A Natural Wonder of the World
Next up on the road trip through the Midwest was the Grand Canyon! Located in northern Arizona in the western United States, the Grand Canyon is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. The history of the Grand Canyon stretches back over 10 thousand years ago, when the first human evidence was documented. How the vast canyon was formed and the exact timing of the makers of the canyon is officially up for debate in the science world, but almost everyone agrees that the strongest contributor was water. Annual spring floods, frozen winters, and the Colorado River played major roles in cutting and forming layers deep into the earth, and formed the Grand Canyon. Everyone should have this destination on their bucket lists. It is incredible, awesome, humbling, massive, beautiful, colorful, grand, epic, wondrous, etc… You just gotta see it!
Second stop on the road trip
After leaving Angel Fire we headed to the Grand Canyon, where we messed up the navigation and turned a presumably 8-hour journey into a 13-hour trek. We started out by accidentally putting the South Rim’s address in the GPS when we had reservations at the North Rim (I’ll go over the differences a little later), then we stopped and shopped for a few hours in Santa Fe, and we pulled over often for epic photo opportunities of the landscape. By the time we made it to our campsite in the North Rim Campground, it was after 8 PM. And we have literally no idea where the extra hours went during this leg of the trip, so we will just call it the Grand Canyon Time Warp.
We camped at the North Rim of the canyon because I read that less than 10% of annual visitors see that part of the canyon and I prefer the path less traveled. And let me tell you, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is epic. The Canyon is seemingly endless, it is beautiful, and it is incredible. And you have to see it at least once in your life. Meanwhile, I am already planning a trip back here, it is THAT awesome.
While at the Grand Canyon we slept in hammocks, found dog-friendly hiking trails, enjoyed brews on the edge of the canyon, and probably said, “holy shit! look at that” at least 200 times.
North Rim versus the South Rim?!
When planning a trip to see the Grand Canyon, it can be incredibly daunting! It is SO BIG! and you want to see it all- but how?? From rim to rim, it is only 10 miles across, but it is actually over 200 miles by road. It is possible to set up a trip where you see both rims, but I would not recommend doing both rims in one day. You will spend the majority of your time in the car traveling to and from the other side. So, first, you’ll have to start by choosing a rim to start at.
There is the South Rim, where the majority of the annual 5 million tourists visit, and the North Rim, where less than 10% of visitors go. While the South Rim is open all year long, the North Rim is only open from May 15 to October 15 of each year. The main visitation area of Grand Canyon North Rim is much smaller than that of the South Rim. And the South Rim has close to two dozen major viewpoints, while the North Rim has only three. The views themselves are also much different than what one sees from the other side – while the views from Grand Canyon South Rim tend to reveal the depth of the Grand Canyon, the views from the North Rim are more about the width.
At 7,000’ above sea level, the South Rim is considered by many to be the “true Grand Canyon” and this is the area you see most often in movies, TV shows, magazines and books. The North Rim requires more effort to get to than going to the South Rim, is further from freeways and towns, only open seasonally, and the nearest airport is over 3 hours away. A full 1,000’ higher in altitude, the North Rim is about 10 degrees cooler than the South rim, and supports plant and animal life that the drier South Rim cannot, such as aspen, birch, maple and oak trees, and the Kaibab Squirrel. While at the North Rim I was blown away by the wildlife and vast amount of green vegetation.
We chose to go to the North Rim because it worked with our itinerary best. and while I haven’t seen the south Rim yet, I am slightly biased about the beauty of the North Rim, but I found this quote:
“But those who have seen the canyon from both sides tend to agree that the North Rim is the nicer side of the Grand Canyon, in several senses of the word – calmer, quieter, and reminiscent of what the National Parks may have been like in years past” source.
North Rim Campground
This is a great campground! I think there are over 90 campsites here, plenty of bathrooms, a shower building, and a great camp store with a deli. There are tent-only campsites along with sites that allow RVs & popups. And if you are not a camper, the Grand Canyon Lodge will be a perfect fit for you. There is something for every one and every family.
FYI: People book WAY EARLY for their national park camping reservations. I booked around 6 months prior to our trip and was still unable to get consecutive nights at the same campsite, so we actually had two campsites here and had two different experiences. Luckily both were good and we had a great time. Both of the campsites we had offered perfect hanging trees, were close to the shared water spigots, and close to the bathrooms. So in camping terms, both campsites were perfect!
The first campsite is where we figured out we had forgotten our camping stove. We remembered to pack 3 bottles of propane, our delicious bacon and egg breakfast tacos, and all cooking utensils… but forgot the actual tool we needed to get the food cooked. We also forgot all of the chicken I had bought to make fajitas with… So basically meal prepping went just as predicted- poor planning and even worse on the execution. Luckily we had become friends with our second campsite neighbor, Dave, and he let us borrow his brand new camping stove.
We met guardian angels named Dave all along this trip ♥
Bathrooms are scattered all around the campsites, and they seemed to be spaced really evenly. The shower area was near the front of the campground back where we checked in. After waiting in line for a hot minute, it was finally my turn when I realized that the camp showers cost monies! A 5 minute shower costs $1.25 and when you’re out of time, the water immediately shuts off… with no warning given. So on to travel tip number 16! ↓
Travel tip #16: bring quarters with you for campsite showers!
When looking to visit National Parks, book early and do your research! The North Rim Campground is peaceful, beautiful, and offers perfect trees for hanging, just like how I like it.
Grand Canyon Lodge
If you are not a camper but still want to stay at the North Rim- check out the Grand Canyon Lodge! This is the ONLY lodging within the National Park’s borders on either rim. This historic lodge is right on the North Rim and near the iconic Bright Angel Point. They offer motel style rooms or individual cabins that can sleep up to 6 people. This is a great option for families, as some of the cabins feature bunk beds and sleeper sofas for kids. There are three different types of cabin accommodation, and children 15 and under can stay for free at the lodge.
This lodge books up even faster than the campground! I would recommend booking your lodge stay over a year out!! YES, that far in advance is necessary. Sometimes you may get lucky and get through on their phone line and snag a last minute cancellation, but for the most part, you will need to book at least a year out for a cabin at the Grand Canyon Lodge. The lodge’s open season coincides with the rest of the North Rim, so the Grand Canyon Lodge is only open from May 15-October 15 annually.
We came up to the lodge on our second night here after being informed by our campsite neighbor, Dave, that this is a great area to have a beer and watch the sunset. The Lodge has a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, two saloons, a deli for fast food, and a great gift shop.
Pictures below are from the Lodge’s website.
Dog friendly trails in the canyon?
Since Kacie and I had our two dogs with us, we had to figure out what we would do with the dogs all day long at each spot we stopped at. While there is a dog boarding facility at the South Rim, but the North Rim offers zero dog accommodations, so you get to keep your fur babies with you at all times! Dogs are also not allowed in the canyon no matter which rim you go and see.
The Bridle Trail and the Arizona Trail are the two dog friendly paths at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Both trails offer epic hikes through the forests of aspen and birch trees that surround the outside of the canyon. The Bridle Trail is around 3 miles long while the Arizona Trails runs from the south border of the state to the north border and ends up being over 800 miles long.
One of the worst things to see while hiking with your dog ↓
Luckily we found the trail head of Arizona Trail, where dogs ARE allowed ↓
Tips for hiking with dogs
Make sure you have a good leash! Kacie and I chose to use hands-free running leashes for the girls.
Plenty of water and a collapsible water bowl!
Brings lots of poop bags! because… you know, shit happens.
Plenty of dog treats to use as bribes for photo opportunities.
If you are going to be walking on hot or rough surfaces- think about investing in dog booties!
I am currently finishing up a blog post dedicated to hiking and camping with dogs! Stay tuned 🙂
I absolutely love sunrises
We found the coolest sunrise view points of the North Rim to be along the drive up to Cape Royal. There are quite a few stop offs with some great views that you can just go and admire the canyon from.
Set the 4 AM alarm!! Get out of your sleeping bag and go witness one of the prettiest things you’ll see on your trip. JUST DO IT! You will not regret it.
Here are some more of my favorite pictures from this part of our trip.
Bluebonnets in the Grand Canyon!
Although not quite as impressive and definitely not as big as Texas Bluebonnets, it was really cool to see this piece of home along the Bridle Trail in the Canyon.
Tourist level: expert
Onward to Antelope Canyon!
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon in Page Arizona and it is the most photographed slot canyon in the world! So be prepared for some insane natural beauty.
Onward and upward,
traveled during June of 2016