I’ll admit it.
Until recently, I had never been to the Grand Canyon.
This was my first time to the Grand Canyon. Although I was only a mere state away in Utah, I never made the drive down south to visit America’s unofficial landmark. When I told people abroad that I had never journeyed to the Grand Canyon, I was met with pure shock and looks of horror.
My parents weren’t much for the outdoors (my mom grew up in Saigon, my dad in Boston), so the mere fact these two city slickers moved to outdoorsy Utah is still a very, very big mystery to me. I was one of the few families that didn’t go skiing, didn’t go camping, and didn’t go hiking. I was always cooped up at home reading a book, painting, or watching the news with my dad.
And to be honest, I was a snobby travel brat. I was so obsessed about traveling outside of America and escaping the clutches of Utah that I snubbed all local landmarks and deemed them below my standards. Arches is just an ugly collection of rocks, I retorted, and the western frontier is just an empty, desolate wasteland.
Man, I was such a stuck up travel snob.
I owe the Grand Canyon—and Utah—and all of America, really, a huge apology.
Because America, you’re goddamn awesome.
Journey to the Grand Canyon
I was ashamed that I had never been to the Grand Canyon—and I was determined to fix that.
With only a few vacation days at my expense, my boyfriend and I devised a southwest road trip across Utah and Arizona. We decided to do the Grand Canyon in two days—it was a tight schedule, but we conquered the Grand Canyon in 48 hours.
Day 1: Epic Views and Bright Angel Trail
I’m sure you’ve all seen photos of the Grand Canyon—it’s a UNESCO World Heritage sight and a pure marvel of Mother Nature.
Even if you’ve seen the photos, nothing can compare to the real thing.
It’s hard to describe the feeling you have when you’re on top of something great—whether that’s the peak of a mountain or the top of a skyscraper, feeling the rush of standing atop the Earth’s magnificence is a truly difficult sensation to put into words. Simply, it makes you feel alive.
The Grand Canyon is exactly that.
Before I could continue my profound moment of life’s meaning, my boyfriend reminded me of the time and dragged me down to the head of Grand Canyon’s most popular trail: Bright Angel Trail.
Bright Angel Trail is a magnificent hike that showcases the many layers of the canyon (from red clay Earth to green shrubbery) with a sweet, green reward at the end: Indian Retreat.
Going down was easy, but man, going up was rough. I’m out of shape. I was huffin’ and puffin’ up that trail, my thighs screaming in pain and my calves aching.
Surprisingly, this hike took the entire day. We set off at 9 AM and finished around 5 PM. The trek to the Indian Garden Campgrounds is a long and strenuous one, but very well worth it.
Day 2: Biking the Rim and Enjoying the Sunset
I was somewhat nervous to bike the Grand Canyon—because, well, it’s the Grand Canyon. Just the phrase, “biking the rim” scared the shit out of me. I imagined myself hitting a rock and plunging down the depths of the canyon, bike and all.
Luckily, it wasn’t scary at all. Thanks to the amazing bike rental shop Bright Angel Bicycles, we were able to secure safe biking routes, helmets, and sturdy bikes for our journey.
The Grand Canyon is also a well-oiled machine. There are bike paths, bus paths, trekking paths—the folks at the National Parks make the Grand Canyon so easy to explore. Just hop on a bike, follow the signs with ‘bike trail’ marked on it and be on your merry way.
And was speeding downhill at high speeds on a four gear bike with the majesty of the Grand Canyon as my ultimate backdrop worth the 40 dollar bike rental?
An Unforgettable Sunset
The Grand Canyon is famous for its sunset. The way the dying sunlight bounces off the prehistoric rocks to create a warm, ominous glow is one-of-a-kind. Although the sunset is breathtaking from any vantage point of the canyon, my boyfriend and I went to Yaki Point for our one-time-shot to enjoy the sunset.
We caught both “the golden hour” and “the blue hour,” and while the golden reflection was definitely a delight, I preferred the melancholy navy blue glow of the canyon that told us it was retreating to sleep. Beautiful.
Uh, Where are the Americans?
Surprisingly, I was one of the few Americans exploring the Grand Canyon.
If we weren’t surrounded by tour groups of Japanese and Chinese people, then we had the Queen’s English, some Duetsch, Espanol, Dutch, and other languages I wasn’t even sure about it pass through our ears.
Want to meet people from other countries while in the USA?
Go to the National Parks.
While climbing up Bright Angel Trail I heard loud voices in Mandarin bouncing down the canyon from above. I cracked a smile and knew it was Beijing dialect right away. Even if for a moment, it was nice to hear Chinese again.
Grand Canyon Travel Advice
#1 Go in the Fall: The Grand Canyon is a frying hot hell hole of human infestation in the July-August months. Do not go in summer. Although it’s a wee bit nippier, October-November is the perfect time to explore the canyon.
#2 Bike the Rim: Bike rentals are somewhat pricey (40 bucks for the day), but Bright Angel Bicycles makes it so simple and the bike paths are so easy to bike and navigate–there’s really no reason not to.
#3 There’s a way for Everyone to Enjoy the Canyon: Even if you don’t like the outdoors, the Grand Canyon can still be a fun destination. Instead of hiking, walk across the rim and enjoy the scenic views at your own pace–if walking is too much, there are free shuttle buses that take you to different vantage points across the canyon.
#4 It’s Hella Convenient, so No Excuses: Going into nature sounds like a hassle, but like I said multiple times throughout this post, the Grand Canyon makes everything so easy. There’s not only a shuttle bus that takes you to all parts of the canyon, but there’s other amenities inside the park that are just fantastic–such as resting areas, cafes, museums, entertainment centers. The Grand Canyon supermarket can put Trader Joes or Whole Foods to shame.
#5 The Grand Canyon Website is Your Best Friend: The official website is up-to-date, chock full of information and extremely helpful. It’s the best resource out there.
And last but not least, as an American, I’m proud of the Grand Canyon. Really, there is nowhere else in the world like it–and the American National Parks are doing a superb job of keeping it beautiful, clean, and as untouched as possible.
The Grand Canyon is a definite must for any traveler.