As you step around the hotels and shops of the Grand Canyon Village, you get your first look at it, and whether it is your first visit or tenth, the feeling is the same -- it is awe-inspiring, breathtaking, majestic.
The mile-deep, 277-mile-long canyon is a hiker and nature lover’s paradise, but it’s much more than that. It is also for lovers. The sights and amenities along the south rim make this one of the most extraordinary romantic getaways in the world.
Whether it’s having a romantic dinner for two at a table with the most incredible view in the world, snuggling up by a fire in a rustic park hotel, getting lost in the stars, or just finding that special place where the two of you can sit and gaze at a fiery sunset, the canyon has it all. Here are some tips for the perfect romantic weekend getaway to the Grand Canyon.
Getting There Is Half The Fun
The Flagstaff Pulliam Airport is the preferred location to begin your romantic weekend at the canyon. From here, you have two options to make your way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and both are fun and memorable trips.
The first is by car. It is only a 2-hour drive from the airport by taking either I-40W and Arizona 64N, or by taking U.S. Highway 180W to Arizona 64N. The drive in on Arizona 64N is a straight shot to the park with beautiful desert views that transition into pine forests. Don’t be surprised if you have to pause your trip and wait for elk to cross the road.
The other, and the most romantic of all, is by hopping a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway.
The train began its run in 1901 when 17 passengers first climbed aboard to experience the splendor of the canyon. Today, it is estimated that the train eliminates over 50,000 cars from entering the park, thus protecting the fragile environment.
You can pick up the train in Williams, Arizona. That’s a 40-minute drive on I-40W from the airport. Book your ride on one of six different types of cars. For couples, opt for one of the luxury cars -- either the Luxury Dome or the Luxury Parlor.
The Parlor is a plush, wood-trimmed, and carpeted car reminiscent of the days when rail barons owned the rails. You can step outside of the car onto a back platform to sip your drinks with a unique view of the desert.
The Luxury Dome is a full-length, domed car with two floors. From the dome, you will have a spectacular view of the desert. Both cars have private bars featuring exclusive cocktails and snacks.
There are several packages available where you can either ride the train straight into the park or spend the night at the spectacular Grand Canyon Railway Hotel where you can dine at the Fred Harvey Restaurant, visit historic Williams, and have a nightcap at Spenser’s Pub before hopping on the train refreshed the next morning to begin your Grand Canyon adventure.
A Room With A View
There is no better way to spark romance than spending the night in a room with a view next to a crackling fire. Make your reservations to stay at either the Bucky O’Neill or Red Horse Cabin suites at the Bright Angel Lodge. Cuddle up in front of the toasty, flickering fireplace and wake up to a spectacular view of the Grand Canyon.
Or you may want to book your room at the historic El Tovar Hotel. The spectacular log hotel was built in 1905 and features a large fireplace in the lobby, and a quiet, secluded deck on the second floor where you can get a bird’s eye view of the canyon. Oh, and be sure to ask a ranger or the hotel’s staff about the “secret” spot to view a spectacular sunset.
One of the most breathtaking sights at the Grand Canyon are the sunrises and sunsets. As evening approaches, the sky transitions from deep blue sky to a blazing orange ribbon, then a purple hue as the sun slowly dips in the west, only to reverse the scene in the morning. As the sun performs its daily sky show, the canyon is transformed, changing colors and shades as the sun rises -- or sinks -- slowly in the sky.
The best spots to view the light show is at Mather Point near the visitor center and just about anywhere along Hermit Road that skirts the canyon’s rim, including in front of the hotels. The park also has shuttle buses that you can ride to Hopi Point, which extends out into the canyon for a better view.
Get Lost In The Stars
When you first see the Grand Canyon, your breath will be taken away, and many shed tears. It’s simply spectacular. But just wait until the sun sets. Head to the wall at the rim and look up. You will literally find yourself lost in the stars, billions of them. The Milky Way glows brilliantly overhead, streaking the sky in a blanket of stars as occasional meteor streaks across your view.
A wonderful location to experience the heavens is Yavapai Point. It is only a 2-mile walk from the hotels, but the view is spectacular.
Dinner For Two
A romantic dinner for two is extra special at the Grand Canyon, and you will find the perfect setting in the El Tovar Dining Room. Begin with drinks in the El Tovar Lounge, where you can step out onto the veranda for an incredible view of the sun setting over the canyon. Then make your way to the elegant dining room. Be sure to make your reservations early for so you can guarantee a cozy table for two overlooking the canyon or next to the roaring fireplace.
Here’s the menu (PDF). Start your meal with an appetizer like the Artisan Cheese and Meat Board featuring three gourmet cheeses, specialty meat, and roasted nuts. Then move on to one of nine delectable entrees, such as the Signature Salmon Tostada, Crab Stuffed Rainbow Trout, or the Fettuccini Pasta with Alfredo Sauce.
Getting Down: Hiking The Canyon
There are many trails you can hike to experience the splendor of the canyon. One of the most popular is the simplest for couples to stroll hand in hand while taking in the views -- a walk along the Grand Canyon Rim Trail.
Around every bend, the canyon presents a different face as you make your way to the
At Yavapai Museum of Geology, a large bay window gives you a panoramic view of the canyon that is described as “unrivaled by any in the world” and “one of the most romantic spots in the park.”
There are many more trails in the canyon, like the Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab, Grandview, to name only a few, but they tend to be very crowded. Visit the Grand Canyon’s hiking website for optional hikes.
Editor's Note: Here are some helpful tips for hiking the Grand Canyon.
Biking The Rim
The next best thing to walking the South Rim is biking it. And it’s not as difficult as you think.
Rent a bike from Bright Angel Bicycles and glide around the rim to take in many views of the canyon that might otherwise take a long time to walk to. Better yet, take one of their guided tours, including the 5.5-mile-long ride to Hermit’s Rest or the 7-mile ride to Yaki Point. Both treks provide some of the best views along the rim, and your guide will impart wonderful stories and history of the canyon.
The guided tours are 3 hours long, and a shuttle is provided to get you back to the village.
Needless to say, the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular parks in the national park system. The best season to visit is November through February, what the park calls their “secret season.” The canyon is gorgeous when it is draped in a light dusting of snow.
If winter at the canyon doesn’t thrill you, the next best time is autumn from just after Labor Day to November. There will still be plenty of people there, but not as much as in the spring and summer.
Having said that, no matter what time of year you plan on taking that romantic weekend vacation, make your reservations well in advance of your trip so you can guarantee that romantic room and dining experience.
For sunset and sunrise viewing, pick out a spot to sit at the very least one hour before, and don’t leave it. It will be scooped up by someone else before you know it.