U.S. Park Lodging is a private service that can help you find accommodation in some of our country's most popular tourist destinations.  Check here often for updates and specials on lodging and activity opportunities in and around America's National Parks!

A Grand Canyon Vacation

Friday, February 12th, 2016

A Grand Canyon Vacation

The Grand Canyon is a remarkable experience that can’t be missed! Often named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, this national landmark offers exquisite views of a beautiful footprint left by Mother Nature, herself. A gorge of the Colorado River, The Grand Canyon stretches across more than 1 million acres. Layer upon layer of a vibrant rainbow of rocks swoops deep into the canyon’s curves and crevices. A wondrous, awe-inspiring sight, there is nothing quite like this incredible marvel!

Grand Canyon Yavapai Point From the Kachina Lodge

Yavapai Point photo by Tobias Alt, available from wikipedia


A four hour drive from the South Rim, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is open only from May 15th to October 15th each year. The North Rim is located in Arizona, near the Utah border. It’s a bit harder to access than the South Rim, with the nearest airports located in Kanab, UT, and is a 2 hour drive away.


North Rim Scenic Drive

Enjoy a relaxing tour of the North Rim on the Scenic drive. Customize your tour, stopping as often as you like to take in the hushed beauty and mesmerizing scenery of one of America’s oldest and most beloved attractions. Filled with numerous pull-outs, and scenic viewpoints, the drive takes many visitors about half a day. Point Imperial and Cape Royal are two viewpoints that absolutely can’t be missed!

North Rim Ranger Programs

Grand Canyon Ranger Programs run all day long during open season at the North Rim. Among the program selection are relaxing mile and a half nature walks, as well as geology lectures and an informational lesson on the California Condor. There are also historic lectures, family-friendly programs and campfire stories to be enjoyed.

North Rim Hiking

With over a dozen different hiking trails in the North Rim, the Grand Canyon is the perfect place for hikers of all experience levels to enjoy a day on the trails. Head to the Bright Angel Point Trail for a paved path and a quick mile hike from the Visitors Center and then back. Cape Final Trail’s easy, breezy hike offers stunning views with a quick, enjoyable walk. For a more strenuous trail that leads down into the Canyon, try the North Kaibab Trail. The Arizona Trail offers a glimpse into the natural beauty of the Kaibab Plateau forests, while Point Sublime Road is a rough trail, good for experienced mountain bikers.

North Rim Mule Rides

Mule rides are available at both rims, but tend to be easier to book at the North Rim. You can choose between a 1-hour rim ride, a half-day ride or a half-day inner canyon mule ride. However, none of these tours descend to the canyon floor.


Grand Canyon Lodge

For the best view in the house, head to the Grand Canyon Lodge! Enjoy the marvelous sunset where light falls from the brilliant blue sky and drips majestically over the green and orange walls of the Grand Canyon. For a stunning view across the entire expanse of the canyon, book a “Western Cabin with Rim View” or choose from a number of other cabins or motel rooms. Lodge guests have access to a deli, saloon, and general store.

Yavapai Point Grand Canyon National Park

Yavapai Point Grand Canyon National Park photo by Moyan_Brenn on Flickr


The South Rim is often recommended to first time visitors due to its easy accessibility, with its gates open year round!


Grand Canyon Orientation Film

First thing’s first- stop by the Visitor’s Center to see the 20 minutes film, Grand Canyon: Journey of Wonder. The show starts on each hour and half-hour.

Ranger Programs and Museums

Tour any one of the numerous museums at the Grand Canyon. You can visit the Yavapai Geology Museum or the Tusayan Museum to learn about the culture of Pueblo Indians, and view the Tusayan ruin. Attend one of the Ranger Programs, like the Desert View Watchtower Tour where you can learn all about the architecture of the historic landmark itself.

Hikes and Tours

Take a shuttle bus along Scenic Hermit Road, stopping however often you’d like! The South Rim offers an endless number of overlooks, all great for capturing that picture-perfect photo. Filled with trails, staircases and unbelievable views, you can walk as far and as often as you’d like, stopping to catch the bus whenever you need a rest.

The South Rim also offers many informational tours where you can listen to a park ranger give a two-minute narration on various aspects of the canyon from geology to Native American history to the night sky.

Desert View

Stop at Desert View Point where on a clear day, you can gaze across nearly a hundred miles of gorgeous, canyon walls. Check out the Desert View Watchtower, one of the most distinguishable pieces of architecture at The Grand Canyon. At the top of this 70 foot tower, you’ll find an observation decks with breathtaking views of the treasured expanse.

Tusayan Museum and Ruins

Explore 800 year old ruins left by the Pueblo Indians, located near the Tusayan Museum. The location offers free admission and offers both self-guided or ranger-guided tours through trails filled with ancient relics like pottery, arrowheads, and Pueblo artifacts.

White Water Rafting

For an unforgettable experience at The Grand Canyon, book your white water rafting trip now! Paddle down the still waters of the Colorado River, with the walls of the canyon towering miles overhead. Your can find river trips lasting any where from half a day to over two full weeks.

Helicopter Tours

Get the best view of The Grand Canyon with a helicopter tour! Soar above the colorful canyon to experience it’s true vastness and majesty. Helicopter tours are available from the North and South Rims, with most flights lasting from about 20-45 minutes.


Holiday Inn Express & Suites

For a comfortable stay, and an indoor pool and spa to enjoy, choose one of the Holiday Inn’s 164 rooms. The conveniently located hotels includes complimentary wi-fi and parking.

Best Western Premier

Vacation in luxury at the Best Western Premier. Guests can enjoy two separate restaurants, a bar, lounge, barber and even a beauty shop and fitness center. Explore the outdoors all day, and then come back to relax in the heated outdoor pool or for a game of pool.

Yavapai Lodge

A convenient option for nature lovers, the Yavapai Lodge is just a quick mile and a half from the South rim. Divided into two buildings, the Yavapai East and Yavapai West, the hotel has over 350 rooms total. Guests can enjoy a quick stroll over the the Canyon Village Market Plaza.

Red Feather Lodge

Get to know the town of Tusayan when staying at the Red Feather Lodge, located a mile away from the South Rim’s grand entrance, and just one mile from the Grand Canyon National Park Airport. An IMAX theater and other restaurants are nearby.

No matter where you choose to stay, your next trip to The Grand Canyon is bound to be an unforgettable experience. There is so much to see and discover at one of America’s oldest and most treasured landmarks. From mule rides to helicopter tours to scenic hikes along the canyon rim, your days at The Grand Canyon will be filled with beauty and adventures! Start your Grand Canyon Vacation today!

Kachina Lodge

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Kachina Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park

Kachina LodgeImagine waking up to a sunrise over the majestic Grand Canyon, elk and mule deer grazing in the lawn, an endangered California condor glides by in the morning updrafts. Too good to be true? Not for those that stay in the Kachina Lodge, located on the south rim of the incredible Grand Canyon National Park. Arizona attracts 5 million people a year to come and visit one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The Grand Canyon holds a place of honor along with such places as the Great Barrier Reef and Mount Everest. Plan for adventure and excitement as well as deep thought and quiet retrospect in the one of a kind grandest of all canyons.

Explore the many attractions that the Grand Canyon has to offer. The South Rim has breathtaking viewpoints. Investigate the Grand Canyon Village’s historic buildings and overwhelming vistas. This is also where the park’s most popular Bright Angel Trail begins. Inquire about the different rafting companies that offer a range of scenic river tours, from relaxing smooth water experiences to fast paced whitewater adventures. Check out the very popular mule rides that are offered year round, or find a secluded spot to star gaze. Learn amazing things at the ranger interpretive talks and informational museums. Other popular activities include hiking, biking, motorcoach tours, Aerial tours, and jeep tours. A free park shuttle is offered by the park service, providing an environmentally friendly way to get around the park. Check out a shuttle schedule, there are more times and routes offered during the summer.

Open year round the Kachina Lodge is a great place to start the day planning for the fantastic adventures that the Grand Canyon has to offer. When arriving at the south rim check into the Kachina Lodge rooms with the friendly staff of the El Tovar Hotel. The location on the south rim make reservations at Kachina Lodge well worth the stay. Built in the 1960′s with thick concrete walls, this contemporary lodge is decorated in the subtle colors of the canyon.

While there is no on-site dining available at Kachina Lodge, the El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge both have excellent restaurants and are located just a short walking distance to either side of the Kachine Lodge. There are other options located further away as well, which cater to every need and appetite one could have.

There are 49 rooms to choose from at the Kachine Lodge. All rooms use evaporative coolers for temperature regulation. Room amenities include either 2 queen beds or a single king, a refrigerator, coffee, TV, Telephones, a safe, and a full bathroom. There are rooms available for those people with disabilities. Due to the fact that requests for canyon view rooms are high, these rooms are often booked up much more quickly. Sorry but pets and smoking are not allowed in any of the Kachina Lodge rooms. Parking is free but limited.

Adventure and quiet awe-inspiring moments abound in Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park. This marvelous place will always stay in the hearts and souls of those lucky enough to glimpse the wondrous chasm. Enjoy the affordability of the centrally located Kachina Lodge at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Reserve the trip of a lifetime today by visiting: www.usparklodging.com/grandcanyon or call toll free 866.315.2980.

Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins – Historic Lodging on the South Rim

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

When visiting the south rim of the Grand Canyon, why not stay at the rustic Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins?  Registered as a National Historic Landmark, Bright Angel sits a few feet from the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Bright Angel provides basic lodging for visitors to the Grand Canyon and  it is the starting point for mule rides.   They have a restaurant which is open for breakfast lunch and dinner.  Lodging at the south rim of the Grand Canyon can be booked up to 13 months prior to arrival date.  So securing lodging on the rim can be difficult.  

You will find most lodging at Bright Angel is geared toward the individual hiker or couples.  In the Lodge , the largest bed is a double and there is only one.  No space is available for a roll-a-way bed or cot.  You can stay in a room with a bathroom or a more budget friendly room with a shared tub/shower located down the hall, or choose the room with no bathroom.  All rooms in the lodge are non smoking and are very basic.  If you  require a TV while staying  at  the Bright Angel, you will want to choose one of their cabins. Each cabin only has 1 Queen size bed although certain cabins can house a roll-away increasing the maximum occupancy to three people.  The historic cabins do not have views of the Canyon, but the Rim Cabins do.  There are also Rim Cabins available with a fireplace.   Two Cabin  Suites are available at Bright Angel , the Buckey O’Neil  and Red Horse Cabin.

Bright Angel is a wonderful place to call home during your Grand Canyon South Rim visit.  Plan early to get the room type you prefer.  Call our reservations dept. today at 866-315-2980 or find more information online at http://www.usparklodging.com/grandcanyon/index.php.

El Tovar Hotel: Live The History of Grand Canyon National Park

Monday, August 20th, 2012

You might say that the Grand Canyon first became a tourist destination during the turn of the twentieth century. This was when the Topeka & Sante Fe Railroad completed building a line of railroad track that connected Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyons edge. Prior to the construction of this transportation advancement, the only possibility for visiting the park was by way of stagecoach or wagon which could take weeks of traveling across the vast desert countryside. As a result, the Grand Canyon had gathered limited visitors preceding 1901. The railroad had changed everything, and now with the new ease of travel, the Grand Canyon had become a major tourist attraction! Tourism boomed.

A few years later the railroad brought president Teodore Roosevelt to the canyons edge. Mr Roosevelt was so greatly inspired by the majesty and beauty of the vast canyon that he swiftly began working to ensure that the area be protected exactly as it was. As tourism began to boom, the Sante Fe railroad quickly realized that there was a great need for quality lodging. The Sante Fe railroad joined forces with the Fred Harvey Company, who owned and operated a chain of hotels linked to the railroad.  Construction began on the El Tovar Hotel and the Grand Canyon further established itself as one of Americas premier tourist destinations.

The El Tovar’s Planning & Construction

Charles Whittlesey, who was among Sante Fe’s more dominant design engineers in the early 1900′s, was appointed to design and oversee manufacturing of the El Tovar.  The El Tovar was given it’s name in recognition of Pedro de Tovar, an early explorer within the region who had been the first to report word of a large waterway in the area which in time resulted in the finding of the canyon. This continued the tradition of employing Spanish terms for Harvey Hotels.

The El Tovar started receiving guests in 1905 with outstanding feedback, and a price tag of $250,000 to build. This was an exceptional sum of money in those days. At first the El Tovar was designed to be a significantly smaller hotel, however the Sante Fe Company quickly found that the interest in tourist accommodations near the canyon was growing even more quickly than they had originally suspected, and so Whittlesey was asked to more than double the accommodations to one-hundred rooms. With the completion of the elegant El Tovar Hotel, the Grand Canyon had formally taken it’s place as an upscale tourist destination, and the railway managed to start luring some far more wealthy guests. Sadly, several of the early pioneer proprietors of the area were driven out of business because they could not compete with the power and bank account of the railway company. In those days, El Tovar was largely regarded as the most luxurious hotel west of the Mississippi River.

El Tovar’s Unique Luxury & Design

The El Tovar boasts a sensational location close to the edge of the Grand Canyon’s rim which serves up some superior views for El Tovar guests. The El Tovar gets it’s unique theme from numerous influences including Switzerland architecture, Scandinavian designs, and early American rustic influences. The majority of the buildings which have been constructed near the Grand Canyon’s rim were planned out and built to blend in as seemlessly as possible with their natural landscape, it was quite a different story with the El Tovar however. It was designed to be a welcoming destination of elegance, comfort and luxury for fatigued travelers of the Sante Fe Railway. When the El Tovar Hotel was built in the early 1900′s it utilized many unique architectural designs that really set it apart from other hotels of it’s time. Things like wrap-around porches and vaulted ceilings added to the elegance and luxury of the hotel. El Tovar was developed sparing none of the era’s most modern comforts. There was electric lighting powered by a coal-fired generator. Indoor plumbing carrying hot and cold running water, as well as steam heat which was woven through the walls. None of the rooms had a private bath in the early days.

Exquisite Dining

El Tovar very quickly became recognized for it’s exquisite dining and succulent cuisine, as a result, it was a  struggle to keep the remote hotel supplied with fresh produce to satisfy the guests requirements. There were not refrigerated train cars back then, so hauling perishables through the hot desert countryside was not possible. Instead, the El Tovar Hotel established it’s own farm with a herd of Jersey Cows and poultry, which kept hotel guests furnished with a reliable supply of fresh milk, cream, eggs and butter. El Tovar also had it’s own bakery and butcher shop that provided fresh cuts of meat and fresh homemade bread and pastries.

The El Tovar Hotel predates the establishment of the Grand Canyon as a National Park, and in fact, it was the railroad and the El Tovar Hotel which played a vital role in helping the area become a national park. The area officially became a national park in the year 1916. The El Tovar Hotel has played host to presidents and tourists alike and is the oldest remaining hotel located at the Grand Canyon. To this day it is still a luxurious travel destination.

How to Make The Most of Your Grand Canyon South Rim Vacation (Part 2)

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Strolling Through History: Ranger Walks and Talks

The National Park Service provides interpretative ranger programs at various points of interest on the Grand Canyon South Rim. Topics range from fossils, archaeology, geology, astronomy, flora and fauna of the region, Native American History, to star talks, and more.  Specific details of the talks may vary according to the ranger and their area of expertise, however you can be guaranteed 45 minutes with plenty of fun facts, interesting stories, and truly spectacular views.

Be sure to check out what programs are on the park’s calendar. If you’ve been to the park before, or are interested in a particular subject, such as stargazing, art history, rock-hounding, or bird watching, this is a great place to find hidden gems. The upcoming “2012 Grand Canyon Star Party”, which will be held on both South and North Rims from June 16-23, 2012, is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

During this 8-day period, free, nightly astronomy programs and telescope viewings on the South Rim will be provided by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. Visitors will have the chance to view the planet Saturn along with a wide assortment of star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae.

Saddle Up: Ride a Mule to Phantom Ranch

Experience two staples of Grand Canyon history all at once by descending into the canyon by mule  AND staying overnight at Phantom Ranch. Mules have been taking visitors to Phantom Ranch’s tree-shaded, creek-side oasis since its construction in 1922.
A mule trip is appropriate for the adventurous soul who is reasonably fit, isn’t afraid of heights or large animals, and wants to take in the beauty of the canyon step-by-step. Day rides stop mid-way at Indian Garden and turn around, whereas longer rides stay at Phantom Ranch, in rustic bunkhouses and cabins next to the creek. During the summer, when temperatures hit 100, you’ll be happy to rest your legs and take a dip!

Book early to secure your trail riding adventure because the Grand Canyon Mule Rides typically fill up 13 months in advance.

Ride the Rails: Travel to the Grand Canyon National Park from Williams via Grand Canyon Railway

Take a vintage steam train ride on the Grand Canyon Railway which runs between Williams, Arizona, and the South Rim. This popular park attraction is ready to take you back in history of the Wild West, complete with a Wild West shootout featuring the Cataract Creek Gang in an outdoor theater. Take your journey in style, enjoying live music and refreshments as you will rumble and roll through valleys adorned in wild flowers, dense Ponderosa Pine forests, high desert plains and small canyons. If you’re looking for something truly out of the ordinary, the Grand Canyon Railway is just the ticket!


How To Make The Most of Your Grand Canyon South Rim Vacation (Part 1)

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Get an insiders look into how to make the most from your vacation to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim in this two-part series on activities and adventures available at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

grand canyon helitoursGrand Canyon South Rim Vacation (Part 1)

Absorb The Aura: Stay Or Dine At The Historic El Tovar Lodge

No trip to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim would be complete without visiting the historic El Tovar Lodge. The lodge is constructed of native stone and Oregon pine, reminiscent of a hunting lodge and is situated within easy walking distance to the rim of the canyon. The lodge and its majestic dining room is built perpendicular to the rim, so a few tables do offer canyon views. To truly experience the Grand Canyon’s unique aura, why not stay overnight or enjoy drinks and appetizers on El Tovar veranda?

Tingle Your Senses: Fly Over The Grand Canyon By Helicopter

Stunning aerial views of the Grand Canyon are the prize when taking in the craggy depths and immense peaks of the park by helicopter. A helicopter tour is the best way to see a good deal of the canyon, in all its breathtaking, spine-tingling wonder. Flights take off from the airport in Tusayan, Arizona where a trip to the canyon’s edge takes a mere 8 minutes and most flights last 45 minutes or more. Outfitters operate out of the Tusayan Airport and state of the art helicopters come equipped with vista view windows which allow passengers to see the Canyon in a way never dreamed possible before.

Deluxe Combo Pack: Airline + Helicopter + Boat Tour

If you’re looking for a lot of bang for your buck, more elaborate combinations of tours also exist, such as the deluxe airplane tours that fly from Las Vegas to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. These tours  fly from Las Vegas to the Skywalk at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, then descend into the canyon by helicopter, ending with a relaxing cruise along the Colorado River aboard a pontoon boat.

Get Involved: Become a Junior Ranger

Grand Canyon National Park’s Junior Ranger program is an easy and wonderful (and free!) way to get kids involved in your vacation. By completing a list of activities in the Junior Ranger Activity Book, kids 4 to 14 can receive a variety of official Junior Ranger badges and certificates with a day or two. The Ranger Program is very do-able; it’s designed to be completed within a realistic timeframe, flowing with your vacation. Upon completion, a ranger will award your child with an official badge and certificate. For more information, check at canyon View Information Plaza, Tusayan Museum, and Yavapai Observation Station.

You can learn more about Grand Canyon National Park by visiting our Grand Canyon National Park information page or book your Grand Canyon National Park lodging and activity reservations by visiting http://www.usparklodging.com/grandcanyonnationalparklodging.php

Be sure to save our blog to your favorites and check back in a couple of days for the exciting conclusion of our adventure guide to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim!

Click Here for “Part 2″ of this article…

The Historic Grand Canyon

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

The Historic Grand Canyon

“The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. … Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

~ President Theodore Roosevelt

Cincopa WordPress plugin

Over 100 years later, the beauty and awe of the Grand Canyon has been preserved to be revered by millions of people each year. The Grand Canyon will continue to impress and inspire for many years to come.

Cincopa WordPress plugin

Most Grand Canyon hotels are in close proximity to these spectacular Grand Canyon National Park scenes. Many people report a sense of extreme spirituality and emotion when they first lay eyes upon this great Wonder of the World. There are several Grand Canyon hotel choices to choose from. Give the friendly professionals at US Park Lodging a call to assist you in your Grand Canyon hotel selection. US Park Lodging will ensure that you get the best possible Grand Canyon hotel for your budget and vacation priorities. You cannot put a price on the Grand Canyon experience.

Grand Canyon Lodging: Kachina Lodge

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

When making the decision of which Grand Canyon lodging choice to pick, things can get quite confusing. Is it important to ask yourself what your goals are. If you want a great location combined with cleanliness and a view, the Kachina Lodge is for you. Your vacation to Grand Canyon National Park is a chance of a lifetime. You will want to have your bases covered so you can venture away from the Grand Canyon hotels and explore the best of Grand Canyon National Park. The south rim has a lot to offer visitors to Grand Canyon National Park with many gift shops, restaurants and services in the Grand Canyon Village.

The Grand Canyon hotels on the south rim are mostly a fair distance from the actual rim. The Kachina Lodge is butted up to the south rim with spectacular views of one of the seven wonders of the world, Grand Canyon National Park. Not only is the location ideal to the Grand Canyon, the Kachina Lodge also enjoys immediate access to the bustling Grand Canyon Village. From this prime location, guests can venture away from the Grand Canyon hotels and out to the most popular vistas in Grand Canyon National Park such as Yavapai Point and Hopi Point. Everything is at your fingertips when you stay at the Kachina Lodge.

Grand Canyon Yavapai Point From the Kachina Lodge

Yavapai Point photo by Tobias Alt, available from wikipedia

The Kachina Lodge is a great choice for those who find disappointment in arriving at their hotel only to find that their room has been smoked in or has been used for pets. This scenario doesn’t happen at the Kachina Lodge because of their no smoking and no pets policies. This is an important element for those with animal dander allergies or intolerance to the smell of smoke. The Kachina Lodge is a well kept Grand Canyon hotel.

When figuring out your Grand Canyon lodging, definitely consider staying at the Kachina Lodge. This Grand Canyon hotel provides just the right amenities while also exhibiting an ideal location on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The rooms are comfortable, clean and many have canyon views. The location is just right with the El Tovar and Bright Angel Lodge just steps away. The Grand Canyon Village offers entertainment and access to tours as well as services. Staying at the Kachina Lodge puts guests right in the middle of the action, which is where you wanna be if you are on the south rim. Give US Park Lodging a call to arrange your Kachina Lodge or Grand Canyon lodging reservations.


The Grand Circle

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

The Grand Circle is a term used to describe the ultimate road trip through the American southwest by way of 20 scenic byways that neatly tie 11 national parks and 16 national monuments together in a loop. US Park Lodging makes reservations for the national parks in this rugged and colorful country. The Grand Circle is a trip that will never be forgotten. It takes planning, so allow the professionals at US Park Lodging to assist you in reserving this trip of a lifetime once you have determined your route. Here is an example of an itinerary for your Grand Circle vacation. This blog can serve as a starting point for your research so when you call US Park Lodging, you will have a better idea of the route and stops you want to include.The most strategic places to enter the Grand Circle for your adventure of a lifetime is from either Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. Since this is a loop, you can hop on the Grand Circle loop from any point and return to the starting point for the same experience on the Grand Circle.

Zion National Park photo by StuSeeger on Flickr

A good place to begin your Grand Circle adventure is in Zion National Park. It is recommended to spend two or three nights in Zion National Park on your Grand Circle tour. Stay at the Zion Lodge for an accommodating and authentic park experience. During your stay at Zion National Park, you will definitely want to spend a day trekking through the Virgin River Narrows, which is the main artery of the park. There are several easy to moderate hikes at Zion National Park. Another great way to see a different perspective of the park is to take a hot air balloon tour.

After you explore Zion, head 89 miles over to Bryce Canyon National Park for your second stop on your Grand Circle adventure. If you head to Bryce Canyon National Park in the morning, you can drive to Rainbow Point for a 37 mile round trip and catch all the viewpoints on the return trip.

Queen's Garden, Bryce Canyon National Park

Queen’s Garden, Bryce Canyon National Park photo by Alaskan Dude on Flickr

A good place to stay for the night is the Bryce Canyon Lodge. In the morning, take a half day guided hike or horseback tour to get up close and personal with the curious hoodoos in the amphitheater.

After your second day in Bryce Canyon National Park, you might think your Grand Circle loop has been fulfilling enough. Just wait, there is much more to enjoy on this adventure. A good option for lodging after day two at Bryce Canyon National Park is to head 15 miles down the road to Kanab, UT which is the gateway to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Stay a comfortable night at the Vermillion Vacation Homes and check out Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in the first half of the day.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park photo by james.gordon6108 on Flickr

Once you get a taste of what Grand Staircase Escalante is all about, hit the road to Moab, UT for about 289 miles. (Some people might choose to include Capitol Reef National Park in their itinerary which would break up the 289 mile drive into two sections and also would avoid the interstate.) A fun place to stay in Moab is The Gonzo Inn, which has unique accommodations close to both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park for your ultimate convenience. You will get there just in time to enjoy a yummy dinner and settle down for the night to start the next leg of your Grand Circle adventure tour. Depending on your Grand Circle goals, you may want to stay in Moab for as many as five nights. This area has a lot to offer and while you are here, you may as well immerse yourself.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park photo by NPCA Photos on Flickr

Moab is your Grand Circle hub for Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. In Arches National Park, make sure you drive all of the paved roads and stop at the viewpoints along the way. This is yet another opportunity for a van tour or a hot air balloon tour due to the crowded parking lots. Check out the Devil’s Garden hike, the Fiery Furnace hike and make sure to go see Delicate Arch. For an unpaved adventure, if you have the right kind of vehicle, head through the Salt Valley to Klondike Bluffs. The road back to the center of Arches National Park is only recommended for southerly travel due to sand and hills. You will want to spend time in Canyonlands National Park as well on your Grand Circle vacation. A great place to check out is the Island in the Sky for easy access and some fun little hikes. During your Moab stay, one of your nights should include a late night stargazing tour at either Arches or Canyonlands National Parks. The milky way is calling your name.

Petroglyph Point

Petroglyph Point, Mesa Verde National Park photo by Alaskan Dude on Flickr

After you have had your fill of the Moab area, continue your Grand Circle adventure and head 131 miles to Mancos, CO to visit Mesa Verde National Park for a couple of days. Definitely stay in the park at the Far View Lodge. From the Far View Lodge, you will have central access to the main highlights of Mesa Verde National Park. You will want to venture across Wetherill Mesa to take the Long House tour and the self guided Step House tour. On your second day explore the Chapin Mesa and sign up for the Balcony House and the Cliff Palace tours. While you wait for one of your tours to start, perhaps enjoy the self-guided Spruce Tree House tour, the Chapin Mesa Museum or the archaeological village sites nearby.

At this point in the Grand Circle journey, you will want to ask yourself whether or not you want to visit Canyon De Chelly National Monument. If you do, head south from Mesa Verde National Park 164 miles. If you skip Canyon De Chelly, you will save 116 miles from the Grand Circle loop and you will drive past the Mexican Hat formation and the Valley of the Gods. If you do choose to head to Canyon de Chelly, stay at the Thunderbird Lodge. One full day here will probably be enough just checking out the scenic drives and taking a self guided hike or two. Next stop on your Grand Circle tour is Monument Valley 98 miles northwest.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley photo by Moyan_Brenn on Flickr

Monument Valley is a gorgeous valley of buttes, pinnacles and volcanic cores left behind from the winds and rains of time. Monument Valley is within the Navajo Nation Reservation, so your national park passport will not apply on this part of your Grand Circle adventure. You will want to stay at The View Hotel. This hotel is inside Monument Valley with stunning views of the park highlights. This is another great place to learn about the Ancestral Puebloans who settled in the area a few thousand years ago. Take some time to enjoy the local artisan booths as well.

From Monument Valley, the next stop in the Grand Circle is Lake Powell. Depending on your goals, this could be a nice place to spend a day or three. A good lodging choice for Lake Powell is the Defiance House Lodge. If you want to stay awhile, a houseboat rental is a great way to spend your time. Rainbow Bridge is a must-see destination here as well as Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is considered to be one of the most beautiful slot canyons in the world, so definitely make this a priority. Another way to spend a day is on a Colorado River float trip. Check out Horseshoe Bend either from the river or the lookout. Lake Powell area is much more than a vast reservoir, there are several diverse things to enjoy here as well as water play.

Yavapai Point Grand Canyon National Park

Yavapai Point Grand Canyon National Park photo by Moyan_Brenn on Flickr

In the Grand Circle loop, the Grand Canyon is the final stop before returning to the start of the Grand Circle loop. Grand Canyon National Park has two distinct and separate areas you can explore, the North Rim and the South Rim. You might want to choose one or the other, or if you have time, both. The South Rim is the populated area and the North Rim enjoys more peace and quiet. On this itinerary, I suggest visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon because it is convenient, cooler due to higher elevations, less crowded and has what many believe to be better hikes.

If you visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the lodge to stay in is the Grand Canyon Lodge. The downfall of the North Rim is that it is closed during the winter and the road can close for inclement weather. Check ahead for closures if you are planning to travel to the gorgeous North Rim. If you are combining North and South Rims or perhaps you want to be where all the action is at the South Rim, the sweeping depths and awe-inspiring vistas of Grand Canyon National Park will not disappoint you. Visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon will add quite a few more miles to your Grand Circle trip. If you go all the way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you should stay at the famous El Tovar Hotel. The El Tovar Hotel was one of the pioneering national park hotels of the style made famous by the national park service.

The Grand Circle is a vacation that will go down in your history books, no matter what your travel preferences are. No other area compares to the Grand Circle with it’s many parks and sights. This itinerary is a good basis of a typical Grand Circle trip. You can enter this itinerary loop at any point and you can travel clockwise or counter-clockwise on the circle.  After you have sketched out your route and plan, give the professionals at US Park Lodging a call to book all of your National Park lodging on your Grand Circle adventure. Remember to gas up often, watch for little critters on the road and expect the driving times to be longer than they would normally be on the interstate. Most of all, have a great time in the Grand Circle.  The mysterious and colorful southwest landscape is waiting for your arrival.

The Historic El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon National Park

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

The Historic El Tovar Hotel

As the transcontinental railroad was completed and train travel exploded onto the American frontier, the Santa Fe Railroad Company extended an interior rail to the Grand Canyon in 1901. Prior to the completion of this spur, travelers to the Grand Canyon arrived by stagecoach. The El Tovar Hotel originated as just a sparkle in the eyes of the Santa Fe Railroad partnered with the Fred Harvey Company, as a destination resort. The accommodations between the east and west coasts were somewhat primitive which begged for the El Tovar Hotel’s creation in 1905 to provide a luxurious experience for the Santa Fe Railway travelers. This focus led to the Grand Canyon evolving from a forest reserve into a national monument in 1908 and eventually a national park in 1919. In this year, 1919, there were over 44,000 visitors to Grand Canyon National Park. Today the Grand Canyon receives more than 5 million visitors each year.

El Tovar Lodge - Grand Canyon

El Tovar Lodge, Grand Canyon circa 1908 from Haines Photo Co. Courtesey of the Library of Congress: Prints and Photographs: Panoramic Photographs: LC-USZ62-97315

The El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim of the mighty Grand Canyon is an historical landmark as well as a top Grand Canyon vacation destination. As one of the first national park styled lodges built over 100 years ago, the El Tovar Hotel helped pave the way for a legacy of grand and rustic national park lodges around the country. This iconic Grand Canyon National Park lodge is situated just 20 short feet from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. This makes the El Tovar Hotel a breathtaking place to experience the glory of the Grand Canyon.

The El Tovar was also a trendsetter for the famed Grand Canyon activity of riding mules down the Bright Angel Trail, which was vigorously promoted by the Fred Harvey Company via the El Tovar. These new trails were built upon the paths of the Native Americans who traveled it long before the days of the El Tovar. In 1922, the Fred Harvey Company finished the construction of the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. This addition made it possible to offer the utmost in service, even at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

This iconic national park hotel is still a luxurious hotel with attention to service and detail, even 100 years later. For visitors to Grand Canyon National Park, staying at El Tovar will make all the difference. For those who miss it, they are truly missing an historical and grand experience.