One of the seven natural wonders of the world, it is no wonder that the Grand Canyon attracts around five million visitors each year. The Canyon is an absolute must see for anyone hunting down some quality scenery, and it is hard to really go wrong with a visit there. But believe it or not, there is a big difference between doing it, and doing it well.
I was lucky enough to see the Grand Canyon from both the West rim and the South rim; and while both sides gave breathtaking views, there can only be one winner. And for me, that was the South rim, although it does depend on the kind of Canyon experience that you are really after, and of course, budget and time constraints. But seeing as the South rim was my favourite, that is the one that I’m featuring today (don’t worry, we’ll get to the West Rim eventually).
Basically, if you are after a full on Canyon experience, with the panoramic views and giant hikes, the South rim is for you, whereas if you want to more just get a feel for what it’s about, West rim it is.
To do the canyon properly on the South rim, necessitates staying the night there, and dare I say it, getting up really early. There are few things that can beat watching the sunrise from deep within the belly of the Grand Canyon, and if you can push past the urge to hit “snooze” too many times, it is well worth it. Staying a night at the Canyon makes experiencing all it has to offer a lot easier, you’ll never hike it at dawn if you have to leave vegas at midnight to complete the 4.5 (approximate) drive to the South rim!
That being said, the decision to hike into the canyon is one that requires a bit of science and common sense however, as from in a single day, the Canyon can go from freezing cold to absolutely sweltering.
Putting two and two together, we know that it gets hotter as we get closer to midday, and we know that it is harder to hike uphill then downhill. Simple as it sounds, a lot of people seem to not realise this, and the canyon has claimed many a victim to exhaustion and dehydration, with hikers setting off down into the South rim mid-morning, only to be crawling back up when the desert heat hits.
Fortunately enough, when I visited the South rim, my partner-in-canyon Anna and I both realised this, and so a 4:30am alarm was set for our hike into the canyon.
And boy, was it worth it.
Even if you don’t want to do a hike, getting up at the crack of dawn is worth it to see the sunrise over the Canyon, it really is spectacular, and my amateur photography doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. Sorry, I did my best but it looks like you’ll just have to go there!
One thing to mention about this hike though, is that this is a natural wonder of the world, and world heritage listed site, which means, there are no guard-rails. None. Just you, a sometimes very narrow pathway, and one hell of a drop on the other side. As you might have guessed, this means that I wouldn’t recommend this hike for those who struggle walking in a straight line, or who are petrified of heights (a little fear is healthy, but too much just ruins it for you).
I would rate this trail as an intermediate level of difficulty, there are times when it gets pretty steep and quite a few times when it could be a little scary. In saying that, Anna and I hiked only a small part of the trail, we definitely didn’t go right to the bottom of the canyon (a recommended two day hike); I imagine doing that is a fair bit more difficult.
Another must-see part of the South Rim is Hopi point, which provides amazing panoramic views of the canyon and is particularly beautiful at sunset (and even better if you sneak in some bubbles like we did); there are free busses that run along the main lookout points on the south rim and it is only a short ride to Hopi point. Where you can enjoy a view like this:
Pretty amazing right? But rest assured, if you find that yourself still at the campsite with sunset closing in, that isn’t exactly a terrible view either.
Again though, these photos can never come close to doing the canyon justice!
I’ve just scraped the surface today of what the Grand Canyon has to offer, stay tuned over the coming months for reviews on helicopter flights and a more in-depth comparison between the South rim, and the West rim.
If you have visited the canyon, particularly the south rim, I’d love to hear from you! Bombard me with your amazing photos! And enjoy this sneaky one of Anna and I mid hike.
Thank you, kind stranger, you captured a beautiful moment, if not our most flattering angle.