I recently came back from a trip to western United States, including a couple of days at the Grand Canyon. It was still early February, so I was afraid we would meet some really bad weather up there. To my delight we had cold but nice and sunny winter conditions, with some snow in parts of the park.
I had never visited Grand Canyon before, but a quick Google search told me that the south rim was the place to visit at this time of the year. Arriving from Las Vegas late in the evening we found our hotel in the small town of Tusayan, only 15 minutes south of the park’s visitor center. If you prefer there is also accommodation in the Grand Canyon Village, which is inside the park. Book well in advance if you’re visiting at a more busy season.
Next morning we drove up to the Grand Canyon Visitor center and jumped on the shuttle bus to Yaki Point, from were we should see the Canyon for the first time. As expected the views were breathtaking. Yaki is the easternmost stop on the Kaibab Trail Route. This is one of the few points which is not accessible with your own car, but the shuttle buses stop here frequently, and at this time of year we were almost alone on the bus.
After trying to capture the splendour of the scenery with my camera, which is quite difficult to say the least, it was back on the bus which after a small photo stop returned to the visitor center. The bus drivers were very helpful and willingly shared their knowledge of the area with us.
From there on I prefered to drive myself, since the bus don’t stop at all view points. There was almost no traffic at this time of year, so finding parking spots was very easy. We now followed Hermit Road west of the Visitor Center, through Grand Canyon Village to the first stop; Trailview Overlook.
Trailview Overlook has a great view of Grand Canyon Village and Bright Angel Trail.
Next stop was Maricopa Point. The views from Maricopa Point cover 180° of the Grand Canyon.
We only had one full day in the Canyon, so we skipped Powell Point and drove directly from Maricopa to Hopi Point. Hopi Point is the northernmost spot on this part of the south rim, where much of the western Grand Canyon comes into full view.
Still driving westwards on Hermit Road, the next stop was Mohave Point.
Mohave Point has a great view of the near vertical cliffs around The Abyss and towards Pima Point. From Mohave we headed towards Pima Point, but first stopped at the Abyss.
While most Grand Canyon view points stick out from the rim The Abyss is located along an indentation in the steep Canyon walls.
Next stop was Pima Point.
Pima Point is one of the best places on the West south rim to see the Canyon and the Colorado River.
From Pima Point Hermit Road continues a short distance to the west, ending at Hermit’s rest, were there are rest rooms, a giftshop and a cafe. The views from here are more limited, as the canyon edge is densely wooded, but it is a nice place to take a rest and a cup of coffee.
Trying to make the most out of the day we then decided to head directly to Desert View, which is the first lookout when arriving the park from the east. It’s quite a long drive from Hermit’s rest to Desert View, but we made it in good time before sunset.
The many facilities at Desert View also includes the historic watchtower, built in 1932. The Watchtower is visible for many miles across this part of the Canyon. Much of the interior is nicely decorated by a Hopi man named Fred Kabotie, make sure you go all the way to the top of the tower!
A lot of the scenery here also includes a view of the Painted Desert and Cedar Mountain.
Continuing a short distance westwards we arrived at Navajo Point. Navajo Point is quite close to Desert View. Painted Desert and the watchtower at Desert View can also be seen from here.
The daylight were now starting to fade, and last stop for the day was Lipan Point, were we watched the sunset, spiced up with a full moon hanging above the Canyon.
From Lipan Point we drove back to our hotel, and decided to get up very early next morning to see the sunrise from Yavapai Point.
In the morning the nice weather started to fade, and it was a really strong, cold wind at the edge of the Canyon, but luckily some small openings in the cloud cover allowed the sun to appear for a few moments, colouring the landscape red.
The cold wind soon forced us back to the hotel, and after a good breakfast we started on the long drive back to California’s warmer coast. But that is another story I will get back to later. in the meantime check out my Grand Canyon Gallery.
Visiting Grand Canyon at winter can bring its own qualities of peace and quiet, snow and good visibility. But bring warm clothes! The Desert View Road can be closed during snow storms, but we had good driving conditions all the way.
Some day I may be back, and hopefully I can then visit the North Rim as well.