Visiting Grand Canyon National Park
As you may recall, last year I put together my 2019 Must Visit List and by the time December rolled around I was so happy to have completed nearly everything on it. In fact, there was only one place I missed – the Grand Canyon. It wasn’t for lack of trying but every time I scheduled my trip something would come up and I would need to cancel. Then came 2020 and…you know. But as covid restrictions started to lighten I decided it might be a good time to start venturing out and my family and I headed to Arizona to finally visit Grand Canyon National Park.
This was our first attempt to travel during covid and I must admit we were a little nervous about heading out. Not only is there the potential for contracting the virus but there’s also the bathroom situation. The Grand Canyon is a good 8 hours from where I live and would there be places to stop along the way? Were rest stops open? Or McDonald’s? We researched as much as possible ahead of time and hit the road. Turns out traveling during covid was not as bad as anticipated. We found plenty of places to stop and, thanks to the virus, most places were spotlessly clean. Also, traveling with covid brought another bonus – we were able to stay in the park.
Last year when trying to schedule a trip I consistently found the accommodations at the park fully booked and resigned myself to staying an hour away in Williams. Now, I had my choice of hotels (except for El Tovar, the main lodge, which remains just as impossible to book as ever). After reviewing all options I decided on Maswick Lodge a mere 5 minute walk from the rim. It turned out to be a good choice as the room was well appointed, spotlessly clean and we had the most charming neighbors.
We arrived at night and decided to get up before dawn to catch the sunrise. Well, after an 8 hour plus drive we didn’t quite make it. We made it to the rim just after sunrise and it was probably the best first impression I’ve ever had.
It was shockingly, stunningly beautiful. So beautiful that it seemed unreal. To see the canyon at first light was an awe inspiring experience.
Covered in mist it was otherworldly and we spent a good deal of time just sitting and staring. We figured we’d head back to the room soon after but ended up hanging around the rim for the the next four hours! The morning was so beautiful we just walked around admiring the natural beauty of our surroundings as well as the historic structures that make up Grand Canyon Village.
We made our way to El Tovar and decided to pop inside to check it out. The dining room was serving breakfast and the idea of fresh coffee and pancakes was too much to resist. Ordinarily, we would have had to make a reservation and expect a long wait but thanks to covid we were able to walk right in.
Look at that cup and saucer! I love that the lodge still uses its historic dinnerware pattern. There were several tasty breakfast options on the menu and I opted for the pancake trio which featured a sampling of traditional, buckwheat and blue corn pancakes topped with honey nut butter and prickly pear syrup.
I’ve eaten at multiple national parks and generally the food is pretty terrible. It’s like they figure since the atmosphere is so beautiful nobody will notice the bad food. Not here. Everything was absolutely delicious! We all loved our meals and were so happy we stopped for breakfast.
Near El Tovar is Hopi House a historic landmark that was built in 1905. Modeled after traditional Hopi dwellings it’s sold Native American handicrafts throughout its existence. As it was open during our visit I made sure to stop in and grab myself a small memento.
Also open was the 1914 Lookout Studio which is perched at the rim and offers amazing views. By the time I visited it was mid-morning which offered an entirely new perspective of the canyon.
The sun was fully up, the mist was gone and canyon looked totally different, yet still amazing, in the new light. At this point I was curious to see if the view would change yet again so I made sure to return to the same spot at sunset.
I know I’m stating the obvious but the Grand Canyon is one amazing place.
Visiting the Grand Canyon during covid was a unique experience. Because of the virus only certain places were open and we were unable to go to the Main Visitor’s Center or the Desert View Tower. On the other hand the park was relatively empty. There was no crowding at the rim, no lines in the restaurants and shops and ample room for social distancing.
All in all it was a wonderful first visit to the Grand Canyon. It seems strange to type that during these times but I really did have a great time. I think it was good to escape the noise of today and go into nature and just explore the beauty of the world around us. This year has been truly awful and it’s easy to think that we live in the middle of a dumpster fire but there is still good in the world. There is still beauty. We just need to make a little more effort to see it.