Grand Canyon National Park
America’s National Parks, Monuments, and Historical Sites — National Treasures
Grand Canyon National Park & El Tovar
The Grand Canyon National Park should be on the destination list of anyone visiting the West. It truly is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World (of course, that list depends on who is compiling it!).
We visited the Grand Canyon as part of a 10 day (yikes it been a long time since we had a real vacation!) tour from the Southern Plains of Kansas to Arizona. We took a dream trip on Amtrak (I’ll discuss that further in another post) from Newton, Kansas to Flagstaff, Arizona. I cannot recommend the Amtrak highly enough. It’s the second time I’ve taken a long trip on the Amtrak (the first was 16 years ago!) and it did not disappoint!
From Train to Auto to Canyon
Amtrak delivered us to Flagstaff, Arizona in the wee hours of the morning. Taxis were available to take passengers to their hotels. We’d previously booked a mid-priced and not-too-exciting hotel, theorizing that we just needed a bed for the remainder of the night.
We got up early, and Enterprise arrived as planned to drop off our Nissan Rogue. Then, we were off, leaving Flagstaff at about 9 a.m. to head to the Grand Canyon National Park. A few hours later, we had made it to the Park. It was the end of the season (late November) so traffic going into the park was not as bad as I suspect it is during the high season.
Once in the park, I recommend parking your car and using the free shuttle service that will take you anywhere in the Park. We had reservations at the El Tovar, a historic lodge in the Park. It is on the South Rim, and if you make reservations a year or more in advance, you can get rooms overlooking the canyon. We didn’t make our reservations early enough for that, but it didn’t matter! The Grand Canyon is just outside the Lodge.
The Lodge itself is rustic and might not appeal to everyone. For us, the rustic atmosphere and the roaring fireplace were comfortable and pleasant.
El Tovar Dining Room
The El Tovar Dining Room is wonderful. Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance. We made ours just about 90 days ahead, planning to cancel if the first night didn’t go well. Amazingly, the El Tovar did not disappoint for three nights in a row! The wait staff were uniformly helpful (one even brought my misplaced credit card up to my room).
Two of our favorite entrees were:
- Roasted Duck with Chipotle Cherry Demi-Glace
- Pan Seared Sea Bass
El Tovar Lounge
The El Tovar Lounge is a relaxing spot to stop upon first arrival at the Lodge. Sit inside or enjoy the veranda in pleasant weather. We had a drink and a snack, before heading out to begin our exploration of everything the Park has to offer.
Hopi House is just across from the El Tovar Lodge. It houses Native American arts and crafts, including pottery, jewelry, and rugs. It was built in 1905 by architect Mary Colter, with exquisite attention to traditional Hopi pueblo design and construction techniques.
Memories and Echoes of the Past
As I explored the Grand Canyon National Park, a few thoughts came to mind. One, how wonderful it is that the Park is saved for the ages, in all its natural wonder. Two, the remarkable geology of the park, and how it developed through 2 billion years.
And finally, the echoes of the past. As you stare at the canyon on a brisk misty morning in late November, you can imagine the first Americans, those native inhabitants who created the trails up and down the canyon. You have to wonder, who were they, how did they survive. Somehow it seems as though their spirit lives on in the rocky outcroppings and the blue sky.
As part of my Tumbleweed travels, I hope to see every National Park in the U.S.A. The National Park Service (NPS) is a treasure trove of information on America’s National Parks and National Treasure that are located not just in the continental U.S., but also in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Chances are good that there is a National Park, Monument, or Historic Site near you. The National Park Service website has a searchable map to find the parks you’d like to visit.