Grand Canyon, Arizona
For sheer amazement and beauty, few things top the awe-inspiring views from the rim of the Grand Canyon. But did you know you can actually drive to the bottom of this venerable national treasure?
That's what we discovered while tracing historic old Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman in northwestern Arizona. To do so, you take a little-known gravel road on the Hualapai (pronounced "wall-uh-pie") Reservation, which is immediately south of the lower Grand Canyon.
You need to buy a permit at the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs. After that, you set out on Diamond Creek Road (also known as Reservation Road 6), just a block away, for the 21-mile trip north to the bottom of the canyon.
We expected a rocky, steep switchback road. Instead, we found a gently curving, scenic and graded gravel road. Colorful wildflowers accented the stark beauty of surrounding cliffs, which rose steadily higher as we descended.
Diamond Creek, a small stream, runs alongside the road. As the canyon narrowed, the stream and road became one. We grew increasingly concerned that the road might be washed out, but the water was never more than an inch deep. If you travel after heavy rain, though, we'd recommend first checking at the lodge for road conditions.
About a mile later, we came to a wide, sandy beach--a departure point for river rafters--and a rustic campground with picnic tables and outhouses. This pleasant spot, known as the Lower Granite Gorge of the Grand Canyon, boasts colorful cliffs composed of the oldest rock in the canyon.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch here before heading back. Our side trip took just a little under 2 hours, but it's one we'll never forget!