Hiking to Crystal Cascade

Mt. Washington is New Hampshire’s best-known mountain and very popular both with hikers and tourists who choose to get to the summit riding on the Cog Railway or driving up the toll Auto Road.  We decided to hike on the Tuckerman Ravine trail, not in hopes of summitting, but only as far as the spectacular Crystal Cascade. We ended up doing this hike on a cooler afternoon, after a couple of short hikes during the morning.

The hike to the 100-ft waterfall is listed as .3 mile and 250 feet in elevation gain, but parts of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail were closed for trail maintenance. ( You can check on the trail detour here.)We decided to leave our 4-year-old, Tiny, with a good friend while we tackled this one, which turned out to be a good choice.  The trail detour was pretty steep and since the weather had been very wet, the trail was muddy and slippery. I won’t name names, but a couple of us slipped and fell at various times!  Nobody was hurt, however, and we plowed ahead.

The payoff was worth it.  Nobody but us was at the falls, though we had seen a few others on the main trail.  We were able to take in the beauty of the waterfall and get some great photos without waiting for others to move out of the way or worrying that we were getting in the way of others.

 

Woman in front of waterfall
Tired but happy at Crystal Cascade

I wouldn’t recommend this hike for very young children, unless they’re going to  ride in a carrier part or all of the way, but this was one of my favorite waterfall hikes so far in New Hampshire.  The views of the falls are unobstructed and it wasn’t crowded at all. I hope you get a chance to check it out sometime!

Although we found lots of other things to see and places to go once we got there, the reason we went to Arizona in the first place was to see the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon with vegetation in foreground and ray of light on the left
A photo just doesn’t convey the depth and breadth of the Grand Canyon. You just have to see it for yourself!

 

We were there in March, not due to any preplanning but simply because that’s when we got there.  The weather was cool still, but there was no snow on the ground.  I should say, there was no snow on the ground when we arrived.  

About Grand Canyon National Park

A national park since 1919, Grand Canyon National Park contains 1904 acres. The canyon itself averages a mile in depth and ten miles across.  At the widest point, the distance from rim to rim is an astounding eighteen miles!

Entrance fees for the park are for a seven day period.  Entrance for a private vehicle and occupants is $30, a motorcycle is $25, and bicyclists or pedestrians pay $15. An annual pass for Grand Canyon National park is $60, which admits the passholder and the other occupants of the vehicle, or when entering by bicycle, on foot, or by shuttle/train, admits the passholder’s immediate family (defined as parents, spouse, and children) While the Grand Canyon annual pass is a good value if you’re going to spend two weeks or more visiting,  the “America the Beautiful”  annual pass, which grants admission to National Parks and other federal lands, is an even better deal at $80.

The south rim has a visitor center near Mather Point, with educational displays, video presentations about the canyon and a knowledgable staff to answer questions.  The Yavapai Geology Museum  features exhibits about the formation and geology of the canyon, and large viewing windows (a great choice for viewing the canyon if you have young children and are nervous standing near the rim with them!)  Kolb Studio, near the Bright Angel trailhead, was previously a photography studio and private home.  Today the building houses art and history exhibits.  At Verkamps Visitor Center you can learn about the history of  settlements and development in and around the Grand Canyon.  On the eastern end of the park, you can climb the Desert View Watchtower  for 360° views of the canyon and surrounding landscape.  The tower itself, though, is also worth seeing for its design and architecture.  Designed by Mary Coulter, the building contains murals by renowned Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.   Hermit’s Rest,on the west end of the park, is another Mary Coulter design, has exhibits, a gift shop and cafe.  Finally, don’t overlook the Tusayan Museum and ruin. There are no sweeping canyon views here, but rather an intimate look at the ways of life of the Ancestral Puebloan people.

 

interior of a circular room
Inside the Desert Watchtower
child in front of large stone fireplace
Inside Hermit’s Rest, taking a rest, of course!

 

Camping

Although  RV and tent camping is available in developed campgrounds within  Grand Canyon National Park, free dispersed camping in the Kaibab National Forest puts visitors just outside the park.  Stop in at the Tusayan District Ranger office for a Motor Vehicle use Map (MVUM) or get an electronic version ahead of time.  We chose a campsite on FR 307 up the road a ways from the Grandview Lookout fire tower. There is a trailhead near the fire tower, with vault toilets.

Travel trailer in a snowy landscape
We got just enough snow to look pretty for a day and then make a mess of mud when it melted! But see how how much space and privacy we had boondocking in the Kaibab National Forest?

Within the park there is a building with coin-operated laundromat and pay showers.  Visitors do not need to be registered at the in-park campgrounds to use these amenities.  Showers cost $2 for 8 minutes, and the water was good and hot.  A bill changer is available in the laundry room. There were men’s and women’s rooms with multiple showers, as well as a handicapped accessible/family shower.  I saw the attendant unlocking the handicapped accessible shower for a woman with a young school-age boy.  I supposed she felt he was a little old to go  in the women’s showers, but she didn’t want to send him in the men’s showers alone.  I was glad to see the staff accommodate them!

We recommend bringing plenty of groceries with you.  Prices close to the park are very high.  We only planned to stay a few days and were not well-stocked.  Then we got some snow, which quickly melted, and we felt it best not to try to get underway until the mud dried out. After a week, when  we decided to stay a second week, we took a day to drive into Flagstaff to resupply. Had there not been a 14-day stay limit in the National Forest, we might have stayed even longer!  

Things to Do

In addition to the many museums and visitor  centers, Grand Canyon National Park offers a variety of ranger-led programs. There are daytime talks suitable for younger children, but we particularly enjoyed the evening ranger programs.  We learned about subjects ranging from the Colorado River to the effects of fire suppression on the forest landscape. These programs are held at Shrine of the Ages, which also is home to various religious services on Sundays. Although most worshippers were employees  (and their families) of the National Park Service, US Forest Service, or the hotels and eateries within the park, we were made to feel very welcome at church services as visitors.

One of the best parts of visiting Grand Canyon National Park was hiking.  We hiked about 3 miles along the Rim trail, hopping on and off the free shuttle at various points.  We also hiked below the canyon rim on the Bright Angel trail, going as far as the lower tunnel before turning around.  It’s  much harder climbing back up than going down!

Grand Canyon with vegetation in foreground
View of the canyon from near Hermit’s Rest

 

hikers in front of a rock face
Below the canyon rim on the Bright Angel trail.
hikers on a trail
it was a warm spring day, so we had plenty of company on the trail.
group of children hikers standing in a rock tunnel
One of two man-made tunnels on Bright Angel trail