Before you go on your Grand Canyon trip, book a motorcoach tour online. This is the only way to see other parts of the Grand Canyon National Park if you take the Grand Canyon Railway in and don’t have access to a car.
I booked the the Desert View Tour and the Sunrise Tours online and quickly heard back about availability and pricing. However, I was frustrated not to learn when our tours would leave. I assume that’s because of timing the tours around sunrise, sunset and tour demand.
The Desert View Tour covers 52 miles in 3.75 hours. Traveling east along the Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River emerges from the depths of the inner gorge and many of its rapids can be viewed. This tour stops at Lipan Point, often said to be the most spectacular viewpoint on the East Rim Drive.
Our driver, Bill, a retired ad man from New York, was very knowledgeable about the park’s geological features and history. He was also a great driver! He said it’s very challenging to drive in the park because everyone’s looking at the Canyon and the wildlife, and not at the road. Just another reason to take the Grand Canyon Railway in and leave the driving to the experts!
The highlight of the tour is the stop at the Desert View Watchtower, an outpost some 25 miles from Grand Canyon Village. The view from the Watchtower – and all three (or was it four) floors of the building is breathtaking as the native paintings inside it.
The Watchtower is Frank Harvey architect, Mary Colter’s recreation of the unusual towers erected by the ancient native peoples of the Southwest. Supposedly, she was so picky that she had to approve each and every rock that went into constructing the building.
Since the visit to the Watchtower comes at the end of your motorocoach tour, you may want to stop at the nearby general store to stock up on drinks, snacks and anything else you might have forgotten like hay fever medicine (boy, was I having issues with my allergies) or sun block. I was amused to find that my can of V8 was more expensive than the bottle of Grand Canyon Brewery beer my husband bought. It’s probably cheaper to ship beer brewed in Williams than the V8 canned who knows where!
The cost of the tour is $44 per person. Children 16 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult.
The Sunrise Tour was worth getting up for at 4:30 am. We were picked up at the hotel lobby of the Maswick Lodge (it also picks up at two of the other lodges) and taken to the ramparts of the Palisades of the Desert to watch the sun rise.
It was amazing how the colors changed in the Canyon minute by minute. I couldn’t stop taking pictures! Paul and I were in awe, but the kids were a little bored. It’s a great tour for video or photography enthusiasts. (Don’t forget your tripod!) But for younger, sleep deprived kids, you may want to take the Sunset Tour instead.
The cost is $20 per person for 1.5 hours. Children 16 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Anne-Marie Nichols is the Managing Editor of the Mom Central blogs. You can also find her cooking up some healthy recipes at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet.