Grand Canyon Weekend On A Budget

I say we start a petition to change the name of Grand Canyon National Park.

The current name doesn’t really prepare you for the experience of looking over the south rim for the first time. Maybe SPECTACULAR Canyon or perhaps even SUPERCALAFRAGILISTICEXPIALADOCIOUS Canyon would be more appropriate? When I first walked through the Visitor’s Center to see the movie and walk to Mather’s Point lookout I thought I was prepared. But no! I was left speechless as I peered out over the rim into a Canyon of ridges, plateaus, buttes, water, shrubs, Ponderosa pines, and a veritable rainbow of rock layers showing shimmery sandstone, light limestone, and a myriad other sedimentary rock cross sections.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Canyon

We stayed the whole weekend at Maswik Lodge in the south rooms which were a great budget price of $112 nightly. Maswik Lodge is in the Grand Canyon Village where rooms can run upwards of $400 per night. Maswik is a cute lodge in a Ponderosa Pine forest just a 7-minute walk to the Rim Trail and Bright Angel Trailhead. The Maswik Lodge registration building has a gift shop, park information desk, food court, and pizza bar just a minute walk from your room door. The shuttle bus for the Park also stops right at the registration building.

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Maswik Lodge

If you bring your bikes, then you can bike the roads and trails. If not, there are bikes to rent and even bike tours.

On this road trip a stop at the Grand Canyon was NOT planned (or packed for). So let me tell you how we managed a pseudo-luxury weekend (for two) there for less than $500.

Where to stay: Maswik Lodge has rooms for as low as $112. Maswik is a 5-7 minute walk to the rim. Bright Angel has nice cabins for $140 and partial view rooms for $184. Bright Angel is on the rim. Call Xanterra for reservations or visit grandcanyonlodges.com for online booking.

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Basic Maswik South Room

What to do: Stop at the Visitor’s Center to see the introductory movie (it explains the geology, weather, and life in the Canyon over the ages). While you’re there get your first glimpse of Grand Canyon by walking 2 minutes to the rim at Mather Point. Take a selfie! After that you can linger at the Visitor’s Center to rent bikes, reserve a bike tour, buy a latte, and/or get maps of the park as well as information on all the activities available there.

After check in make plans to hike the Bright Angel Trail. It starts right outside the Bright Angel Lodge and offers a blood pumping 3 mile round trip hike down into the Canyon to the first rest stop with water and restrooms. It takes 2-4 hours to complete. When you’re done treat yourself to an ice cream cone at the Bright Angel Fountain.

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Bright Angel Lodge

Hike the Rim Trail. It offers you amazing views along a pretty flat rim hike that can take you from one end the Park to the other.

Use the bus/shuttle system. It’s free! It will take you to view points that you’re not allowed to drive to, like Hermit’s Rest and Yaki Point, or to amazing views 20 miles from the Village, like Desert View and the Watchtower.

Sunrise view is best at an east facing site like Hopi Point. Sunset view is best at a west facing point like Yaki Point.

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Bright Angel Trailhead

Where to eat: The food court at Maswik Lodge has dinner specials each night for about $8 and pizza for $3.25 a slice. The Canyon provides spring water and the park offers it for free everywhere. You’ll need to drink a lot of it, it’s very arid up there.

Journey over to the Arizona Room Restaurant at Bright Angel Lodge for meals from $10-$30 a plate. I had the $10 super filling Heritage Tacos (one chicken and one carnitas pork) for lunch one day and dinner the next. A half salad runs $6-$7. Get the house wine, which will run you $6-$8 per glass.

Bring rations! We brought supplemental meals and snacks with us so we didn’t have to eat out every meal. For breakfast we took our oatmeal cups to the food court eating area at Maswik Lodge and used the free hot water and plastic spoons there for a hearty breakfast. We brought the coffee cups from our room and used them to get gratis coffee at the food court, too. For snacks we brought Kind bars, apples, and baby carrots. We also had flat and sparkling water as well as wine in our car cooler. The room had a fridge so we used that too. We had our hydro flasks to keep the water we took cold all day. We also had some protein powder and blender bottles so we could have a quick meal replacement by filling then is with 10 ounces of water and adding two scoops of powder.

What to wear: Layers!! A good base layer t-shirt (I wore ultra lightweight wool t-shirts from Woolly Company), a long sleeved tee, and a three season jacket or windbreaker will take you from morning to night comfortably. Start out with all three in the chilly a.m., shed the jacket and long sleeved t-shirt mid day when the sun is at its highest, and then add them back in as the day goes on and the sun goes down. It’s super windy so a hooded long sleeved t-shirt would be a plus.

I wore wool Capri leggings by WoolX. I found them on Amazon for cheap. Wool is the best activity fabric because its insulates you when you’re cold, wicks swear away from your body when you get warm, and resists odor. It can be hand washed in the hotel sink at night and dry by morning. Plus you only need to wash it every three days or so EVEN IF YOU SWEAT IN IT. Just hang to let it air out and I swear you’ll be amazed. God made wool and it is miraculous!

Also:

  • Take a brimmed hat for full sun hiking.
  • Carry your refillable water bottle everywhere (free spring water offered at all trail heads).
  • Wear sunscreen.

Itinerary & Budget Breakdown For Two:

  • Pack your cooler with wine, sparkling water (or soda if you prefer), baby carrots, and apples
  • Bring water bottles, instant oatmeal cups, blender bottles, and meal replacement shake powder
  • Arrive Friday at 11am
  • Go to Visitor’s Center & Mather Point
  • Go to Maswik Lodge for pizza lunch = $15
  • Check in at Maswik at 3pm
  • Fri/Sat nights @ $112 = $224
  • Friday Maswik dinner for two = $25
  • Friday drinks are free from your cooler
  • Saturday (6am) breakfast is oatmeal you bring
  • Walk to Bright Angel trailhead and hike the 3 mile trail (7am – 11am), have your snacks and water in your daypack
  • Go to the Bright Angel Restaurant for lunch and to the Fountain for an ice cream cone dessert = $30
  • Walk back to your room and rest, change shoes, make reservations for dinner a the Arizona Room
  • Walk (or drive or bike) to Bright Angel Lodge for dinner at the Arizona Room = $50
  • Sunday (7am) breakfast is oatmeal
  • Drive to Desert View (8am) and climb the Watchtower
  • Drive back, check out, load your car
  • Have a meal replacement shake for lunch
  • Drive to Kachina Lodge and walk some (or all) of the Rim Trail as a goodbye to the Canyon before you head home
  • TOTAL = $344
  • Leaves some room for souvenirs and splurging on treats!