Sure, there may be more budget-like hotels outside the Grand Canyon’s park boundaries, but for not much more money, stay where the action is. The Yavapai Lodge was the most expensive hotels of my family’s road trip from Phoenix, Arizona to Montana, but it was more affordable than I anticipated when I looked for a room within the park. It was a perfect fit for our family of four.
Even though its the largest of the park’s hotels, the Yavapai Lodge is not one big building. Our room, in the Yavapani West section, was set back in juniper and pinon trees as one of a row of side-by-side rooms with shared walls. The location gave the impression we were tucked back in the woods with a few people instead of vacationing with thousands. The rustic, rough hewn posts of the porch switched to a simple, but tasteful room with a nod to environmental friendliness on the inside.
Don’t let the lack of airconditioning stop you from booking the room. The vaulted ceilings equipped with a ceiling fan do keep the room cool enough during the day. We opened the windows at night for a breeze since my husband is a person who would sleep more comfortably in the Artic. Airconditioning, besides me, is his best friend.
The lodge’s location is also perfectly fine. So, it’s not smack dab on the rim. The rim of the Grand Canyon is close enough. It’s within a short walk and the free park shuttles stop right by the hotel’s main entrance. Much of the time, we left our car parked at the hotel and took the shuttle where we wanted to go.
Here’s what we did in 24 hours:
Went to the Verkamp Visitors Center to see exhibits about pioneer history at the canyon.
Walked two miles along the Rim Trail from the Bright Angel Lodge to Hermit’s Rest. We took the shuttle back with stops along the way at the lookouts to see the sunset.
Ate dinner at Maswik Lodge, a cafeteria style restaurant with reasonable prices. We also ate here for breakfast.
Went to the night talk about prehistoric Native American rock art, petroglyphs and pictographs. The ranger who gave the talk is an expert and seeks them out. I found out that there are pictographs right below the rim of the canyon within spitting distance of Bright Angel Lodge. Even though I had walked down the trail 3 times, I never looked up because I didn’t know they were there right above my head.
Went to the ranger led fossil walk in the morning. This was also near the Bright Angel Lodge. The day before, we walked right by the area where the fossils are, but didn’t know they were there. See? Just another indication why ranger talks are must dos.
Our 8-year-old son became a Junior Ranger. We picked up the book from a ranger station near El Tovar not long after we arrived. The ranger was at a table set up with furs and horns from animals who live in the Grand Canyon. Before we left, our son finished the activities he needed to get the badge and patch.
Walked down the Bright Angel trail to walk through the arch that the path passes through. It’s not even a half mile from the rim. If you go through the arch, look up towards the rim. You can’t miss the pictographs. The walk down the rim also put us in the category of the 1% of visitors who actually leave the rim. Yep, 99% of the people who go to the Grand Canyon never step a foot down inside it.
I have walked down the Bright Angel trail twice as far as Plateau Point and a quarter of the way down another time. Years ago, my husband spent 24 days rafting through it. This visit was to show the canyon to the kids as we made our way to Montana. For a description of the Bright Angel Trail, check out this article in The American Southwest.
For information about the other Grand Canyon lodges, the Xanterra Parks and Resorts website (the company that runs the lodges) has descriptions and price lists for each option. Our room was $107.
Right before we left, we bought groceries for the road at the park’s store conveniently located next to the Yavapai Lodge. More expensive than if we had waited until we hit a store outside the park, but our time was limited. We had miles to go before we arrived at our next destination–Filmore, Utah.
The Grand Canyon National Park website is filled with useful information and those details are also in the park literature you can pick up when you arrive. Plus, the TV has a park channel that highlights each days events, including the ranger programs.
Do go below the rim. Just one switchback so you can see the pictographs. It’s not hard. Really.
Photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association.