During the last week of May 2021, I visited the Grand Canyon and planned on blogging about my experience there. Unfortunately, I got distracted with Hawaii and Germany, which pushed it to the bottom of my list then eventually, I deleted it from my mind. I recently looking through my phone in a failed attempt at freeing up space, when I saw the pictures I took at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park on 30th May 2021. That’s how I remembered that I neglected to officially document this trip. If you are interested in my visit to the Grand Canyon in 2021 during required mask wearing and partial social distancing, here is my summary.
While on my third visit to Nevada, I decided to drive the four plus hours from Las Vegas to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. In May it’s a long hot drive, but considerably cooler than making this voyage in the middle of the summer heat. The visage of the Nevada and Arizona landscape is dry and rocky, with patches of vegetation painted with shades of rich browns, ochres, oranges, and reds. It was a dismal yet unique landscape that I only previously saw in movies and television shows. The roads from Las Vegas to the North Rim were well maintained, and there were several rest stops along the way.
Overall there isn’t much to see on the way, as the towns I passed seemed dull and a bit ran down. Driving within the vastness of this part of the United States reminded me of how spread-out and wide-open the country really is. While it had been colonized for years, there was still a feeling of freedom mixed with fear and lawlessness. Even with this feeling, there was an inexplicable sensation of being welcomed by the land; as if my soul was being ushered in and watched by an old sage whose face was wrinkled with time and dust.
Back to School: Brief History of the Grand Canyon
Canyons are formed when water moves through an area, eroding the soil and rocks, causing a channel that grows in vastness over thousands of years. This process also includes tectonic activity that allows the channel to deepen and form the shape that most canyons are known for. Since rivers or large water sources are very comment elements in creating canyons, most are often associated with a particular river. In the case of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River flows through it, which comes from the Gulf of California. While this is the primary water source that touches the Grand Canyon, according to an inventory done in the 1970s, over 57 water sources were found throughout, especially during the rainy season. It’s important to note that the canyon is about 277 miles long and took about 6 million years to become the Grand Canyon we know today.
There is no doubt that the Grand Canyon National Park is an American and United States landmark. The reason why I say American is due to the fact that the American content has a host of other natural wonders, and this is one that all Americans, whether they are from Argentina, Canada, Honduras, or Peru, should be allowed to see for themselves. The Grand Canyon National Park has an incredible haunting energy about it, which has left a lasting impression on me.
The Grand Canyon National Park’s first human contact was from the first people to spread across the content long before the British, Spanish, French, and Dutch made their way to the new world. In 1896 a group completed a boating expedition on the Colorado River and documented their trip. While this exploration made the Grand Canyon somewhat popular a year prior, a geologist named John Strong Newbery was the first to record his visit and rave about the amazing rock formations he discovered. It was also interesting to learn that over 4,000-year-old human tools and building structures were found in and around the canyon dating back to about 500 CE.
Tourism started right after the railway was completed in 1883, taking visitors to a nearby town called Flagstaff. Visitors would take the train to this town then make their way to the canyon either by horse and carriage or on foot. Today, Flagstaff is about 1 hour and 30 minutes by car, but it use to take a few hours to get to the rims back then. In 1901, the railway was extended into the Grand Canyon Village. A year after that, the first automobile was driven to the Grand Canyon but took about three days to get there because the roads were non-existent.
One of the first hotels was opened in 1884 and was called Farlee Hotel, and after that, several luxury hotels, lodges, tent hotels, and ranches followed suit. When I visited, I encountered several mini lodges and was shocked to see how crowded they were. The one lodge I got to see close up was called North Rim Grand Canyon Lodge, which had an excellent view. I am not sure of the actual yearly number of people who visit this park, but it’s been noted as one of the second most visited national parks in the United States.
Visiting the North Rim
Once I got to the area closest to the Canyon, the landscape changed drastically from rocking cliffs, grassland, and scattered vegetation to an extensive forest.
All the movies and photos I have seen of the Grand Canyon made me ignorant to the fact that it is actually surrounded by a large forested area. The Kaibab National Forest borders both the north and south rim of the Grand Canyon, hosting over 200 species of trees and shrubs.
On my way to the rim, I stopped in various areas that offered overlooks with splendid views of the Canyon. I also took time to note a number of wild sage, berries, and flowering plants. In addition, I was fascinated by the shrubs and small plants that lined the walkways and hung off the side of the cliffs.
I arrived at the North Rim shortly before lunch and was surprised to see a healthy amount of people scattered about clambering for a view. According to the site, only about 10% of visitors visit the North Rim, which is why I was so unfamiliar with the fact that the Grand Canyon was lush with vegetation. I was used to seeing images of the South which is a bit drier and had many of the more iconic views of the rich colored cliffs.
On my trip, I only stopped at the North Rim then made my way around to various look-outs, but if a visitor wanted to go to all rims, they can. I would highly suggest going during the beginning or close to the end peak season and starting early in the morning. Between each rim are many beautiful look-outs that you must pause at to take a look at different areas long the Canyon.
Generally, if you go to the South Rim, it is open year-round, while the North Rim is available from 15th May to 16th October. Between, 1st December to 14th May, the roads are all closed to visitors to the North Rim. This is the main reason why I visited the North Rim when I did! I was well aware that it had a limited access time while the South Rim is open all year round.
Between both rims, you can find lodging, camping grounds, restaurants, gas station, rest stops, shops, museums, and many outdoor activities. Outside of gazing at the canyon, many people go hiking, camping, take donkey rides down into the canyon, or just enjoy time in nature with family and friends.
You can purchase a park entrance from recreation.gov, which can range from $35 per private vehicle or $70 for a year pass. If you are a veteran, federal or civil servant, or in the military, entrance to the part is FREE.
Shockingly, I enjoyed my trip to the Grand Canyon. I expected to find this visit just “okay”, but it turned out to be an awesome adventure worth seeing in person at least once or six more times.
Visit the Grand Canyon National Park!