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Grand Canyon South Rim - Organized Tour or Do-It-Yourself?

Grand Canyon South Rim - Organized Tour or Do-It-Yourself?

Old Mar 5th, 2009, 11:15 AM
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Grand Canyon South Rim - Organized Tour or Do-It-Yourself?

In April, my husband and I will be staying three nights in Sedona, and want to plan a one-day trip to the Grand Canyon's south rim. We are debating whether to go on a professionally organized day tour, or simply drive and explore on our own. How easy is it to do on one's own? One big advantage of an organized tour is the information (history, geology, etc.) we can get from a knowledgable guide. Plus, I assume the tours know the best routes and places to go. On the other hand, we like the flexibility of being on our own (and it's less expensive). How easy is it to plan a good itinerary and get around on our own in the park? Any thoughts on what a Do-It-Yourself one day itinerary would look like? Or, any good recommendations for an organized day tour from Sedona? We're both in our mid-30's and fairly intrepid, but I'm pregnant, so we want to take it a bit easy on this trip!
THANKS for your input!!
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Old Mar 5th, 2009, 11:20 AM
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Easy drive. Can read about the geology. Make reservations NOW for accomodations in the park. After dark, go watch the IMAX movie in Tusayan, just outside the park.

Visit the park website for more information: http://www.nps.gov/grca/
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Old Mar 5th, 2009, 11:27 AM
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Thanks Marginal. I think our plan is to just drive back to Sedona that night, since it's already March so a bit late to try to get accommodations in the park. We already have a place lined up in Sedona.
Is there a specific "route" along the rim that you would recommend?
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Old Mar 5th, 2009, 11:50 AM
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My wife and I stayed for two nights but you can see most of what you will want to see in a day. If you travel along the rim by car there are plenty of stopping off areas with parking facilities and refreshment areas. These are situated at places where you can get great views of the Canyon.
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Old Mar 5th, 2009, 02:13 PM
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You do not need a guide.

There are not many routes or places to go. The attraction is the canyon itself, and if you are not hiking, there are only 2 "routes" along it---east and west rim drives. (And the west is closed to car traffic).

You can download the Spring 2009 information guide from the park website:

http://www.nps.gov/grca/

I suggest you enter by the south entrance (from Williams), and use the map they give you to proceed to Mather Point for your first look at the canyon. Then you can go to the Visitor Center at Canyon View Information Plaza if you like, or the Yavapai Observation Point. There are ranger talks at these places at 10, 1:00, and 2:30 on geology, history, etc. if you are interested. The schedule is in the spring 2009 guide, above.

Then proceed to the parking lot by Bright Angel Lodge, and plan to spend a fair amount of time (several hours) in that area walking along the rim, visiting the Kolb Studio (which has fascinating historical photos), maybe having lunch. Be sure and walk the rim trail to the west as far as Trail Overlook, which is a great spot for looking down into the canyon, and you'll likely see condors. It is a paved path but not completely level---there are some stairs at the end.

If you want to visit the overlooks to the west you can take the shuttle bus; the park guide will have a map and explanation. Or you could walk the paved level path along the rim to the east as far as Yavapai Point and Observation Station---about 1.5 miles I think. You can take a shuttle bus to return to the Bright Angel area from there.

Basically, you can be as relaxed or busy as you like, and enjoy the canyon in your own way without being hurried around by a guide. If you want to picnic for lunch, the deli in the marketplace has a good selection of sandwiches, etc. There are plenty of places to sit around the hotel area, and a few benches along the rim trail to the east.

When you are ready to head back to Sedona, you can depart by the East Rim drive and take in the various viewpoints and stops along that road, then exit by the east entrance and head south for Flagstaff, then Sedona.
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Old Mar 5th, 2009, 03:22 PM
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My suggestion would be to enter through the east entrance and exit through the south entrance. A bit longer getting in but, IMO, Desert View is the most awesome first view you could possibly get of the Grand Canyon. Most people enter through the south entrance, and the first view they get is Mather Point. Unfortunately, Mather is also absolutely the most crowded viewpoint in the park. I think that sort of spoils the first view.

From the east entrance, head toward Grand Canyon Village, about 20 miles. Definitely stop at Grandview and some of the other points also, on the way to the Village (Mather and Yavapai will be the last ones). Once at the Village, find someplace to park and take the free shuttle to all, or most, of the viewpoints west of the Village.

The drive back to Sedona is shorter through the south entrance, so you can stay later at the canyon, maybe even for sunset, than if you went back to Sedona via the east entrance.

www.travelerstogo.com
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 01:34 PM
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Thanks everyone! I've done some additional research, but still can't figure one thing out - can one drive onself along the eastern ("desert view") drive? Or do you have to use the shuttle system? I think we'd like to drive along the desert view portion to the east, and then walk as much of the western part (starting at Mather and heading west) as we can...
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 01:53 PM
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You can drive the eastern part. The shuttle system starts at Bright Angel lodge and goes out to Robin's rest. It makes hiking very user friendly for that beautiful area. Park near Bright Angel, walk west as far as you like, when you get to a bus stop and are tired, hop on and ride to the next beautiful area and get off and walk some more or just view and hop on the next shuttle. There are also ranger led programs at various times throughout the day. Some deal with geology or history etc. You can probably find times through the www.nps.gov site then click on arizona then grand canyon.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 06:11 PM
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When I visited in June last year there were in-park hotel rooms to be had for walkins. This surprised me as it was very, very busy. One can cancel a reservation up to 2-3days in advance with no penalty. The front desk told me there are tour groups that book blocks of rooms far in advance and only release them at the last minute when they are sure they won't need them.
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