Shortly after our Santa Barbara trip, Tor and I unpacked and repacked our bags, loaded the car, grabbed the cats, and headed east towards Arizona. My in-laws live there for half of the year to escape the Canadian winter, and we typically visit them in April just before they escape the Arizona summer. After getting the cats settled with their grandparents, we then loaded the car again and headed north. Seeing Northern Arizona, particularly the Grand Canyon, has always been on my bucket list so we felt it was time to check that off the list.
I’ll talk about our hotel and activities in Sedona in my next blog post. But driving to the Grand Canyon from Sedona was going to be a lot easier than driving up from Phoenix. We debated between visiting the canyon at sunrise or sunset, and we eventually settled on sunrise since it is typically less crowded. However, since sunrise was to happen at 6:01 am, this meant we had to wake up at 2:45 am and be in the car by 3 am since the Grand Canyon is about a 2 hour drive from Sedona.
Groggy, but determined, we drove through the dark night and saw hardly any other cars on the road. I knew I wanted to catch the 5:30 am Orange shuttle from the visitor’s center to Yaki Point (Mather Point is closer to the visitor’s center but can get incredibly crowded), since the next shuttle after that would be at 6 am and thus we would miss the dawn light and eventual sunrise, so we arrived just after 5:20 am. There were maybe 7 other cars in the parking lot when we arrived, and we knew this would bode well for us. The shuttle departed promptly at 5:30 am and dropped us off at Yaki Point around 5:40 am, 26 minutes before sunrise. This was a gorgeous time to look out on the canyon, as the pre-sunrise glow was illuminating everything.
There were a few peeps already there (six at the most), but Tor and I had scouted locations at Yaki on Instagram the day before and knew what spot we wanted. We had to trek down some rocks to get to a landing spot that overlooked the whole canyon (luckily I was wearing my favorite hiking boots), but once we got down there we had the whole place to ourselves…. and what a treat it was.
The Grand Canyon is massive. I always knew that, but seeing it in person is something else. It’s pretty much a rainbow of colors amongst all the rocks, trees, and cliffs, and those colors continue to change as the sun begins to crack the surface on the horizon. All of a sudden, Tor shouted, “Look! It’s coming up!” I whipped my head around to see an orange semi-circle beginning to make its debut, and I suddenly felt overwhelmed with emotion. I can’t even pinpoint what that emotion was, but I stopped snapping pics on the camera so I could just stand there and watch natural beauty unfold. From Iceland in January to the Grand Canyon now, Tor and I began to feel even more grateful and lucky for getting to visit some of Earth’s most beautiful, untouched treasures.
After visiting the Grand Canyon, a lot of you sent me questions on Twitter and Instagram asking for some of the best tips for visiting at sunrise. Here are some of our best tips below:
– Although I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon at sunset, I heard from friends that it can get pretty crowded since watching the sunset doesn’t require waking up in the middle of the night. From our experience, sunrise was incredibly magical and very quiet.
– Mather Point is the most popular spot for viewing sunrise at Grand Canyon since it’s a short walk from the main visitor center, but Yaki Point takes you a little deeper into the canyon. I’d probably not visit Yaki Point with kids though, since there is no railing at Yaki unlike at Mather Point.
– While we stayed in Sedona at L’Auberge de Sedona, if you’re traveling with a bigger group, or with kids, or you just really struggle to wake up in the morning, we recommend staying closer to the canyon at The Grand, Best Western, or Holiday Inn Express for the night before so that way you can get a little extra sleep.
– Always check the sunrise times in advance. You can just type “Grand Canyon sunrise” or “Yaki Point sunrise” into Google and it’ll tell you the time. That’ll help you plan your day.
– The Grand Canyon shuttle buses are the best ways to travel around the South Rim. They’re free and heated/air conditioned. Park at the visitor’s center and just hop on and off. The Orange Eastbound shuttle bus is the one we used to get to Yaki Point (it’s the second stop). They run every 30 minutes between 4:30 am and 6 am, and then every 10 minutes until 9 am. Since they only run every 30 minutes prior to sunrise, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to take the shuttle to your viewing point so you don’t miss anything.
– Check the weather before you go. The Grand Canyon is COLD in the morning (what do you expect when you’re 7,000 feet above sea level?), especially between September and June. On the morning we visited, it was 26 degrees Fahrenheit (about -4 degrees Celsius). So be sure to pack a coat, a hat, and gloves as well as your best hiking boots (I strongly discourage sandals). In the winter months, it’s not uncommon to see snow.
– Never forget to bring water, even if it’s cold outside.
– Be sure to check out more tips on visiting the Grand Canyon at sunrise/sunset here.