On my way to the Canyon on the amazing Greyhound bus I met some people who actually have visited the place. Two guys in their early 20ties who in my memory will always stay as Bill and Ted on their bogus journey. I asked anxiously about their impressions and the only thing they had to say is that it was a big whole, they went up to the rim, threw a stone and left. Sorry to say but those were the 2 biggest idiots I have met in my life (at the time) - no offence to Bill and Ted and people's personal opinions, we are all entitled to them.
In my opinion Grand Canyon is one of the most amazing places that I have ever seen. No picture will ever show you what you can see when you gaze at the Canyon. Every day it looks a little bit different, the colours change, the perspective.
If you are a fan of big landscapes and you enjoy hiking there is one thing you need to know, one day is definitely not enough. Actually one day is never enough if we are talking about the no matter what kind of tourist interest you have.
People might have many misconceptions about the Canyon, some of them were mine, some of them belonged to others and left me laughing. Let me start with mine.
Misconception number one: the Canyon is in the middle of a dry desert. No. Where the National Park is on both south and north rims the land is covered with woods. Not very thick ones but they do seem to obstruct the view. It took me a whole day to find the bloody thing. I thought you can see it from almost everywhere in the area. No, you can only see it from certain places. Even the hotels are placed so strategically that the million dollar view is only possible from handful of rooms - you can imagine those nightly rates.
Misconception number two: it's always hot and dry. No. The rims are more than 1500m above see level. It gets much cooler at night and I started wearing a sweater from about mid August. There is also something that was described to me as similar to monsoon season. For about a month from around 14:00 it would rain, pour, hail etc. Few times to a degree that you cannot see the Canyon although you're standing about 15 meters away from it. One time a couple of elderly ladies came in to the ice cream shop where I worked and asked me where the canyon was. I felt really bad, the only thing I could say was: it's right behind you. It was completely covered by a wall of rain.
Misconception number three: it's quite big. No. It's fucking huge. A normal walking person would walk 2 days from south to north rim. Of course you can do it in one but that's a bit hard core for me. It gets really steep as well.
Misconception number four: you can just hike down and camp at the Phantom Ranch anytime you want. No. You have to book months in advance. My boyfriend and I had that idea and we ended up camping illegally somewhere on the way down making sure we took down the tent before sunrise so that the park rangers didn't see it. Amazing star gazing night I have to say.
And now it's time for other people's misconceptions.
Misconception number five: the donkey will carry you down and back up no matter how much you weigh. No. If you're over a certain amount of kilos the organisers will refuse to take you - in the name of poor donkeys.
Misconception number six: you don't have to hike down the canyon because there is a bus that will take you down to the river. No, no bus, no road down except a trail.
Misconception number seven (my personal favourite): you don't have to hike down the canyon because there is a lift that will take you down. In short: NO
Misconception number eight: the canyon is brightly lit at night so you can admire the view at night. No. There aren't lamps strong enough to light up space of that size.
So I mentioned earlier that one day wasn't enough. In my opinion paying hundreds of dollars to fly over from Vegas to Tusayan or take the Grand Canyon Railway to the Village to visit the place for few hours before having to go back.
First of all you have to keep in mind that you are one of thousands visiting on that day. There are people everywhere. There are queues in the restaurants, gift shops, toilets and coffee shops. You have to walk bit further out in order to enjoy the view and a little bit of quiet time. It's definitely worth it. The Canyon looks different from every angle and you can spend hours just admiring it from the main path - the Rim Trail. If you're in the center of the village near the Bright Angel and Kachina Lodges you can start venturing down on the Bright Angel Trail. Although it's pretty steep it's also the busiest trail. If you have enough time and by that I mean more than half of the day, you can try to venture out to the Plateau Point. You get an amazing view from there back to the top and down on the river. Again the way back is pretty steep.
If you just want to go along the Rim Trail there are few place less frequently visited by the crowds. I would recommend Hermit's rest. You can either take the village bus or if you have a car just drive there. Another one is Desert View Watchtower, again a good drive away. A walk away from the madness are Yavapai and Mather Points. Basically what I'm trying to say is get away from the crowds and take a little walk :)
In order to stay more than one night you don't necessarily have to splurge for the expensive hotels. On one hand you can stay at the Trailer Park Village on the other you can befriend one of the employees and they just might let you sleep on the floor in their cabins - at least that is what we used to do. I don't even remember how many people slept on our floor during the 4 months I was working there.
I don't think Grand Canyon is a place you can go and briefly see for couple of hours, if you're going, plan it well. Don't risk a way too short in and out. It's too beautiful.