RoadTrip America

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Lonely Planet Grand Canyon National Park, by Jennifer Denniston, David Lukas, Amy Marr, and Kimberley O'Neil

Grand Canyon

David Lukas and Amy Marr, who also collaborated on the superb guide to Yosemite National Park, have joined forces with Jennifer Denniston and Kimberley O'Neil to create the best guide we have ever seen about the Grand Canyon. "The Grand," as river runners reverentially refer to the Colorado River, has cut a gorge through the relatively soft sedimentary sandstone layers a mile deep and nearly ten miles wide. The mighty river flows free for 277 miles and has some of the best-known and exciting rapids in America. Grand Canyon National Park encompasses 1.2 million acres and is home to 1500 plant species along with 305 bird, 76 mammal, 41 reptile, and 26 fish species. There are flora and fauna in the park that are found nowhere else in the world. A few years ago, I spent a total of four weeks exploring a couple sections of the park, and this guidebook had awakened an abiding desire to return as soon as possible.

A hallmark of the Lonely Planet guides is the care and consideration that goes into structuring the trip itineraries for visiting the areas they profile. For the South Rim, there are suggestions for spending as little as an hour (which would be a downright shame!) to a full week. Likewise, some very time-smart suggestions are made for visiting the North Rim, and a number of two-week itineraries include visits to various surrounding attractions like Pipe Springs National Monument, Lake Powell. You can even learn about taking a ride down the Colorado on a raft.

Although there is no substitute for walking down into the gorge and exploring the hiking trails (and this book includes excellent tips and suggestions for hiking in the park), I really enjoyed the description of the Hermit Road and Desert View driving trips on the South Rim. The authors did a wonderful job of sharing just enough history to make the scenic routes come alive.

Lonely Planet Grand Canyon National Park is full of insider's tips for enjoying the park. The dining room at the El Tovar is a fabulous place for lunch, but the authors suggest arriving before 12:15 pm to beat the rush from the guests arriving on the Grand Canyon Railway. They also offer a list of "top ten" picnic spots, best places to view sunsets, the proper protocol for dealing with mules when meeting them on the narrow hiking trails -- move to the inner side of trail and turn your backpack into the cliff away from the animals to avoid being accidentally knocked off the trail -- and the coolest hikes to take on hot days. There are also a number of very useful checklists for gear and equipment and some tips for avoiding injury while visiting the area. Like other Lonely Planet books, the maps are excellent, and the descriptions of places to stay and eat have been vetted by locals and are 100% trustworthy.

Best Advice in the Book: Don't be discouraged by the crowds even though it can get a little busy in the Grand Canyon Village in the summer months. Despite the undeniable fact that you may have to put up with serious gridlock getting into the park, it is surprisingly easy to find quiet and solitude. The Lonely Planet Grand Canyon National Park guide is the ideal book to help you find out how, and it will enrich your experience when you next visit to this magnificent natural and historical treasure.


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