Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim) – Arizona

May/June 2016

Grand Canyon National Park is the 2nd most visited National Park in the US, on target for 6 million visitors in 2016. Great Smokey Mountain National Park is the most visited park.

Think about that for a minute. The Smokies are deep into the east coast where it’s hard to spit without hitting someone. The Grand Canyon is literally in the middle of nowhere in the West. You have to want to go there. It isn’t a place that you happen to be driving by on the way to grandma’s.

Bottom line is that a lot of people visit the Grand Canyon. Bus loads of tourists. Cars full of families spending their precious summer vacation looking at the big ditch.

Sure, it’s easy to get away from the masses as they tend to go where no walking is required. And the Grand Canyon is massive. Lots of places to see. Lots of places to “get lost”. And that’s part of the issue I have with it. It’s too damn big to really take in. To really “get”.

I know this is a contentious topic – not falling in love with the Grand Canyon. Kelly (who I travelled there with) got very polarizing opinions on her recent blog post where she says she has zero desire to ever return.

Zion was much more “gettable”.  The Tetons are a place I can fall in love with. Even Yellowstone was easier to wrap my mind around (but it too suffers from overcrowding).

But I haven’t always felt this way about the Grand Canyon. I made a single day trip to the park years ago, when I lived in Phoenix. I remember sitting on the edge and having a feeling of awe. Maybe I’m more jaded now, having seen much more of the country than I had when I initially visited the Grand Canyon. I don’t know.

And before one of my wonderful readers gets their panties in a wad, yes I have heard that to truly appreciate the Grand Canyon one must hike down into it. Become one with it. Spend days, if not weeks deep in it’s bowels. Um, OK. If that works for you, then have at it.

While I tend to do a wee bit more at a National Park than the average tourist who gets out of their car and snaps a picture, only to get in and tear off to the next viewpoint, I also want to be able to “get” a place quickly. If some place doesn’t speak to me, then deal with it and keep your panties in your pants. Unless you go commando. Then I don’t know what to tell you.

Forest Road 688

OK, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s talk a moment about where we stayed for a few weeks. I mean two weeks, ‘cause there is a limit of 14 days one can stay on most public land and I would NEVER consider breaking the rules. No sir, Mr. Law Enforcement Officer, I play strictly by the rules. No rebellious side to me. My momma raised me better than that!

There are several boondocking areas due south of the Grand Canyon, off of 64 (the main route into the park). We chose to stay an Forest Road 688, which is a very popular boondocking spot.

There was a constant rotation of RVs (including a large number of rental units) staying there, most only for a night or two. This area is so popular that the Forest Service has put site markers at the areas closer to 64. I’ve never seen numbered boondocking sites off of a Forest Service road.

We went far enough back where we were still getting usable cell service, but away from the rotating masses of RVs. At a peaceful site which was secluded and overall fairly quiet. My kind of place!

Much exploring of the surrounding forest was done. This resulted in the sighting of many animal bones. Some of which were put in interesting positions by humans. Humans are strange. I don’t need to tell you this. Or do I?

We were joined for a few days by Jase and Lauri (who we last saw briefly during our Marble Canyon stay), and Derek a nomad I had not met before.

Campfires, socializing and a hike partway down the Bright Angel Trail resulted in them being there.


I’m pretty much done talking about the Grand Canyon. Now I’ll just overwhelm you with a bunch of pictures that you are obligated to look at and say “Ooooh, aaaah”.

Mather Point
Walking from Hermits Rest back to Grand Canyon Village
Navajo Point
Dripping Springs Trail

All hikes into the Grand Canyon begin by going down (duh!). Very different than hiking in the mountains when down means you are coming back. So you head straight down the canyon wall and then when you are tired, you have to climb straight back up and out.

The trail to Dripping Springs starts by dropping like a rock. This is not a trail for Sue from Iowa to hike. It is incredibly steep. The pictures don’t do it justice. Sue should stick to the Bright Angel Trail, which is much more of a gradual decent and also the most popular trail in the park so she will feel right at home with her fellow tourists.

Bright Angel Trail

The most popular hike in the park. Need I say more?

2 thoughts on “Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim) – Arizona

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