Guidelines for domestic travel as it relates to camping and parks:
“Going camping at a time when much of the United States is experiencing community spread of COVID-19 can pose a risk to you if you come in close contact with others or share public facilities (like restrooms or picnic areas) at campsites or along the trails. Exposure may be especially unsafe if you are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19 and are planning to be in remote areas, without easy access to medical care. Also be aware that many local, state, and national public parks have been temporarily closed due to COVID-19.” -CDC
Please read all of CDC’s park and rec guidelines for travel here.
my journey in Arizona begins in Page, click here for Part1
…then I picked up my dad in Phoenix and we hiked in Sedona, click here for Part2
or continue below to read about my time in the Grand Canyon, AZ.
My dad and I reached Flagstaff pretty early, it’s less than an hour from Sedona so we had time to make it to the Grand Canyon National Park that same day. Flagstaff is just under 2 hours from the South Rim. I honestly wasn’t as excited about the Grand Canyon as my dad. That being said, he has been before- so this was a good sign. I invited him to visit me at any point on my 3.5 month road trip- to include places he had never been but he loves the Grand Canyon for some reason.
We stayed in another timeshare on his account; this one was a larger suite and I don’t recall him doing any of those promotional meal things. The suite had 2 bedrooms and I got the master since I previously took the couch in Sedona. We also had a huge living room, with a fireplace, a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and our own hot tub on our private balcony. Pretty snazzy place! After checking in and dropping our bags we left for the Grand Canyon. Most of the parks I have been to on my trip had little to no crowds. *Remember, I set out for this road trip in early September.* It is now almost Thanksgiving and the crowds are mostly obsolete everywhere… but this is: THE GRAND CANYON… and that was not the case in this park.
My first look at the Grand Canyon
We stopped at the visitor center to get hiking information and watched a short film about how the canyon was formed. The video was short and impressive- I recommend all visitors to watch it. We were at the South Rim visitor center and from there we took a short walk to Mather point. This was my first time seeing the Grand Canyon. It was spectacular! I thought it would be like Horse Shoe bend and other canyons I had noticed on my drive from Page to Phoenix… instead it was absolutely unbelievable! My dad knew I wasn’t as excited as him, he caught this face I made as I tried to contain how impressed I was and how wrong I had been.
Sunset at the Grand Canyon
Also, it was freezing here. The weather in Sedona was like a perfect crisp autumn, ideal for hiking. Dad and I were not prepared for the weather in Flagstaff or the Grand Canyon though. I had told him on the phone it was like summer- it was, the week prior… and a bit south of here. The wind was obnoxious, too. We had to keep going back to the car to get out of the gusts and warm up. Before heading back to Flagstaff I wanted to watch the sunset. We made it right in time to a West facing cliff side and I climbed down to my own little perch to get a view that only I would have (see the tilted rock with the sun iluminating it). Watching the canyon change colors while the sun sets is gorgeous.
Dad ended up going into a heated little museum-like place nearby, meanwhile my fingers became numb. Eventually I joined him so my body could thaw out and I could walk to my car. On the way out we stopped to get some star pictures and to see the watch tower. It became more windy and cold as the night grew long but the pictures turned out great! When we got back to our resort, I immediately made time to jump into the hot tub. I stayed out there, alone, for a while. After soaking in the tub I went back inside to shower and go to bed. I was hoping to get up early for a full day of hiking in the canyon again.
I had gathered information from the visitor center and even spoke and overheard other conversations with some of the park rangers. I thought my dad and I would be able to hike the Bright Angel trail at least to the checkpoint. Although, I would prefer to hike all the way down to the river and back. This has been done but is highly discouraged as it is risky, not only for the hikers who attempt it, but also for the rescue teams. The Bright Angel trail is a bunch of switchbacks -8 miles to be exact, that will bring you all the way to the Colorado river. From the top rim to the water, the full distance is 1mile (1.6km) but obviously this decline requires many switchbacks.
For those of you looking to visit the Grand Canyon, don’t forget to check the website for current updates and information on trails and road closures. CHECK THE DAY OF, TOO!
Click here to view the Grand Canyon official National Park website.
Hiking at The Grand Canyon National Park
The next day was colder and windier than even the first day. On our way to the National Park, we stopped at Marshall’s for gloves and warm weather gear. By the time we arrived to the Grand Canyon and realized the steep grade of the trails, I re-thought the hike. Going down would be easy, but I don’t know how I’d get back up! I drove to multiple visitor centers and shops so my dad could grab souvenirs before we would start our journey. I figured the visitor centers and shops would be closed by the time we returned.
My dad was fair game, he was into this hike. I am not entirely sure where his obsession with the Grand Canyon was formed- but I welcomed it. We started our journey on the Bright Angel trail… and even the descent was rough. I thought it would be much easier… I’d compare it to Observation Point, when descending that trail in Zion. It has a gradual descent- much flatter than Angels Landing’s Willy’s Wiggles; for me this is more painful to my shins. I get shin splints easily so it was not ideal for me. We turned around before even making it a mile down and then we went off trail to try and cut around the side that would overlook the Colorado River.
An unmarked Archeologist Trail
The route we took was like a faint trail. You could tell it had been traversed before and could see the tacks wrapped all the way to the point in which I assume would wrap around to an outstanding view. We had to cross police tape to continue along this trail. We later read a sign stating this ‘trail’ was for archeologists only. I might be incriminating myself here… but we followed the trail regardless of our inadequate qualifications. I did not TAKE any rocks or anything. I have learned that it’s illegal to remove plant specimens, rocks and fossils (or anything else) from National Parks.
This time I got scared of the terrain. I couldn’t really get a good grip even in my hiking boots. There wasn’t even a slight path, the ground reminded me of Bryce Canyon- but was a WAY steeper drop should I lose my grip completely. I was ready to turn around. My dad was wearing hiking sneakers and was way ahead of me. I told him I couldn’t go any further it was too dangerous. The selfie I took (displayed here) is me waiting for my dad to come back to me- al though smiling, I was scared to move. The ground was incredibly brittle- see in background.
I found the way back to be more difficult, for some reason the ground kept giving beneath my boots. Also, as a side note: I did not see any signs of archeologist digging etc. but there were some great layers exposed on the cliff side, possibly new breakage or something? Also, from the signs of the path usage- they went much further so I likely missed whatever it was since I wimped out.
My last day with dad
We ended up leaving kind of early, making a stop at the National Geographic store on the way back to Flagstaff. The sky was clear and full of stars. We had dinner downtown at a very good restaurant- Tinderbox Kitchen. Then I spent more time in the hot tub and called it a night.
I hope to visit The Grand Canyon again when the weather permits better conditions to hike. There is a lot more to explore in southern Arizona I hadn’t known about but I am excited to revisit the north, too. You’ll notice I missed the Petrified Forest on this trip.
The next day we drove to Scottsdale for lunch and then I dropped dad off for his flight home. There was a place in Scottsdale I had discovered before I ever left Maryland- Farm and Craft. I picked it specifically for my dad’s dietary restrictions at the time. Click here to view Farm and Craft’s menu. To be honest, I cannot recall what I had, but it did not disappoint. My dad had something different and was also happy with his choice. I wanted to fill him up so he didn’t have to rely on airplane food- I think it probably has too much sodium for him anyway.
Next stop, New Mexico!
A quick solo adventure to White Sands National Monument… then visiting with more family in Houston, TX. which I discover has the best food in Texas (this after spending over a month exploring all the cities).