The Grand Canyon is the natural wonder that brings thousands of people a year to Arizona, and it’s often also a place that Arizona residents are ashamed to say that they have never seen. It isn’t a hard place to get to from Phoenix, and you can easily make a day trip of it if you are pressed for time or money (as long as you can stomach the 4 hours drive both ways). There are also two different campgrounds available, with the Mather Campground taking reservations outside of the winter. Whether you’re camping, hiking, or just going for a day of beautiful scenery, it’s a great place (and somewhere that all Arizonans should see at least once!).
The South rim provides access to several really wonderful trails (including Bright Angel) that are certainly worth a look if time provides, but for those just passing through, it is a great place to drive, take pictures, and walk the rim. Furthermore, the Grand Canyon Village offers food, a bank, as well as access to a few different locations with information and programs on the Canyon.
As far as my own experience with the place goes, I have been there several times (my latest visit being for my boyfriend and my anniversary ^ ^). For the most part, I do this trip when I am bringing first-time visitors to the Canyon. When I go, I usually take the route described below, and it’s just a very low stress way to see the Grand Canyon. I have also camped at the Mather Campground with the Student Conservation Association, and while the season wasn’t ideal for camping (cold and muddy), the campground is well taken care of, and close to the Grand Canyon Village. I think my only concern about the place would be space during really busy parts of the year, as we had issues parking our cars when we had the share the campground with just one boyscout troop.
Mindset is important when visiting as well. Some people can see it and leave describing it as a “hole in the ground,” but if you take the time, and find a quiet place to contemplate where you are, the Grand Canyon is not only an immensely beautiful place, but a spiritual one as well.
Distance from Phoenix: 223 mi (~4hrs)
Directions: From Phoenix, take the I-17 north to Flagstaff. Take a short drive through town, and follow signs to the 180 (which will pass by Snow Bowl). Stay on the 180 until you hit Valle, and then head north on the 64. The 64 will take you all the way up through Tusayan to the main park entrance.
Admittance Fee: The admission fee is for seven days on both the north and south rim. Vehicle Fee (includes everyone in the vehicle): $25, Individual Fee (for those on foot): $12
Camping: The Mather Campground (takes reservations- except during the winter; fee $18 per night), Desert View Campground (first-come, first-served)
Season/Hours: Open all year, 24 hours a day
Crowd Notes: This area of the Grand Canyon, especially in and around the Grand Canyon Village, can be extremely crowded, especially during the warmer months of the year. The western road (towards Bright Angel Trail) also tends to be more busy than the eastern side. Going during the winter, hiking down the trails further, and staying to the east can all help lessen the crowds somewhat.
Preferred Route/Notes: After having done this trip upwards of five times, I definitely have a preferred route. I usually get to the Canyon using the directions above, but I do not return to Flagstaff the way that I went. Generally, after a short drive to the end of the western section of the road, I head east down the 64- where there are generally less people, several trails, and tons of great spots for pictures. After leaving the park, one can also expect to get some really nice pictures of the Little Colorado, and you have the option of picking up some beautiful souvenirs from the road-side shops run by the Navajo of the area. Once you hit Cameron and the 89, head south towards Flagstaff, and then take the I-17 back to Phoenix as before. This route isn’t much longer than the way you took in, and you get to see some new scenery.
Grand Canyon National Park
“To stand upon the edge of this stupendous gorge, as it receives its earliest greeting from the god of day, is to enjoy in a moment compensation for long years of ordinary uneventful life.” -John Stoddard