10 Mar Visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in the Winter
As I mentioned before, there were many good things and a couple bummer aspects about visiting the Grand Canyon in the winter. Unfortunately, through fault of our own, we weren’t able to hike into the canyon due to the icy conditions. There are several spots on the upper trails that do not see sunlight; therefore, the ice doesn’t disappear until spring. In order to hike on it, it’s wise to have crampons because it’s a long way down if you slip, and an even longer way up if you can’t get a good grip on your footing. With my track record of falling and stumbling, we thought it may be a good idea to skip the hike unless we had proper gear, so after unsuccessfully trying to buy crampons, we ran out of time and thus were stuck to hike only the rim.
One great aspect about visiting the Grand Canyon in the winter was the lack of people–there were many moments where we sat in total silence without anyone near us at all. When we did happen across others, they were few and far between except at the main lookouts with railings. For this reason alone, we loved visiting during the winter and are glad we experienced the rim. On our next visit, we won’t even bother with the rim and museums, and instead, we will get right to business hiking down the trails into the canyon.
That being said, what is there to do at the Grand Canyon in the winter when the weather isn’t cooperating or if you just don’t feel like hiking? Quite a bit actually! We found many ways to keep ourselves busy.
First of all, there are many lookout spots all along the rim–don’t miss checking them all out. Although the canyon can start to look the same after some time, each view is uniquely beautiful in its own right. My favorite viewpoints were Yaki Point, South Kaibab Trailhead and Navajo Point. One way we kept the views interesting was by playing with perspective–we couldn’t help but entertain ourselves with taking photographs and videos that looked like we are falling off the edge of the canyon!
Desert View Drive
The Desert View Drive takes you along the South Rim of the canyon to the eastern edge of the village. Along the drive, the main attractions are six viewpoints, the Tusayan Ruin and Museum and the Desert View Watchtower area.
The Tusayan Ruin and Museum shows a glimpse into the Pueblo Indian life over 800 years ago. Walking the short trail will lead you through a pueblo that consisted of a living room, storage rooms and a kiva. The museum showcases artifacts and history detailing the site.
There are quite a few services in the Desert View area ranging from campgrounds to gift shops and a marketplace. For a scenic view and a look into past Indian life, climb the Desert View Watchtower. Inside you will find murals by a Hopi artist, a gift shop, and from the lookout windows you will see expansive views of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Dessert and San Fransico Peaks.
Yavapai Museum of Geology
I found this museum very interesting and the spectacular views of the canyon made it even better. Inside the museum you will find exhibits and photographs that discuss the geology of the canyon, such as its rock layers, the plateaus and how the canyon was formed.
Verkamp’s Visitor Center
The Verkamp’s Visitor Center is very small and houses a bookstore/gift shop along with a small exhibit about the Grand Canyon Community. It documents what it was like to live at the Grand Canyon and important moments in the parks history.
Built in the early 1900’s to resemble a traditional Indian house, the Hopi House was a gift shop where visitors could watch native Hopi artisans at work. At one point, there were families living and working at the Hopi House, and one family lived there for three generations. Now it appears to be more of a typical gift shop, but there are still many handmade items for sale.
Throughout the park, a convenient and free shuttle can take you from point to point around the canyon. The Grand Canyon Visitor Center and the Market Plaza are the main hubs and both have food and shops. Either of these places are great for parking and hopping on a shuttle. Also, the lodges have restaurants and gift shops if you feel like checking them out, as well. The lobby of the El Tovar Hotel was very pretty and as it is right along the edge of the canyon, there are beautiful views right from the porch.
Thankfully, we found numerous activities to keep us busy, but next time we visit the canyon, it will either be in the spring or with better equipment!