While living in Central California definitely has its benefits. One of them is being close to a lot of interesting places. So much to do and see, just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Just so happened The Grand Canyon National Park was only a 10 hour drive so how could I not visit? The drive was rather easy from Santa Maria, CA. Lots of nice scenery and traffic wasn't bad at all, so it felt more like 6 hours rather than 10. Staying in the park wasn't an option, too expensive at least $200 a night), and the campgrounds were full. So we looked at staying in Tusyana AZ. It's a small tourist town a mile south of the park entrance. There are several hotels and lodges, but I stayed in The Red Feather Lodge. I chose this because it was reasonably priced just over $100 a night (for the time of the year) and they had rooms with microwaves and refrigerators. I like to take as much of my food as possible so I can eat somewhat healthy. The lodge didn't offer breakfast, the bed was a bit hard, but all in all it was worth the price of admission. It's like 2 minutes to the park entrance and like 10 minutes to the canyon itself. Eating in Tusyana is easy as well. McDonald's, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, and several local restaurants and a couple of general stores make it very convenient to find something to eat. I should note even at the fast food restaurants they are higher priced than normal so be ready for higher food prices in Tusyana. Getting up early for the sunrises was a bit easier with the park being so close as opposed to Yosemite (which will cover in a later post), but the place to go for sunrises is Yaki Point. Yaki Point is considered the best sunrise spot and for good reason. It's hard to explain but if you go catch at least one sunrise here you'll know what I am talking about. When arriving at Yaki point there is a lookout but as soon as you get off the bus, go to the right and there is an old tree that makes a great foreground subject for the canyon. The best places to take pictures are always off the beaten path, they are also less crowded. During the day you could go to the visitor center, buy some souvenirs, go on a day hike, or head back to the lodge to look at your photos and then catch some shut-eye for the sunset. If you are looking for a day hike I recommend the Kaibab trail down to Cedar Ridge. It's about 3 miles round trip. Don't let the mileage fool you the trail is all switchbacks down into the canyon. Going down is easy and fun, and coming back up is a chore and good exercise. I did it in about 3 or 4 hours and that included eating my packed lunch at Cedar Ridge. The trail is a bit narrow and you are walking next to a cliff so it gets the adrenal glands pumping a bit but it's also very breathtaking and beautiful.Watch out for the crazy squirrel at Cedar Ridge that looks to get some of your lunch. He climbed right on my lap to get at my protein bar. Just shew him and he'll go but I just hung out with him for a bit, he sat on my lap waiting for a handout which he never got by the way.
Sunsets are the most popular time in the park. Hopi point is by far the most popular for sunsets but due to the amount of people here I prefer Pima point. Pima in my opinion is just as beautiful and much less crowded. If you have a couple of days try both spots, they'll provide breath-taking sunsets. I again recommend not going to the designated lookout, but walk along the rim to get away from the crowds and also to get some foreground elements for your photographs. What's nice about the Grand Canyon is that they offer a shuttle service to all points on the canyon. They start an hour before sunrise and end an hour after sunset. Yaki, Pima, and Hopi points are only accessible by shuttle bus, but there isn't any drawbacks to the busing system as far as I'm concerned. Very convenient for tourists and photographers alike. I enjoyed my trip to the Grand Canyon,The only thing I wish I would have done, is to hike down Kaibab trail and camp on the Colorado river, but I will save that for next time. I recommend visiting the Grand Canyon but if I've never been to a National Park before, Yosemite would still be my first choice.