If You Want To Visit The Grand Canyon and Do More Than Visit The Ladies’ Room (Part 1)

10thingsQuick – what do you know about the Grand Canyon??

It’s big, right?

Like… really really big.

Rather, it’s REALLY REALLY BIG.

And I’m assuming that if you were to travel all the way over there to see it,. . . that you’d actually want to SEE IT,. . . rather than, say, “hypothetically,” arriving, finding the ladies room, leaving, and using the Grand Canyon as a great big rest stop? Right? Hypothetically. I mean, who would want to do THAT??

Ahem.

What we didn’t know when we headed to the Grand Canyon kept us from actually seeing any part of the natural wonder so big you can’t miss it, so big you can see it from space. (Well, the first time, anyway.. because you better believe we came back the next day to see it for sure!)

"So.. we basically drove to the Grand Canyon, went to the bath room,.. and now we're leaving??" --The 14 yr old.
“So.. we basically drove to the Grand Canyon, went to the bath room,.. and now we’re leaving.” –The 14 yr old.

Ten Things to Know BEFORE You Go To The Grand Canyon

1. The Grand Canyon National Park has TWO entrances/exits.

The Grand Canyon National Park, like the Grand Canyon itself, is actually pretty large. Imagine that, right?

And yes, there are two ways to get in.. one on the east end, and one on the west end. Also, when you look at the map on the trip planner, you will notice many view points along the highway between the two.

If you’re trying to plot an arrival destination into your iPhone so Google Maps can get you there, and you are really just kind of passing through and only want to spend a couple of hours there,.. this can be quite confusing!

A portion of map from the trip planner. There are many points of interest inside the "main area" and many  more along the Desert View Drive.
A portion of map from the trip planner. There are many points of interest inside the “main area” and many more along the Desert View Drive.

Also, when you go to see the Grand Canyon you may not actually want to see THE WHOLE PARK. If you want to visit the part of the park with the Visitor Center, gift shop, etc, then it will probably make a difference, which entrance you want to use.

This also leads to information point number two…

2.) Google Maps (when approaching from the East,) will naturally want to take you to the east entrance,…BUT THAT WOULD BE WRONG.

Trying to get to the Grand Canyon with Google Maps will get you there, but it may not get you there the best way. Worse, if you enter “Grand Canyon National Park” into Google Maps, you might actually get something like this!

This map wants me to.. what? Fly across the canyon? (This is a real map result from typing "Grand Canyon National Park" into Google Maps!
This map wants me to.. what? Fly across the canyon? (This is a real map result from typing “Grand Canyon National Park” into Google Maps!)

So where, in the world, EXACTLY, are you supposed to go? 

Let me tell you. The entrance on the west end is actually the main entrance, the one that you should use. That entrance brings you right on in to the parking and the Visitor’s Center, and all the information you are looking for. Also– the drive is much easier on the stomach!

Which leads me to information point number three…

3.) The east entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park is very, very, mountainous (and probably very pretty, I assume.) 

If you are unused to mountain driving–steep, curvy, twisty, cliffy, belly-floppy roads… you may not want to take your first mountain roads driving up into the east side of the Grand Canyon I’M JUST SAYIN.

What we saw before the sun went down was fairly pretty. Some of it was also very nerve-wracking! Racing the sunset up the back side of the mountain is enough to give you gray!

We were already running behind on our day, and because Google Maps brought us in from the east, it added almost an hour to our drive time. By the time we got into the national park the sun was going down.

And since we came in the “wrong end,” after we got into the park we kept driving and driving and wondering “where is the visitor center??” About 25 minutes later, pitch dark, we found it (at the other end of the south rim drive we’d been driving.) We parked, we found the public restrooms and… we left. *cough, cough*

So, basically, we did the "Desert View Drive" that night. Sadly, if we'd pulled off at the first stop, the Watchtower, instead of looking for the Visitor's Center, we probably would have seen that end of the canyon at sunset and it would have probably been beautiful!)
So, basically, we did the “Desert View Drive” that night. Sadly, if we’d pulled off at the first stop, the Watchtower, instead of looking for the Visitor’s Center, we probably would have seen that end of the canyon at sunset and it would have probably been beautiful!)

 

4.) Grand Canyon park passes are good for a week!

And that’s a good thing, when you find yourself arriving and paying at nearly sunset and then realizing you aren’t going to be able to see anything before the sun goes down. At $25 per vehicle, it’s already a really fair price. The fact that we had already paid and could get back in the next day was a big factor in our decision to stay in Arizona another day and make a second attempt at seeing the Grand Canyon. Yay for 7-Day passes!

5.) The park really is open “24 hours.” Mostly.

You may be wondering how we even got IN to the Grand Canyon if we got there so late? Wasn’t it closed??

Well, yes and no.

The park itself really is open 24 hours. There are self serve ticket machines that take your debit card, spit out a ticket, and raise the security arm to let you in. Boom! You’ve made it in to the Grand Canyon National Park!

Now, the Visitor’s Center, Bookstore, and all the other services…  yeah, they clock out and go home at a certain time. And honestly, I can’t even tell you what time THAT IS. The websites do not have specific hours listed. It says the hours change by season. Well THAT’S helpful, right? I do think I remember seeing hours posted on the doors to the different services but I really can’t remember what they said.

So now I’m not any more help than the website is, am I?? It’s probably a safe better if you get there before 5 though, and not around 7. 😉

Whoah, Nelly!

This post is getting really long. Now, I don’t really want to leave you hanging, but believe me, it’s for the best. And the BEST bits are yet to come. Plus, I have more pictures from our visit. So I’m going to post the second half in two days, okay? When I do, I will link it here. Our visit may have gotten off to a rocky start but it all worked out in the end. =)

(Edited: Click here for Part Two.)

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Liza Lee Grace
Liza Lee Grace
May 7, 2015 4:30 pm

I went to the Grand Canyon for the first time last summer. We did a two-day trip. We arrived in the late afternoon/evening and stopped at the first overlook from the east entrance, then on to the other end to the little geological museum and overlook areas. We went the next day to hike. It was fun. A comment on the east entrance to the park: I thought it was a beautiful drive! Yes, there are some steep climbs, but it wasn’t all that twisty. I get CRAZY SICK on twisty mountain roads (I even get sick in the Texas… Read more »

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