Grand Canyons is one of World’s natural wonder and can be seen with naked eye from Moon. Grand Canyon National Park, a World Heritage Site, encompasses 1200K+ acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States. Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins.
Six of us (Chetan, Chirayu, Mahernoz, Manish , Srujal and myself) decided to visit Grand Canyons after taking time off after our sales conference this year. The various options which we evaluated were, By Bus which starts in morning and returns by evening. The Bus tour generally takes you to West RIM which is closest to Las Vegas. The second option was to go via Helicopter which was not in our budget.
Since I had international driver experience in Netherlands, rest of team suggested driving down. In US, one can hire cars on rental and we chose Hertz Car Rental as they have corporate tie up with our company.
As we expected 6 to 7 people in a group, we decided to hire a vehicle which can accommodate so many people comfortably. Finally I zeroed down on “Ford Expedition” which is an SUV and 8 Seater. The vehicle was quite big in size and I had never driven such big vehicle. However we hired a day earlier and first day I familiarized myself with driving conditions within Vegas.
There are multiple points to visit at Grand Canyon, North RIM, West RIM, South RIM. North RIM was closest to Las Vegas, however there were limited place to visit. After reviews we decided to go for south RIM, which was 278 Miles (~450 KMs ) one way so total of 900 + KMs drive in a single day. Initially I was a bit reluctant as I had never driven more than 600KMs in a single day in India. But considering roads in USA and experience I decided to take up that challenge.
We started early morning at 5:30 AM US time, South RIM falls in Arizona State and there is 1 hour Time Zone difference. We also thought a stop at Hoover Dam, which was on the way. Las Vegas as a city is known to be built for Hoover Dam workers as a nearest entertainment city so that they can get entertained on weekend. After an hour we crossed Hoover Dam as our GPS was not friendly enough to guide. Hoover Dam is a de-tour of 4-5 KMs from highway (US-93 S). However since all of us didn’t want to miss this landmark, we took next U-Turn and reached Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives. The dam was controversially named after President Herbert Hoover. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoover_Dam
However having seen Bhakhra Dam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhakra_Dam ) in my native place it was a disappointment for me as far as size of the dam. We spent around 20 mins taking group photos here and left. We drove further till Kingman on US-93 S highway. We took another break at Kingman and got fuel refilled as we were told that fuel will be costlier the closer you are to Canyons. We had coffee at the petrol pump itself and left further after 15-20 mins break. We continue to drive at 75 miles per hour (speed limit) for next 200 miles on I-40 highway. The vehicle was so good that I was tempted to drive at higher speed multiple times but keep US laws in mind I controlled myself. We also crossed “Kaibab National Forest” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaibab_National_Forest ) and there were signs on highway not to stop, not to feed wild animals. At 1.6 million acres (6,500 km2) the Kaibab National Forest borders both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon, in north-central Arizona. However we couldn’t spot on any wild life on the way (except warning signsL). At South RIM, there is also a Grand Canyon national Park which is preserved area.
Finally while entering South RIM, we observed some vehicle waiting on highway. Initially we though that there may be traffic Jams, but after a while we spotted some wild animals crossing the roads. We took some photo shots but as we were far behind in traffic couldn’t take better one.
Finally we reached South RIM around 11:30 AM (12:30 PM local time) after 5 hour of journey. We stopped our car and first view on Canyons was just thrilling. All of us could very excited to get out of car have a look. It was spectacular view of Great Grand Canyons. In America, everything is big and so is Grand Canyons.
As self-driven vehicles are not allowed at all places, so we decided to go to Visitor Centre first and take a bus tour which covers the entire visitor’s point. The most spectacular was Yaki Point. Apart from this we visited South Kaibab, which was south most point.
Also there was a hiking route to the bottom of Grand Canyons. I met few hikers who just reached atop. They told us that it is not possible to go down and come up in same day. There is a base camp for stay at the bottom of the canyons. The hiker group started climbing 7:30 AM in morning and they were able to make it by 2:30 PM which is not bad given 85 degree climb and ice-skidding trek.
We covered most points by 3:30 PM and then decided to drive back to Las Vegas. While coming back we first had our lunch (only Pizzas) and started driving back around 4-4:15 PM. I had to drive back 450 KMs. Most of the gang slept on the way back except my navigator Manish who was sitting in co-passenger seat. We again took a break at Kingman, had coffee and reached Vegas around 9 PM. The Vegas just start happening around this time. After this , we still roamed around the city for 2 more hour despite so long tour as it was our last day. I was about to crash after reaching back, but I had kept my promise to be with gang till the time they enjoyed.
Grand Canyon is worth visiting at least once as this is world’s biggest natural wonder.