Grand Canyon 2020

Every couple has dreams for their family, things they hope to do together, conversations had late into the night before a baby even enters the picture.

For Ryan and I, as we dreamed up all the “one days…” for our little family, early on we agreed that we wanted to see all the National Parks over the coming years together. We’ve talked seriously about it a lot in the past almost-decade, but we always felt like the girls weren’t quite old enough to appreciate or remember traveling — until now!

Since E.V. and Cricket can finally entertain themselves, keep mostly out of trouble, and actually have lasting memories, we’ve been looking at the parks across the country to start playing out our little dream. Luckily, Ryan’s cousin got married (!) this weekend in Tucson, so we spent a week out West in the desert making the most of our cross-country family event, including a few days at Grand Canyon National Park.

To describe the trip in its fullest form would take tens of thousands of words, but it can be summed up perhaps in just one:

Magical.

There were so many wonderful, memorable moments–things we’ll take with us all our days, songs that became our anthems, inside jokes that I’m sure the four of us will be laughing about many years from now. Honestly, not much went wrong at all during our week trekking through the searing heat + cactus-filled landscape of Arizona. I couldn’t have asked for anything more — my favorite people in the world, all crammed together in a tiny hotel room at night, enjoying the vast and open skies of nature during the day.

Gah, take me back.

Or, even better, time to start planning our next park trip! ;)

Here’s a quick recap of our time at the Grand Canyon!

We flew into Las Vegas and drove three hours down past the Grand Canyon to Williams, Arizona. (We had hoped to see the Hoover Dam on the way, but COVID had it shut down. Boo!)

I had read online that Williams was the visual inspiration for the Cars movie, which I could *kinda’* see, haha! (A small train town on Route 66 in the middle of the desert–that checks out, I guess?) Regardless, it was a charming little place, and, most importantly, there’s a train that runs straight to Grand Canyon Village (the commercial part of the park) right across from our hotel. So we took the Grand Canyon Railway to and from the park for our first day, and it was really fun–mostly because it was a train (and we got to see the various landscapes of Arizona, which were each beautiful in their own way).

 

Our first look at the Grand Canyon! (It is, to be very cliche, SO BIG!) I mean, it is soooo much to take in that at times it honestly feels fake. But it’s not. ;)

Right after we got acclimated, we had lunch at the well-known El Tovar Hotel, which sits overlooking the Canyon before adventuring out!

Once we were done with lunch, we visited the surrounding museums, overlooks and visitor centers…but mostly the girls just wanted to climb on everything!

We decided to burn off some of our energy with a short hike, so we chose the most kid-friendly one nearby, Bright Angel Trail. We only ventured down part of the way — mostly because I was terrified that someone would fall in the ENTIRE TIME. Eek!

On the train ride home, there was a fake *heist* with horses racing car-side! The girls loved the excitement, and after the bandits had taken our money (read: tips), we enjoyed the sunset over the landscape for the rest of the trip.

The next morning, we checked out of the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and drove to Bearizona, a Western wildlife zoo just outside of Williams. It wasn’t on our original agenda, but it was so worth it. Both girls said it was a big highlight of their trip!

We drove through part of the park to see the wolves, deer, bison, elk and bears (of course!), then walked the rest of the way to see the smaller animals…and a jaguar. Yikes!

After Bearizona, we drove up to Tusayan, the village just outside the entrance to the Grand Canyon gates. We explored the opposite side of the South Rim from the previous day’s venture, including Yavapai Point, for a few hours before meeting up with our last adventure in the park…

In the evening, we took a sunset tour of the Canyon in a Jeep. The ride ended with one of my favorite moments from the entire trip: Our driver was from the Hopi tribe and grew up in the Grand Canyon on a reservation. After taking us to a beautiful hidden spot for sunset, and he drove us home in the dark, telling the various tribes’ folklore surrounding the Canyon’s formation. At the end of one of the stories, he sang a Native American song that went along with the tale, and being surrounded by the inky night sky and the depth of the Canyon as he sang was magical and mystical and gives me goosebumps even in the remembering…

The next morning we regretfully said goodbye to our first (!) national park visit. What a perfect place! We will miss our time here for sure and never forget it.