Grand Canyon National Park Day Trip

Grand Canyon National Park One Day Trip

 Why is it on vacations I am more excited to get up for the sunrise than on normal work weeks? I never want to get up during the week… Probably the reward seems greater in a new place. New sights, sunrises, surroundings. It’s all so fun and exciting for me.

So my family is all pretty aware any trip with me will have an agenda. I start with the sunrise and sunset time and work from there. I think seeing the sunrises and sets in places is so epic and can provide some really amazing and beautiful moments, memories and photos. Although some may think this is annoying because I have everything from; the time to leave planned based on driving time, how far we could make it hiking, when or what we will eat and of course what I hope to see planned. I just like to be prepared, I want to see as much as we can in the short periods of time we have and not waste precious moments figuring out details while we are in beautiful places.


So in planning our one day trip to Grand Canyon National Park I was trying to figure out how we could best enjoy our day, which day would be best and what we could attempt to see! I heard getting into the park took up to two hours later in the day and I was hoping to get there for the sunrise which I investigated to be at 6:10am. We planned our One Day Trip to the Grand Canyon on Monday hoping this would be the least busy day. This was also my first trip to Arizona so I wanted to have a couple days to get acclimated to the environment, dry heat and elevation levels, this was all way different than Chicago weather in April. I did some research on some awe inspiring views and there are just so many!


We were staying in north Phoenix area at Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak, so it was going to be about a three and a half hour drive to the Grand Canyon. My dad is an early riser and sister usually too so it wasn’t hard to get them on board. We did end up leaving late which I knew would change the timing but early birds still get the worm and I read it gets busier at the park throughout the day.

As we drove in on AZ 64 towards the South Rim Entrance there was minimal traffic and we watched the sunrise which was still exiting to see. We got there ONE HOUR late for sunrise at 7:15am and the peace and quiet in the park was a serene way to start the day. As we exited the car saw a group of deer walk right by us. We right away parked and headed to Mather Point and our jaws dropped. Larger than life. Unbelievable to grasp and hard to comprehend.

Grand Canyon - mather point



After taking it all in, discussing the sheer magnitude of this natural world wonder and getting some photos we hiked the Rim Trail we hiked toward Yavapai Point. As we proceeded the views although the same, changed around the canyon. We hiked for about an hour and a half and then headed back to the parking area. This was not a hard hike at all, the route was paved and really a great way for people of all abilities to get some wonderful views of this ravine. We made it to see the small glimpse of the Colorado River down at the bottom.


Grand Canyon Group Break

We then drove down to try to find parking closer to Bright Angel Trail head and wouldn’t you know we found front row parking. This is one of my dad’s talents, I don’t know how or why but he always gets a front row spot, so this came at no real surprise. We were thankful for this spot later in the day after hiking and our legs were tired.


After looking into the hiking I knew we would not be able to go too far down the canyon. There are many warnings; to bring water, have appropriate sun protection, it gets hotter as you get lower and not being in the best shape and hiking with my dad who just turned 61 we wanted to make sure we all survived. My goal was to find and see this cool tunnel that you walk through on the trail.


By 10am we had refueled and headed down Bright Angel Trail. As always going down is easy. Well… I wish I would have had hiking poles, but flying into Arizona we were unable to pack these so we did without. The decline is always challenging to me on hikes.


It was interesting on the trail all the different people, there were some gearing up for a hike to the other side, some who were going to camp and then we also cheered on several who we knew were on their way up. As we were full of breath, beautiful views and energy we headed down the bright Angel Trail around 10am. The weather was cool but sunny we dressed in layers, with hats and hiking boots. We quickly noticed you stay around your follow hikers as you will pass each other often, both down and up, bits of energy and inertia get people going but the trail keeps everyone slow. Funny cheering and camaraderie is had on the trail amongst those at the same fitness level.


Bright Angel Trail Tunnels

So an overview of the trail and the Tunnels I was hoping to see and what we did is below the overall change in elevation was around 470ft.

  • So the 1st Tunnel was at about .18 mile in the trail is not too steep to this point! There are a lot of visitors in this area!
  • Then you hit the first Switchback at about .45 mile at this point the trail gets steeper. Then we made it to the second Tunnel that was super cool and was about .75 mile we continued on. 
  • We ended up continuing a bit past this but we decided to start the trek back up at 1.1 miles as we knew it would be trying.

There is a rest house at the 1.5 mile mark where there are restrooms and some hikers make that the turnaround spot.


Grand Canyon - bright angel trail tunnel

The way back was getting busier with hikers heading down and we were starting to really feel our legs. We took many breaks and tried to stay in the shade as the temps were quickly rising. My dad continued to remind people they had to come back up.. as we laughed we also were thinking that most these other people probably have been training for this… We did see some people RUNNING. Yes, running.

We were back up by 11:15am and took time to catch our breath, eat some snacks and recover from our hike! We continued on the Rim Trail from where we parked to see a couple of large buildings on site and there was a restaurant, couple of souvenir shops and beautiful viewing areas.

After enjoying the sun, and walking around it was starting to get more and more crowded so we headed to the car and left around 2pm to head back to the hotel. Some lucky next visitor was going to score a great parking spot since they were completely full. After hiking back up on the trail our legs were dead and ready for the hot tub and we couldn’t imagine having to walk further for the car.

There is a bus system in the park but because of COVID it was not running at full capacity. 


Next Time

I would have liked to hike the Rim Trail further towards Hopi Point and Mohave, or taken the bus but that’s always something for next time. There is so much on the list for next time and planning in advance to stay closer would allow you to have more time to explore.  I would like to take a hike to Skeleton Point on the south Kaibab trail and end the day to see sunset at Mohave.

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