The Grand Canyon is a ‘Must See’.
A lot of Americans—my wife is one of them—are reluctant to travel abroad on the grounds that there are whole sections of this country that they have never seen. I hate to admit it, but they have a point. In fact, one of our more memorable trips was to the Grand Canyon.
People come from around the world to see what is no doubt our most iconic natural wonder and with good reason.
Probably the best way to get there is by train. You can take Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to Williams Junction, Arizona, although the train’s arrival times are not particularly convenient. The westbound train originating in Chicago gets there at 9:45 in the evening; the eastbound Chief, coming from Los Angeles, arrives in Williams Junction at 3:45 a.m. however you can book an Amtrak bus for the 10-minute ride to the town of Williams, Arizona, and there are several decent hotels there. Arrival times for the Chief are a bit better for Flagstaff, AZ, and you can rent a car and drive to the Grand Canyon from there.
But as far as I’m concerned, the best way to get from Williams Junction to the Grand Canyon is by the Grand Canyon Railway. (NARP members get a discount on the fare, by the way.) The train leaves Williams Junction at 9:30 in the morning and gets to the South Rim at about noon.
There is really no need to have a car once you reach the canyon because there is an excellent jitney service that runs frequently. It’s free and will take you almost anywhere you would like to go along the South Rim.
Before digital photography, a visit to the Grand Canyon would cost a fortune in film and processing. There are spectacular shots everywhere you look from every vantage point. I couldn’t resist photographing the Colorado River which runs through the canyon far below.
The jitneys run all along the south rim, stopping at hotels and at the many spots where there’s another spectacular view. My wife and I were there for two nights and that was plenty.
I suppose it’s because of those somewhat inconvenient Southwest Chief hours at Williams Junction that prevent a schedule coordination with the Grand Canyon Railway, but I’d think it would sure be great if they could be coordinated.
The old Santa Fe stations in Williams that the Williams Tourist Information Center and Grand Canyon Railway use sound interesting and the Wikipedia entry for Williams Junction mentions a Harvey House Hotel at one of the old stations. Do you know anything about it and if it includes dining?
The eastbound SW Chief schedule sounds very unattractive, but the westbound schedule sounds fine to me. Because I really don’t know anything about lodging choices in Flagstaff vs. Williams would you say that most experienced westbound travelers aboard the Southwest Chief would get off the train at Flagstaff and drive to Williams the next morning to board the Grand Canyon Railway, or continue west on the train to Williams Junction and take Amtrak’s Thruway bus to Williams and spend the night there?
When my wife and I did this trip, we were coming from Los Angeles. We left the train in Flagstaff with several other people who were getting off there, too. We found an all night diner and we all had a great breakfast. I think there were 6 or 7 of us altogether. After breakfast, those of us going to the Grand Canyon took a taxi to Williams Junction — about a 30 minute ride — and got there in time to catch the Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim.