Grand Canyon National Park: Hermit’s Rest

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On our last day in Grand Canyon National Park, we decided to take the Hermit Road shuttle to the Western edge of the park and Hermit’s Rest.

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Hermit Road follows the rim trail for 7 miles, with several stops along the way at scenic overlooks. We rode the bus to the end of the road to Hermit’s Rest, part of the Mary Jane Colter Buildings National Historic Landmark. Hermits Rest was constructed in 1914 as a rest stop on a stage-coach line. Mary Colter was one of very few female architects in her day and perhaps the only successful one. Her buildings throughout the park are designed to blend in with the natural surroundings. Hermit’s Rest was designed to look like something a hermit would build with boulders from the canyon.

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Inside is a visitors center with some artifacts displayed, a snack bar and a gift shop. The views of the canyon from here are largely obstructed by brush and trees. Ravens, which are common in Grand Canyon National Park, love Hermit’s Rest. There were a lot of them here and they were friendly enough to pose for photos with us (though once they figured out we weren’t going to feed them, they moved on to the next tourist.)

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We decided to walk the rim trail part of the way back to Grand Canyon Village. Along the way we found stunning views of the canyon from Yuma and Pima Points. We were the only people on the trail and at the lookouts…this was the peaceful and awesome Grand Canyon experience we’d been longing for! At Pima Point, about a mile and a half East of Hermit’s Rest, the sun was getting low and we were able to hop on the last shuttle back to the village.

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Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date NPS designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/21/2014

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Grand Canyon National Park: Bright Angel

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Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s natural wonders and is on pretty much everyone’s bucket list. Because it is just so GRAND, I’ll need more than one post to cover all that we saw while there. This post covers the Bright Angel section of the park. Bright Angel trail is perhaps the most popular trail from the Southern Rim to the canyon floor. You can find lodging in this section of the park at either Bright Angel Lodge or El Tovar. Both are historic lodges.

We had our first glimpse of the canyon as we turned west toward the park. It began to rain as we passed through the entrance, but by the time we got to our lodge, it had stopped.IMG_6494

We checked into our cabin at The Bright Angel Lodge, just steps away from the rim of the canyon and the Bright Angel Trailhead. Since it had just rained, everything was shrouded in fog and we couldn’t actually SEE the canyon, but when the fog started lifting out of the canyon, it was incredible.

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View of one of the cabin’s bedrooms through the connecting door

We loved our cabin at Bright Angel Lodge. We rented two rooms which comprised the entire cabin. We lucked out and had a connecting door (which they couldn’t guarantee at time of booking.) Amenities included a mini fridge, tv, and dispensers with a heavenly lemongrass scented body wash, shampoo and conditioner. we were a few steps away from the the Grand Canyon and the Bright Angel Trail. Both rooms had a ceiling fan which was plenty…no need for AC while we were there. It got down into the 50s at night.
We had thunderstorms each afternoon that forced us inside for an hour or two so we were grateful for our homey cabin.
I reserved our rooms a year in advance…there are 5 million visitors a year and not many rooms in the park. I see on the website that the lodge will close for renovation this year from September -December 2018.

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The lobby of the main building at Bright Angel Lodge

The rim trail runs behind the Bright Angel Lodge and El Tovar (THE historic lodge in the park) and is level with guardrails so you can’t just fall over the side in the dark. I got up before dawn and walked the path behind our cabin to El Tovar where I watched the sun come up over the ridge with about a dozen other people.IMG_6730b

There are some historic buildings in this area. Lookout Studio was constructed by the Santa Fe Railway in 1914 and used as a photography studio. It is now a gift shop with stone terraces from which to view the canyon.

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Lookout Studio was built to compete with the nearby Kolb Photography studio in the early 1900s

Hopi House, along with Lookout Studio, Bright Angel Lodge and several other buildings in the park, was designed by female architect Mary Colter in 1904. It was built to be a living museum where Native American craftsmen worked and sold souvenirs.

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Hopi House Living Museum

In the afternoon of our second day in the park, we had some time to kill before our reservations at El Tovar so we took a hike on the Rim Trail. It started to rain again and then stopped almost as soon as we’d donned our rain ponchos. As it cleared, rainbows began to appear in the canyon. Amazing!IMG_6967

El Tovar was worth the splurge! It’s the priciest place to eat in the canyon and is a fine dining experience so you can’t walk in with your dirty hikers and shorts (though it’s not THAT dressy…no one was wearing ties or jackets except the waiters…polo and khaki pants are ok)IMG_0604
We were seated by the window for a great view of the setting sun. The lodge and dining room are lovely and full of history. The staff was great…our waiter opened a bottle of wine for us and noticed the cork was bad so he immediately got us another bottle.
Our food was delicious …basic continental fare with some inventive touches. Like my husband’s ny strip steak that had a crumbled feta and some sort of delicious sauce. Everything was very well prepared. Oh and they let my daughter order a half portion from the regular menu instead of making her choose from the standard chicken finger kids menu.

Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/19/2014

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Glen Canyon NRA: Horseshoe Bend

IMG_5899Location: Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date NPS designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/17/2014

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Horseshoe Bend is a part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It is a horseshoe shaped bend in the Colorado River flowing through the Glen Canyon. It can be viewed from an overlook just south of Page on Highway 89 between mileposts 544 & 545. Look for the signs pointing to the right to turn off to the lot. Due to the increasing popularity of the overlook, the NPS began construction on improvements at the site last year including a saftey railing at the rim, shade areas and benches and a trail that is more in keeping with preserving the environment.

When we were there, there were no railings which was pretty terrifying, but I was able to sit/lay at the edge and get some awesome unobstructed shots. I’m sure these shots will still be possible with a few adjustments from behind the railing and maybe fewer people will take the risk of climbing just below the rim as a slip or crumbling rock would mean certain death.

The path from the parking lot was a sandy uphill trudge in the blazing desert sun. We didn’t bring enough water…we underestimated the climb because it was only half a mile. When we got to the rim, my daughter had to sit in the shade of a big boulder because she was so affected.

But the view was absolutely breathtaking. And while there were a lot of tourists, it wasn’t as crowded as the Grand Canyon a little later in that same week.IMG_5953

Walnut Canyon National Monument

IMG_7206Location: 3 Walnut Canyon Road, Flagstaff, AZ

Designation: National Monument

Date NPS designation declared: 11/30/1915

Date of my visit: August 2014

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Walnut Canyon NM was a short, but interesting stop on our 2014 Arizona road trip.

We stopped here towards the end of our trip after seeing the awesome Glen, Marble and Grand Canyons, so as a canyon, Walnut Canyon was a little anticlimactic . However the walk down the many steps of the Island Trail leading around the cliff dwelling ruins was really peaceful and interesting . There are signs along the way, so ( in about an hour) you can learn a lot about the place and the Sinagua people who built the dwellings. There are about 25 cliff dwelling rooms along the trail; more are visible across the canyon. It’s a IMG_7198one mile roundtrip trail, but it is somewhat strenuous. Elevation at the rim is 7000 feet and the stairs descend almost 200 vertical feet into the canyon (and then back up again!)

The rim trail is easier, but nothing special…you won’t get to see any ruins that way. There are two canyon overlooks, but again, this canyon, while pretty and more lush, can’t compare to the glory of the Grand Canyon.

IMG_0725There is a museum and a bookstore in the visitor center and there weren’t many people even though we visited at the height of the busy season for the area. Definitely worth the stop if you need to break up a long ride to one of the more popular attractions.