After a number of days driving west, today was the day we hit our next big destination – the Grand Canyon. Accommodation near the Canyon was expensive and we hadn’t had the forethought to pre book a campsite, so we found a place in Valle, a small town about 45 minutes away. From Gallup, we reached Valle by early afternoon; the landscape as we went through the gateway city of Flagstaff and approached the Canyon became more forested and mountainous; it felt like we were on our way to some alpine hiking, rather than the in search of the South Rim.
We drove up straight from Valle to the Canyon – and wow! It is simply awesome, in the true sense of the word, so unlike yesterday’s post, prepare to be spammed with photos. When you get to the Canyon, the initial overlook at Maher Point is stunning, but it was unsurprisingly thronged with tourists. A brief walk either way, however, and the crowds disappeared completely; it seems that most visitors simply take the free shuttle bus between designated stops and miss the lovely quiet points in the middle. We slowly wandered up the Rim Trail, oohing and aahing over the stunning views.
Sunset at Yaki Point
We’d decided to try to catch the sunset at the furthest point the shuttle bus reaches, Yaki Point, which has views to both the east and west. Although a large tour group emerged from a visiting shuttle at the last minute and the point was therefore a little noisier than we’d have hoped, it was quite an experience to see the sun go down over the canyon, casting glorious red colours over the rocks.
Stranded at Yaki Point
There was a slight issue getting back after the sunset – in fear of not being able to get the last bus due to how many people were waiting at Yaki (bus after bus came and filled, with a huge queue still waiting) I suggested walking back to earlier in the loop to catch the last one before it filled up. This did work (although it proved to be unnecessary) but involved a 30 minute walk in the dark followed by a good sprint for the bus, which may not have made me the most popular person! I will always find a way to avoid waiting if there is one…
Once we made it back to the car, we drove back to Valle, stopping at Tusayan for some overpriced petrol and a comparatively reasonable – and tasty – Mexican meal at Sophie’s Mexican Kitchen. Sadly as I was driving I had to miss out on the sangria, but enjoyed some fish tacos before heading back to the motel.
Highlights: Grand Canyon, unsurprisingly.
Lowlights: Van would say nearly missing the bus from Yaki Point (I would say the night hike and sprint added to the experience). The cost of motels and gas in the area was a definite downside – next time I’d try to prebook a campsite.
Up next: more Canyon, the beautiful surprise of South Utah…