This is a two-part post.
We first visited the Grand Canyon in 2015 (South Rim).
We revisited in 2020 (North Rim).
Continue below to read our introduction to the South Rim, or click here to go straight to our North Rim recap.
Circling back to our college days, our adventures included walking 2 miles to the bar in heels and playing beer pong until 5:00am. Don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said about midnight adventures to McDonald’s or sneaking over to your friends’ apartment to recreate your best attempt at a horror movie scene. But, when we received tickets to go to Las Vegas as a graduation presents from my parents, (thanks Mom & Dad), we were thrilled. Travel was something we had talked about during our years of being together, but up until that point, we hadn’t had the opportunity to get on a plane and visit somewhere new. Sure, we had ventured to different cities within Michigan, gone on road trips around the state and visited Up North more times than I can count, but something about setting your alarm at 4:00am to get on a plane is so gratifying. So, we were off! Two excited graduates looking forward to creating new memories in a place neither of us have ever been to.
Grand Canyon - South Rim
Our trip included many of the typical tourist attractions. We walked up and down the strip, gambled on some old coin machines, went to a Cirque du Soleil show, visited Fremont Street and just soaked up the desert sun and palm trees. We filled every free moment with something different, new and exciting. We enjoyed days of walking the strip with some Fat Tuesday slushies (HIGHLY RECOMMEND), and days of tight scheduled tours. We took selfies, broke in our new Go Pro and got everything we could out of such an interesting area in just a few short days.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Fremont Street - Downtown Las Vegas
Bellagio Fountain Show - Las Vegas
Back at the end of 2014, when we were planning the trip, we didn’t know we would become so addicted to traveling. When we realized we had a chance to visit the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, we thought, why not? We didn’t know if we would be back out that way again. (Funny, because Colin ended up moving to Arizona about 3 years later). Who knew?!
Hoover Dam Bridge
Anyway, we decided to add the Dam and the Canyon to our Vegas itinerary. We booked with Canyon Tours, and the process was great. (Looking at their site now, it seems like they have improved the entire trip greatly since we visited). The bus picked us up right from our hotel and took us to a meeting place with all the other travelers, where we checked-in and were given a small breakfast. We departed from Vegas and headed to the Hoover Dam. After a brief stop for some pictures there, we headed to our lunch stop. The lunch was buffet-style at Grand Depot Café. The next stop was the Grand Canyon. We did the South Rim tour and we were dropped off at the visitor center. We had some time to browse the center and walk around to explore the overlooks of the canyon. It was breathtaking.
Grand Canyon - South Rim
But here is the shocking part. We didn’t LOVE it. We enjoyed it, thought it was beautiful, and enjoyed taking our flag picture (really the start of this obsession). Fire Up Chips! (Although, we didn't know at the time to get our sign photo - rookies). But after a few minutes of the views, we both looked at one another and thought, “now what?” To some, this may be insulting, and my apologies if it is, but it doesn’t come without this punch line - visiting this park was our first experience at something so beautiful and remarkable. Our lack of enthusiasm was not from the lack of astonishing beauty the Grand Canyon portrays, but rather our immediate need to explore more. So, it was here, standing on top of one of the most beautiful and most visited parks in the United States, we silently agreed to ourselves to never stop exploring.
Where it all began. Fire Up Chips!
I wish I could say right away that we made a truce to print off a list of all the National Parks and cross them off one by one, but we didn’t. Not then at least. It took for Colin to accidentally come across our home state of Michigan’s only national park, Isle Royale, for this to become one of our goals. Realizing there were only 59 (at the time) US national parks, it sparked something in us to want to visit each and every one.
Grand Canyon National Park
Now, here we are in 2019, with a goal to visit somewhere new each month. We found such a love and passion for traveling, side-by-side, to all these new and wonderful places. Adventure is our happy place and we can’t wait to share more of our journeys with you, as we #DareToEverywhere!
5 ½ years after our initial visit, we were ecstatic to return to the Grand Canyon. Now, with another 20 parks under our belts, we had a much better understanding on how to navigate a national park. This time, we would also have the freedom to explore on our own and at our own pace. This was the first stop on our Southwest NPS trip, and we were excited to take in the views from the less-popular North Rim. Visiting during COVID, this less-congested area sounded better for many reasons. So, we re-routed our originally planned California trip, and headed toward the big hole in the ground as we pulled out of McCarran International Airport!
Flying over Lake Powell & Glen Canyon NRA
Unfortunately, the trip started off on a horrible note, when picking up our rental car. Thrifty was the worst pickup and customer service experience either of us have had. We very much DO NOT recommend.
Anyway, we knew we wouldn’t make it all the way to the park the first night, so we picked up an order from Target before we hit the road. This is our new favorite travel hack! We placed a big order right before our flight took off in Detroit, and by the time we landed in Vegas, it was ready for pickup. We swung by and had everything we needed for the first half of the trip, in just a few minutes! It was a huge time saver!
By the time we left Target, we were very hangry. I was still so upset about our rental car, that I just wanted to get out of the city, and away from people, before stopping for food. We found a big rest area and pulled in to grab something to eat. Ironically, we realized that we had been to the same place the year before. We had stopped for gas here when we were on our way TO Vegas, as we ended our Mighty 5 trip just a year ago!
Lunchables -The Dinner of (road-trip) Champions
As we decompressed from the craziness of the past couple of hours, we enjoyed our Lunchables and plugged our destination into the GPS. Excited to head towards our first dispersed camping site, we found out that the highway we needed to take was suddenly closed. The quickest way around added about an hour of additional time. We sat and laughed for a second about how terrible this trip had started. We collected ourselves and knew we had to make the best of it. On a positive note, we would be able to drive through the Valley of Fire again! However at this point, it was too dark to see anything!
Camp - Night 1
We eventually made it to our campsite, arriving a little before 10pm. It was a great spot to get some rest, but a little rough for a tent. We decided it was best to spend night one in the car. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise and were excited to really get this trip started. Onto our first stop - the Grand Canyon North Rim!
A beautiful sunrise and barista
After living in Arizona for mostly summer months, I never imagined seeing beautiful Fall colors like we have in Michigan. The North Rim was a treat before we even arrived! Northern Arizona in October actually resembles a northern Michigan Fall, much more than I’d ever believe. It was such a weird feeling knowing where we were and seeing all these pops of color!
Beautiful Fall colors
I can't believe these colors are in Arizona!
Canyon aside, the beauty of the entire area was breathtaking! As we made our way to the park, we stopped at the first potential campsite for the night. We were going to just enjoy our day and figure out how far we wanted to drive, once we left the park. The site closer to the park was very bare and didn’t really have any space. We kind of decided right then, that we would continue further to our second option.
Welcome to the North Rim!
We eventually made it to the end of AZ 67 - Grand Canyon Highway. First stop - stamping our passport! Throughout our trip, we experienced very different methods of the passport stamp. Some allowed you to stamp, others had to be stamped by staff, some were pre-stamped on paper and if you were lucky enough, it might be stamped on a sticker. We thought it was funny that of all the contact points throughout a park, the stamp was the thing that was often off-limits. Anyway, we enjoyed the views from the Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Lodge and then made our way to our first hike - Bright Angel Point!
Along the trail of Bright Angel Point
Feeling on top of the world!
This somewhat steep, out-and-back trail, is about a mile round-trip. It’s located behind the lodge and provides some of our favorite views of the North Rim. There were plenty of points to step-aside and get some cool pictures, from different angles. This is a great intro to the park!
Lots of photo ops along this trail
Bright Angel Point
Something we would like to do one day, is the Rim-to-Rim hike. The 24 mile hike takes you from the North Rim, through the canyon, to the South Rim. When starting on the North Rim, you begin on the North Kaibab Trail. There are a few landmarks along this trail, not too far into the canyon, that we wanted to checkout. So, although we are nowhere near ready to tackle the entire trail, we wanted to get a taste.
Heading down North Kaibab Trail!
¾ of a mile into the canyon is Coconino Overlook, and 1.7 miles down, is Supai Tunnel. We had both of these as options, depending on how far we thought we could go. Once we arrived at Coconino Overlook, we realized that we would still need to climb back up the steep switchbacks we just came down. This, combined with the farther drive to our next campsite, made the decision to stop here an easy one. This was a beautiful spot and we were completely satisfied with our Kaibab Trail experience.
The first stop down the trail
We took-in the beautiful view, got some rest and started our way back to the top. We had a few more small stops we wanted to make and were excited about getting to the ‘Highest Point in the North Rim’ - Point Imperial. After some ridiculous struggles with the GoPro, we managed to get our flag picture here. We took the road from Point Imperial, back to the “Y”, and headed towards Cape Royal.
Much tougher on the way back up!
Lots of breaks on the way UP!
Fire Up Chips!
Cape Royal is yet another beautiful spot. It was pretty busy here, so we didn’t take the trail all the way to the end, where it was more congested. Sadly, we didn’t realize that there were views of the Colorado River from there, so we were disappointed we didn’t go all the way. We enjoyed the peaceful spot that we found, however, and were able to take-in the surroundings by ourselves.
We stopped at Roosevelt Point on the way back to the main road and gassed up at the station within the park, before making our way to the next destination.
Cape Royal is in the background
Enjoying a spot to ourselves
Even after a second visit, and to a completely different section of the park, we still want more. The North Rim is spread out, yet contained to a small area, at the same time. We would have loved to enjoy sunset at Cape Royal and had we decided to stay closer, we would have ventured out to Point Sublime. I’d actually prefer to camp at one of the two sites at Point Sublime, which requires a backcountry permit. We’d also love to take a mule ride into the canyon. There is so much more to do and see, and this is just the North Rim!
We exited the park satisfied, wanting more and excited for our night ahead. We were en-route to Marble Canyon, AZ and one of the most amazing looking dispersed campsites I’ve seen. You can read all about our experience at Soap Creek Dispersed Camping on TheDyrt, but here are some pictures of the incredible site.
Until next time, Grand Canyon!