I decided before my Tours of Santa Fe business picked up (this was on Feb 28, before the corona virus brought the tour business to a stand still) we should get out of town. A Grand Canyon road trip was just the ticket. I-25 being a north south route has some traffic but mostly cars so when we got on I-40 I was surprised at the heavy truck traffic. Trucks in front, back and beside me.
Arrival at the canyon
We arrived at the El Tovar a little after 5:00. El Tovar is the classic hotel right on the canyon rim. It is the first hotel built on the Grand Canyon and it was built by the Santa Fe railroad. As with all old Santa Fe railroad hotels it was managed by the Fred Harvey company. We could not get a room in the El Tovar but we did have a canyon view room in Kachina Lodge. Kachina is next to El Tovar and was built in the 60s. You check in at El Tovar and then try and I emphasize try to find a parking place. It was surprising that there is so little parking.
Grand Canyon Day 1
We got up a bit late on our first day at the Grand Canyon. This was a relaxing trip so we relaxed. We walked the short distance along the canyon rim trail to El Tovar for a nice breakfast to start the day. After breakfast we walked to the Verkamp’s Visitors Center for more information. The man in the center advised driving along the rim road (AZ-64) to the Desert View tower with stops along the way. Now on our Grand Canyon road trip we will see the canyon!
We got the car and headed out for our rim trail adventure. Out first stop was the main park Visitors center. It is a big facility with five parking lots. Very up to date unlike the Village where we are staying. Again, I was surprised at the crowds. This is the off season but the number of people there made us wonder what it is like during the high season. It must be difficult to even get close enough to see the canyon!
We walked out to Mathers point and the view was spectacular. Most of the people there were Asians, speaking Spanish or some strange European language. Occasionally we would hear English, but not often. Everywhere there are signs saying don’t feed the squirrels or any wild life. Of course a large group of Spanish speakers were feeding a squirrel! He was standing on his hind legs begging for food. Squirrel bites are the most common injury at the canyon. Maybe they need signs in all languages!
Desert View Tower
Desert view is a stone tower at the end of the rim road. It was designed by Mary Colter in 1932. It is a round stone tower 70 feet high and provides the highest viewing along the south rim. The interior is covered in fantastic Indian murals. The tower is designed to look like an ancient ruin. The climb up the inside with all the murals and lookout windows was one of the highlights of the trip. The Desert View tower is not to be missed.
Road to Hermits Rest
When we arrived back at the village we decided to continue the drive west to Hermits rest. This was the last day the road will be open to private cars. Starting on March 1st only shuttle busses will be on the road.
We started from Bright Angle lodge and drove along the road. The viewpoints were smaller but the canyon drop off were more dramatic. From several of the viewpoints you can see the Bright Angle trail leading down the canyon to the river and Phantom Ranch. One particular view point is called the Abyss. The walls go straight down in a dramatic fashion.
Ready for a steak and some brews
After a fantastic day along the canyon rim we were looking forward to a steak dinner. Also a few good cold brews. We were going to the Arizona Steak house at Bright Angle lodge but when we arrived it was closed! Remodeling don’t you know. Nothing on any of the websites about that. This is the time of year when they do a lot of work such as a remodel but they should tell people and not just let them find out when they try and go there!
Food at last !
So, we went to the Harvey Burger Café in Bright Angle lodge. What a complete disaster. The place was mobbed so we waited almost 45 minutes to get in. When we finally did we sat in an area that was supposed to be the bar. The bar was being remodeled so this was just a few tables plus a table with plus a table full of booze bottles. The service was terrible and the food mediocre at best. Not a good way to end a great day of our Grand Canyon road trip.