Grand Canyon: Best Spots for a Summer Picnic
No place on earth matches its beauty, and dining al fresco at this natural wonder is one of the peak experiences of America’s national parks.
It’s almost a given that restaurateurs will invest tens of thousands of dollars on the interior designs of their restaurants to impress their diners. But even if they spent tens of millions of dollars, they could never surpass America’s most alluring dining room: Grand Canyon.
No place on earth matches its beauty, and dining al fresco at this natural wonder is one of the peak experiences of America’s national parks. With vista points ringing the canyon’s rim, broad plateaus seemingly designed for a casual luncheon below the rim, and shady spots beneath piñyon pine and Utah juniper trees, eating outside greatly enhances a Grand Canyon visit.
Here are the best locations for an outdoor meal.
For a breakfast you’ll never forget, consider enjoying the most important meal of the day in the wooded areas near the Historic Village and along Yavapai Road and Desert View Drive leading to the Visitor Center and beyond. As you dine, there’s a chance that grazing animals will be doing the same.
You’ll need to rise early to enjoy this option since the best time to look for wildlife is around sunrise when the animals are up early to find food. Mule deer, bighorn sheep, foxes, jackrabbits, elk, and raccoons are some of the creatures you may see before they retreat during the day only to return again around dusk. But whether it’s a rabbit or a squirrel, don’t approach the animals you see or share your food.
It’s about 26 scenery-filled miles from the Historic Village to Desert View where you’ll find Mary J. Colter’s Hopi-inspired landmark, the Watchtower on the East Rim. At 70 feet high, this iconic landmark offers spectacular views as it lines up along the long seam of the canyon. Even from ground level, the vistas here are stunning — as are the many settings for a casual meal beside the canyon. Whether you pack your own picnic lunch or simply grab a sandwich at the nearby deli, pick your spot from the circular deck beneath the tower, the picnic tables throughout Desert View, or the open spaces beside the rim where a flat boulder can double as a most elegant dining table.
In another setting where wildlife will enhance your dining experience, each year during fall migration (roughly late August to early November) eagles, falcons, hawks, and condors return to Grand Canyon. It is at Yaki Point where “citizen scientists” who’ve signed up through HawkWatch keep an eye on the canyon to tally the returning raptors. But even when the raptors are still enjoying their summer in Canada, Yaki Point is one of the most picturesque settings on the South Rim to dine al fresco.
You won’t find many people enjoying a leisurely meal at Cedar Ridge, and that’s simply because reaching it requires hiking about a mile into the canyon on the South Kaibab Trail. Still, you’ll be rewarded with views that more than compensate. Most hikers pack water, protein bars, and salty snacks, but simply add sandwiches, fruit, and a few other treats and you can settle in for a luxurious picnic on this broad plateau, savoring views that reveal nearly half the canyon below you… and half the canyon above you. Magic.
Another of Mary Colter’s architectural masterpieces, this structure was created as the fantasy home of a fictional hermit, but the views from here are authentic in every way. As at the Watchtower, you can order a meal from the snack bar (sandwiches, chips, ice cream, cookies) or bring along your own. Either way, there are numerous places at Hermit’s Rest where you can relax and enjoy a picnic meal. Need a little more privacy? Look for a narrow path leading west, take a short walk, and it leads to an open area where picnic tables are available to anyone. Settle in on a bench, crack open your cooler, and then take a look around. You’re sitting at the head table in the world’s most wonderful dining room.
How to Explore
There’s no better way to make a grand trip grander than on the historic train to Grand Canyon. Travel over 120 round-trip miles through beautiful northern Arizona while being entertained by historical cowboy characters and strolling musicians. The Grand Canyon Railway has been departing daily from Williams, Ariz., since 1901. Spend a night in Williams next door to the train depot at the AAA Three Diamond Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Just walking distance from quaint downtown Williams and Route 66, the modern hotel has a grand lobby, indoor pool and hot tub as well as Spenser’s Pub with its handcrafted 19th-century bar. Packages with train travel and overnight stays in Grand Canyon National Park and Williams are available. Visit TheTrain.com for more information.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.