The South Rim
At more than 1,900 square miles, Grand Canyon National Park is larger than the state of Rhode Island and encompasses more land than Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Malta, and Andorra put together. If Grand Canyon National Park were a nation itself, the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village would no doubt be its capital city, complete with a historic district, modern conveniences, and cosmopolitan flair.
Ever since the Santa Fe Railroad completed a spur line here in 1901, the village has been a launching point for sightseeing and recreation: traveling to overlooks for theatrical sunrises or sunsets, venturing below the rim for a day hike, touring ancient Indian ruins, watching mule wranglers hitch up for the ride down the trail. The village boasts half a dozen lodges, a bank, a post office, numerous gift shops, and a general store that stocks everything from toothpaste to tents.
If you grab an ice cream cone or cappuccino and wander the sidewalk between Bright Angel Lodge and Lookout Studio, you’re as likely to hear German or Japanese as English. You can watch a Navajo rug weaver at work or attend a program hosted by a ranger raised in one of the Hopi villages. You can hike all day, then enjoy an elegant dinner at El Tovar, see an art or photography exhibit at Kolb Studio’s gallery, or even listen to a live chamber orchestra during the canyon’s annual music festival.
To this cultural mix, add the local critter population: mule deer wandering through the ponderosa pines at dawn or twilight, a gang of ravens raiding a trash bin, a skunk skulking through the parking lot at night. The South Rim offers a wide spectrum of experiences, along with spectacular views, fascinating history, comfortable lodging, and wilderness only a few steps away.
But even on a busy summer day, when the South Rim hosts upwards of 10,000 visitors, it’s always possible to find a quiet spot along the edges. Minutes or even hours pass pleasantly, with limestone as your backrest and the canyon spread out at your feet as you watch cloud shadows chase each other across an infinity of cliffs.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition