2012 Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
2012 - Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

March 2nd-4th, 2012

Friday, March 2nd

We arrived around 3:30pm, checked into the Yavapai Hotel inside the Grand Canyon National Park, and spent a couple of hours walking on the rim trail taking photos. The Park has a fantastic shuttle bus system, which is free, to take you around all areas within the village as well as out to many of the hiking trailheads. We used this bus all weekend and really liked the convenience!

The Rim Trail snakes along the top of the Canyon for 13 miles, most of which is paved. There are water fill stations along the way, as well as various museums, shops, and restrooms. Most of the tourists stay on this trail, not venturing down into the canyon.

There had been snow the week prior to our arrival, and with temps in the 30s, most of the snow had not melted. The trail was shoveled but there were some icy patches.

After walking along the rim trail, we headed back to the hotel for a quick dinner at the Yavapai hotel cafeteria, then off to our room to pack our gear and get ready for Saturday's hiking adventure.


Saturday, March 3rd

Saturday morning we were up early, around 6am, and after a quick breakfast, took the bus to South Kaibab trailhead. We had heard from a Ranger on Friday that the trail had ice and snow on the top section for about a mile, so spikes were needed.

At the 1 mile mark is Ooh Aah Point, a nice overlook. Then at 1.5 mile mark down the trail is Cedar Ridge, a reststop area for hikers and the mule teams. A pit toilet is there but no water source for filling bottles. Most hikers stop here to eat a snack before returning to the trail up or down. We had started the hike in full winter hiking gear but by the time we reached this point we had removed our gloves, knit hats, and coats. It was definitely warmer from this point on and very sunny.

Spectacular views in ever direction!

At the top of this trail we had snow, ice, and chilly temps. The sun was just rising, so much of the trail had been in shadows. After about a mile down (ooh Ahh Point ), the ice disappeared from the trail. Another half mile led us to the first rest stop for most of the hikers, and full sun. Mud replaced the snow here in spots due to the sunshine and warmer temps. At least a 10 degree difference meant that we could take off our outer coats at this point. After using the restroom (a pit toilet) and having a small snack, we continued on down the trail.

We reached Skeleton Point, the 3 mile mark, around 10:30am. There we took a lunch break (sandwiches and gatoraid) and more photos. From one overlook, we could see the river for the first time. Ron sat on the ledge and took photos of Phantom Ranch at the bottom.

Zoom lens view of Phantom Ranch, down at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Skeleton Point was our planned turn-around point, so by 11am we were on our way back up to the rim.

Check out the people at Ooh Aah Point!

We finished the hike in under 5 hours. Weather was perfect - chilly in morning, warming and sunny by afternoon. The air temp was in 30s at the start for us, but in 50s by the end, so we were never overheated. My GPS said 6.15 miles total travel with 2056' descent into canyon.

It was a fabulous hike that we WILL do again!!!

We caught the free shuttle back to the hotel, took showers, and headed back up to explore more of the rim trail before dinner. Bus loads of tourists were being let off at the Bright Angel hotel. Tour guides had raised paddles and hurded them through the lobby and out to the canyon rim. We watched at least 100+ of them scurry about in the hotel and outside, cameras and cell phones snapping photos as they posed at the overlooks.

After walking up and down the trail between all the hotels and gift shops, taking some sunset photos of the canyon, we decided to go back inside. We had pre-dinner drinks in the bar, then dinner at the Bright Angel Restaurant. Food was good, but a bit expensive.

After dinner we walked along the rim enjoying the sunset, then took the shuttle bus back to the hotel.


Sunday, March 4th

Sunday we were up early again, ate breakfast, packed the truck, checked out of the hotel, and made a quick Gift Shop stop for t-shirts. We then headed for the rim road, HWY 64, heading east to stop at various viewpoints for sunrise photos.

Looking straight down, over a ledge

Our last stop was at the Watchtower.

We left the Grand Canyon National Park by the east gate at 9am, arriving back in Albuquerque by 3:30pm. It was a great first trip to the canyon for hiking. We got a great idea of what we want to do on our next trip, too!