What can you tell me about these lodges?
We will be at Grand Canyon around Dec. 8-10. I went to the Xanterra web site and found that there are rooms at Kachina and Thunderbird Lodges (on the rim) which are described identically: canyon side, 2 queen beds, non-smoking, $125. We have 2 kids to share one bed, plus our own portable crib for the baby (well, 2 yrs), which they say is tight but do-able. They also describe Maswik Lodge (1/4 mile from rim), with Rooms in Maswik North, 2 queen beds, non-smoking, $49.50 or $68.00, all sleep 5 comfortably.
Anyone stay at these who would be willing to comment? Any specific recommendations or things we should know about one versus another? We have never been to GC before and plan to probably stay 2 nights.
ALSO - Keeping in mind that it will be late fall (snow & short days), is there enough to do that the kids CAN do (ages 10, 5 and 2)? In other words, I know we won't be doing any serious hiking or mule rides, but we like to walk and ride around. Will two days be too much? We are driving from New England and spending 5 or 6 days around NM & AZ before heading to our Christmas holiday destination, Las Vegas (to see family). Thanks for any help!
2 Days too long?
I once spent 32 days in the bottom of the Grand and only left because I was out of food. I know that is not the scenario you will have with your family, but... yes there is plenty to see and do over two days.
I have never stayted in those lodges and it has been too long since I was there to comment -- but some of our regular posters were in the park last year -- so I expect we will learn something soon.
Maswik is my first choice when I stay at the South Rim Village, simply because it is always the cheapest. The reason for this is that it isn't on the rim, as you've already learned. However, it is an easy walk to the other two lodges you mention, and they are the "center" of the village. If I am not mistaken, Maswik was remodeled just a few years ago (maybe 3 or so) -- I could be wrong about that but I have a vague memory of not being able to stay there about three years back and had to get a cabin instead. There is a 4th lodge (Yavapai) which is a bit further away (near the General Store, and the new visitor's hub) and it is also typically a bit cheaper. The fact that they didn't mention Yavapai to you may indicate it is under renovation as well. All of that said, the quality and amenities of all are similar in caliber -- some folks are willing to pay the extra freight to have the view out the window instead of after a short walk. In my mind, the only accommodation at GC that is really worth MORE money is the El Tovar -- it is a masterpiece.
You could do a canyon rim walk with your kids -- maybe toward the Shrine of the Ages and the old visitor's center -- there was always a ranger talk at the amphitheater there in the evenings, at least seasonally. I'm sure some of the activities will be geared toward the kids, the older ones at least, and there is usually a "junior ranger" program they can participate in. These activities will be advertised in the park bulletin, which they will give you when you pay at the entrance station. The weather can be extremely chilly, so you need to be prepared for that, but this time of year is possibly the BEST time of year to visit (although if you tried to pin me down on that I'd probably waffle -- I love the Canyon in ALL seasons). Be sure to take them out to Desert View to climb up in the "watchtower." Sometimes you can see the rafts on the river below from there!
The food in the village is lackluster, except for the Arizona Room, or possibly Arizona Steakhouse. It is on the east end of the Bright Angel/Kachina lodges complex. Easiest way to get there is to walk through the main doors of the Bright Angel Lodge, straight out the back, and then to your right along the rim walk toward the El Tovar -- you'll see the restaurant to your right as you walk along the rim. It is excellent, and the prices are reasonable for the setting. You'll need reservations, if it is open. I cannot remember if they close it in winter or not. Don't know how you feel about taking the kids to a fancier place than McD's, but they need some culture once in awhile too, hey? And there is NO culture like that found in a western beef establishment! If you prefer something more casual (the aforementioned is a tablecloth and linen napkin kind of place), there is more variety these days in Tusayan, just south outside the park, including a pizza parlor, McD's and some others.
Thanks, Mark and Bob. I didn't mention El Tovar or Bright Angel Lodges because they are full, and Yavapai is closed then, I assume for the winter, not necessarily for renovations. I'm with you in that I can't see spending double the amount to look out my window to see something I can take a nice walk to see. Besides, with so little daylight in December, I expect to be outside during all the times you can see it anyway.
I'm still debating the length of time to stay at GC. I'm also debating how to see the rest of Northern/Eastern Arizona in a few days. This state is really starting to drive me nuts... too much to see in too big an area in too little time! I guess that's not a bad problem to have.
Perhaps the solution is to come back to Arizona again and again! I love traveling but I have to admit my home state is my favorite of all. While you are considering your options, there is another place I highly recommend -- if you can, take a day to visit Canyon de Chelly. It is very beautiful and you can take a Navajo-led tour in a 6-wheel drive open-topped truck through the Canyon. It is an experience you'd remember! Bob
Canyon de Chelly
Hmmmmmmm... We were already planning a stop here, but until now I had not heard anything about the tours. Can you tell me more about them? How much are they, will they be running in December, how long does it take, can you bring a 2-year-old (car seat issue)?
Maybe you can help me with my itinerary. We will be coming thru New Mexico and would "LIKE" to see the following in Arizona (in no particular order): Four Corners, Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, Painted Cliffs/Desert, Grand Canyon, and the Sedona area (esp. the canyons - Boynton, Oak Creek, etc.). We probably only have about 4 days or so (although we may take 5), with 1-1/2 or 2 at Grand Canyon. What might be the most efficient driving circuit? I honestly have not yet gotten to try figuring out the mileage between places, so I anticipate you saying that I'm totally crazy; the drive time alone is 25 hours a day between places. But I'd appreciate a clue-in. Thanks.
Just heard on the news that the Bright Angel trail and the donkey rides are suspended for about 6 months while the trail is being fixed. There are many other things to do in the GC, but thought you might like to know this.
Judy, I don't think the trail is closed -- except for the mules. I called last week and got a reservation -- nothing was mentioned about hikers and they took my reservation OK. I had called because the mules were cancelled and I thought I could get some of the space they had reserved. It normally takes a two-year wait to get a slot at Phantom Ranch, so I was hot on the phone. Unfortunately, they put me on a waiting list as they were going to give first shot to the now-rideless muleteers! :( I did get a reservation for later on though, in March!
De Chelly tours
I got my tour through the Thunderbird Lodge, but there are several operators and you can find them on the Net. Thunderbird's tele is 1-800-679-2473, FAX is 928-674-5844. Price is about $40 for half-day, $65 for full day, plus taxes and tip. I normally recommend the full-day as you see both Canon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly (two sides of a "V"). The point of the Vee is where the water flows out of the canyons -- and THAT is why they call the town there "Chinle" -- the name means... "where the water flows out." You pronounce it "chin-lih" if you want to sound like a local -- about equal emphasis on both syllables. I don't know about the littlest child -- not sure what kind of accommodation they can make for a child seat. After all that, I'm not sure your kids would do well on the tour for the entire day -- you might consider the half-day instead, if they can accommodate the little one.
I'll look at your route options when I get home this evening -- I don't have my planning software at work (the software has an optimizing feature that will come up with the most efficient route given the places you want to see). I'll let you know on that one later!
The trail is open for hikers
The extra heavy monsoonal rainstorms this summer caused some wash-outs, so Mules are prohibited during the repair phase (several months). Hikers are being allowed, but obviously, they will have to accomodate the worker bees re-building the trail.