Advice on a trip to the Canyon (Flagstaff, Sedona: rent, hotels)
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Okay, I'm not even close to 100% sure I'll do this but am thinking about making my way out to the Grand Canyon some time this year. If I do it'll be by a long greyhound bus to Flagstaff and then the local bus to the park. I might try staying one night in Flagstaff and then 1 or 2 nights in the park. The bus ride is about 2 days long and if I do it I would get the 7 day bus pass. I'm not entirely sure how it works on the return if I get on before the ticket is expired if thats okay or if I have to be completely done and off the bus when the ticket expires. So figure I'll have 2 nights there to be safe.
First off which would be best:
Where is the cheapest place to stay? I can put up with tent and sleeping bag if need be or cheap as anything. I've stayed in much worse places I'm sure so I just want to know what the cheapest place there is.
What kinda expenses would I be looking at to enjoy it? I read on another thread its $25 or something to get in but that post said its per car which I wouldn't have. So I guess just anything else I should consider.
I may be at UA for a Master's next year - should I hold off and go when I can take more time? How long do you think is good for a visit? I could potentially get 15 days off and a 15 day bus pass, I managed to take 17 days off last year around; but I was staying with friends. I'm not sure how I would afford to stay at the Grand Canyon or anywhere else for that matter for 15 days.
hotels will be pricey at the Canyon, even the cheap ones, especially in the summer....there are two areas of hotels there: Tusayan, a small community just outside the Park and about six-eight miles from the rim, and the Grand Canyon Village (South Rim) itself inside the Park with hotels operated by one concessionaire....prices vary so look around at the options...
very cold in the winter, but quieter....can be a tiny bit warm in the middle of a summer day, but cool at night....possible summer storms in July and August....very crowded in the summer....Columbus Day would be my choice by far
there's a grocery store in the Village (Babbitt's) for all your food needs....also, there're a couple cafeterias at a couple of the hotels inside the Park....get the Park info newspaper and magazine for lots of good info when you get here....
confirm what the fee is to enter the Park if you're on a tour bus or similar....yes, plan to spend two nights in or near the Park....it's a spectacular spot and you'll want to explore, sit, hike, ride the free shuttle system inside the Park, look at the museums, watch the sun set and rise, and just relax....if you can swing it, I'd highly recommend staying inside the Park so you can just walk or use the free shuttle and not have to get yourself back to Tusayan each night....
either a campground or a motel in the Park....some of the lodging is not horribly expensive, but there are trade-offs, of course....the campground can be noisy at times and reservations may be needed, but it's cheaper, of course....if you're going there by bus or shuttle, you may be doing some walking, of course....
the Park newspaper and/or magazine may only be available as you enter....but see if one is available online somehow.....
also, here's the main National Park website for the Canyon:
Years ago we traveled through the area and stayed at Williams and wondered why the hotel was so expensive. We did not realize we were in a tourist area. There is a train that leaves Williams and goes to the Grand Canyon. I am not sure they allow cars anymore. The first time we went in 1989 or 1990 we were allowed to drive our car to the parking area.
Then we bought a timeshare and stayed in Flagstaff and the timeshare had a bus that took all the people from the timeshare to the park. We really enjoyed that. Our bus driver was a local and knew so much about the area that it was like having a personal tour guide. He knew about all aspects of the area such as the different color of the rocks, the vegetation, and alerted us to heards of animals on the way. Sometimes people can rent this timeshare at extraholidays.com. Some times of the year are really low in price for a week and others are more expensive.
When on the bus that traveled to the Grand Canyon we ran into people that had traveled by train from the East Coast and they had been dropped off for the day trip to the Canyon only. You might want to check on that. The area can be cold and have snow, so you might want to keep an eye on the weather.
@EndersDrift: I'm going in kind of reverse order of your specific queries, but for what it's worth:
1. <<should I hold off and go when I can take more time?>> Yes - and furthermore, hold off until a time comes when you DON'T have to rely on Greyhound. I hesitate to recommend GH to anyone based on some recent bad experiences shared by colleagues/associates. Surly drivers, dilapidated equipment, you get the picture. If you're from the East Coast, you should know that mass transit is virtually non-existent in the Southwest. The best vacation experience out here is one in which you drive yourself and call your own shots. That by far will give you the most freedom and flexibility.
2. <<How long do you think is good for a visit?>> Most people find that 2 days is plenty. Unless you're a hard core hiker and have multiple day hikes you want to do, the majority of viewpoints, attractions, etc. in the park can be enjoyed in that time frame (2 days). Also, if you do have a 2-week vacation to work with, you'll find you want to divide that time between several attractions in addition to GCNP, such as Sedona, Lake Powell, Zion, Bryce Canyon, etc. If you do something along those lines, purchase an "America the Beautiful Federal Lands Access Pass." The pass costs $80, but provides access to all the National Parks, Monuments, and other Federal Fee Areas in the country for 1 year's time. So after visiting GCNP, you could use it for other areas near U of A, such as Saguaro National Park, or Tumacacori State Historic Site, etc.
3. <<Where is the cheapest place to stay?>> Camping is definitely the least expensive way to go, but consider that Grand Canyon South Rim is 7,000' above sea level, so even in summertime, nights can get cold. But if you're prepared for that, Mather Campground is the best one to stay at since it's right in the Village (main commerce area of the park) and closest to the canyon rim. Good idea to reserve in advance, at Federal recreation, camping and tour reservation information - Recreation.gov If you decide against camping, the least expensive Grand Canyon lodging in-park is at Bright Angel Lodge. It offers European dorm-style rooms where you have a sink in the room but toilets, showers, etc. are shared facilities down the hall. These units are amongst the first to book up though, so advance planning is key. Visit Grand Canyon: In-Park Lodging, Tours, Mule-rides for more info.
4. And finally <<which would be best: July 4th; Columbus Day; Christmas; New Years>> Columbus Day. Late September/early October is the best time of year up here; great weather, thinning crowds, all activities/facilities still open. July 4th, avoid like the plague - hot and crowded. Christmas/New Year's - it's OK, but again, gets crowded and too many people with unrealistic expectations. Any other time during the winter is great, but you can encounter snow, so be ready for that. Just stay away from the holidays.
A quick tip about the weather, our dry and windy season is now (May and June) then, historically right around The 4th of July our weather pattern shifts into Monsoon season. A much more enjoyable time up here and the afternoon thunderstorms at the Canyon are awe inspiring! The storms usually don't last very long and in my opinion are amazing, granted you are close to shelter.
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