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March 10, 2015

Visit Phoenix: Grand Canyon National Park

We knew a visit to Arizona would not be complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Since we were planning to spend just a day at the Grand Canyon, we left our hotel at 5:15am to make the 4-hour drive to the Grand Canyon from the Phoenix area.

If I had to do it again, I would leave when the sun had already risen.  Driving up the I17 while it was still dark was pretty scary.  The winding highway is not lighted for a very long stretch, and we saw several animal warning signs (and even a couple of dead coyotes).

Fortunately it wasn't too long before the sun came out, and the scenic drive was both long and beautiful.

We decided to enter through the East Entrance, which meant driving on a new bypass through Page.  It was very deserted (luckily we made a restroom stop in Flagstaff), and it started to snow!

We were prepared for it to be very cold in the Grand Canyon, but snow was a nice surprise, and it would be our first white Christmas!

I was a little worried as we drove up to the East Entrance, as we didn't see very many cars - but it turns out most cars were going through the South Entrance.

Shortly after arriving at the East Entrance, we drove to the Desert View Watchtower, which is now a Visitors Center.
Desert View Watchtower
Inside the Mary Colter - Indian Watchtower is a shop where you can buy all sorts of books and souvenirs, as well as a fireplace that came in very handy on this extremely cold day.

We also went to the top of the tower to look at all of the murals by Hopi artist Frank Kabotie, and check out the views from the windows.

Since it was snowing, the view of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River was a bit obstructed, but still so beautiful.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat (Blueberry Pie and Carrot Cake) at the Trading Post & Snack Bar, then headed our way West to the many other view points.



Fortunately, the weather started to clear up as we drove to different scenic points, and the views were just spectacular.





At some viewpoints it was a little scary since there was no railing.  I really had to keep an eye out on the kids to make sure they didn't get too close to the edge.
So close to the edge!  The visitor in the yellow/green jacket is sitting right on the edge of  a cliff.
I've read that winter weather at the Grand Canyon can be extreme, and extreme it was!  At one viewpoint it would be blue skies, and as we drove to another, it would start to snow really hard!
Near white-out road conditions
On the way to the Grand Canyon Visitors Center we made a quick stop to view the Tusayan Ruins.
Tusayan Ruins
It was amazing how once we got to the Grand Canyon Visitors Center near the South Rim entrance, the sky was blue while the snow was still falling.

We went to check out Mather Point, which is a short walk from the Visitors Center.

Mather Point
We caught a free shuttle from the Visitor Centers to a couple of viewpoints that are only accessible by shuttle.  We also caught another shuttle to the Yavapai Lodge Cafeteria to grab some lunch.
From top L clockwise: Bacon Cheeseburger; Hot Dog; Supreme Pizza; Cheese Pizza; Onion Rings, French Fries
We left through the South Entrance and drove through Williams, so the drive back to our hotel was about 30 minutes shorter.

A visit to the Grand Canyon National Park was the highlight of our trip to Arizona, and visiting on a snowy Christmas day made it even more special.

It was freezing cold and the drive was long, but it was totally worth it!

Grand Canyon National Park
(928) 638-7888

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