When we planned out our move, we knew we wanted to tack on a few extra days in Colorado and the west before we moved east. Alex hadn’t been to the Grand Canyon and I’d only spent a few hours there last summer so we dedicated 2 full days on the schedule to exploring Grand Canyon National Park.
(Full route: Denver > Grand Canyon North Rim > Vegas > Vail/Beavercreek > Denver > Minneapolis > Milwaukee > Cincinnati > Pittsburgh)
I left work on Wednesday, wiping tears after a really thoughtful send off from my team, and after driving through our beloved Capital Hill neighborhood one last time, we turned in the keys to our apartment and hit the road. The goal: drive 5 hours to Pagosa Springs, CO in southwest Colorado. With a near-midnight arrival into Pagosa, we opted to scrap our car camping plans and find a cheap hotel for the night.
Thursday morning came early and we dined on hotel continental breakfast waffles before hitting the road bound for the Grand Canyon! Remembering the drive out of the Grand Canyon, I couldn’t wait to stare out the window and swoon over firey orange rocks along the route.
About 2 hours from reaching the Grand Canyon, we stopped at the Navajo Bridge which crosses the Colorado River and offers stunning views of the Vermillion Cliffs to the west and the river beneath. The original bridge, now the pedestrian bridge, opened in 1929 and with the increased volume of vehicle traffic, a new bridge was built and opened in 1995 which is why there are two nearly identical bridges over the river.
Continuing on, we stopped at the Kaibab National Forest Welcome Center to get a recommendation on best dispersed camping spots in the forest, ideally with a view of the canyon and without a lot of people around. The campground inside the park books up 6 months in advance (and doesn’t have First Come First Serve camping, as the website indicates) but because the Kaibab National Forest abuts the park boundary, we knew we would be able to find camping in the forest and still close to the canyon.
We took Forest Road 611 to find a place to call home for the night and, after poking around a few different locations, found one that offered a pretty sweet view. It wasn’t quite the view we’d been expecting; we were hoping for EPIC CANYON VIEWS but instead were treated to views of the basin just before the epic canyon views. Regardless, we loved it.
A note about Forest Road 611: this is a mostly dirt road with some rocks (not large) and gravel; we drove our Subaru Outback but vehicles with lower clearance would be able to make this drive, too.
In the minutes before the sun rose on Friday morning, I rustled Alex awake and we hopped of our tents in our sleeping bags to watch the sun slowly rise over the horizon…
…and then promptly shuffled back into the tent for a couple more hours of sleep. I mean, it was vacation, after all!
Alex and I spent the rest of Friday at the Bright Angel trail, eating lunch at the lodge and driving 20+ miles out to Timp Point, far in the Kaibab Forest on the northwest border of the park.
Timp Point came recommended for the type of EPIC CANYON VIEWS we were hoping for and it did not disappoint. To get to the actual Timp Point, there is a short 20 minute hike from the trailhead; we parked and hiked out to the point to check out the views before searching for a campsite.
There were only a handful of spots in Timp Point and we grabbed a campsite with an excellent view of the canyon. We set up our tent, cracked open a beer and settled in under the shade with our favorite camping game, Farkle.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, we tossed a frisbee which I hadn’t done in ages! We made up a game where we assigned points to trees based on their distance away from the ‘starting line’ (aka TreeNerf, for those who have car camped with us in the past year) and had a blast just goofing off like kids again.
Sunset from our spot was dreamy.
We cooked sausages over the fire for dinner and talked for many hours into the night – about our favorite Colorado memories, expectations and fears for the next 2 years in Pittsburgh, thoughts about the past year of our marriage and hopes for the next year. The past year of our lives was hectic and we didn’t take much time for *just us* and we both felt it. That last night in the Grand Canyon felt like we reconnected and got back on the same page and was the best way to kick off our 2 week road trip.
We turned in for the night (in the back of Subaru because there was lightening that probably wouldn’t have been a problem but I’m paranoid about lightening so made us sleep in the car), slept like babies and, in the morning, packed up to head out.
Next up: Vegas!