The Grand Canyon is one of the wonders of the natural world. Therefore lots and lots of people want to visit, almost five million a year. The vast majority of those visitors crowd into the South Rim area. This spot has much to offer, but at times seems more like a Disney theme park then a National Park. If you can’t get to the less developed North Rim than the East Entrance area is a good way to see amazing scenery with far fewer tourists.
The East Entrance is 25 miles east of the South Rim Visitor’s Center. There are several turnoffs along Arizona Highway 64 where you can stop and gaze at the magnificence of the canyon. One such stop is Grandview Point. The trail there takes the hiker to the Horseshoe Mesa, three miles into the canyon. This very steep trail accesses an old mining area and connects to a series of other inner canyon trails. Use caution and bring your own water.
The canyon area was originally (and parts still are) inhabited by the Pueblo and Hopi people. Tusayan Ruins is a small historic relic of an ancient Pueblo village and is considered one of the major archeological sites in Arizona. A small interpretive center was built near the ruins in 1934 in the style of a Hopi structure.
One of the most impressive structures at the East Entrance is the Watchtower. The 70 foot tower, designed by Mary Colter, resembles an Anasazi watchtower. Built in 1932 the tower may look like those that dotted the Colorado plateau centuries ago, but it is actually a modern re-creation supported by a steel frame and a concrete base. Inside however, the tower is filled with drawings, artifacts and handmade items of the native peoples. The views of the canyon from the top observation floor are spectacular. This is one of the spots where you have an excellent view of the canyon carving Colorado River.
The East Entrance is not devoid of tourists. There are still gift shops and restaurants. But the overall feel is more laid back than the shuttle bus serviced South Rim community. And the canyon views are worth the trip.