This Saturday, September 26, will be an entrance fee free day at the Grand Canyon in honor of National Public Lands Day. What better timing than to visit it now? From June until August is the park’s peak season because summertime is when most people have vacation time, the kids are out of school, and the park sees long, sunny days. However, from now until November is a sweet spot to visit the Grand Canyon as there are fewer tourists and the temperatures are just slightly cooler. If you have never visited the park, it is most certainly on a to-do for your lifetime. Trust me. It was never a huge priority on my list, but when I had the chance to visit the national landmark, I certainly wasn’t going to decline. The only downside to the trip was that it was heavy on the overcast and heavy on the foot traffic. Hopefully you can decide how you’ll plan your trip after reading my experience.
The Gloomy Grand Canyon
We arrived late afternoon on July 3rd, waiting an hour in a double-file line of cars. Once we reached the park ranger, we paid a $25 fee that would grant us access for seven days even though we were only planning on seeing it for two days. The ranger recommended parking outside of the park the next day because it was going to be crowded for the holiday and there would be a free shuttle to bring us into the park running every 15 minutes. Driving down the windy road with forest on either side, we were getting wary if we were going in the right direction to see the canyon. Before long, some trees opened up and we could see the canyon in all it’s purple glory under the cloudy sky! As soon as we could we made a crazy U-turn and pulled over to the spot to bask in the glory of the view. It was getting darker and starting to drizzle, but that didn’t stop us from being gobsmacked.
The next day, July 4th, we took the ranger’s advice and parked at a hotel in the little town outside of the park, Tusayan. We took the shuttle in and avoided the line of cars that were no doubt waiting twice as long as we did the day before. When we arrived around 10 am it was still pretty cloudy, but the sunlight and blue sky finally started to peak out more prominently closer to noon. Although it was crowded, the walking trail makes it extremely easy for photo opportunities without the frame being polluted by strangers.
There are water stations with multiple spigots to allow visitors to hydrate with fresh spring water so be sure to bring large, refillable water bottles. I also highly recommend packing a lunch because there are also plenty of areas along the trails to sit down. Just be sure to pick up after yourselves, and do not feed the squirrels. Seriously, about the squirrels. The medical staff treat 7-10 squirrel bites PER DAY.
One of the top questions asked about the Grand Canyon is when is the best time to visit. There’s certainly a reason why summer is the hottest time for people to visit (Teehee). People just want to catch that perfect, clear, sunny day. Quite honestly, don’t stress too much about it! Weather is a fickle mistress. It was still breath-taking and magical even given our poor timing and the weather on our first evening there. Apparently rainstorms are most common during the month of July, but we still found ourselves seeing a beautiful day.
As wonderful of a time we had then, I would give so much to be able to go again right now. With the free pass day this Saturday and Supermoon Lunar Eclipse on Sunday (I will be writing about on Friday), this would be an amazing weekend trip. It surely isn’t too late to see it this year because the facilities and trails are still open but without all the crowds. So, don’t let the fear of missing out on peak season prevent you–now is the time to go. And don’t wait too long until winter to visit. Why? It’ll be completely free of other visitors, that’s for sure, but be prepared for freezing temperatures and if there is a chance of snow, North Rim may be closed to the public.
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