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Camping in Grand Canyon, Arizona


Awesome Weekend at Grand Canyon National Park

One of the national parks I find really amazing is the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  I've seen a lot of pictures of it and I was more than excited to see one of America's most beautiful national parks.  My husband and a friend of ours went to visit the park last month.  We were blown away by the shades of colors, the heat and the depth of the canyon right before our very eyes.  It was an amazing sight.  It's truly huge and the thought of getting lost down there is something I won't entertain at all.

Initially, we planned to go last Memorial Day but we changed our plans as the crowds were bound to be crazy on a holiday weekend.  We surely made the right decision as we made a campsite reservation instead of hoping for the best without one that weekend.  This was a short weekend getaway and my cute, organized husband made our itinerary according to timing estimates.  Let's go!


Grand Canyon Itinerary June 22-23

Saturday:
@0300 - wake up and prepare
@0400 - pickup friend and drive about 8hrs, alternate as needed
@1200 - arrive at Ten X Camp and set up tent
@1300 - drive to Grand Canyon Lot 4
@1330 - arrive at lot 4 and get bikes
@1800 - head back to Lot 4 to return bikes
@1930 - take (almost last) shuttle bus back to Tusayan and drive back to camp
@2100 - campfire, sleep 

Sunday:
@0800 - breakfast
@1000 - checkout of camp
@1100 - see nearby short trails, visit Desert View Watchtower
@1330 - drive back to LA


Entrance Fee
First thing is to get a park pass.  Grand Canyon National Park Entrance Fee 35 USD per car, (which includes everything in the car) valid for 7 days.  You can purchase the pass at the entrance station or, if you're planning to hike and camp elsewhere later, get an annual pass (not sold at the entrance).  The "America the Beautiful Pass" cost 80 USD which allows you to visit a list of national parks for a year starting from the month purchased.  This pass also admits everyone within the vehicle.



June 22, 2019 - Saturday
@ 0300 - Woke up, had breakfast and picked up our friend.  We drove about 8 hours on the road, alternating every 4-5 hours.

First rest stop @ John Wilkie - Westbound, Essex, CA 92332.
Second rest stop @ a souvenir store along Route 66. 


Campgrounds
We didn't get a reservation with Mather Campgrounds which is closer to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.  However, we were lucky to get one spot with Ten X Campgrounds.  This campsite is outside the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and wasn't crowded, unlike Mather.  We loved it.  Another option is Desert View Campgrounds, about 30 minutes away from the Visitor Center.

Ten X Campground 
Address: Ten X Campground, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023
Travel time: 16 minutes away from Grand Canyon Visitor Center
Campsite fee: 18 USD per night (accepts reservations and walk-ins)
Check-in time: 2-10 pm
Check-out time: 12:00 pm

Take note: Groups must check in with campground hosts upon arrival

@1200 - We checked into Ten X camp and setup tent right on schedule. Since we had a reservation, all we had to do was drive to our campsite and relax. 


After setting up camp, we drove straight to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.  Don't mistake the "Grand Canyon Visitor Imax Theater" as the entrance gateway to The Canyon like we did.  I guess we got too excited and parked right away when we saw a visitor center sign.  It's actually a bit further away.

The real entrance has a booth as shown above where an attendant will then ask for your entrance fee or an annual pass.  For the annual pass, make sure it has your signature on the card and prepare your driver's licence for verification.


Parking at Grand Canyon Visitor Center
Grand Canyon Visitor Center
Address: S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

Parking Lots 
Lot 1: close to Grand Canyon views.  RV spaces/vehicles with trailers.
Lot 2: Grand Canyon Visitor Center/ Market Plaza.  No RV spaces.
Lot 3: short walk to the Visitor Center/ Market Plaza.  No RV spaces.
Lot 4: more parking spaces.  Bicycle Rental & CafĂ©, Bookstore and Visitor Center / Plaza. No RV spaces.


Holiday Parking Tips 
If it's a public holiday, it is advisable to drive to the Tusayan community (near that misleading IMAX visitor center), park around there and take the free shuttle bus to Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Lot 4.  The shuttle bus is right in front of the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater.  The shuttle bus has a special lane to avoid traffic.

Tusayan Community Shuttle bus to Grand Canyon Visitor Center: 20 minutes 


Shuttle Bus
Shuttles runs every 20 minutes from 8 am until 9:30 pm.

Don't forget to bring the park entrance pass when boarding the shuttle bus.
Grand Canyon Shuttle Bus Information (subject to change)
Village Shuttle (Blue Route): all year
Kaibab Rim Shuttle (Orange Route): all year
Hermit Road Shuttle (Red Route) March - November
Tusayan Shuttle (Purple Route) March - mid-September.
Hiker Express Shuttle - Morning service from village to South Kaibab Trailhead

@1330 - Arrived at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Lot 4 and took our reserved bikes @ Bright Angel Cafe.  We collected the bikes late but then the oh-so-nice attendant gave us an hour extension for the bike rental.  Instead of returning at 1700, she let us come back at 1800.  Luck was on our side. 

Booking.com



Cycling
Bright Angel Bicycles
Address: 10 S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

Bike rental: 30 USD for half day (12 noon - 5 pm)
Scenic Route for Cycling is the Hermit Road.

We got lost again after picking up our bikes, so take note that the shuttle bus is just at the back of Bright Angel Cafe.  Our route was the Orange Line or Hermit Road as it is considered the most scenic spot for biking.  You can cycle all you want from beginning to end of the bike trail; but because we were late, taking the shuttle bus back to Bright Angel Cafe was our best option.


From Grand Canyon Visitor Center (or back of Bright Angel Cafe), we took the Village Shuttle (Blue Route) and got off at Hopi Point.  From Hopi Point we started cycling to Hermit Rest, stopping by a few scenic routes along the way.

The Grand Canyon was mesmerizing and we couldn't stop saying "wow" at every stop.  It was fun cycling too as we got to avoid the line to the shuttle bus and even bypassed the crowd whenever we loaded our bikes, reserving our space inside the shuttle.  The downside is that the bus can only carry three bikes at a time and won't allow privately owned bicycles. 


The bike route gets steeper as you get closer to Hermit's Rest which is the last stop.  According to the map, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon averages 7,000 feet / 2,134 meters above sea level.  If you have health problems, take it slow.  Along the way we went off-road to a challenging trail.  It's not a good idea when you're trying to catch the shuttle bus and return your bikes on time. 

We all have our own ways, but make sure to prioritize safety first.  Use your brakes wisely, practice caution with your turns, brake going downhill, and watch for pedestrians.

I'm so blessed to have finally met a man who's willing to go with my adventures.  After 6 months here in California, we finally found a friend who loves the outdoors as much as we do.  Life is going well so far and the California sunshine goodness is starting to feel like home.

Chilling like it's our very own living room.

The advantage of renting a bike is that you can manage your own time; you don't need to wait for the shuttle bus to take you to the next stop.  It's also eco-friendly.

The last stop, Hermit's Rest, has a souvenir shop and a restroom.  We bought our fridge magnet here that says "Wish you were here."  It was cute, but because we're trying to collect funny magnets on our collection, we crossed out the word "were" and changed the second word to "you're ^not,"  so it read: "Wish you're not here".  Our friendly sharpie made it possible.

Anyways, we took the Hermit Road Shuttle (Red Route) to Village Route. From there we hopped on the Village Shuttle Express (Blue Route) to Grand Canyon Visitor Center and returned the bikes to Bright Angel Cafe.  Make sure to give an hour allowance or more for the shuttle bus back to the visitor center.

Hermit Road (Red Route) Details:

Private Vehicles are not permitted.
Outbound buses stop at nine overlooking spots.
Return trip buses have 4 stops: Hermit's Rest, Pima, Mohave, and Powell Points 

Take note: Always check sunset timing as the last return bus from Hermits Rest leaves one hour after sunset and that's the transfer back to the village.  During December, January and February Hermit Road (Red Route) is not in service and the road allows private vehicles.




@1930 - Drove back to Ten X Campground, made a campfire and had hotdogs on a bun for dinner.

@2100 - Dinner and Star Gazing

@2200 - Lights out

I got my husband this pokeball pillow because I remembered the last time we went camping at Chilao Campgrounds, Palmdale, he took his jacket off and folded it into a pillow - my poor baby!  Well, for me, I still have my memorable pillow which reminds me of the days we were still getting to know each other.  I mean, we are still at that phase in our relationship, but I guess it's always a constant growth of getting to know each other. But I'm loving the challenge and the complexity of knowing someone who has opposite ideas and opinions compared to my own.

The night at Ten X Campground was amazing.  It was quiet and the stars were everywhere, filling up the dark skies.  It was like the Fourth of July with all its glorious fireworks, but this time the lights stayed up in the sky.  They seemed so close like you're floating in the air.  And no, mind you, I don't take drugs.

As the night got closer to the witching hour, the temperature dropped and the last glint of burning firewood turned black.  We were flew off to dreamland.

Make sure to extinguish fire!  It's your responsibility. Let's keep everyone safe and the forest happy. 


June 23, 2019 - Sunday
@0700 - Had breakfast and cleaned up camp

@0900 - Checked out of camp

Remaining sites of interest: South Kaibab Trail and Desert View Watchtower

We woke up energized and ready to seize the day.  The fire started a bit late as the firewood still had morning dew.

I love these kind of mornings.  It makes me feel so alive. The smell of fresh air from the tall trees, the light rays and the vibrant greens all over the campground was invigorating.

Breakfast was simple: a cup of coffee to jump-start and old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


Drove back to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Lot 4 for less crowded parking space.  From the Visitor Center, we took the Kaibab Rim Shuttle (Orange Route) and got off at South Kaibab Point.  This spot leads to a hiking trail down to the canyon.  Off all the days to get injured, I had mine a week before our trip.  I couldn't wear my hiking shoes so I wore my slippers the entire time.

The trail would take a day to hike, time we didn't have.  However, we made do with our limited time and the view was awesome.  Just sitting there makes you feel like you've seen everything.  If you have ample time, try this hike route and make sure you wear hiking shoes.


Hiking tip: Invest on great pair of Hiking boots. We love our Columbia boots and no regrets.

Columbia Women's Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot, Elk/Mountain Red

Columbia Men's Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof Hiking Boot


We only did some quick sightseeing as we had to get back on the road after lunch.  From South Kaibab Point there is only one bus stop.  Take the Kaibab Rim Shuttle (Orange Route) back to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.


@1100 - Drove to Desert View Watchtower. 

The desert view watchtower is around 45 minutes away from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.  It's a scenic drive as you get to see the canyon from the other side of the road.

There are a few shops in Desert View for souvenirs, ice cream and more.  I was surprised to see a crowd that morning; there were more people than I expected.  The overlooking vista had a line to take pictures, as did even the top of the tower.



Inside the tower are native markings and drawings.  It looked pretty nice.  There's also the spiral stairway leading to the roof which I found really interesting.  Kids will love this tower as it looks so colorful inside and the drawings are very entertaining.

It was a short and unforgettable trip to Grand Canyon.  Now, we're planning our next national park weekend getaway.  I'm so happy that we've finally found a friend who likes outdoor adventures.  Let's see if she'll tag along for our next camping trip.


@1330 - Drove back to Los Angeles for 8-9 hours.

Gas stop @ Red Lake 76 Convenience Store, 8850 AZ-64, Williams, AZ 86046
Food stop @ Sonic Drive thru for Burger and Ice Cream Milkshake
Gas stop @ 76 2930 Lenwood Rd, Barstow, CA 92311
Rest stop @ Blue Star Memorial Highway, Essex, CA 92332

@2100 - Made it back to home, sweet home.

Always give allowance for traffic and road accident slow downs.

Have fun and be safe ^__^



Itinerary Reminders:

1. Flight Details
Make sure to write down your booking reference number, be at the airport two hours before your flight and allocate time for your travel to the airport.

2. Accommodation Details
Write down your hotel/motel/resort/bnb booking number. Contact your place to inform them around when you'll be arriving — it really does help.  Also, ask if your accommodation has any discounted activities.  You'd be surprised!

3a. Transportation
List possible times your bus/train/boat arrives and leaves so you don't miss an activity.  Always give yourself an extra 30-45 minutes in case you get lost, get stuck in traffic, or are looking for parking.  Better early than late.  Of utmost importance: check for the last trip and fares!  So you still have time and money to get back.

3b. Car Rentals
Take note of your pick-up address and time allotted.  Our last car rental told us to bring the car back by a certain time with a certain amount of gas.  Allot money for fuel and parking.

4. Budgeting
Set aside a minimum and maximum spending amount for: meals, transportation, entrance fees, activities, souvenirs and emergencies.  3 meals a day + snacks adds up quickly, so keep track!  As well as tips for restaurants and activities.

5. Activities
Call to confirm your booking(s) a day or so beforehand.  Set alarms and/or calendar reminders for things you plan to do (i.e- bungee-jumping, river-rafting, or even city / food tours).



Do you want more adventure?
If you still want to go camping try checking out Chilao Campgrounds in Palmdale, Los Angeles, California

Where am I going next?

My next adventure is Exploring Marina del Rey and Planning a Surprise Parasailing for Hubby, California.

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