Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Glen Canyon Dam


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands 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.

Having taken a morning raft tour of the Colorado River, we chose to explore the Glen Canyon Dam after lunch.
First, we stopped at the Dam Overlook on the east side of the river. If heading from Page to the Carl Hayden Visitors center, the overlook is before you cross the river, tucked behind the Glen Canyon NPS Headquarters. We walked down the short, steep path and stairs to amazing views of the Dam and the Colorado River.

Then we crossed the River and signed up for the next Dam tour. We had to pass through security screening and pay a nominal fee. As a federal power plant facility, security measures are in place. While no bags, purses, knives, weapons (duh!) or food are allowed on the tour, wallets, cameras, and clear water bottles are welcome.


On the tour, we got to walk out on top of the dam with a knowledgeable guide. There are some artifacts on display.


The tour took us from the top of the dam, and down into it to see the workings of the power plant.


The Dam was completed in 1966 and forms Lake Powell. Though touted as a vital source of renewable energy and regulated water flow, environmental groups criticized its impact on the Grand Canyon’s ecosystem. Because of the controversy, it was one of the last dams of its size to be built in the USA.


To see my other Glen Canyon National Recreation Area posts, please click on the links:


Location: Hwy 89, Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014

The water level was pretty low when we visited. Our guide said this was the result of over a decade of severe drought.

Glen Canyon NRA: Colorado River and Petroglyph Walk

Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands 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.
We opted to explore part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the Half Day Smooth Water Rafting tour with Colorado River DiscoveryThis was the highlight of our stay in Page.
We checked in early at the Colorado River Discovery store in Page. Next we rode a bus through a two-mile tunnel in the canyon walls to the docks at the base of the Glen Canyon Dam….this tunnel was created for the workers who built the dam. You have to comply with Homeland Security rules to use the Dam Access Tunnel. CRD provided us with clear plastic bags for our belongings.


At the docks we boarded a pontoon raft capable of holding up to 24 people…we only had 12 on ours so it was a peaceful ride. Our guide Nate told us a little of the area’s history, pointed out some interesting geologic formations, and various wildlife (we saw a few bighorn sheep.)


Nate kept it fun while we relaxed and enjoyed the ride. Do bring your camera. There is no splashing on the way to Horseshoe Bend and you can use the plastic bag to protect it on the way back when there is some spray.


We docked at Boater’s Beach at the foot of Horseshoe Bend. We walked a short path to see some petroglyphs…there was a National Park Ranger answering questions about them. Then we dipped our toes in the frigid 47 degree water…some folks had their swim suits and were brave enough to go all the way in.


Back on the boat,  we went a little further around the bend to see some interesting rock formations and then we motored back to the Dam access tunnel.



To see my other Glen Canyon National Recreation Area posts, please click on the links:


Location: 130 6th Ave, Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014



Montezuma Castle National Monument


Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands 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.

We stopped at Montezuma Castle National Monument to break up a long travel day. We’d flown into Phoenix from the New York area, stopped for a quick flight of bacon at the Oink Cafe, and then hit the road for the four hour drive to Page.

After about 90 minutes of driving, we took the exit for the Montezuma Castle visitor center, desperately needing to stretch our legs.

Montezuma Castle National Monument protects a set of well-preserved dwellings in Camp Verde, Arizona which were built and used by the Sinagua people around 1100 AD.


It cost $5 per adult to get in (this has since doubled)…we didn’t mind paying it to help preserve this treasure. We enjoyed the pleasant 1/3 mile loop where we read some of the interpretive displays. And then we turned the bend and saw the amazing castle high up on the cliff walls.


This was one of the first National Monuments designated under the antiquities act. Access to the interior of the structure was discontinued in the fifties due to safety issues, but you can still see a virtual tour of the inside on the park website.

Location: Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 12/8/1906

Date of my visit: August 2014


Grand Canyon National Park: South Kaibab Trail


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands 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.

On our third day in the park, we had to rearrange our itinerary a bit. Originally we’d planned to take the Canyon Vistas Mule Ride out of Bright Angel in the morning and then hike a bit in the afternoon. But the previous day, our misguided tour guide had attempted to enthrall our group with spooky tales of mule mishaps in the canyon while driving us from point A to B. Never mind that in the entire history of the mule train, there has been only one related fatality, the 12-year-old was freaked out and hysterical at the thought of us plunging to our untimely deaths on the back of a mule. The concessionary gladly refunded us as there was a long list of people eager to take our places.


And so we went off to the South Kaibab trailhead first thing in the morning. Private vehicles are not allowed on the road to South Kaibab, so we took the shuttle bus from the visitor center to Yaki point.

When planning our Grand Canyon vacation, we’d agreed that we really wanted to hike into the canyon, at least part of the way. Out of 5 million visitors per year, only 10% venture below the rim. My husband really wanted to hike all the way to the river and back, but I was concerned that my 12-year-old and I might not make it out. Every official website and sign in the park warns against attempting to hike to the river and back in one day. ESPECIALLY in the summer, which is when we visited. The danger of dehydration or heat stroke is real.


After some research, we’d selected the South Kaibab trail. It is steeper than Bright Angel but has more dramatic vistas. The hike down to Ooh Aah Point (yes, it’s really named that) was an easy one mile descent…we considered going to the next stop, Cedar Ridge. But then I saw how far below Ooh Aah it was and I looked back the way we’d come and saw what looked like an almost vertical cliff that we’d have to climb to get back to the trailhead and decided against continuing on.

A mule train making its way up the steep switchbacks

The hike back up from Ooh Aah Point was challenging. While it had been cool and comfortable at the top (7k ft elevation), it was considerably hotter inside the canyon. The ascent was so steep, it made our calves burn. We had to rest and drink water frequently, and of course, take pictures. The scenery was fantastic!


Halfway back up the trail, we had to yield to a mule train. There are signs along the trail reminding you of the proper mule etiquette.


A little further up, we spotted a large black bird circling and coming in for a landing. I got out the telephoto and saw that it was a rare California Condor with a tag number. Condors had been nearly extinct in the wild in the 80s and the US Fish and Wildlife Service started breeding them and reintroducing them into the wild in the 90s. At the time of our visit, there were approximately 70 living in the Grand Canyon. We showed the photo to a ranger in the visitor center on our return and he identified her as an 8-year-old female who had spent time recovering from lead poisoning.

A rare California Condor circles overhead
California Condor #9

Back up at the trailhead, we visited the mule corral. They were beautiful, friendly and not scary at all. Maybe we didn’t get to ride them this trip, but we did make friends with them. And the change in plans turned out for the best as it would have been too hot to hike into the canyon in the afternoon. And we got to explore the Western edge of the park later that day. My post on that Hermit’s Rest trip can be found here. And my post on Bright Angel is here.


Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/21/2014


Pipe Spring National Monument

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Pipe Spring National Monument is in Northern Arizona, just south of the Utah border. It is a National Park Service gem off the beaten path.  The natural spring made this land home to the Kaibab Paiutes. Mormons, driving cattle from St. George Utah were attracted to the oasis in the 1860s.  A fort called Winsor Castle was erected over the springs in 1872 which was then purchased by Brigham Young for the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
The fort was never actually used for defensive measures in any battle, but instead became a thriving outpost for Westward travelers and even had its own telegraph. Pipe Springs served as a ranch and dairy farm, shipping fresh cheese and other provisions back to the settlement at St. George.
The church lost ownership of the Pipe Springs as a penalty to the federal government in 1887 over a dispute involving polygamy.

We arrived at the monument just in time to take the tour of Winsor Castle. Ranger Julie was a great guide…she taught us a lot about the history of the area, but kept it fun and interesting, even for my teen. The highlight was the cool room in the basement with the spring running through it and the remnants of the cheese-making operation.


The story of how this area, which was once a rich grassland, gave way to high desert because of over-farming is a sobering tale…and a cautionary one of what could happen if we don’t take better care of the environment.


After the tour, we hiked the short Ridge trail which starts just to the west of the fort. It’s a short loop, a little over half a mile, that climbs the short ridge behind the fort on a series of long switchbacks. The elevation gain is 130 feet, but it feels steeper in the hot desert sun. It is in the high desert though, so the base is already around 5000 feet.


The Kaibab Paiute Reservation was created in 1907 and the land surrounding the monument is part of the Reservation. At a few points on the trail, we ran into fencing and signs warning off trespassers from Paiute land.


The trail then descends down the other side to arrive at the fort, corrals, garden, and orchard. We visited the oxen and horses in the corral and stopped in the gift shop.


Location: 406 N Pipe Spring Rd, Fredonia, AZ 86022

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/31/1923

Date of my visit: 4/14/2017


Grand Canyon National Park: Hermit’s Rest


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands 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.

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.


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.


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.)


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.


Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date NPS designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/21/2014


Grand Canyon National Park: Bright Angel


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.

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.

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.

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.

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