Home » 2002 Cross Country Road Trip

Grand Canyon - South Rim, AZ

Thursday, August 8, 2002 - 8:30am by Lolo
80 miles and 1.75 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Stopping at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was a very spontaneous decision on our part--not our usual style, but as we drove along Highway 89 on our way to Sedona and saw the turnoff for the East Entrance to the Park, we just couldn't resist. I mean, how can you just drive past the Grand Canyon without stopping for a peek? Even though we had been to the Grand Canyon twice before, it had been to the much less visited North Rim, so the South Rim would really be something new for us.

Lolo and the Boys Hiking Bright Angel TrailLolo and the Boys Hiking Bright Angel TrailWe figured there was no way we were going to find a campsite in the park, but worst case, we could just visit for awhile and then continue on our way to Sedona. So, we hung a right into the park and drove west along the rim of the canyon on the very scenic 26-mile long Desert View Drive, pulling over frequently to enjoy the incredible views.

When we reached Grand Canyon Village, we pulled into Trailer Village Campground, feeling quite certain that we would be turned away. To our surprise, they had one site available for one night--perfect! We couldn't believe our luck. Since the Village is really too crowded to drive an RV around, we parked it in our campsite and took a shuttle from the campground to the main part of the village.

We knew exactly what we wanted to do--hike the Bright Angel Trail, or at least part of it, down into the Canyon. This is the most popular hike in the park and it's certainly easy to see why. We began our hike at the Rim, and began descending a series of steep switchbacks that seemed to go on forever. The views along the way were breathtaking. The entire 7.7-mile hike down to the Colorado River, 4,420 feet below, takes about 4 hours to get down and another 8 hours to hike back out--not exactly a day trip. Our much more modest goal was to hike down to the One-and-a-Half Mile House, which as you might guess is 1.5 miles down and then 1.5 miles up again. Three miles might sound easy, but with the extreme heat and the steepness, it definitely wasn't.

When we reached the One-and-a-Half Mile House, we saw a ranger aiding a hiker suffering from heatstroke or dehydration--a reminder to us that hiking in the Grand Canyon is not to be taken lightly. The summertime temperatures on the canyon floor often exceed 100 degrees, so plenty of water must be carried and hiking must be done early in the day or late in the afternoon.

Once back out of the canyon, we hiked along the Rim Trail, which runs 9.2 miles along the canyon's edge past most of the attractions in Grand Canyon Village. This trail makes the canyon views very accessible for those unable to make the steep climbs required to actually enter the canyon. We stopped briefly in the historic El Tovar Hotel, the famous hotel located just 20 feet from the canyon's rim. The National Park Service really does a wonderful job at creating structures that add to rather than detract from the natural beauty around them.

Tired and satisfied with our day's hike, we took the shuttle back to the campground. I think we were all glad that we took the detour and got a chance to see the South Rim; however, I must say, I prefer the more secluded and less developed North Rim.


Grand Canyon National Park, which is located in northern Arizona, is the nation's most popular national park, with over 5 million visitors a year. Everything about it is massive--it is 277 miles long, 1 mile deep, and an average of 10 miles across. The views from the rim are unparalleled and extend for as much as 200 miles on a clear day.

It's a Grand CanyonIt's a Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular examples of erosion anywhere in the world, displaying 2 billion years of geological history on its canyon walls. For millions of years the waters of the Colorado River have carved this canyon, while runoff from the rim has cut hundreds of side canyons separated by buttes and mesas rising a thousand feet from the canyon floor. Its beauty defies description and a visit to the canyon is a humbling experience.

There are two ways to visit the park--the South and the North Rim. Although they are only 10 air miles apart from each other, it is a 215-mile drive between them. The South Rim, which is open all year, is by far the more popular section with more than 10 times the number of visitors than the North Rim, which is only open from May to late October. Advanced reservations are definitely recommended.

There are some wonderful day and overnight hikes in the park. However, because of the high demand for overnight permits, you should send in your application as early as 4 months in advance. Also, remember that summertime temperatures on the canyon floor often exceed 100 degrees, so pack plenty of water and hike in the early part of the day.

South Rim - Elevation 7000 feet

Because the South Rim is so crowded, it is switching over to a mass transit system in the next few years. A great way to approach the South Rim is from the east on the 26-mile long Desert View Drive which has numerous pull-offs to stop and enjoy the vistas.

Once you're there, a good way to see the sights is to hike the Rim Trail which runs 9 miles along the canyon's edge from Hermits Rest to Mather's Point, passing most of the attractions in Grand Canyon Village along the way.

The most popular hike of all in the park is the Bright Angel Trail which takes you zigzagging on switchbacks 7.7 miles and 4,420 feet down to the Colorado River. The views along the way are breathtaking. It takes about 4 hours to hike down and twice that to hike back, so it is not recommended as a day hike. A shortened version down to One-and-a-Half-Mile House, Three-Mile House, Indian Garden, or Plateau Point and back would be a more appropriate day hike choice.


  • Grand Canyon South Rim - Bright Angel Trail
    Sorry, you need to install flash to see this content.
Klattu on June 16, 2009

Want the Grand Canyon to yourself? Visit during Thanksgiving. Great weather and few visitors. Also a good time of year to visit the Arches up in Moab, very low humidity too.
Hope your kids add to this website with their adventures. I'm sure its in their blood now.

Herb on June 16, 2009

I hope to do that once the boys are both in College and our mothers are self sufficient. Tommy is planning a trip out west including the Grand Canyon this summer so I hopefully we will have some new adventures to report on soon.

Grand Canyon - South Rim location map in "high definition"

Javascript is required to view this map.