Tag Archives: Grand Canyon Railway

“America’s Best Idea” The National Parks

The whole quote goes like this, “National Parks are the best idea we ever had.  Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best not at our worst”.  Wallace Stegner.  The US National Parks have been the favorite place to visit for myself and my family over the last 5 decades.  And before that my parents would take my sister and I to places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

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If you have not visited our National Parks you should start.  If you have, then read on for some of my experiences.  Grand Canyon by train – We have been to the Grand Canyon a number of times.  We have seen the south rim, north rim, and parts of the east end.  This past summer we drove our motorhome to Williams AZ and then took the train to the south rim.  The Grand Canyon Railway is a private company that has refurbished locomotives, train cars, the train station at both Williams and the Grand Canyon, and runs the service to and from.  I bought our tickets a few months ahead to make sure we got the service level and train we wanted.  We parked our motorhome in the campground run by the Grand Canyon Railway.  This campground is within walking distance of the train.  Shortly before the train boards there is a “wild west show”.  This is a kids oriented show with good and bad guys plus a western town background set.

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This is a photo from the car we were riding in.

We picked the dome car service and just went on a day trip.  You can also book the train over, stay a few nights at the rim, and come back on the train.  The cost for this level of the day trip was about $375 for two.  This included some entertainment to and from plus a simple breakfast.

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Small train station when you arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

When you get to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon there is a short walk up a hill to the rim of the canyon.  Expect lots of people if you go during the summer.  There, is the famous El Tovar hotel & several other less fancy places to stay, a couple of very nice gift shops, and a few choices of places to eat.  The El Tovar is a lovely old hotel right on the rim and if you are going to be at the canyon overnight I recommend staying there.  If you are not staying the night have lunch in the dinning room.  We had lunch there this past summer and the food was excellent, view great, prices medium.

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View of the El Tovar dinning room.  With my wife at the table.  
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Here is a view of the El Tovar a little walk down the canyon trail.  

Be prepared for some walking when you get to the rim.  This can be casual strolls along the paved trail at the top or up to super strenuous hikes to the bottom and back.  The views are some of the very best of any place I have ever been.  The very first time I saw the canyon it was a thrill.  The view just took my breath away.

My strong advice is that if you want to experience this unique place is that you stay the night at the rim in either one of the hotels or in a campground.  And also if possible do not go in the middle of high season.  We went in mid June and it was crowded.  I would recommend strongly to go before Memorial day or after Labor day.  However, the Grand Canyon is one of those must-see places, so if you only time is high season go anyway.  I have never been to any place that has the same visual impact as here.  The ones that come close to this would be 2.  The Yosemite Valley at the bottom near Yosemite Falls or from Glacier Point.  3.  The Geysers of Yellowstone.  4.  Towards sunset from the Many Glacier Lodge looking west across the lake.  5.  View from the Prince of Wales during high tea towards the Lake in Waterton NP Alberta.  6.  View towards Lake Louise near the Fairmont Hotel.  7.  The wildflower gardens in August looking towards Mt Rainier.  These are the gardens near the Paradise Inn.  8.  View of Haleakala crater from the overlook.  9.  Balloon Fiesta Albuquerque NM of the morning mass ascent.  10.  Seeing Mt Rushmore for the first time in person.  11.  The walk from Rigi Kaltbad cog rail station on the ridge that over looks Lake Lucern.

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Shot with Nikon D750 & 24-120mm f4

No matter what, take a good camera in addition to your cell phone.  I used a Nikon D750 full frame digital camera with 24-120mm f4 lens for the shots you see in this post.  I had my iPhone X with me but I don’t think I used it much.  I have sold this particular setup at this time, but except for the size and weight (too big & too heavy) the 750 combined with this lens makes a very good combination.  I currently have a 24 mega pixel Sony A7iii that I like a lot, but would be tempted to say that the Grand Canyon may be one of those few places where 42-50 mega pixels would be useful with the right lens.  This canyon is indeed huge and detailed.  The more pixels the better for this place.  And even though I love using film I only currently have 35mm and this canyon calls out for larger format.