Visitors to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim will most likely spend time in Grand Canyon Village, where most of the facilities and services are located. If you stay inside Grand Canyon National Park, you’ll be staying at accommodations located in Grand Canyon Village, since it’s the center of activity inside the Park. There are also dining and attractions here, as well as the starting point of trails, footpaths, and scenic drives in and about the Grand Canyon. The Village itself is designed to be explored by foot, and the part of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim which lies inside Grand Canyon Village, called the Village Rim, is to be explored on foot as well. The footpath that takes you along the Village Rim is about one mile round trip.
Even if you stay elsewhere, say in Tusayan or Williams, you will want to get a look at the Bright Angel Lodge. It’s the main historical building in Grand Canyon Village, built in 1935 from rustic materials, and gives visitors a real sense of the history of Grand Canyon National Park. It’s on the National Register for Historic Landmarks, and was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter (Mary E. J. Colter). Located in the western part of the Village and mere yards from the edge of the Grand Canyon, it has 89 guest rooms as well rustic cabins nearby. Cabins have TV and private bathroom, while rooms in the main Lodge may or may not have private bathroom, and no TVs. All rooms have telephones. You find rates wonderfully reasonable, and decor simple and rustic, befitting the architectural style in which the Bright Angel Lodge was designed.
On the Rim side of Bright Angel Lodge you will find the famous Bright Angel Fountain, which serves ice cream to overheated and weary hikers, guests, and anyone else who needs respite from the sun and heat. It’s only open in summer, so get ready for hot chocolate in wintertime at the Bright Angel Lodge’s family-style restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For more facilities and modern accoutrements, try any one of the several other lodges in Grand Canyon Village:
These too are located right on the South Rim in Grand Canyon Village, and in fact are situated right next to each other on the Rim, with the exception of Yavapi Lodge and Maswik Lodge. They offer more modern accommodations with higher prices than the budget-minded Bright Angel Lodge.
Bright Angel Trailhead is one of the most famous hiking trails in the Grand Canyon. It descends just over 5,500 feet into the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. Its history tells the story of the changing visitors to this spot on the South Rim, and encompasses the history of trail use by both human and animal populations. The trail was cut by bighorn sheep making their way down into and up out of the canyon to get water. They chose the best spot, and wore down the trial, thereby performing the hardest work of cutting a trail in the wilderness. The Havasupai Indians learned about the trail and used it as well. As prospectors arrived in the late 1800s, the trail was widened and fixed up for the carrying of supplies and other good necessary for the prospecting trade of that era. The path nowadays serves tourists who enter the Grand Canyon via foot or by mule. Serious hikers can get a permit for hiking down into the Grand Canyon and camping overnight. National Park Rangers do not at all encourage the hike down Bright Angel Trail and over to Phantom Ranch and then back up the trail as a day hike. Get a permit and stay overnight before hiking back up to the South Rim.
Kolb Studio was built in 1904, even before the Bright Angel Lodge, before the heyday of building in the 1930s at the Grand Canyon. It’s the original picture-spot photo-op studio for visitors to the Grand Canyon. The Kolb brothers started the business when there was no water at the South Rim. They would take pictures of tourists riding the mules down the Bright Angel Trail, as they descended. Then they’d rush over to Indian Garden, almost five miles away, where there was water. They’d quickly develop the photos, then rush back to the South Rim as the tourists were finishing their mules trips, coming back up the Bright Angel Trail. The mule riders of course couldn’t resist the photos of themselves bravely riding mules down into the Grand Canyon (who could?), and bougth the photos, thus enabling Ellsworth and Emery Kolb to make a fine living at their Kolb Studio. Emery kept it going until 1976, when he died at the ripe old age of 95. Today, there’s a bookstore and gallery at Kolb Studio, where you can view photography, paintings and crafts.
The National Park Service operates Canyon View Information Plaza in Grand Canyon Village, accessible by free shuttle bus or by foot only. There are Park Rangers on duty during business hours and on weekends. You can plan your day here, with help from the Park Rangers, who will answer all your questions. There’s a bookstore, rest rooms, and ranger-led hikes begin here. The Park Rangers also give lectures on the wildlife, ecology, and history of the Grand Canyon.
Belinda Mills is traveling internet writer who is currently residing on the island of Key West
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