decided to just get the maps we needed and move on.

I was then surprised to speak to one of the most unhelpful people I’ve ever met at the help desk. For the majority of our road trip we found that people who work in the national park centres were lovely, really helpful and usually passionate about the outdoors. But this guy seemed as though he not only hated his job, but hated people in general. I understand that you must get bored being asked the same questions day in and day out but seriously, if you don’t like people; don’t work in one of the country’s biggest national parks!

It is possible to get your first glimpse of the Grand Canyon from the visitors’ centre but I couldn’t bear the thought of being elbowed out of the way as we tried to check out such an amazing view, so we decided we’d rather try and find somewhere a bit quieter. After checking into our hotel (we chose to stay in the park at the Yvapi Hotel to enable us to have an early start the next morning) we got one of the free buses (which are a brilliant way to get around the park) to a stop called Hermit’s Rest.

This meant that our first view of the Grand Canyon was so much nicer. The first thing I noticed was the many, many, shades of the different layers of jagged rocks. Red, brown, yellow, grey – each one representing a different geologic layer of the canyon. It was absolutely beautiful. My favourite moment was when Mr A turned to me and said: “I didn’t realise it was going to be so big”. Which I thought was a hilarious thing to say about a canyon which is 277miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide and a mile (1.6km) deep.

Grand Canyon

Our amazing first view of the Grand Canyon

We started walking along the rim of the canyon, to find somewhere to watch the sunset. Along the way we were pleasantly surprised to discover that a lot of the time we were by ourselves. This gave us the chance to spot some of the wildlife including chipmunks, mule deers and plenty of birds.

Grand Canyon

A bird’s-eye view

As we walked the sun dropped lower in the sky and I loved watching the constantly changing landscape as shadows formed. One minute the rocks would look like they were glowing, and the next they would be shrouded in darkness.

Grand Canyon

Glowing rocks

Grand Canyon

Shadows forming

Grand Canyon

Dark for the night

We arrived at a viewpoint called Mohave Point shortly before sunset and decided to wait there to see it. We were joined by other walkers and people who had got the bus out and there was a jovial atmosphere as people took it in turn to pose for photos.

It was a stunning end to the evening and made us even more excited for our trek into the Grand Canyon the next day. We certainly weren’t by ourselves, but actually it really didn’t matter…

Grand Canyon

A perfect end to the day