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The nina family hits AZ - part 3, Grand Canyon

The nina family hits AZ - part 3, Grand Canyon

Apr 22nd, 2003, 07:06 AM
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The nina family hits AZ - part 3, Grand Canyon

We drove from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon on our 2nd day, and decided to break up the drive with a stop at Walnut Canyon, which proved to be a great little detour. It only took us 10 minutes off the highway, and was very interesting and worthwhile. We hiked around the cliff dwellings, and even went into many of them. The kids were very fascinated and it was a glimpse of greater things to come at the Grand Canyon.

I was amazed at how drastically the terrain varies in such a short drive, from desert and cactus in Phoenix to snow capped mountains north of Flagstaff. Whoever said it was a boring drive must be crazy. It took us less than 4 hours and flew by.

We arrived at the GC late afternoon, stopped at Mather point for our first glimpse. I would never go there to just peer over the rim, hiking into the canyon adds a whole other dimension to a GC visit and is a must do. It isn't nearly as dramatic or rewarding if you don't hike into the canyon.

Our first night was spent at Kachina lodge. We checked in at El Tovar where we had reservations for the second night. Whoever described the Kachina Lodge as a dormitary was right on the money. I was expecting someone to drag out a large keg at any moment.

On the plus side, the room was very clean, had queen beds and our room had an amazing view overlooking the canyon. Breathtaking.

We walked over to the Arizona room for dinner. We were told the wait would be 35 minutes but it ended up being an hour. We sat on the deck and had a glass of wine while we waited. Dinner was fine, the kids meå¬s had to be sent back as they were ice cold. We ordered prime rib which was very good, and a baked potatoe. Things you really can't mess up. All the entrees came with salad, which was nice. By the time dinner was over we were beat.
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Apr 22nd, 2003, 07:16 AM
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The next day we had breakfast at the Arizona room (service was s-l-o-w), and then went to the visitors center to plan our hike.

The ranger recommended the South Kaibab trail, and am I glad he did. We stopped at the market to stock up on power bars, trail mix and water, then set off to hike.

South Kaibab is very steep, very dramatic and really amazing. It differs from Bright Angel trail in that you hike along a ridge out into the center of the canyon, versus sticking along the wall of the canyon. The boys really really enjoyed the hike, even wanted to press on to Skeleton point rather than turning back at the midway point. You can see the Colorado river from Skeleton point.

We hiked 2 and a half hours down and almost 3 back. I think it's a 12 mile round trip. The vistas are indescribable. Absolutely amazing and as exhausting as the climb up was, I'd do it again in an instant.

We went back to El Tovar. We only needed to pick up our key as they had moved our luggage from Kachina while we hiked. It was very convenient and painless to switch hotels, and well worth doing.

El Tovar is just a beautiful, historic, rustic lodge. I loved staying there, except that the rooms have double beds instead of queens. Ours was on the 3rd floor and had a view of the canyon, albeit not as good a view as Kachina. The room was large, with a large bathroom as well. We rested before our dinner at the El Tovar dining room.
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Apr 22nd, 2003, 07:22 AM
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Before dinner we went to the lounge which overlooks the Canyon. Very cozy and beautiful. The kids had Shirley Temples and we had the house Riesling, which was surprisingly good.

The El Tovar dining room is just magnificent. It really takes you back to another era. Someone here recently asked whether they should keep there reservation and whether it was worth it. Absolutely. Do not miss having a meal there. The food is very good but the atmosphere is out of this world. We had a table by the window. Again service was painfully slow, but sitting where we were and not being in a hurry it didn't bother us too much (except that we were famished).

They even did half portions of the NY strip for the kids, who didn't want to eat off the kids menu and they charged half price. I thought that was pretty accomodating. The NY strip with gorgonzola mashed potatoes were excellent.

We even went back the next morning for breakfast and I had what was the best breakfast I've ever had. Cornmeal pancakes that were out of this world. Breakfast was pricey ($40 for 4 of us), but it was fantastic, and again, I just can't get enough of that dining room. To be continued....
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Apr 22nd, 2003, 07:28 AM
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After breakfast we planned to hike Bright Angel, but after about a half an hour we didn't feel it compared favorably to the South Kaibab trail (not nearly as dramatic), so we turned around.

Make sure you go into Lookout studio across from the Bright Angel cabins, it has a terrace with fantastic views out the back. We took some photos for the Christmas card back there, along with many other families!

We stopped at the Hopi house, then decided to do a rim hike from El Tovar to Hopi point. There were some great views and precipitous overlooks. It was a little nerve racking watching my family get close to the rim.

We decided to get lunch at the deli in the market and find a great picnic spot. We found a gorgeous, secluded spot walking far East of Mather point and enjoyed one last view of the Canyon before heading to Sedona that afternoon.
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Apr 22nd, 2003, 08:29 AM
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Great vacation Nina!

Out of curiosity, what would you think the youngest age a child could do the hike South Kaibab Trail?
 
Apr 22nd, 2003, 08:42 AM
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Hmmm. I think a child as young as 4 or 5 could do the hike to the midway point. I saw quite a few kids who looked that age who made it that far. I guess it depends on the child and how much stamina they håve. It's a lot easier for the little ones to climb up since they weigh so little, but I'd hate to get them down and be faced with carrying them out!

On the other hand, I saw a few heavy adults near the top of the canyon and I just knew they weren't going to make it that far, especially climbing out. It's basically like climbing up stairs, for a very, very long time.
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Apr 22nd, 2003, 09:00 AM
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Nina, thank you, I was waiting for this part of your report, to go back to the GC in my memories. The Canyon is unforgettable!
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Apr 22nd, 2003, 09:10 AM
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You're welcome. I was a little aprehensive about how the trip would turn out, whether kids who are jaded by Disneyworld and cruises would be able to appreciate this type of vacation but it happily surpassed all of our expectations. The kids are now begging to raft the Colorado and or stay overnight at Phantom Ranch.

Now I have an even more exciting trip to plan for the future.
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Apr 22nd, 2003, 09:41 AM
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Terrific report Nina. We've done Bright Angel each trip...convenient trailhead, but it will be South Kaibab next time and we will make it all the way down. Never have had the time previously, but we'll plan our next trip with this as our goal, and stay a night at Phantom Ranch. We've talked with our kids about camping at the bottom, which is the way they do it (they've been to the bottom several times with their next goal a rim to rim hike), but I'm not wild about the idea of carrying 25-30 lbs of gear! From what I've read, because of the steepness, it's best to go down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel, so...next time....

We enjoyed our meal at El Tovar, but not nearly as much as you did. Food was OK, but like you I thought the room itself was neat. Because we were in there after dark, however, view was non-existent.

 
Apr 22nd, 2003, 12:16 PM
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Olive, What about hiking down to the bottom and spending the night at Phantom Ranch instead of camping? I'm not too keen on lugging camping gear down and back either, I mean, I like to hike and everything but I'm still too much of a 'wus to drag camping gear (don't forget, everyone I saw with a full load of gear was also carrying their own gallons of water!).
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Apr 23rd, 2003, 01:54 AM
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This is a fantastic report, Nina. I'm Belgian and would like to see the GC next year with my husband and kids. I'm not very shure how I'm going to plan all this because pre-pepared vacations, as offered here, are not our style. That's why I always enjoy reading trip reports like yours. Thank you.
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Apr 23rd, 2003, 04:17 AM
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Martine, It really wasn't difficult to plan, I got a lot of help from this forum. I initially planned on also heading to Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon, but was wisely advised not to cram too much into 8 days (which was all we had), and was really able to enjoy the trip. We had a few days at the GC, a few in Sedona and a few in Phoenix.

I now would like to visit Bryce, Zion, the North Rim, Lake Powell and Monument Valley, and arrive via Las Vegas, which will make for a whole new trip.

I agree with you on avoiding a preplanned tour. I saw all the tour busses and people lined up at the restaurants and gift shops and almost felt sorry for them. It really isn't the way to go and enjoy a visit, much less give you a chance for great hikes.

My top recommendation would be to make reservations and stay IN the park rather than outside in Tusayan. I really think you get more of a feeling of being there and immersing yourself in the experience.

I also would recommend hiking into the canyon. If you just view it from the rim, it's not a fraction of the experience.

Get your kids involved, visit the ranger station, learn about what you are looking at, how the canyon was formed, etc. It makes the visit that much more interesting.

I'm sure you'll have no troubble planning your trip with help from people here and by reading Frommer's guide (they have one just for National Parks) supplemented by Fodors guide. The Frommers guide is actually more comprehensive for the GC.

Have fun, I had a great time just planning the trip.
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