Grand Canyon Circuit
Take a loop around North America's greatest natural wonder for a red-rock road trip of a lifetime.
Photo by Jess Lee
"In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world,” said President Theodore Roosevelt in a 1903 speech. Five years later, under the authority of the Antiquities Act, he signed the Grand Canyon National Monument into being. Although Roosevelt’s hope that the canyon never be marred by a building was not realized, it is still considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a must-visit sight for every American.
My favorite way to appreciate it is by making a 1,650-mile loop around the famed landmark. It is a golden circle, mostly high desert, that includes no fewer than seven national parks, a dozen national monuments, and numerous state and tribal parks. How long one takes to drive the circuit depends on limits of time and patience; I recommend a couple of weeks, though I’ve done it in as few as eight days. I also recommend staying in as many park lodges as possible: They tend to be less expensive than the alternatives, are conveniently located, and boast historic charms that will transport you back to the canyon of Roosevelt’s time.
I’ll admit it: Las Vegas isn’t my kind of town, but it’s the ideal place to start the Grand Canyon loop. For accommodations off the Strip that will set the proper scene for your upcoming drive, check out the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa (11011 W. Charleston Blvd., 866.767.7773, www.redrocklasvegas.com). Perched on the edge of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, the west-facing rooms feature stunning natural views. For a meal to remember, head to the highly acclaimed and surprisingly affordable Lotus of Siam (953 E. Sahara Ave., Suite A5, 702.735.3033, www.saipinchutima.com).