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The Grand Canyon is one of those places that is (or should be) on everyone’s bucket list. Toroweap is the Grand Canyon at it’s best. We haven’t been to the South Rim, so I can’t compare, however I do know it’s really touristy. If you’re headed to the South Rim, you’ll want to check out this 1-Day itinerary for the Grand Canyon with Kids. We’ve been to the North Rim Centre, it’s rustic and definitely worth the trip. It’s easier to access than Toroweap, with a few more services, BUT if you have a vehicle and the desire to get off the beaten path, Toroweap should be on your radar.
We started our morning a little slow, with a stop at Starbucks and a bathroom break all in the first hour! We tried to give the girls an idea of where we were going, but the best we could do was “we’re going to see a big hole in the ground.” I don’t think we sold it to them overly well. But, they’re 2 & 4 so a hole in the ground is kinda cool! An hour or so into the drive we turned onto a gravel road, 61 miles to Toroweap. I was thinking a little over an hour and we should be there. I was wrong!
It was just over 2 hours down the road (including one “deposit in the desert” from each girl!) The first 59 miles seemed to be alright, a little bumpy but nothing that our rented minivan couldn’t handle. (Remember, I live in the middle of the Prairies, so a dirt road that is a “little bumpy” to me may have a completely different description for someone used to luxuries like pavement!). 2 miles before the end there is a parking lot/small turn out and a sign that states something about vehicles with clearance only beyond that point. Randy decided that he had a super minivan and the recommendation didn’t apply to us. (I should mention that my dad was also with us, in his Ford pick-up, with room to squish us in and LOTS of clearance!) We headed down the road and before long we were crawling up a bumpy hill with only a few clangs of the bottom of the van scraping against the rocky road. We passed another vehicle at the top of the hill and were applauded by the occupants. Apparently we did have a super minivan, or Randy is superman! That last 2 miles took us a solid 30min (so much for an hour total!!).
The journey was well worth it as we were awarded with spectacular views of the Grand Canyon and very few people to share it with. There are a few picnic tables scattered a safe distance from the edge and we had a lovely picnic while I let my heart recover from having the girls close to the 3000 ft drop. The sky was cloudless and a brilliant blue, the red rock of the canyon walls a stark contrast. It’s amazing to look at something so vast that it’s beyond the eye’s ability to comprehend.
We visited on Valentine’s Day and found an appropriate heart-rock!
The poor girls had a bit of a paparazzi problem, both my dad and I were snapping photos of them all day! Calais and Kacela had fun “sliding” down the rocks – we did come home with holes in their pants!
The drive home was uneventful…we sent the girls with my dad & step mom so they were the ones that had to stop for “desert deposits!” It’s amazing how quickly one can move away from something and it becomes nothing more than an image etched in memory. When you’re there, standing on the edge, it stretches out around you as far as the eye can see, but a short way into the dry, parched desert there is nothing that even hints at it’s existence. As soon as you turn around it’s gone, and you could be anywhere in Arizona. It’s hard to believe that just a few miles away a river has carved a giant crevasse through the earth.
There are so many great US National Parks, the Grand Canyon is just one of them! I’m not sure if Toroweap counts because it’s so far away from the park headquarters, but it’s still the Grand Canyon! And it’s simply incredible.
If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, read on!
Tips for heading to Toroweap:
1. Don’t take a minivan…although we managed alright I wouldn’t recommend it – get something at least with a bit of clearance. Even a small SUV or Subaru would be better than a car or minivan.
2. Stop at the gas station at Pipe Springs National Monument for a bathroom break and last minute fuel-up. There are no services down the road to Toroweap and although it is only 61miles in, the journey takes a minimum of 2 hours each way.
3. Pack snacks and lots of water…you will be away from civilization for at least 4-5hours.
4. Toilet paper! There is a porta-potty at the end of the “reasonable” road, and then another right at the rim of the canyon, however 4+ hours of washboard gravel and the small bladder of a little one almost guarantees that you will be stopping for a “deposit in the desert” as we called it! There’s not much around in the way of leaves or grass to do the job….so bring toilet paper.
5. Bring a safety device for the little one if needed. There is no barrier at the rim of the canyon, and it is 3000′ straight down to the Colorado River. I am typically not one for putting a leash on my child, however this may have been one of those situations in which it is appropriate. It was easy to keep the girls away from the edge, and luckily they listen pretty well (especially when I’m screaming at them to stop as soon as they get within about 20′ from the edge!). If you have a little one that likes to run off, a device to keep them close and contained should be on your list. Don’t let this discourage you, just be prepared and go in with eyes wide open.
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