[FOR GRAND CANYON NORTH RIM, SEE HERE!]
If you’re planning a visit to the Grand Canyon, GET THERE EARLY! Even in late March, before the tourist season really gets underway, the park got crowded quickly. To avoid waiting in line at the entrance station, parking problems, and strangers in your scenic photos, get on the trail as early as you can. Note that I’m talking specifically about the South Rim here; the North Rim doesn’t open until May.
The Visitor Center opens at 8am this time of year, so our goal was to park; walk, water, and snack the dog (she spent a couple hours in her cozy, well-ventilated crate in the shade while we hiked); and board the shuttle to the trailhead at 8. We’ve since learned that we don’t need to wait for the Visitor Center to open to get started if we know what hike we’re doing, so we’re typically on the trail at the National Parks earlier than 8. Another plus: if you get to the entrance station before it’s staffed, you don’t have to pay the entrance fee. That’s not as exciting for us, since we have the magical America the Beautiful interagency annual pass, which pays for itself after you visit three National Parks, and gets you into other federally managed land for free (not state parks).
We hiked the South Kaibab Trail, which is steeper and less crowded than the more popular Bright Angel Trail. To further get ahead of the crowds, we ran the three miles down into the canyon to Skeleton Point, and then hiked back up.
See the tiny river down there in the picture below? That’s the Colorado, that (probably) carved out the Grand Canyon. Skeleton Point offers the first view of the river on the South Kaibab Trail after a three mile hike, and is the farthest you’re supposed to go on a day hike. Bright Angel Trail doesn’t show you the river until you’ve hiked six miles.
Dogs are not allowed on any trails in Grand Canyon NP except the Rim Trail, which is thirteen miles long, following the park road from viewpoint to viewpoint. Viewpoints are popular, and each has a shuttle stop serving it, so don’t expect solitude. Bugsy enjoyed her walk and admired the view, but wished she could have gone on the real hike with us!