My vacation to Arizona was an important test for myself. This was my third solo trip, but this was the first time I was going hiking alone. I originally planned this trip with my mom last year, but after her recent diagnosis with breast cancer, she was no longer able to come. Instead of canceling the trip completely, I decided to live it up for the both of us.
As I mentioned in my previous posts, visiting all 63 National Parks is a goal of mine, so it’s no question the Grand Canyon was on my list. This marked the seventh park I’ve been to and I have to say, pictures don’t do it justice!
When To Visit:
The best time to visit the Grand Canyon South Rim is during the spring. March, April, and May are the best times to visit. The temperatures are mild and the rainfall averages are low. The fall is also a great time to go with manageable temperatures, but the weather can be unpredictable, so packing warm clothes and a rain jacket is a must.
Winter is another option if you want to save some money on accommodations and avoid crowds, but you most likely will have to deal with snow and ice on trails. The South Rim gets almost five feet of snow every winter.
The summer months are the most popular times to visit, but the weather is scorching hot with random thunderstorms. It’s also super crowded, making it unbearable all together. Since the temperature can be extremely dangerous during these months, it can cause dehydration and a heat stroke. It’s best to avoid these times if possible.
When visiting the South Rim, there’s a few options for where you can fly into. The closest airport would be in Flagstaff. Many claim the city is a must-see, so even if you don’t fly into Flagstaff, making a stop along the way to the South Rim is doable (if you’re coming from Phoenix). The second closest airport would be in Phoenix. This is the route I took and also what worked best for me. I started my trip at the South Rim and headed back down making stops in Sedona, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. I also found this to be the most scenic route. The last option would be to fly into Las Vegas. This is the longer way, but if you plan on starting or ending your vacation in Vegas, this might work best for you.
- Fly into Flagstaff – 74 miles
- Fly into Phoenix – 224 miles
- Fly into Las Vegas – 275 miles
Where To Stay:
When visiting the Grand Canyon South Rim, it’s best to stay within the park or in Tusayan. I stayed at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn and I was only five minutes from the entrance! It’s super convenient. Especially if you’re waking up early to hit the trails like I did.
There are many options as far as accommodations, but keep in mind, the cost of everything is raised significantly in this area. Even the groceries, take-out food, and gas. It’s really hard to budget, but if you plan ahead and go during the winter months, it’s more affordable.
There’s always the option of staying farther out like in Williams or Flagstaff, but then you run into the problem of having to drive longer to get to the park. This can take time away from your day and also result in waking up very early (trust me, I know. I made this mistake in Montana at Glacier National Park and had to wake up at 2 a.m).
At the South Rim, they have some difficult trails that go into the canyon, but they also offer a 13 mile rim trail that has spectacular views! Most of the trail is paved which allows it to be accessible to everyone. I’ve included some of the most popular trails below, but it’s best to start early to beat the crowds! It’s also rewarding to finish a hike before lunch.
What To Pack:
It’s easy to forget things, but when you’re going hiking, it’s important to make a list and double check that you have everything. These items should be on your hiking checklist:
- Refillable water bottle
- Small plastic bags – keep your items dry if you get stuck in a rainstorm
- Extra layers – the temperature can fluctuate 30-40 degrees
- Comfortable hiking boots/shoes
- First-aid kit
- Sun hat
- Power bank – to charge your phone/camera
- Park map
- Trekking poles (optional)
Two Day Sample Itinerary:
Spending two days at the South Rim is probably enough time, but it just depends on how much hiking you want to do and which trails you want to go on. Below is a sample itinerary if you only have two days at the Grand Canyon – South Rim:
Day 1 –
- Catch the sunrise at Mather Point
- Walk (about 2 miles) or take the shuttle to South Kaibab Trailhead
- Hike South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point (1.8 miles roundtrip), Cedar Ridge (3 miles roundtrip), or Skeleton Point (6 miles roundtrip)
- Break for lunch (Mather Point Cafe)
- Drive along Desert View and stop at each point for amazing views (scenic drive for 23 miles)
- Watch the sunset at Mather Point or Yavapai Point
Day 2 –
- Arrive early again to watch the sunrise as you walk to Bright Angel Trailhead (about a 2 mile walk) or take the shuttle (service starts at 4:30 a.m.)
- Hike Bright Angel to the first tunnel (0.1 miles roundtrip), the second tunnel (1.8 miles roundtrip), the 1 1/2 mile resthouse (3 miles roundtrip), or the 3 mile resthouse (6 miles roundtrip)
- Break for lunch
- Check out the gift shops and museums – there are a few of each in this area
- Take the shuttle to Hopi Point and catch the sunset
- Stargaze at Mather Point
- Purchase your park pass in advance. During the busy seasons, wait time can be up to two hours just to enter the park.
- Arrive early. Parking can be limited and the park starts getting crowded around 9 a.m.
- Bring extra water. The sun is exhausting during any season.
- If you plan on hiking into the canyon, brining trekking poles will help tremendously.
- Wear layers. Since the weather can fluctuate and be unpredictable, layers are easy to remove and put on.
- Pack a rain jacket or windbreaker.
After experiencing the Grand Canyon in person, I truly believe it’s one of those places everyone must visit at some point in their lives. You can look up pictures on Google, but it’s incredible once you see it for yourself. As a solo traveler or a family vacation, you won’t be disappointed!