Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon
In order to get through my massive USA bucket list, I try to go on at least one domestic trip per year. This year, my trip was eventful (and exhausting), getting through 3 national parks and 3 states in only 4 days! I traveled to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, and Zion with my friends Rachel, Ashley, and Jessie.
We flew into Vegas on Thursday night and left for Hoover Dam Friday morning. I got up early after only 4 hours of sleep. We got to the rental car office at the airport at 7:30 am and waited about 45 minutes to get our car. After a much-needed espresso shot, we headed out and got on the road.
The Hoover Dam is only 45 minutes southeast of Las Vegas, and on the way to the Grand Canyon. The dam controls water from Lake Mead, the largest water reservoir in the US. Being an energy nerd, I found it fascinating that it produces over 2,000 MW of capacity and supplies nearly 8 million people with electricity. The dam is accessible to the public and free to drive over. We didn’t have time to take the tour, so we found the free parking and walked around for half an hour. When we got our pics, we moved on to the Grand Canyon.
On the Road
From the Hoover Dam, the south rim of the Grand Canyon is about 4 hours. We stopped to get food to make sandwiches and snacks on the way. Driving in this region isn’t boring; there is gorgeous scenery all around you, and even at night you can look up at the thousands of stars that can only be seen in rural areas. Rachel drove, while Jessie, Ashley and I attempted to keep her entertained.
The Grand Canyon was formed by erosion from the Colorado River 5 to 6 million years ago. It is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and completely stunning. We arrived at the Visitor Center around 2 pm. I chose the South Rim over the North because it is easier to get to and has lots of viewpoints that are accessible by shuttle. We were only here for the afternoon, so we had to make the most of our time. We stopped at the Visitor Center first to get our US national park passport stamped and buy a couple souvenirs.
From the visitor center, we walked 5 minutes to Mather Point. It was really crowded, but we managed to get a few pictures without the mass of people. From there, we walked to Yavapai Point, ¾ of a mile away. Along the way, we climbed down to a chunk of land that juts out into the canyon, making for some cool pictures.
The other two points I wanted to go to were several miles away, so we took the shuttle there. First stop: Powell Point. This point is a narrow spur that juts out into the canyon, with no guard rails on either side. Then we took the shuttle another 5 miles to Pima Point. The views here are great and slightly different from the rest. You can see for over 40 miles, with nothing blocking your view.
We got back on the shuttle to the Visitor Center, with intentions to watch the sunset from the Desert View Watchtower (30 minutes east of the Visitor Center). Since the map we had was not to scale, we didn’t realize it would take over an hour just to get to the Visitor Center. By the time we got off the shuttle, the sun was already setting. We hustled to get to the Desert View Watchtower, seeing an elk on the way! I ran the half mile to the watchtower, camera and tripod in tow. I arrived just in time to get a cool shot of the sunset.
By the time we left the Grand Canyon, we were starving and exhausted. Unfortunately, we still had a two hour drive to Page, AZ. We exited the park through the east entrance and looked for restaurants on the way. There were only a few gas stations, and after eating nothing but tuna sandwiches and pop tarts all day, I wanted a real meal. When we got to Page at 10 pm, Denny’s was the only restaurant in town that was open. It took awhile, and getting in bed at midnight never felt so good.
Stay tuned for posts on the rest of my trip!
See my video below on Day 1 of our Southwestern adventure!
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