We arrived late at night and had a heck of a time getting the camper set up. The campsite had quite a slope to it and it took us a bit of figuring to make that work. Plus, it was dark and we had no electric (sites had no electric or water) so we couldn't see very well. After getting the camper up and organized we fell fast asleep.
In the morning we had our first opportunity to see the Grand Canyon. Holy mackerel ... what a view!
There are air-conditioned buses to cart people to various parking lots and destinations. The buses are free and really help to cut down on traffic. Early in the morning they weren't crowded, but as the day went on they filled up. We learned to get where we were going early in the morning and late in the afternoon, doing a car trip or hanging at the camper during the mid-afternoon heat.
If you happened to be at Grand Canyon when we were, I was the Helicopter Mama not letting her kids get close to the edge. In my defense, again, I'm from the flat land of Florida where a "hill" to my kids is an interstate overpass. I'm not used to high cliffs that people could easily fall off of. The kids did think I was a little nuts, but they all made it home in one piece!
Mule deer and elk roam free at the park. We saw both while there. The elk we saw were mostly right around the campground, it's pretty darn cool to look out the window of your traveling home and see elk wandering around.
Well, as I mentioned before I'd been given less than rave reviews about Grand Canyon before we arrived. Basically, I was told that we'd like Palo Duro Canyon in Texas much more and that Grand Canyon was lovely to look at but there wasn't much else to do. We had no problem at all staying busy for the two full days we were there, but it did feel a bit like "Disneyland in Nature" with the buses and plethora of gift shops - very enjoyable but different.
There were a few (two, maybe?) trails that did go into the canyon from the South Rim, which was where we were. Come to find out that most of the "in the canyon stuff" happens from the North Rim and surrounding area, which was a five hour drive away. Still, it didn't sound like it was particularly four-year-old friendly stuff - river rafting and two+ day hikes into the canyon and back.
We did go down one trail for a little bit. The trail isn't terribly steep, but it's a steady downhill trek, meaning a steady uphill trek later. The path is relatively narrow (see above about me, Helicopter Mama), leading me to continually harp on the kids to stay on the inside of the trail and be careful. We gave it about 20 minutes before we turned around - none of us are used to high altitude so I knew we'd get tired fast on the uphill portion and River is four so I knew he'd bet especially worn out if we went to far.
A 30 or so minute drive from the entrance to the canyon, but still in the park, is the Desert View Watchtower, a reproduction built in 1932. Visitors are able to go inside, climbing the circular staircase to the top. Very pretty, and it was nice to get a different view of the canyon.
Our campsite was beautiful and huge. The weather was perfect for not having electricity, during the day the highs reached into the 90's, but at night the temperature dropped into the 50's.
The kids built the rock wall while waiting for dinner. Below is just a small portion of it, it extended about 40 feet.
Overall, our goal was to get to Grand Canyon and we did it! It was worth seeing, it's so hard to imagine the magnitude of the canyon until actually seeing it. If we go back, which we might, we'll wait until River is a little older and go to the North Rim and try some hiking or rafting. There are quite a few other National Parks right around the canyon that I'd love to see and would incorporate those into our next trip.