When we were there: Aug 15 – Sept 12, 2019
Where we stayed: Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort, Williams
What we ate: picnic at the Canyon
What we drank: The RV park was across the street from Grand Canyon Brewery; Sultana is the oldest saloon in AZ
What we did: Rode the train to GC; went twice more on our own; hiked Bright Angel Trail; saw Bedrock City (now closed); enjoyed Historic Williams; saw the IMAX movie; met up with a friend in Sedona
Tourism Website: https://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm
Worth the Trip? Everyone must do this at least once in their lifetime
Our Trip Advisor Reviews:
Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort
The Grand Canyon is a must-see
Anyone can hike the canyon on at least one trail, regardless of age or ability
Williams is a terrific town
Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort is top-notch
Take advantage of the pet kennel so you can enjoy a long day at the canyon
I really needed the Grand Canyon to be spectacular. It was the main event in our southwestern odyssey and by August we’d seen so many amazing sights I was worried it would be underwhelming.
Grand Canyon is easily the most magnificent sight I’ve ever seen in my life. Niagara Falls comes close, but not a lot can match the spectacular sights at GC. If you’re in the area for awhile, you want to stay in Williams – Grand Canyon Railway, specifically. Williams is a proper city with a real grocery store and a historic downtown that you can walk to from the RV park. About an hour from Grand Canyon, it’s also only about an hour from Sedona and a half hour from Flagstaff.
The RV park was one of the nicest we’ve stayed at, with clean large bath houses, strong wifi (we could stream movies with no lag), cable, large sites, and the grounds are meticulously maintained. There is also a dog kennel so you can send your pooch to daycare (or overnight) while you take your time at the canyon, and the train to the canyon is a short walk away. It’s a luxury hotel as well, so there’s an indoor pool, a buffet restaurant, and a ton of other amenities. It was pretty much perfect.
The town of Williams plays up its Route 66 and cowboy history nicely. There are bars, restaurants, and gift shops galore; street shows and other events happen daily. And of course it just wouldn’t be a western town without a gunfight in the street.
We had scheduled our train excursion months in advance (in the summer this is mandatory!) for the second weekend we’d be there, but we drove up beforehand because I didn’t want to wait. Since we were so close we could drive up as often as we wanted. So we did.
Early fall is an excellent time to visit because the summer crowds are gone, but you can still get the full experience. There were a bunch of people but it wasn’t mobbed or anything. We found parking right away by the Visitor’s Center.
The Canyon is glorious. It’s like magic. When we were walking up from the Visitor’s Center I caught a glimpse of it through the trees and did a little dance. Neal had packed us a bottle of champagne and glasses so we could have a toast.
Grand Canyon employees live there full time….and there’s a K-12 school for their kids! Can you imagine that, growing up at the Grand Canyon?? I can’t think of anything cooler.
The train was an experience, but it’s hard to recommend it. It’s long (longer than just driving it) and not particularly scenic, it costs $70 – $200 per seat depending on the type of car you want, and you better be back to the depot in time or you are out of luck. There was entertainment in the form of corny cowboy singers, and the employees were amusing and engaging. Honestly, saying I did it was more exciting than actually doing it.
The bus tour, on the other hand, was excellent. $40 per, and the bus driver was a fountain of interesting information (plus he was hilarious!). He took us to Hopi Point on a scenic drive, let us goof around for 20 mins, then took us to Mohave Point to hang out for half an hour. You can do those things on the free shuttle buses, but then you’d miss the tour guide giving you the history and factoids. Definitely worth it.
Apollo being in the kennel all day worked out well, so we put him in daycare for another all day jaunt to see everything we wanted at our leisure and do some hiking.
Grand Canyon has four distinct areas:
Visitor’s Center, which is where most people start.
Market Plaza, where the workers live. There’s a grocery store, a bank, post office, living quarters, etc.
Grand Canyon Village, where the hotels and restaurants are.
Hermit’s Rest, which is WAY out west, about an 80 minute shuttle ride roundtrip.
And of course there are a bunch of points along the way. You can walk the Rim Trail the whole way (13 miles from South Kaibab to Hermit’s Rest) but there are shuttle buses that take you all over the place. What we found, though, is that there are eastbound and southbound buses, and they don’t both stop at each point and not each point has restroom facilities. For example:
The plan was to take the shuttle all the way out to Hermit’s Rest, ooh and ahh, then back to Hopi Point to watch the sunset. Then we learned the ride to Hermit’s Rest would take over half an hour, then that same back. And we learned that Hopi Point doesn’t have an eastbound shuttle to get us back – you have to hike about a mile to Mohave Point to catch the bus. But while Hopi Point has a restroom, Mohave Point does not.
So it became complicated, and what we ended up doing is making sure we were well drained, then took the shuttle to Mohave Point, watched most of the sunset (and rainstorms in the distance at Hermit’s Point, where we would have been drenched if we’d gone with our original plan).
NoAZ, especially Williams/Grand Canyon, has a disproportionate number of steak houses because foreign tourists love them – they don’t have real steak houses back home and it’s uniquely American and cowboy to them. We normally don’t hit up steak houses because we grill at home and when we eat out it’s something we can’t get just anywhere. But I wanted to do a tourist steak house, so we ended up at Big E’s in Tusayan. Big ol’ steaks in a westerny setting that wasn’t over the top – those Japanese tourists should feel like they got their experience. Patio seating on a pleasant evening.
Grand Canyon hiking trails are as easy or hard as you want them to be. If you’re a young stud/ette who wants a challenge, there are a number of hiking experiences for you. And if you’re old and out of shape (like us), there are also several options. Even if you’re disabled and/or in a wheelchair, you can STILL “hike” a decent portion of the Canyon. All you have to remember while hiking down is that you have to get back up, and descend accordingly.
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