Arizona Road trip | Grand Canyon and Canyon De Chelly

The grandeur of the Grand Canyon is almost overwhelming as your senses try to take it all in. The feeling of awes and wonder when standing on the rim of this incredible landscape cannot be put into words nor captured in a photograph.

Grand Canyon Day 1

If you have a full day to spend at the south rim of the Grand Canyon there is a 5 mile paved trail from Grand Canyon Village to Yaki Point. If you aren’t up for the hike you can also take the free shuttle to the overlooks. Just before Yaki Point is South Kaibab Trail. We spent our day hiking along the rim then taking the South Kaibab Trail down to Ooh Ahh point and back. It was about 8 miles total so we chose to shuttle to Yaki Point for sunset and shuttle back to our car at Grand Canyon Village.

Hiking – South Kaibab Trail

The South Kaibab Trail begins south of Yaki Point and is the quickest way to the bottom if the canyon. A 14.6 mile round-trip hike all the way to the Colorado River in the bottom is about a two-day hike. Nope we didn’t go that far! It was a little late in the day to get too adventures and signs warn to allow twice as much time for the steep climb back up as you did for the hike down.

The trail begins with a series of switchbacks to Ooh Aah Point and a panoramic view of the canyon. This was our stopping point to hang out and enjoy the view before making the climb back up to the rim (1.8 miles round trip). The climb up really didn’t seem all that bad…until the next day ?.

Yaki Point Sunset

Once we made our way to the top it was easy to catch one of the shuttle buses that run every 15 minutes. The sunset at Yaki Point was mesmerizing to watch as light and shadows moved across as the landscape and colors turned different shades of red, yellow, orange and soft pink.

Grand Canyon Day 2

We wanted to see more, but our travel plans were continuing on the next day. To capture a little more before heading out we entered at the West Entrance taking the Desert View Drive through to exit at the East Entrance. It was a beautiful drive stopping at the stunning overlooks along the way. The morning views with occasional snow fall were very different from the day before.

One of our favorite stops was the Desert View Watchtower. Built in 1932 by Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad, it is filled with replications of artwork of the Indians of the Southwest as you climb the spirals stairs. The view from the fourth floor at the top is amazing at 7522 feet elevation, the highest point along the South Rim.

Grand Canyon Facts (from the sign at the canyon)

  • Stretches 277 miles from Lees Ferry to Grand Wash Cliffs
  • Approximately 1 mile deep and an average of 10 miles across
  • Within the canyon, The Colorado River averages 300 feet from side to side
  • At 2,600 square miles the Grand Canyon is slightly larger than the state of Delaware
  • On February 26, 2019, the Grand Canyon celebrated 100 years since it’s designation as a national park

Little Colorado Scenic Overlook

About 30 miles from Grand Canyon along AZ-64E in Cameron is the Little Colorado Scenic Overlook. If it fits into your itinerary it’s a cool stop to make.

Canyon De Chelly (d’SHAY)

Canyon De Chelly is not as well known as the Grand Canyon, but so worth the visit! Canyon De Chelly National Monument was established in 1931 to preserve this record of human history. The nearly 84,000 acres are within the Navajo Reservation and while administered by the National Park Service, the canyons are home to Diné, the Navajo people.

This canyon is very different than Grand Canyon. It’s quiet here, Navajos still farm and live in the serene base of the canyon. And there is so much history! People have lived in these canyons for nearly 5,000 years.

To the outside world it is known as Canyon de Chelly. To the people who live here it is Tsgei (SAY-ih) a physical and spiritual home. Cycles of the Sun, Earth, and moon, and seasons, ceremonies, and generations are part of the continuity of life in Canyon de Chelly. Respecting Mother Earth is key to harmonious life. People who live here retain that spirit of their ancestors.

With the exception of the White House Trail, the only way to travel in the canyons is when accompanied by a park ranger or Navajo Guide. Unfortunately our planned jeep tour with a Navajo guide was cancelled because of flooding.

Instead we opted to drive the rim with lookouts into the beautiful canyon. We were blessed along the way to meet Bessie Harvey selling her jewelry at Tsegi Oveerlook. We purchased some of her beautiful jewelry, and spent some time chatting with her. She shared stories of her childhood and summers spent on the canyon floor with her grandparents raising sheep and corn. We so enjoyed our time with Bessie and learning more about Navajo life.

White House Ruin

The only trail you can take into the canyon without a Navajo guide is to the White House Ruin. Ancestral Puebloans built and occupied this place about 1,000 years ago. It is named for the long, white plaster wall in the upper dwelling. The trail is a 2.5 mile round-trip.

Canyon de Chelly is a land where animals roam free. You need to be prepared for sheep and cattle crossing the road.

Wild Horses

And none run more free than the wild horses we were luck enough to see! We spotted them coming from the field to our right and watched in wonder as they stopped in the middle of the road. They tossed their heads and let out a loud neigh as if claiming their ground before continuing on in the rugged and wild terrain. It was breathtaking!

The peaceful serenity, beauty and ruggedness of Canyon de Chelly is something I’ll never forget. It’s a place that touched my heart and leaves me longing to return. If you get the chance don’t miss this wonderful canyon.

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  • Debby

    Wow I so enjoyed all of your terrific photos. I really like your Yogi shots as well!  What an awesome trip, thank you for sharing your amazing work with us!  Have fun, Cathy and a Bill! Safe travels as your continue your adventure…Arizona Nd beyond!ReplyCancel

    • Thank you so much Debby! It has been an amazing adventure, but looking forward to being home for the summer! See you soon in beautiful Traverse City!ReplyCancel

I look forward to connecting with you!

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Cathy Fitz Photography

 

 

cathy@cathyfitz.com

 

Michigan

Wedding & Lifestyle Photographer