Trip Report | The Grand Canyon

Thanks for the encouragement on yesterday’s Laundry/Mudroom progress! I’m working on some final details on the Mudroom side now, and should have it for you next week. Constant tripping over backpacks and instruments has helped me speed things up!

Today I’m sharing another park from our Spring Break trip of National Parks (see Zion here and Bryce here), the Grand Canyon itself! Interestingly enough, the trip started with just the Grand Canyon, but the more planning and research we did, it became a smaller and smaller portion of the week as our itinerary grew to include the other parks. It was amazing, awe-inspiring, overwhelming, and well, grand!

There are two main portions of the Canyon that are accessible to travelers…the North and South Rims. The North Rim actually closes for the Winter season due to so much snow and ice, and was still closed when we visited in March. When we were planning this stop, we were a little overwhelmed by the sheer size and number of options, so we booked a guide for one day, to be sure we made the most of our time there.

He was very good, and it was a fabulous day, but it was pricey…and now that we’ve scanned the basics of the park, we realize we could have managed just fine on our own! What was surprising, is the complete accessibility of the South Rim. You could literally see it all from your car. There’s a two-lane road from entrance to exit, with clearly marked lookouts along the way. The Rim Trail itself is 14-miles of paved, flat sidewalk that follows the edge of the canyon (with railings), and a free shuttle bus runs the route continuously throughout the day.

Interestingly enough, of the six million visitors to the park last year, only three-percent actually hiked below this level! Our guide’s initial plans were simply to take us to the more popular lookouts…because that’s what most people want. Um, no. We wanted to hike, and see different angles of the canyon, so he was super helpful in leading us to trails that were manageable for our family.

And yes, I was worried about someone getting too close to the edge, but as long as you’re mindful of where you’re walking, it was mostly safe. The majority of trails were wide enough to pass, and none we took actually went along steep ledges.


Hoodie Sweatshirt | Jogger Pants | Pullover | Leggings


Tunic | Favorite Athletic Leggings | Best Trail Shoes Ever


Similar Cap | Windbreaker Jacket | Athletic Shorts | Socks | Sneakers


Fleece Twisted Top (short-sleeved version) | Similar Cap | SunglassesBest Trail Shoes Ever

My favorite was seeing all the layers of rock, and trying to comprehend just how many hundreds of thousands of years it took to carve this canyon. Each layer has a distinct color, too, that changes and glows depending on the time of day. It really is almost too much to take in, and we spent a lot of time just sitting and staring. Dumbfounded.


Jogger Pants | Athletic ShoesMens Pullover | Girl’s Pullover | Leggings | Tennis Shoes

The mule trips to the bottom book a year or more in advance, and everyone we ran into said they were an amazing experience. I’ve always been a little suspicious of them, and worried about the poor animals…but they have been bred for just this type of trek, and are well cared for.

Fun Fact: There has never been a death associated with a mule trip! Most rescues in the park are actually healthy young men who don’t bring enough water, and mis-judge the strenuousness of their hike. #insertsarcastichashtag

The biggest perk of the guided tour was the picnic lunch! He took us to an amazing spot, away from the regular tourist route, and set up a huge lunch and telescope. Obviously my photos don’t do the Grand Canyon justice, and the scale is impossible to gauge, but to give you an idea…the Colorado River was full and raging during our trip, but it was completely invisible to the naked eye. Even viewing it through a high-powered telescope, it looked like a trickling stream. That’s how vast and deep the Grand Canyon is!


Sunglasses | Similar Boots | Backpack


Sunglasses | Windbreaker | Cowlneck Tunic


Similar Floral Tee | Pullover | Fleece Top | Leggings | Trail Shoes


Backpack

Mr. SP pushed it a little for my comfort zone, going beyond the paths on occasion, but nothing is off-limits here. As accessible as it is for all level of travelers, the park service has done an amazing job of preserving the integrity of the Canyon…you can go pretty much anywhere you’re dumb enough to venture. #moresarcastichashtags

Sugarplum Travel Tip: Athletic sneakers are fine for the majority of paths here. In fact, most people we encountered in the Village were wearing regular street clothes and shoes! But if you plan on venturing below the rim much, I’d recommend a good shoe like these. I realized just days before leaving that I had no suitable shoes, and no surprise that Nordstrom actually has a huge selection! I ordered several pair to try, and these were by-far the winners. Also, they’re significantly less expensive than the hiking shoes sold at specialty stores!


Athletic Pullover | Sunglasses


Similar Floral Tee | Leggings | Sneakers


Similar Cap | Windbreaker Jacket | Athletic Shorts | Socks | Sneakers | Similar Floral Tee | Leggings | Sneakers

{Where We Stayed}

Maswik Lodge
Located in the Grand Canyon Village, this quiet motel-style lodging consists of several two-story buildings nestled among pine trees. It’s the most affordable of the Canyon Lodges, and obviously the last to book up (we planned our March trip in January!). But the North buildings are recently renovated, and were full of authentic character, very clean, and quite comfortable. Plus, we had a balcony overlooking the trees.

It’s an easy 3-5 minute walk to the rim of the Canyon, and the Bright Angel Trailhead. So while there’s no actual Canyon view, you’re inside the park, and away from the bulk of the crowds. And not to be overlooked, the free parking that comes with lodge accommodations!

Sugarplum Travel Tip: The Grand Canyon Village is essentially a mini-town (it has a full-time population of 2,000!), with several lodges and hotels, restaurants, and even a mini-mart. Pretty much everything you’d need on your visit, and you can’t beat being mere steps from the rim!

We were really happy at the Maswik Lodge, but my top choice would be a Rim View room at the El Tovar. There’s even a few stand-alone cabin-like rooms overlooking the rim.

{Where We Ate}
We stayed in the Grand Canyon Village for all our meals. Tusayan is the closet town (only 7 miles) with a few restaurant options, but we preferred to just walk everywhere.

Arizona Room
Large menu of Southwest-inspired items, with a view of the Canyon. We always watched the sunset from outside, but this would be a great spot if you prefer to be inside. Like the rest of the Village, this place is busy, pricey, and books up fast. Reservations recommended.

Maswik Food Court
Steps from our lodge, we ended up grabbing virtually every meal here. It’s got a little bit of everything, including made-to-order meals (Mexican, Italian, Pizza, Southern, etc), as well as, prepackaged quick-grab food and snacks. It was perfect for allowing everyone to get what they wanted, and we could eat fast and run, or linger.

{Trails We Hiked}

*You’ll receive a detailed trail and park map at the Entrance Booth ($30 per car for your entire visit). It will mark all the overlooks, each with visible signs and parking. There really is no ‘best view,’ it’s all phenomenal and similar from every spot. We stopped to check out several on our arrival day, then watched the sun set from the Village.

*Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point ~ Located off Yaki Point Road (closed to private vehicles), and accessed via the Rim Trail, or the free shuttle bus. A series of fairly steep switchbacks lead you down about 1 mile, to the Ooh Aah Point (named from the common reaction of hikers). From here, you have a clear view of the eastern Canyon. We turned back, but continuing down this trail to Skeleton Point would give you a 360-degree view of the Canyon.

*Hermit’s Rest ~ Beautiful picnic spot, on the quiet end of Hermit Road

*Hermits Trail ~ A more-strenuous, steep and rocky trail, but with unique views and fewer hikers. We hiked until tired, then headed back up. Slowly. You could follow it all the way to base of the Canyon and the Colorado River.

*Bright Angel Trail ~ This trail starts at the Grand Canyon Village, and descends over 4,000 feet to the Canyon floor. But the average grade is only 10%, so you can really enjoy the hike and views. Like most of the trails, you can go to the bottom, connect with other trails, or simply turn back when you start getting tired. Or run out of trail mix. This was my favorite trail, for both the views and relaxing pace.

Sugarplum Travel Tip: We booked our guide through All Start Grand Canyon Tours, and he picked us up at our hotel at 9:30 for six hours of exploring and lunch. He was extremely knowledgeable about the history and formation of the Canyon, and was able to answer all our questions. 

{Packing Tips}

*The temperature can fluctuate by 20-degrees depending on where you are in the canyon, so wear layers! It was incredibly bright too, so be prepared with sunglasses and/or hat. And don’t forget sunscreen!

*The elevation at The South Rim is about 7,000 feet, so you’ll need waaaay more water than you think. Having a small backpack came in handy for holding extra jackets, and plenty of water.

*The kids both wore comfortable athletic wear (ordered last-minute, thanks Nordstrom for that fast, free shipping!), and tennis shoes. They were also manned with caps (these are my son’s favorites), and sunglasses. They’d shed several layers during the day, but bundled up for evenings. Everything in the Park is casual!

*I wore my go-to workout pants, with hoodies, tunics, and light jackets. And I’ve raved about them before, but I couldn’t have made it through the week without these shoes!

*Speaking of shoes, knowing now that these trail shoes literally saved my trip, I wish we’d invested in specific trail shoes for the kids, as well. They did fine in their everyday athletic shoes, but waterproof, hiking shoes would have been best.

We held back from going to the Grand Canyon for years because it overwhelmed us, and we felt like it required a full week to really experience it. Maybe because it came on the heels of Zion and Bryce, both of which we hope to return soon, but two or three days was more than enough time in the Canyon. Our trip was far more enjoyable by combining it with the other parks.

I’ve got one more stop to share, then I’ll compile the entire itinerary for those of you making your own plans! Have you been to the Grand Canyon? What tips can you share for others planning a trip?

 

{Kids Spring Break Essentials}


{Mom & Dad Essentials}

{Hiking Essentials}


 

It wouldn’t be #SugarplumTravel without a little video from Mr. SP! Enjoy!!




 

[More National Parks Posts]

National Parks Road Trip | The Itinerary
Trip Report | The Grand Canyon
Trip Report | Bryce Canyon
Trip Report | Zion National Park
Trip Report | Antelope Canyon + Horseshoe Bend
Trip Report | Big Bend National Park
Trip Report | West Texas Road Trip
Our Favorite Hiking Spots in the United States
Road Trip Essentials

 

*This post was created in collaboration with Nordstrom, but all ideas, opinions, and feelings of smallness are my own. Thank you for supporting Hi Sugarplum sponsors!*

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

28 Comments

  1. Shay Shull wrote:

    What a wonderful trip!!! Absolutely beautiful pictures!

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  2. Another amazing trip with fabulous trip and gorgeous pictures!!!!!!!! And I loved the video!!!

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  3. Sharon wrote:

    If possible, go on a helicopter tour! They are pricey, but it is an amazing way to see the canyon! You see many places that just aren’t accessible on foot. Also, visit the North Rim in addition to the South Rim. It is amazing how different the two areas are. We were able to do a last-minute mule trip about 1/3 of the way down into the canyon from the North Rim as it isn’t quite as crowded up there. That was a highlight of the trip! I, too, was worried about the welfare of the mules, but they are extremely well cared for. Our guide told us about their care, their work-cycle years, how their weight-carrying is determined, and how much they work per day. And, they love those animals and know their natures and names. We’d love to do a mule trip into the canyon and spend the night at the bottom at the ranch there. Next time maybe! Glad you had such a great time and glad you took time to just sit and look. Sometimes we get so busy trying to see everything that we forget to just sit and be still. What great memories you made!

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      yes! We initially planned on the North Rim, but sadly it was still closed!! guess we’ll have to go back 😉

      Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  4. Heidi Lyszczarz wrote:

    Another great option is to stay in the nearby town of Williams and take the Grand Canyon Railway to the park. We stayed at the railway hotel, but there are also several bed and breakfasts in Williams.

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
    • Tara McHugh Tracy wrote:

      What a wonderful memory making trip…I am here in New York, taking notes from you for the future! Thank you for all the sharing, especially the tips since I am not familiar with this part of the country! Someday!

      Posted 4.12.17 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Yes!! The train looked really fun! We only had a limited amount of time, so staying inside the park helped up maximize that! So fun to be able to wake at dawn and walk 3 minutes to the Canyon, too.

      Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  5. Andrea Lucas wrote:

    Thank you so much! Our family wants to visit the Grand Canyon. Your tips were so helpful as we plan! LOVE your blog!!!

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  6. JenW wrote:

    Thanks for the detailed info on this trip! It’s fun seeing things like your Mediterrean trip, but the Grand Canyon is more obtainable for most of us…and on a lot of bucket lists!

    I also appreciate the many times you’ve mentioned your hiking shoes! We’ve always hiked locally in just tennies…but you’ve convinced me that some decent hiking shoes might make it more enjoyable (especially as I HATE wet feet!). I did laugh pretty good when I clicked the link to the kids hiking shoes…the first shoe is NOT trail appropriate. Wonder what keyword made it show up on the results?!? 😉

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      haha! I saw those…wondered the same thing!! I even tweaked my search, but there they were! And I know I’m a broken record with those shoes, but I was honestly so grateful for them every single day! I kept saying, ‘What would I have done had I not brought these?!?!!?’ 😉 xo

      Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  7. Pamela wrote:

    Your photos are beautiful. We visited the South Rim a few years back and did the Helicopter tour into the canyon. Then took a boat ride down the river. Great experience. I would highly recommend. Your pictures make me want to go back. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      So fun!! We did so many other tours, etc, that we had to cut back somewhere…unfortunately the helicopter was one of them. But we did a float trip, and loved it!! That’s coming up in my next post!

      Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  8. Charlotte wrote:

    We did this very same trip last April, and I’m so glad you’re highlighting the other parks. Bryce Canyon was our favorite, and we did the mule ride there. A lot less expensive and easier to reserve. We did not need as much time as I’d booked for the Canyon, so we moved on the next day. One day is really a plenty there. One big tip…if you’re 62 or older, get the National Parks Senior Pass for $20. It’s a lifetime pass, and we went in 6 parks (Zion, Bryce, Grand, Antelope Canyon, Glen Canyon, Montezuma Castle) all on this one trip with it. The entire carload gets in with the one pass. Your pictures are gorgeous, and I’ve enjoyed reliving the trip with you!

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Great tip on the park passes!! And agreed, we felt like a couple of days here was plenty!! xo

      Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  9. Jen E wrote:

    LOVE it!!!

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  10. Brook W. wrote:

    Did Nordstrom pay for your entire trip because that would be great!! Lots and lots of products to be shilled that’s for sure. Great pictures, glad it was a good trip.

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      LOL, absolutely not! But wouldn’t that be a sweet gig!?! Sign me up! 😉 I worked with them to promote activewear for the family, and our trip to the Grand Canyon was a really authentic way for me to do that! I only accept collaborations with brands that seamlessly fit with our lives and organically in blog posts. My goal is always to create good, quality, authentic content! xo

      Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  11. Cate wrote:

    We visited the Grand Canyon a couple years ago, and thought it was beautiful. We also visited the West Rim (Skywalk). My parents were with us (we were a group of 7: our family of 4, my parents, and my brother, all packed in an RV traveling for almost 2 weeks) and my mom told us all about how it was back in the 60s when they had to keep track of 6 young kids. Fun listening to her stories about what she remembered and how it had changed. I’d love to go back and my husband really wants to try rafting.

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  12. Diana wrote:

    Isn’t it an incredible place? I’ve only been once but remains one of my favorite national parks because, those views!! We went when my older sister was 15, I was 12, and then 4 younger sisters going down to 21 months…speaking of being worried someone would go over the edge! (We all came back in one piece!) Staying at the El Tavar has been a dream of mine ever since!

    Posted 4.12.17 Reply
  13. Michelle wrote:

    A great guide makes all the difference!! Our guide used to work for the National Parks IN the Grand Canyon. He knew all the amazing places. Did yall eat at the place where Teddy Roosevelt stayed? I cant remember the name but it was huge and old. The wood had colored to a dark ebony. Just amazing! I tried to post some pix in the comments on ur instagram but it wudnt work. The whole scenery just brought tears to my eyes, it was so majestic!

    Posted 4.13.17 Reply
  14. Betsy wrote:

    this post would have been a lot nicer with out all the affiliate links hocking clothing and shoes. I thought it was a travel post

    Posted 4.16.17 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Thanks Betsy. Most of the questions I get pertaining to travel are related to packing…so I always make a point of including what we wore and packed! Most readers appreciate that I address all aspects of the trip.

      Posted 4.20.17 Reply
  15. Where is your itinerary posted?

    Thank you!

    Posted 10.12.17 Reply
  16. Stacy wrote:

    Hi! We are planning similar trip this summer- your guide has been SUPER helpful! Your pics are so beautiful- can you tell me what type of lenses you used?

    Posted 12.27.17 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      Many of the pics were actually taken with my iPhone! But my fave lens for the blurred background pics is a 50mm. I’m thrilled my posts have been helpful!! xo. C

      Posted 12.30.17 Reply
  17. Ginny wrote:

    I love your blog and read every post! I bookmarked this to review for a trip to the Grand Canyon with our family and we are finally going in March to the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Would you recommend the Arizona room for dinner with kids, is it worth it? Any other must dos when traveling with a family when in Sedona? Thank you for always putting such great travel, fashion and decorating advice on your blog, it is always so helpful and informative!

    Posted 12.29.18 Reply
    • Cassie wrote:

      I’m so happy to hear my posts are helpful, Ginny! The Arizona room was more about location and the chance to sit inside while the sun sets. I don’t remember the food being all that memorable, but it is a good dinner in the park, so very convenient. Have a great trip!

      Posted 12.30.18 Reply