Vacation Within A Vacation: See the Grand Canyon in one fun-filled day

Grand Canyon on a sunny day (All photos by Kimberly Dijkstra)
Grand Canyon on a sunny day (All photos by Kimberly Dijkstra)

If you are visiting Las Vegas, it is almost a crime not to make an excursion to see the Grand Canyon. Perhaps that’s a little harsh, but when one of the most remarkable natural wonders of the world is only four hours away, you won’t regret spending a day to go see it. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to take a tour.

There are countless bus tours to Grand Canyon National Park available from Las Vegas, but only one will pick you up at your hotel in a big pink jeep. Papillon, which specializes in aerial tours and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, partners with Pink Jeep Tours for unforgettable experiences.

The south rim of the Grand Canyon is where you want to go for the quintessential postcard-perfect view. On the morning of your Papillon Platinum South Rim Tour, Pink Jeep Tours’ custom touring vehicle will pick you up outside your hotel. The big pink “trekker” is a sturdy off-road vehicle that allows guests to travel long distances in comfort and luxury, all while getting a small tour group experience.

Rock layers of the Grand Canyon are up to two billion years old.
Rock layers of the Grand Canyon are up to two billion years old.

The vehicles hold 10 passengers, plus the driver, who, if you’re lucky, will be Jurgen, a fantastic tour guide who knows all of the ins and outs of the area and takes you to some special and unexpected locations. Though it’s a long ride to the canyon, you will be able to relax, and even sleep, in the spacious leather seating and air conditioning. The large tinted windows provide excellent views all around.

Breakfast and lunch are included in the cost of the tour and the boxed lunch is no ordinary boxed lunch. The gourmet sandwiches from Capriotti’s are made fresh every morning and accompanied by chips, fresh veggies, cheese and crackers and a cookie. Bottled water is provided throughout the day and is important to drink frequently when traveling through a desert climate.

Grand Canyon view from Mather Point—can you see the brave person standing out on that ledge?
Grand Canyon view from Mather Point—can you see the brave person standing out on that ledge?

During the journey, Jurgen plays a video about the history of taking mules down into the canyon, which provides insight into and anticipation for the magnificent place you are going. He also makes a point to stop at a trading post outside the park which sells authentic handmade Native American keepsakes. As a professional tour guide, Jurgen will narrate the canyon’s history, geology, wildlife and even urban legends, all in his delightful German accent.

Once you enter the park, there is plenty of free time to explore the rim. Mather Point has panoramic picturesque views of the canyon’s unique landscape, painted in shades of red, orange, umber and green. The scenery is breathtaking and this outlook is only the first of many photo opportunities.

Pink Jeep Tours stops at this trading post on the way to the Grand Canyon.
Pink Jeep Tours stops at this trading post on the way to the Grand Canyon.

Walk along the paved rim trail to Yavapai Point, which is home to a geological museum and bookstore. Jurgen encourages his group to fill their water bottles at the filling station with fresh spring water from Roaring Springs, cooled to the perfect temperature by Mother Nature herself, and then on to the highlight of the tour.

There is a ledge not far from Yavapai Point where, with caution, and clever camera angles, you can take some classic shots that are sure to scare your parents back home. The memories and photos will last a lifetime.

Next, you’ll be given free time at the Bright Angel Lodge, to patronize the restaurant or bar there, peruse the museum or step outside for more views of the gorge and Colorado River below. Depending on the time of day and year, these viewpoints can get quite crowded, so stake your claim when you find an angle you like.

Seligman, AZ, birthplace of Route 66 and inspiration for Radiator Springs, the fictional town in Cars
Seligman, AZ, birthplace of Route 66 and inspiration for Radiator Springs, the fictional town in Cars

When it’s time to leave the park, the tour is far from over. Past forest, vast open fields and wild sunflowers growing along the side of the road, your tour guide will bring you to the birthplace of historic Route 66—Seligman, AZ. Get your picture taken with life-size Mater and Fillmore from the Pixar film Cars and pick up a souvenir or two in the gift shop.

If you count your cards right, there might be time for another interesting pit stop and a view of Lake Mead at sunset before you are dropped off at the door to your hotel with a day full of wondrous sights behind you and a memory card full of photos to sort through ahead.

For more information on this or other tours, including helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon and more, visit www.papillon.com and www.pinkjeeptours.com.

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Kimberly Dijkstra
Kimberly Dijkstra is the web editor for Anton Media Group, a writer for Long Island Weekly and recipient of several Press Club of Long Island (PCLI) and New York Press Association (NYPA) awards.

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