Our primary Spring Break destination was the Grand Canyon. After a couple of days in Moab visiting Arches and Canyonlands, we drove to Flagstaff as our base for exploring Grand Canyon. We had three days to spend at the park. On our first day we drove the South Rim from east to West, stopping at most of the overlook points to try to take it all in. Once we got to the visitor center, we decided to hop on the Red Route shuttle to take us the rest of the way out to Hermit’s Rest at the west end of the road.
This is a hop on/hop off shuttle, and we chose to hop off at the first stop, barely half a mile in. Then we started walking. At first, we thought we would simply hike to the next stop, but the weather was nice and we were enjoying the different view points along the rim trail. So, we kept going. Before you knew it, we were about 4 miles down the 7.5 mile trail, and decided that we might as well walk the rest of the way. We were rewarded with amazing views and the changing light in the canyon as the sun started to set. We thought we would reward the boys with a treat from the Hermit’s Rest commissary, but by the time we made it to the end, it was closed.
So, we hopped on the shuttle heading back to the visitor center. I was personally hoping to stop somewhere along the way to catch the sunset, but it wasn’t to be. The clouds to the west were just too thick. So, back to the visitor center, where we decided to grab some dinner before heading back into town. Little did we know that this would be everyone else’s plan as well. Dinner ended up taking us a couple of hours. It was nearly 9:00 before we finally made it back to the car to get back to Flagstaff. That made for one long day.
For our second day, we planned to hike one of the trails down into the Canyon. We knew it would be snowy and muddy, and had brought along our hiking boots and plenty of layers. We started down from the Grand View trailhead, but barely made it a few hundred yards before turning back. The trail was covered in snow, and combined with the steep grade and sharp switchbacks, simply became too dangerous.
Discouraged, but not defeated, we continued back toward the visitor center to try again. Alex was the most determined among us, and insisted that we find somewhere we could get below the rim. We decided to give the Bright Angel Trail a shot. This is the most heavily used trail in the park, since the trailhead is near the visitor center and the all hotels. That helped to break down more of the snow. There were still some icy spots, and a ton of mud, but as long as you took it slow you could navigate them safely. It was too late in the day to make it far down the trail. We hiked for about a mile, and decided that was enough for the day. It was enough to provide a very different perspective on the canyon than you get from the rim.
After two long days, we were planning to bypass the park and just start making our way back north, but when we woke up the ground was covered in three inches of snow. We decided that we simply had to see the canyon with the snow cover. So, we made the trip back into the park. This time we just bounced along the rim to sample some of the overlooks. In addition to the snow, we got to see a herd of elk and several deer crossing the road. We also got a few places with some dramatic cloud formations and precipitation falling in the distance. What a way to depart!