In December 2009 we did a trip to the United States with our first stop in Las Vegas.
From Las Vegas it was an easy drive of about 270 miles (5 hours) to the Grand Canyon (scenic rim) – a highlight of our trip.
About 35 miles from Las Vegas is Hoover Dam, on the border between Nevada and Arizona.
Just before the dam there was a police checkpoint where we had to stop for security. Once given the all clear to proceed we made a short stop at the dam itself for breakfast in the cafeteria-type cafe, then continued on, driving across the dam wall. We could see that a bridge was being constructed which would be the new crossing (bypassing the dam wall for security reasons) and was due to open in 2010.
If you have time there are guided tours of the dam available and a Visitors Centre.
Grand Canyon National Park
The rest of the drive is not that scenic, however on reaching the Grand Canyon, it’s another story. As we entered the Grand Canyon National Park it started to snow.
We drove in on the South Entrance Road and by the time we reached the South Rim Visitor Centre it was really coming down. There had been a lot of snow, as the Park was a picture of white.
We parked at the Visitor Centre and walked across to the viewing area however there was a quick glimpse of the Canyon and then white out!
We went on to check into our accommodation at Maswick Lodge, which we had booked months in advance. Even in winter, the Grand Canyon Village accommodation is very popular and it is wise to book well ahead.
We had booked a room in Maswick North (as opposed to Maswick South) and found it spacious and comfortable. We were able to park outside our room, which was convenient for transferring the luggage in and out through the snow.
That evening we had dinner at the El Tovar Hotel Dining Room.
El Tovar Hotel Dining Room
As the roads were extremely slippery, we booked a shuttle from our lodge across to El Tovar where we had made a reservation for dinner (also advisable to book months in advance).
Entering El Tovar was magic. It is an historic, three-storey building of Oregon pine and native stone. The foyer is gorgeous – especially at this time of year – huge fireplace, Christmas tree, lights and decorations throughout. We had a wonderful evening and after dinner we wished we were staying at El Tovar – it had the ambience of a luxurious chalet. Instead we took a beautiful walk out along the Rim Trail to the Bright Angel Lodge then back through the snow to Maswick.
Meals are also available at Maswick Lodge in the Cafeteria and the breakfast there was very good. There is also a sports bar, gift shop and Activities/Transport Desk.
Regarding accommodation, it would be ideal to spend a little more and stay in either El Tovar Hotel or Bright Angel Lodge as they are right on the rim of the canyon and views are spectacular – even from your bed if you get the right room.
We only had one night and one day in the Grand Canyon Village. While the weather made getting about a little slower than usual, we walked along the Rim Trail visiting Lookout Studio and Kolb Studio. It was a winter wonderland!
We took a drive along Hermit Road the first day we arrived which was fortunate as the next day it was closed due to the snow.
Unfortunately on this trip we didn’t see the Grand Canyon in all its glory – it’s the luck of the draw at this time of year!