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Everyone should see the Grand Canyon. It is the most awesome demonstration of the power of a river and the forces of nature. On a visit to the south rim a shuttle system takes you to numerous lookouts along the rim. Some offer views of the Colorado, Phantom Ranch, Bright Angel Trail. A walk along the rim trail gets you away from the crowds at the viewpoints. In fact, the rim trail is one of the most amazing trails in the country. You can walk for miles right along the edge of a cliff that's one mile deep and the views are ever changing.
There are 3 or 4 trails to the bottom from the south rim. The Bright Angel trail is the most famous so it seems that there are always lots of people climbing up and down. The south rim mule rides use the Bright Angel Trail. Several years ago our family took the one-day mule ride. We left at around 8 AM and returned around 4 PM. This trip goes down to the point overlooking the Colorado River called Plateau Point. From there you look a couple thousand feet straight down to the river. The mule ride is scary at first until you realize that these mules do the trip every day and they do not want to die. The trail itself is only scary in a few spots. A lot of people walk down and clearly many are surprised how difficult it is coming back up.
During this visit to the south rim we decided to hike down part of the Grandview Trail which is the steepest trail into the canyon. We went down to Coconino Saddle which is an elevation change of 1120 feet but is only 1.5 miles round trip. Even though the trail was more than scary in many places and very rough, we enjoyed it very much. We had lunch at Coconino Saddle where we felt that we were sitting out on a high point in the middle of the Grand Canyon. (Of course we were far from the middle)
The south rim village was pretty crowded with people and cars, even though we were there in early May. The park has instituted two bus systems and may soon eliminate cars from the rim area altogether. The bus system works well and allows you to walk or ride and see the sights at your pace. No cars are allowed west of the village so visiting the sights on Hermit Road is done by bus. We walked the rim trail between several overlooks and rode between others. A portion of the area to the east of the village is also accessible only by bus. The rest of the eastward Desert View Dr. may be bus only in the future.
We visited all but one or two of the many viewpoints along the rim. We did not spend much time in the village itself although we did park the motorhome in the "Trailer Village" campground. This campground is not much to look at but it gives you a place to camp right in the village. Much of the village shows signs of wear and tear from the millions of visitors.
A week or so later we had an opportunity to visit the North Rim. The elevation of the south rim is about 7500 feet but the north rim is 9000 feet. The north rim can have cold and snow at anytime, so we were happy when we had a sunny day to visit. The north rim area is much smaller and seems to have less people. It's not a simple drive to get there. There are only 3 or 4 lookouts and the other end of the Bright Angel Trail comes up there. Mule rides are given from that side also. By the way, the other option on mule ride is to go all the way to the river in the middle of the canyon and stay overnight at Phantom Ranch. We found the north rim so much less crowded and comfortable that we decided any return trip to the Grand Canyon would be to the north rim.
After visiting many canyons during the last year, the first view of the Grand Canyon reminds you that all other canyons are mere babies. The Grand Canyon is truly grand. These links will take you to photo galleries of both the South Rim and the North Rim.