Sunday, August 17th
My husband, three boys (ages 6, 4 and almost 2) and I visited the Grand Canyon August 17th-20th. We left San Diego at 7:00 am. We made one stop about half way in Needles at the Pirate Cove Resort where we had a picnic lunch in a grassy area with shaded tables and a fountain near the Colorado River. A very pleasant location to find in the 105 degree heat. We arrived at the Grand Canyon South Entrance at 4:00 pm. Since it was check in time at our hotel we decided to bypass any stops for views and headed straight to our hotel to check in and unload the car. We stayed at the Kachina Lodge on the second floor in what they call a "partial view" room. With that wording I assumed we would have the tiniest of views, maybe having to lean over and look way down to one side to see any part of the Canyon. However, when we opened our curtains we were more than thrilled. The entire window had views of the canyon. I'm not too sure why they call it "partial view" as the view was spectacular. The building is a bit dismal looking from the outside but the room was updated with granite, tile, newer linens, etc. And most importantly, appeared clean! After unloading, we walked out to the rim to take in the views, walk around the Village a bit and then had dinner at the Bright Angel Restaurant. We then visited Lookout Studio and headed back to our room for the evening.
Monday, August 18th
The morning was warm with clear sunny skies. We had breakfast in our room and then jumped on the shuttle and took it to the Visitor Center. We took our time there and then picked up Jr. Ranger Booklets (free at Grand Canyon, they charge in Yosemite) for my 4 and 6 year olds. A little before 10:00 we went right outside the Visitor Center for the 10:00 Jr. Ranger Program called Natural Wonders. After the program we took the shuttle back to our hotel and had lunch in our room. The were tables overlooking a window right outside our room in the hallway that was a perfect place to have lunch. Our room had a refrigerator so I brought food in a cooler from home for our breakfast and lunch each day. Great way to save time and money. After lunch we headed back out to the rim to admire the views, visit Hopi House and Verkamp's. While at Verkamp's our warm sunny day was gone and replaced by rain. We made a run for it to the El Tovar to catch the 2:00 Jr. Ranger Program called Critter Chat. Normally this program is held at the flagpole outside the El Tovar but today with the rain we met on the porch of the El Tovar. During the program a big thunder and lightening storm rolled through. The Ranger said the lightening was right on top of us as the thunder came less than a second after the lightening. It was loud and such a treat. We don't experience this in San Diego. We heeded the warning of the Ranger and hung out in the El Tovar for awhile until the thunder and lightening passed. Since it was still a bit drizzly outside we headed over to Bright Angel Restaurant again for dinner since it was a short walk from the El Tovar. During dinner the rain passed and the sun came out. We got ice cream cones and then with a firm grasp on our kids' hands we took a short hike down the Bight Angel Trail. So fun going below the rim! After Bright Angel Trail we visited Kolb Studio, visited the gift shop at Bright Angel and then off to our room for bed.
Tuesday, August 19th
Woke up to a steady rain which derailed our plans but we just moved things around a bit and headed out. We were originally going to walk to Yavapai Observation Station but with the rain we decided to drive. We enjoyed the displays but were unable to see any views of the Canyon from the huge windows as the Canyon was completely covered in clouds. Felt bad for who I believe were daytrippers trying to catch the views but saw nothing but white clouds. At this point the rain had pretty much stopped. We then drove to the General Store to check out their knick knacks. After, we drove to the Shrine of Ages. We visited the cemetery while we waited for the 10:30 Jr. Ranger Walk called Walk on the Wild Side. This walk was fabulous especially right after a rain. The Ranger took us through the forest from the Shrine of Ages to the Rim. Along the walk she talked about the different animals that live in the forest in the park, pointed out signs of them and we even saw a few Elk wander by. We made it through the entire Ranger Walk with no rain. As we headed back to the car, however, it started to pour again. We drove back to our hotel room, had lunch and then headed out again. The rain had once again stopped. We jumped on the shuttle and headed out to Hermit's Rest. The clouds had cleared over in this area so we got to take in some fabulous views. We also stopped at Pima Point. Was so surprised at how many people climb the railing and go out to the edge of the rocks to take pictures. Now I see why the book I saw at Hermit's Rest called Death in Grand Canyon was so thick. A Ranger actually showed up at one point referencing that book to the people over the railing asking if they would like to be the next entry in the book. It was disappointing that after we hammered into our kids' little heads about how important safety is along the rim to only then see adults doing exactly what we said they should never do. We hopped back on the Red Line Shuttle, jumped off and then onto the Blue Line Shuttle and went to Maswik Lodge thinking there might be something to see there but nope so we hopped back on the shuttle and went back to Yavapai Observation Station again since the clouds had passed to take in the views from the giant windows. There was a Ranger there this time with a telescope pointed toward the river that we got to look through. We then walked along the Rim Trail to Yavapai Lodge and had dinner. Went back to the General Store to let the kids pick out a souvenir and then back on the shuttle to go back to our hotel for the night.
Wednesday, August 20th
We packed our bags, loaded the car and checked out around 9:00. It was a sunny morning. We drove to the East Rim. We stopped at the Tusayan Ruins and explored the ruins and museum. Easily doable in less than an hour as the ruins are in a small area and the museum is one small room. Then we headed to Desert View Watchtower. We checked out the Visitor Center and then climbed the tower and took in the magnificent views. We had a picnic lunch at the tables there at Desert View Tower. We finished up lunch and left at 1:00. Just as we were leaving the rain started to come down again. I originally thought we would exit the park via the East Entrance but our GPS had us go back towards the Village and exit the South Entrance. I was fine with that as it gave us a chance to take in a few more views while driving on our way out. We again stopped about halfway home at Pirate Cove Resort and had dinner at their restaurant. We pulled into our driveway at 11:45 pm.
Some had suggested that 3 nights would be too long of a stay. For our family, however, we could have easily stayed another night or two. If all you want to do is take in the views of the Canyon I can see how one or two nights would more than suffice but there is so much more to do if you so desire with the museums, Visitor Centers, Ranger talks and walks, etc.
We definitely appreciated being right on the Rim and being able to walk out our hotel and walk or take a shuttle to most of the sights we wanted to see.
So apparently (didn't know when I booked but know now) July thru September is monsoon season. Be prepared with clothes for all different types of weather from hot to chilly and dry to wet. Luckily I did pack a couple pair of pants for the kids and their jackets. Glad we had some umbrellas with us too.