48 Hours in Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon astonishes even the most seasoned travelers, but a visit here offers far more than a jaw-dropping view across a 6000-foot-deep, vermilion-streaked chasm. Park staffers point out that a significant number of visitors simply drive into the park, walk up to the canyon rim, snap a few photos and speed away. Don’t be that tourist. Give yourself 48 hours, and you’ll have the opportunity to examine fascinating exhibits on the region’s impressive human and natural history, embark on a light (or strenuous) hike, and feast on local elk and trout in a grand dining room perched on the canyon’s rim. So grab your camera (and at least a 16-gig memory card) and spend some time getting to know the country’s second-most-visited national park.

Day 1: Evening

Begin your adventure with a leisurely meal in the elegantly rustic Dining Room at the historic El Tovar Hotel. The shingle-roof, pine-and-limestone lodge dates to 1905 and is filled with arts-and-crafts furnishings and mounted deer and elk. Beneath dark-wood beam ceilings and angular stained-glass lanterns, feast on regional specialties like grilled buffalo rib-eye with caramelized onion-fig compote and quail stuffed with oyster cornbread dressing. The restaurant fills up quickly, so book a reservation well before your visit.

Follow dinner with a nightcap in the genial hotel bar before venturing outside for a stroll along the paved promenade that fringes the South Rim. In the sparsely populated high desert, the night sky pulses brilliantly with twinkling stars, and when the moon is even half full, you can see a good way across the canyon.

Day 2: Morning

Drive, bike, or take a free shuttle bus to the main Grand Canyon Visitor Center, at Mather Point. Here you’ll take in your first daylight views across the canyon toward the North Rim, which is 1200 feet higher. The North Rim has its own lodge and attractions but is open only in summer and lies 4 hours by car from the South Rim. In the newly redesigned visitor center, watch the 20-minute movie (“Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder”) and check out the dynamic exhibits on the park, including a huge 3-D relief map. Then walk 20 minutes west along the rim to Yavapai Point and the Yavapai Geology Museum, which sheds light on how this massive canyon formed.

Day 2: Afternoon and Evening

Grab lunch to go from the generously stocked grocery store and deli at Market Plaza and head back toward El Tovar, where you can walk along the rim and enjoy a picnic overlooking the canyon. Peek inside the century-old Kolb Studio, which hugs the canyon rim, and admires the art gallery inside. Make a quick hike partway into the canyon via the precipitous but well-marked Bright Angel Trail. Give yourself twice as much time to hike back up out as it takes you to hike in. In about 3 hours (round-trip), a fairly fit hiker can make it as far as the Three-Mile Resthouse and back. If you’re rushed or have limited time, turn back at the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse.

In the early evening, drive or take the free shuttle bus along picturesque Hermit Road (closed to autos March to November). It’s a 7-mile drive, with stops at numerous viewpoints, to Hermit’s Rest, a cozy 1914 way station designed by legendary architect Mary Colter. This is a great spot for watching the sunset, and you may spy a few bighorn sheep lumbering by as well. Return to Grand Canyon Village and dine at the Arizona Room, inside the stone-and-timber Bright Angel Lodge. The food isn’t as good as at El Tovar, but the views of the canyon are stellar.

Day 3: Morning

Return to El Tovar’s Dining Room for breakfast — hearty dishes like polenta corncakes with prickly pear-pistachio butter, and blackened trout with eggs will keep you nourished for the rest of the day. Then begin the journey east 23 miles along Desert View Drive, stopping at the many viewpoints along the way, the Tusayan Ruin and Museum, and what may be Colter’s most stunning creation, the recently restored Desert View Watchtower, designed to resemble a millennium-old Puebloan monolith. Climb the stairs to this 70-foot tower’s glass-enclosed observatory for one of the park’s best views of the Colorado River, a surprisingly modest-looking ribbon of water that — over a period of about 6 million years — carved America’s grandest canyon.

 

What will be the next state park you visit? Check out our guide to all of the national parks by state for a comprehensive list of these natural havens.

7 Scenic Spots for an Epic Picnic

There are few more idyllic, memorable, budget-friendly activities than enjoying an outdoor picnic. Whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic spot to nosh wine and cheese, a family looking for a day outing, or a big group planning an event or reunion, there are loads of spots that will enhance the overall experience with scenery, amenities and unique features built right into the setting. And there are many who agree that food just tastes better outside.

7. Irvine Regional Park, CA

Located in Orange, CA, Irvine Regional Park is a mecca for family fun, and that includes a picnic. In addition to numerous picnic tables and outdoor grills, there is a host of activities to partake in after you’ve finished your potato salad. There are bike trails (bike rentals available), equestrian trails, pony rides, paddleboats and fishing. There is even a train that the family can hop on for a ride across the park, as well as a zoo.

Photo by: Gavin Farrington
Photo by: Gavin Farrington

6. Huayna Picchu, Peru

Looking for a picnic perch with a view? You can’t get much better than spreading your blanket out atop Huayna Picchu in Peru, breaking your bread and taking in the vistas all around you. At an elevation of 9,000 ft., stopping atop this mountain after a reportedly grueling hike not only gives you a chance to rest and refuel your body after the hike, but a chance to refresh your soul as well, with a stunning panorama of the 15th century ruins of Machu Piccu, including the Urubamba River Valley and the iconic city of Inca.

Huayna Picchu, Peru

5. Gatineau Park, QC

Gatineau Park, located just across the Ottawa River, has 5 different picnic areas within their network of parks. The park is very popular with mountain bikers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Charcoal BBQs are available at various locations throughout the parks, as well as lots of picnic tables.  The Etienne Brule Lookout is a popular picnic spot and offers fantastic views of the Ottawa River and connects to hiking and biking trails.

Gatineau Park, QC

4. Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ

You’ve heard of dinner and a show? How about lunch and a view? And as far as views go, you can’t replicate the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim has over 300 miles of trails to wander and take in this wonder of the world. Desert View Drive, which winds along the south rim of the Canyon leads to the Desert View Watchtower. Along this road are several lookout points and picnic areas. If you’re looking to extend your stay and camp, reservations are highly recommended. There are three campgrounds at the South Rim, including tent sites that can accommodate up to 50 people and three vehicles- so if your picnic plans are for a large group or reunion- this is a good spot for you.

Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ

3. Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park, Bristol UK

This fun park expands over 50 acres along the River Avon and has loads of family activities, including a petting zoo, mazes, a toddler village, and indoor and outdoor play areas. The park offers a “Riverside Experience” with miles of trails to follow along the river, providing idyllic picnic spots along the way.

Avon Valley
Photo by: Avon Valley Adventure and wildlife park

2. Shannon Falls Provincial Park, BC

In Squamish B.C., Shannon Falls cascades down over Howe Sound, and are the third tallest falls in British Columbia. A meandering trail through the forest will get you down to the base of the falls- which is where you’ll want to head for photo ops and great views. If you feel like a longer hike, this trail hooks into the Stawamus Trail, which spreads its way out to three different summits. Shannon Falls Provincial Park is well-equipped for picnickers with a concession stand and picnic area located next to the parking lot. This area is for day-use only, making it ideal for a daytime hike and picnic to take in the views.

Photo by: Panoramio/Schalk Mouton
Photo by: Panoramio/Schalk Mouton

1. Villa Borghese Park, Rome

Villa Borghese is Rome’s answer to New York’s Central Park with vast amounts of green space, walking trails and ponds. This park spreads out over 226 acres, and is populated with statues, museums, fountains, theaters and a zoo. There is a wide patchwork of lush, idyllic gardens in which to stop and smell the roses- literally. There are lots of grassy patches under trees to spread out your blanket and feast on your Italian picnic basket. Afterwards you can wander to one of the many man-made lakes and feed the ducks.

Villa Borghese Park, Rome

You Won’t Believe What Happened at the Grand Canyon…Again

For the second time in 6 weeks, visitors at the Grand Canyon were witness to a rare weather event known as a cloud inversion.

This phenomenon filled the massive canyon with clouds to just below the rim.  The inversion is said to happen when cold air is trapped in the Canyon and topped by warm air. If there is enough moisture in the air (usually from recent rains) then condensation will happen and fog will form. The clouds, or fog is forced down by warm air and unable to rise up due to a lack of winds. The National Weather Service says this rare event usually happens only once every several years, however the same thing also took place in December… just 6 weeks ago. Are we just lucky?

Check out the amazing video of this rare weather phenomenon here:

10 Things to See and Do in Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most spectacular places to visit in the United States. You can spend many days exploring some of the most impressive natural beauty in the world. It’s best, however, if you have a plan before you visit so you don’t miss any of the best spots. Here are 10 things you shouldn’t miss on your trip.

1. Grand Canyon Visitor Center

Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center
Stephen B. Goodwin / Shutterstock.com

This is a good place to start out on your visit to Grand Canyon National Park, as it will give you an overview of what you can find. There are both outdoor and indoor exhibits, including a 3D relief map that has videos that feature many areas of the Grand Canyon.
You can watch the film, Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder that will introduce you to many of the park’s attractions. The Visitor Center is located on the South Rim by Mather Point.

2. Mule Trips

There’s no better way to see the Grand Canyon than riding on a mule. This can give you the feeling of being a pioneer from another era. There are both South Rim and North Rim mule trips. South Rim trips, which are year round, are more popular and you should book well in advance. North Rim mule trips are only available from mid-May to October and can be arranged on a daily basis.
Mule Trips - Grand Canyon National Park

3. River Trips

You can experience Grand Canyon National Park along the Diamond Creek or Colorado rivers. There are trips of different lengths, from one day to 25 days. Permits are necessary for river trips. You can find professionally guided trips or self-guided ones.
River Trips - Grand Canyon National Park

4. Kolb Studio

Kolb Studio is a studio located on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. It was the home of the Kolb brothers, who were famous photographers and filmmakers around 100 years ago. Today it is a gallery that showcases some of the photographs taken by these brothers. You will also find books, memorabilia and special events at the Kolb Studio throughout the year.
Kolb Studio Grand Canyon National Park

5. Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway
Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

This is a chance to ride aboard an old fashioned railway car and see some of the breathtaking scenery while hearing fascinating stories and facts about the area. These trips are taken in restored railway cars and cover 130 miles from Williams to the South Rim. This is something you shouldn’t miss if you are visiting Grand Canyon National Park.

6. Helicopter Tours

If you really want to experience the Grand Canyon in a spectacular manner, you should see it from the vantage point of a helicopter. You can find various helicopter tours that will allow you to glimpse the Grand Canyon in all its glory.
Grand Canyon National Park Helicopter Tour

7. Desert View Drive

This is a scenic road that is near the park’s east entrance. It has some great views, along with picnic areas. What’s nice about this road is that it’s less crowded than areas of the park near the south entrance. The best views can be found at the Desert View Watchtower.
Desert View Drive Grand Canyon National Park

8. Tusayan Ruins and Museum

This is the site of a Pueblo village from almost a thousand years ago. The ruins and museum are located along the Desert View. There are exhibits showing artifacts used by the tribes who lived in this area, as well as a bookstore. Admission to the museum is free, and you can take self-guided tours around the ruins.
Tusayan Ruins Grand Canyon National Park

9. Camper Village

This is the place to go if you want to camp out in Grand Canyon National Park. You can camp out here with a tent, RV or motor home. This South Rim campground is open throughout the year, and gives you a chance to spend some quality time in the park. Camper Village has many amenities, such as restrooms, showers and coin operated laundry.
Grand Canyon National Park Camping

10.Yavapai Museum of Geology

This museum will fascinate anyone who is interested in geology. The Grand Canyon region has some of the most interested geological formations in the world, and the Yavapai Museum gives you some insights into this topic. Aside from its many educational exhibits and bookstore, the museum is located in a very scenic spot that gives you some incredible views of the canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park