adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

The Perfect Winter Getaway – Part 2: The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon National Park is a 2 - 2.5 hour drive from Sedona and is something that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime!  Going to the Grand Canyon during January was an interesting experience.  It was a little bit like going to Disney World in the middle of the night when the rides are closed and no one is there:  quiet, a little bit eerie, but just as majestic.  Even though the north side of the park is closed in the winter and you certainly can't take a donkey ride down the canyon or raft in the Colorado River, there are still some breathtaking views to behold.  In the winter the rates are cheaper, more hotels are available, and you don't have to deal with traffic and tourist crowds, which was a major plus in my book.  Although I'm sure the weather can be harsh, we lucked out and had brilliant sunshine and temperatures of 45 - 55 degrees the whole time we were there. WHERE TO STAY There are actually not a ton of options when it comes to hotel lodging in the Grand Canyon.  First you have to decide if you want to stay in the park in Grand Canyon Village or outside of the park in Tusayan.  We opted to stay in Tusayan because there were more options that were a bit more affordable…and Tusayan is only 6 miles from the park entrance. We booked a room at the Best Western Squire Inn.  This hotel looks a little dumpy from the outside and you know what?  It actually is a little dumpy on the inside.  But it's affordable, clean, close to the park, and has the only bowling alley in town!  Our room was a little small but it had a refrigerator so that was nice.  The TV was pretty crappy and we got no cell reception here.   However, this hotel has a "fun center" that consists of a 6 lane bowling alley, arcade with air hockey table, and a sports bar that has pool tables, a limited draft beer selection, decent burgers and GREAT pizza.  This area turned out to be a gold mine because Tuyasan is a sleepy, sleepy town without much activity going on.  Even MCDONALD'S closes before 10 pm!  The fun center provided us with lots entertainment.  The last bowling game is at 10:00 and the bar is open until midnight.  The Best Western turned out to be a good decision for us. The Grand Hotel, across the street, seemed to be the nicest place to stay outside of the park.   It’s a little kitschy, but has a luxurious lodge look to it.  They also have real live cowboys join you for dinner at their restaurant.   So…if you’re into that sort of thing, they have it.  The real reason we stopped in to check this place out is because I heard there was a Starbucks inside and I needed to fuel up for the day.  It turned out to only be a little cafe stand that "proudly brews Starbucks coffee."  After I waited around about 20 minutes for someone to come back from break and help me, no one showed up and I left empty handed. WHAT TO DO As I mentioned, touring the park in the winter is different from doing so in the summer.  We opted to just drive ourselves through Desert View Drive the first day and Hermit's Road the second.  However, you could always book a bus tour or a helicopter tour. If it is not too snowy or icy, there are several trails that you could hike.  Unfortunately there was a little bit too much ice along the canyon for us to attempt any hiking. Desert View Drive - this drive, which begins at the east entrance to the park, is a great way to avoid traffic and tourists (if you happen to run into any).  This 25 mile drive has several viewpoints and also areas to picnic.

Desert View Drive


the Colorado River from Desert View Drive

In the middle of the driving trail is beautiful Grandview Point.  This viewpoint is home to Horseshoe Mesa, which was the site of the Last Chance Copper Mine in the early 1890s

Spectacular view from Grandview Point

Snow on Horseshoe Mesa at Grandview Point

Next we continued on Navajo Point, where you can see the Navajo Indian reservations to the east and the Colorado River.

Navajo Point

After Navajo Point, we made a stop at the Desert View Watchtower, which is at the west end of the trail.  The tower was built in 1932 as an observation tower and tourist rest stop.

Desert View Watchtower

Inside the tower is a little shop and staircase that leads you to the top of the Watchtower, which at 7,522 feet above sea level, is the highest point on the South rim.

the view from the Desert View Watchtower

the view from the Desert View Watchtower

On the east end of Desert View Drive is Yaki Point.  This viewpoint is closed to private vehicles so most tourist have to ride in via shuttle bus, but the bus was not running.  No problem for us!  We just hiked the 2 miles in.

the scenic hike into Yaki Point

breathtaking Yaki Point!

Yaki Point

Hermit Road - we spent day 2 of our trip driving through Hermit's Road.  At 8 miles long, this drive is much shorter with fewer viewpoints but it's still spectacular!

snowy views on Hermit Road

viewpoint along Hermit Road

We saw lots of elk along Hermit Road! WHERE TO EAT R.P.'s Stage Shop - This place is amazing and you won't find it online or in any guidebook.  This little gift shop/sandwich shop/bookstore/internet cafe is about a quarter of a mile from the Best Western.  They have a surprising amount of choices for hot and cold beverages and great homemade sandwiches just like mom makes 'em.  This is a "cutting edge" place because it is an internet cafe complete with...wait for it...a BLACK & WHITE PRINTER.  Serious business out here in the boonies.The Hub and I came here both mornings that we were in the Grand Canyon to stock up on bottles of water, lattes, and sandwiches for lunch. The staff is impossibly friendly.  I could have stayed here much longer if i wasn't planning to spend my whole day looking at a big hole in the ground. El Tovar Hotel Dining Room - This is definitely the "nicest" and "best" place to eat in the Grand Canyon.  Does that mean it's the "nicest" and "best" place ever?  Certainly not, but it was good solid food. The bread basket comes with a delicious cheesy, chive biscuit.  We ordered the scallop appetizer and the scallops were cooked to perfection.  The chicken-wild rice soup was gobbled instantly.  As for entrees, I ordered the wild alaskan salmon tostada.  It was really tasty, albeit a little dry.  The Hub ordered the pork chop, which was also a little dry and the sauce was a bit thick. The service was very nice and accomodating.  all in all, a fun time at the "best" restaurant in town.

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