June 2023 – We decided to start off this year’s RV summer travel season with a bang, so off we went to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park!
There are many RV camping options at the Grand Canyon South Rim, including RV parks and campgrounds with hookups ranging from none to full and either dirt or paved campsite pads both inside and outside the Park. There’s also a USFS campground with paved loops but no hookups in the Kaibab National Forest ten miles away and dispersed campsites scattered further afield. It all depends on how close you want to be to the Grand Canyon views and how much dust you can tolerate when it gets windy in the forest.
We found a spot to call home for a few days, set up camp, and promptly drove into Grand Canyon National Park, grinning from ear to ear. A beautiful summer had begun!
It was late in the afternoon, and we had white line fever from a long day of driving. Even though we have both been to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon many times, we realized we still did’t know it all that well.
The National Park Service has quite a task on its hands to manage the more than three hundred million Grand Canyon visitors each year, and in many ways their Job #1 can be boiled down to one thing: Crowd Control.
People arrive at Grand Canyon’s entrance gates via car, bus, train, bike, horse and even on foot, and once there, they need to figure out what’s where. We were no exception!
In a smooth move that reminded me of the way the crowds were handled by the East Germans back in the 1980s when I and an array of hitchhiking college age kids ventured through the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the maps handed out by the National Park Service are, well, minimalist.
When my youthful pals and I arrived in East Berlin, we were given tiny maps that had just four intersecting streets on them and nothing else for the whole city. The authorities wanted us to stay on the streets surrounding a single city block.
And so it is at the Grand Canyon where the NPS maps show certain roads in bright colors and others in faded gray. The colorful roads are the city bus routes that take people from place to place without having to find parking. The other roads can be driven, but the NPS map doesn’t make that clear.
So, we followed the purple road to the orange road, and that led us straight to a mammoth parking lot just steps from the Yavapai Point overlook. Perfect! Those simple directions turned out to be just what we needed at that late hour of the day.
In hindsight it was smart of the National Park Service to guide new visitors away from the hotel, restaurant and boutique store hubs in the interior of the Park where things get congested and, instead, take them right to a satisfying overlook well worthy of their long journey through Arizona to get there.
Looking to the west where the sun was falling fast, the Grand Canyon view was layer upon layer of silhouetted mountain shapes.
Looking to the east, the mysterious forms took on their true shape and color, the peaks highlighted by the vivid orange and yellow sunlight and the valleys steeped in shadow.
The lovely paved Rim Trail goes along much of the South Rim, offering one jaw dropping view after another. Sometimes the views are wide open, and sometimes they are slightly obscured by wonderful gnarly trees.
You can choose to look at the view from an official overlook behind very sturdy steel and masonry fencing or you can take a seat anywhere on the ground that looks appealing and soak it all in.
We strolled slowly along the Rim Trail, our eyes glued to the view. As the sun sank lower and lower in the sky, the colors of the Canyon became ever richer and deeper.
Surprisingly, the Grand Canyon South Rim is one of the more dog-friendly National Parks we have seen. Although the Park Service strongly recommends leaving your pooch at home, especially in the heat of the summer when the pavement is searingly hot for bare paws and the temperatures soar, dogs on leashes are allowed on the trails at the rim of the Canyon.
The Rim Trail goes for over 5 miles along the edge of the Canyon, and we were just thrilled there was a place for us to enjoy the Grand Canyon with Buddy as long as we stayed on that trail or elsewhere along the rim. Otherwise, of course, we would have gone somewhere else for the first leg of our RV trip!
Buddy loved walking the Rim Trail and found lots of wonderful smells along the way. Sometimes he plopped down in the shade and insisted we stop for a spell.
We stopped to grab a lot of photos too.
We strolled the Rim Trail between Yavapai Point and Mather Point. What a wonderful area this was for our first foray into the Grand Canyon on this trip.
As you can see in the photo above, several forest fires deliberately set by the US Forest Service nearby created a thick brown haze of smoke above the horizon in certain directions, but the views were still out of this world
We’ve always struggled, though, as everyone does, to try to capture the awe-inspiring beauty and vastness of the Grand Canyon in photos. It is so huge and so barren and so craggy, but too often the immensity and raw power of the place vanish in photographs. It’s hard to convey that wind-blown feeling of standing on the edge looking down 5,000 feet and across to the far side 9 miles away.
The light constantly changes too, especially at the beginnings and ends of each day as the sun plays along the horizon.
I found a beautiful little tree growing alongside a spectacular view and took a photo at the peak of the golden hour when the cliffs were lit up in full glory. Twenty minutes later I rushed back to that spot to catch the same view in the pink glow of sunset. What a startling difference. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better!
There were lots of beautiful trees all along the Rim Trail, each one unique, twisting and curving in unusual ways.
The sunlight and shadows played with each other on the distant Canyon peaks as we wandered between Yavapai Point and Mather Point.
Although you can catch a glimpse of the Grand Canyon with just one step to the edge (and you’ll leave forever changed after taking in that view), we’ve been fortunate on this trip to have been able to return again and again, checking out different overlooks and going back to favorite spots where we see new things on each repeated visit.
The town of Tusayan is just a few miles south of the Grand Canyon South Rim, and we stopped at the Chocolate Factory there one day for a yummy ice cream. The walls were adorned with metal prints of incredibly stunning photos of Grand Canyon, and we studied each one as we savored our treats.
One of our favorites had been taken somewhere at Mather Point. We were so enamored of the photo, we went back to Mather Point to see if we could find where the photographer had stood.
Sure enough, we found the spot. A huge tree is growing there now, and we had to lean into the branches to get the same shot. But it was worth the extra effort and we were pleased with the outcome, both before the sunset and during.
Taking the Rim Trail back to the parking lot, we saw the crowd at the Mather Point overlook. Their silhouettes looked really cool against the layered backdrop of the canyon walls and the vivid orange glow of sunset above the Grand Canyon’s North Rim plateau in the distance.
Back at camp, Buddy’s inner puppy came out in spades as he frolicked in the grass, chasing lizards and mice around old logs and exploring every nook and cranny of our campsite. He’s really loving this summer’s RV adventure — and so are we!
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More info about the Grand Canyon South Rim:
- Grand Canyon National Park – National Park Service website
- Grand Canyon South Rim Tourist Info – Includes paid tours and destinations nearby
- More Grand Canyon Tourist Info – Tours and destinations nearby
- Location of Grand Canyon South Rim – Google Maps
- Rim Trail at Grand Canyon South Rim – Google Maps
- National Park Service Maps – Scroll down to see the pocket guide map referred to in this post
- RV Parks and Campgrounds nearby
Blog posts from our previous RV trips in the Grand Canyon area:
- Grand Canyon – A Winter Wonderland with Snow!
- Grand Canyon History: A Navajo & A Mule Link Us to the Past
- Grand Canyon South Rim RV Tips + Lesser Known Overlooks!
- Grand Canyon’s North Rim – Breathtaking Bright Angel Point!
- Grand Canyon’s North Rim – Its Better Half?
- Grand Canyon’s North Rim – Magnificent & Intimate by Day or Night!
- Point Sublime – A Wild Ride to a Stunning Overlook in Grand Canyon!
- Saddle Mountain Overlook – A Different View of the Grand Canyon!
- Timp Point – A Private View of Grand Canyon’s Majesty
- Williams, Arizona – Home of the Grand Canyon Railway!
Blog posts from the National Parks & Monuments and World Heritage Sites we’ve visited:
- National Parks Posts – All of them!
Articles from our adventures in Red Rock country:
- Bell Rock Pathway, Sedona AZ – Hiking & Biking the Red Rocks
- Broken Arrow Trail in Sedona, AZ – What a Hike!
- Bryce Canyon National Park – Fairyland Trail – A Beautiful Hike!
- Casto Canyon Trail – A Delightful ATV / UTV Ride!
- Cathedral Rock at Red Rock Crossing – Sedona AZ
- Cedar Breaks National Monument – A Hidden Jewel in Utah
- Cedar Breaks National Monument – Wild Skies & Summer Storms
- Heavenly Theatrics in Utah’s Red Rocks
- Hiking the “Pig Trails” in Sedona, AZ – Breathtaking! (oink oink!)
- Mexican Hat, Utah – A Special Hoodoo in the Red Rocks
- Moab Utah – Red Rocks and Snowcapped Mountains
- Navajo Bridge, Arizona — A Scenic Roadside Attraction in Red Rock Country
- Oh, Sedona – Scenic drives in the red rocks!!
- Red Canyon Utah and the Bryce Canyon Bike Trail!
- Sedona Reflections on the West Fork Trail
- The Burr Trail – A Fabulous Side Trip on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12
- The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek (Bell Trail Hike), Sedona, AZ
- Valley of the Gods & Goosenecks State Park, Utah – Beautiful!
- Zion National Park RV Trip – One AWESOME Canyon!
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