‘We’re not gonna fall off the edge, are we?’
I stammered slightly as I was led, blindfolded, from the edge of the Grand Canyon National Park Car Park.
A paper bag with a drawing of me on its front were firmly pressed down against my shoulders as I came to navigate my footsteps, blinded and deaf, and reliant on the person in front of me whose shoulders I had my hands on. They had a paper bag over their head too. Great!
A line of us iTrekkers were marched slowly across the path, then into the growth, and I could feel the cool wind whipping me as we ambled towards the South rim of the Grand Canyon.
Luckily, the leaders were making sure that we didn’t fall thousands of feet into the River Colorado below.
So I guess the question on your lips is:
‘Why the hell have you got a paper bag over your head? You’re beautiful, you shouldn’t be doing this!’
Tommy and Christine, the tour leaders, wanted us to suddenly see the Grand Canyon for the first time in all its glory rather than seeing it gradually come into view as we walked up.
Suddenly, we stopped. Then I heard the faint chords of the Universal Studios theme tune that became stronger and stronger. The leaders were truly building it up for the grand reveal.
I had high expectations of the Grand Canyon already after being wowed over by Zion, Bryce, Arches and Dead Horse Point Parks. Yet, still, people claim that the Grand Canyon is the best of the lot. Could it be true?
As the crescendo of the theme tune hit its peak, our paper bags were swiftly whipped off us with fanfare, my eyes soon flooded with light glancing off the Grand Canyon.
Then that’s when I saw the Grand Canyon come into my vision.
I was speechless.
I tried to exclaim, but no sound was coming out of my stuttering gaping mouth as I struggled to comprehend what laid before me.
It was the Grand Canyon and my god, it was tremendously majestic!
There’s absolutely no point describing it all to you as I don’t believe there is a word yet in the English language to do so.
But I can say this:
The Grand Canyon has every reason to call itself a Natural Wonder of the World.
The Grand Canyon at First Glance
After our first reveal, we had the opportunity to check out the Grand Canyon National Park Centre. But first, we simply had to find out how the Grand Canyon was made thanks to this Park Ranger:
After explaining to us that our tour leaders from Trek America could not take us within the Grand Canyon to hike due to park laws, we had to make the decision ourselves what to do for the next day as we would be staying here two nights. Some of us opted to stay on top of the rim to have an easy day, some of us opted to stay at the campsite to catch up on sleep but three of us, including myself, opted to take the hardest day hike into the Grand Canyon itself: a 12 mile round trip to Plateau Point. More on that below.
But for the next hour, we could chill out the centre, but I kept drifting to the edge of the Grand Canyon Rim to view the spectacular sight below and far beyond the horizon. Check it out:
Flying over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter
Setting up our campsite at the Grand Canyon National park Campground and a bite of lunch, we had the great opportunity to fly over the Grand Canyon in our very own helicopter!
Guys, I was a huge kid.
I was SO excited!
I came to the realisation that I never been in a helicopter before. So, giddy with joy, I was strapped in the backseat giving me unparalleled views of the Grand Canyon as we propelled over the rim. I could hear the crackle of the pilot speaking through the intercom. I was just utterly stunned.
The roar of the helicopter blades vibrated into the cockpit as each of us leaned over to see the Colorado River coursing through the banks below. We ducked and dived and I possibly squealed with girlish glee of this amazing experience happening before my very eyes.
We could see everything for miles, orange and red rock stretching far into the horizon giving us a sense of that ancient wonder that has stood for eons.
This for me was a lifetime achievement!
Pizza Party at the Grand Canyon National Park Campground
After the epic helicopter ride, we had some downtime. And what does downtime mean in Grand Canyon?
Setting up the beer pong table, which I bested Greg of Travizeo a few times (he may contest that) and ending with a beer soaking from Candice in her sore loser sporting behaviour, we soon helped ourselves to actual American Pizza.
My god, they were HUGE!
It was just what we needed. Chilling around the campfire, meeting another Trek America group, sharing hilarious stories and cracking open a few beers. With the stars strewn across the night sky, it was a great end to a great day. But my sleeping bag called me as three of us had to wake at the dark hour of 4am in the morning…
iTrekHere Grand Canyon Video
Okay, let’s take a break and see what our video crew from Travizeo did for us. This was probably one of the best they’ve done on this trip:
Hiking 12 miles within the Grand Canyon
My dreams of rafting down the Colorado soon woke me from my deep slumber as my hands scrabbled about to turn off my alarm.
It was still dark. 4 o’clock in the morning.
I could hear Tommy turn over the minibus giving us a reminder to out and ready within twenty minutes. Grabbing my wash bag to the public bathroom, I soon refreshed myself ahead for the most exciting thing I always wanted to do on this trip:
Hiking within the Grand Canyon!
And it wasn’t going to be any old hike. It was going to be 12 tough miles of hiking in one day!
So why so early? I wanted to catch the sunrise that would soon come up in all of its glory at 5.30am but we had to get there quick and sharpish.
But it was raining argh! So, we couldn’t see the epic sunrise that we were hoping. But it was surreal. You were actually standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon watching the sunrise. Now, how many people do you know could say that? It also looked like a lot of people had the same idea as we fellow iTrekkers did as people gathered behind us hoping for that glimpse of the sunrise in the falling rain. It almost felt like we were in a cult!
But the rain had us doubting that we could start the trek to Plateau Point at 6am. So, we went to lick our wounds, nursing a cup of coffee at the classy Bright Angel Lodge where visiting US Presidents would stay should they come to Grand Canyon. It was much needed as we filled up our water bottles.
Oh, remember to take essentials with you on this trek. You definitely need:
- Three bottles of water – (litre bottles)
- Suncream – there is no respite or shelter from the sun save the huts at various rest stops
- Two pack up lunches – because hiking is sure hungry work and you need the energy to climb back up the wall of the Grand Canyon on your return journey from Plateau Point
- Cap – to shade your face and head from the sun to avoid sunstroke
- Waterproofs – in case you’re caught out like in this case!
- Proper hiking shoes/boots – to protect your ankles as it will be very rocky and rubbly
- Sunglasses – it can get unbelievably bright
- A can do attitude – it will be the hardest hike you’ll ever have to do…
Luckily, the rain stopped by 7am and it was good enough to start our hike! Making arrangements with Tommy, our Trek America leader, that we would meet around at a realistic 4pm to get back at the top (we factored two hours down, a couple of hours at Plateau Point, and four hours to get back up). But if we weren’t back by 7pm, he would send out the rangers to come looking for us.
There wouldn’t be a problem for the three of us, right?
So, off we went, high-spirited, as we made the long journey down to Plateau Point. Here’s where we had to go:
Not so far, right? WRONG. It was a hell of a long way. But it all helped us to appreciate the surroundings of this natural wonder of the world. No, not me, the Grand Canyon.
My favourite part of the downward journey was how interchangeable the weather was. As we descended, the clouds drifted by us became higher thanks to a high pressure system that bore down on us, making us watch the fluffy white things contort within the rock outcroppings and the temperature soared making us throw off all of our waterproofs and warm layers underneath.
After, zig-zagging our way down the South wall of the Grand Canyon rim, the route opened up the way straight to Plateau Point as we snaked even further down. What a view!
Soon, we stopped off at our first proper rest stop of the journey aptly called ‘Three Mile Resthouse.’ We had passed one of the way down, again aptly called ‘One and a half mile rest stop,’ but we were confident continuing down as we felt the same for three mile resthouse. We found out that we can fill up our water bottles here which I swiftly did.
I think I was almost in disbelief how much we bombed it down to this point. We had already done less than an hour and we were on target to reach our realistic timescale.
Soon, the route levelled out even more and the environment around us changed as more greenery appeared on either side of us with little animals jumping out at us to play.
But remember to keep looking back. The views are also tremendous!
After reaching another rest stop, four and a half miles in, called Indian Garden, you do feel like you are entering a jungle with exotic plants and bushes masking the route from view from the rim. But again, we were confident passing this by as we reached the fork within. Now, you can camp inside Indian Garden or take the right fork to continue all the way down for another few hours to reach the absolute bottom of the Grand Canyon: The Colorado River. But that’s not a day trip. You would need to camp there before either turning back to the top or continuing on to the other side of the Grand Canyon at their top of the rim.
But we took the left hand of the fork, opting to stay true to go to Plateau Point so we can view the length of the Grand Canyon in all of its glory.
The landscape soon turned to more of a desert as the air became hotter and temperatures screamed sky high The dampness of that morning disappeared to be replaced by the searing heat of the sun basking upon us. How quickly does the weather change (sorry to sound so British talking about the weather!)
But we did it.
We reached Plateau Point within two hours
And yet, the views kept astonishing us more and more.
We spent a good hour admiring the views. Tucking into our packed lunches, we watched birds flying around us, the white water rafting on the Colorado River below us and the helicopters meandering in the skies above us.
But now, the hard part starts.
Climbing back up. It was going to be quadruply harder than what we’ve done so far.
We braced ourselves for this. But first we had to help Travizeo with their video by shooting a clip of us walking in frame. So Evan went to set up his GoPro off the beaten track into the cacti bushes far away from any help that can reached to us.
No problem, right? Watch this video to find out more:
So, as you see, we had to rush Evan back up to Indian Garden rest stop to meet a guy who had a pair of pliers to pull out all of the cacti spines out of his arm and back. Also, we had to carry Evan’s bag between Hannah and I.
But I didn’t mind, it was essential that we had to make sure all of us climb back to the top so he can get the proper medical attention that he needed.
But my god. The climb. I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t realise it was THIS hard! Reaching three mile rest house, we definitely needed a break to clean up our sweat. Our calves were screaming. Every footstep caused us to be out of breath. Thank god for the shade from the hut while we refilled our water bottles.
But I loved it. I never felt so alive. This was a feat of endurance. Our mind and body tested to their limits. It was utterly exhilarating!
And I may have lost my mind…
We passed by many hikers late in the afternoon, who opted to hike down to either three mile rest of even one and a half mile rest where we stopped a full hour later after leaving the three mile rest. Again, we stopped to recharge for a while, gulping down water like there was no tomorrow and thanking all the gods in this earth for that much needed shade.
Yet, the last one mile and a half was the worst.
That’s when we finally reached the top.
The endless zig-zagging of climbing upwards to reach back to the top of run was finally over!
12 miles we hiked. Six miles down and six miles back up.
There was absolutely no way we would have done rim to rim. We would still be hiking deep into the night if we did!
You could say I was utterly relieved when I posed for a pic with Plateau Point in the distance behind me. (See where the yellow trail ends? That’s it!)
I survived the hike down deep into the Grand Canyon and I survived.
Sunset over the Grand Canyon
If there’s anything you should do to end your full hiking day in Grand Canyon in style, then look no further than having your dinner on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Grand Canyon.
With the sunset emitting a warm haze over the Grand Canyon, you can’t help but feel relaxed with the world.
You’d be wowed over and over again. You’re in the Grand Canyon!
So, with a beer in my hand, my legs dangling over on the side of the outcrop, I gave a toast from one natural wonder of the world to another,
‘Today was ‘Grand!’
What a wonderful day and such a fitting way to end the outdoor Trekking experience before we head to our next destination.
Yes. Las Vegas.
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