The Grand Canyon is one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World and a destination that a lot of people have visited. Most people we spoke with before our trip, however, only drove to the edge and didn’t necessarily venture into the canyon. When people found out we were going to be there for 4 days, they said we wouldn’t be able to spend 4 days in the Grand Canyon alone. Here’s our experience of a perfect long weekend trip to the Grand Canyon and the surrounding cities.
Day 1 in Phoenix, AZ
My mom and two sisters all flew into Phoenix, AZ and rented a car to drive the 3 hours to the Grand Canyon. We were hungry travelers and the rental car employee suggested eating at Carolina’s Mexican Food. After my sisters “Yelped” it (is that a verb, because if it isn’t, it should be. There was a lot of “yelping” going on that weekend) and approved, we went. It was great – close by, hearty portions, reasonable prices, and delicious. It’s kind of a hole in the wall, but don’t let the exterior deter you from going.
We stayed at the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn because all of the other lodging within the Grand Canyon was full. It was probably about a 10 minute drive in to the Grand Canyon. We only tried the food at the bar downstairs that first night, but we were not impressed. We would recommend going to Wendy’s or McDonalds instead of eating at the hotel premises for a quick bite.
Day 2 in the Grand Canyon
The weather prediction for most of our weekend was rain, so when Day 2 was sunny and beautiful, we wanted to pack in as much hiking as possible. My mom is 70 years old but fit, so we kept that in mind as we planned our hiking excursions.
The North Rim wasn’t open yet, so we stayed on the South Rim. We got an early start and didn’t have any problems parking at the Visitor Center. I think as the day goes on, parking gets tighter and tighter. We got our first breath-taking view at Mather Point, a short walk from the Visitor Center.
If you’re traveling with anyone 62 years or older, don’t miss out on the Lifetime Senior Pass for $10 (we bought it at the park entrance)! It got our whole car in each time to the Grand Canyon and the Walnut Canyon National Monument.Planning on going to a National Park this summer? See if you can use the Lifetime Senior Pass.… Click To Tweet
We were hoping to try two trails the South Kaibob Trail and Bright Angel Trailhead during our long weekend. The first day we hit the South Kaibob Trail and it was definitely worth the hike. This trail is pretty steep and was challenging for my mom (and us!) but it’s worth the panoramic views at “Ooh Aah Point” which is .9 miles down. My mom almost made it to “Ooh Aah Point” but decided to sit and rest while we went down to the actual point.
The trail is easy going down, but keep in mind that going up takes about twice as long. My mom actually started going back up on her own since we took so long taking pictures and admiring the view from “Ooh Aah Point.” The trail roundtrip was 1.8 miles and I think it took us about 1.5 hours total.
The rest of the day we walked part of the Rim Trail which is paved and flat at the top of the Canyon. After a rest back at the hotel, we parked near the Village and took the complimentary shuttles to Hermit Road and parked ourselves at Hopi Point in order to catch the sunset. It was very cold and cloudy so we didn’t really get to see a spectacular sunset, but the view was lovely and we could see the Colorado river from this point.
Day 3 in Flagstaff, AZ
We were hoping to get another hike in at the Grand Canyon, but the weather turned to rain and snow that day in the Canyon. We went to the Visitor Center, watched the movie about the Grand Canyon, and then headed off to Flagstaff, AZ.
The weather was much nicer in Flagstaff. We had a lovely lunch at The Horsemen Lodge (after consulting Yelp first, of course) which reminded us of our beloved Cattlemen’s in Petaluma, CA where we grew up.
We visited Walnut Canyon National Monument and learned about the cliff dwellings. It’s 240 steep stairs down to the cliff dwellings and then a .9 mile loop which passes 25 of the cliff dwelling rooms. There is a rim trail at the top that overlooks the canyon and passes the ruins of rimtop structures for those who don’t want to or can’t go down the stairs. My mom decided the stairs were too much and just peered down from the top. She also went inside to watch the film about the cliff dwellings which was also really informative and worth watching.
There are volunteers stationed around the loop to answer any questions you might have. I was curious about the height of the Sinagua people because the cliff dwelling entrances are small and not very tall. The volunteer explained that they were probably around 5’3″ – 5’6″ but the entrances were kept small to protect from elements, and that most likely they didn’t get up to walk around much when they were in the cliff dwellings.Planning to go to the Grand Canyon? Helpful tips here! #grandcanyon #travel #bucketlist Click To Tweet
We also went for a short time to the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort where my sisters and mom played on the penny slot machines. It was fun to watch and play together. One thing that surprised me was the fact that smoking in the casino area was allowed. It was pretty uncomfortable and distracting for me as a non-smoker.
We drove the 1.5 hours back to the Grand Canyon and had a great dinner at Plaza Bonita, just down the street from our hotel.
Day 4 in Sedona, AZ
We said goodbye to the Grand Canyon on day 4 and drove to Sedona, AZ, a 2 hour drive. There were two hikes highly recommended in Sedona, AZ – Bell Rock and Devil’s Bridge Trail. We decided on Devil’s Bridge Trail and we are so glad that we did.
If you don’t have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, you’ll have to park at the Dry Creek Trailhead and that adds about 1.3 miles each way on a road shared with ATVs and Jeeps. Once you actually reach the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead, it’s beautiful but gets steeper and steeper. My mom didn’t make it all the way to the top of Devil’s Bridge, because of the steep rock stairs that led to the actual bridge, but she made it most of the way.
The bridge is beautiful and breath-taking. It looks far narrower from across the way than when you are actually on the bridge. People were very friendly and happy to take pictures for one another. It is worth it to go on the actual bridge and get a photo! We didn’t think we would actually do a jumping photo because it looked really narrow, but when we were on the bridge, we realized it was perfectly safe to do.
The Grand Canyon and beyond
So folks may have been right about not being able to spend four whole days at the Grand Canyon (if you’re not going all the way to the bottom). If the weather had been nicer, we would’ve hiked at least another day in the Canyon. The day trips we went on were fun though and we got to see more of Arizona.
This trip was on my mom’s bucket list and it was such a privilege to be with her and my sisters when she actually got to experience it. There was a lot of driving, but it was the perfect time to talk about old family stories and catch up.
Have you gone to the Grand Canyon? What was your favorite part?
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