Tips & Tricks for Williams + The Grand Canyon

Hi friends. First and foremost, I have to apologize. I’m still trying to get the hang of making a schedule for my posts so they’ve been a little all over the place so thanks for sticking around and working with me! I appreciate each and every one of you. Now to the fun stuff..

The last stop on our northern Arizona road trip was Williams, Arizona with a day trip to the Grand Canyon. Growing up in Phoenix, I visited the canyon multiple times and I didn’t really learn to appreciate it up until recently. When I was kid I thought it was just a big hole in the ground. And it is just a big hole in the ground. But it’s a gorgeous, mind blowing, big hole in the ground. We decided to keep up with the theme of the old west and stay in historic Williams, a town I had only heard of once before in my life.

Williams is right on the famous route 66 and is known as the “gateway to the Grand Canyon.” It’s a pretty small town with about 6 blocks of shops and restaurants and I can’t imagine staying there for much longer than a day but it’s a fun place to experience at least once in your life.

Where to stay:

The Hat Ranch

Because it is such a small town, we quickly decided that we were leaning towards staying in an airbnb since it provided more options. We found the Foreman’s Room at the Hat Ranch and fell in love. The old cabin is nothing short of quaint and charming. Isabella Greenway purchased the the ranch in 1928 and hosted notable figures such as Lawrence Rockefeller, Johnny Roosevelt, and George W. Bush (pretty cool, am I right?). When the most recent owner passed, the mayor of Williams bought the property and has been renting it out for about 2 years now. On 2800 acres, there are 8 different rooms/houses that you can rent that bring you a truly remarkable experience. They have horseshoes, a swing in the front, and a whole lot of land to explore. At night, the stars shine brighter than you can imagine. In the mornings, Sharon whips up breakfast for everyone and you can meet all of your neighbors and bond over some delicious french toast. I can’t say I’ve ever stayed in an airbnb where the host cooked you breakfast. Until now. The cabin itself is 20 minutes from downtown Williams and only about an hour away from the Grand Canyon making it’s location ideal.

Tip: At the end of our stay, Sharon told us that it is cheaper to book through their site rather than airbnb due to the fact that they don’t charge the extra fees. If you decide to stay, tell them Riley sent you 😉

Where to eat:

Historic Brewing Barrel + Bottle House

This brewery has 2 locations, one being in Williams and the other being in Flagstaff (making them both doable from the Grand Canyon). They offer a selection of 16 beers on tap, local wines, and signature cocktails. If you can’t decide, they also have flights of wine and beer which allow you to sample a little bit of everything. We got the pretzel board and pastrami sandwich and loved it. It’s a very laid back atmosphere with great service so be sure to stop by if you’re hungry and around town.

The Grand Canyon:

No matter what time of year, the Grand Canyon south rim always seems to be busy, busy, busy so if you’re looking to get the most out of your experience, start your day by getting there a bit early. This allows you to beat the crowds and most importantly find a parking spot. If you don’t feel like driving, they do offer free shuttle rides, however we decided that we were feeling lucky and we took my car. When you first enter the park, the first thing I recommend doing is stopping by the visitor center, especially if it’s your first time. Here you will find information about the park, find little souvenirs, and be able to head to your first look out spot. I have to say I have mixed feelings about the look out here however because there is a railing stopping you from walking closer to the edge. Now, I am deathly afraid of heights and will keep my distance from the edge, however it is easier to capture the true beauty without the railings in the way. This also means there are a lot of people so you have to be patient in order to get the shot without the railing. Once you wait your turn though, you get to take pictures like so:

Desert View Drive

When we finished up at the visitor center, we decided to do the Desert View drive, a 25 mile drive to the watchtower. Along the way we stopped at a few points such as Grandview Point and Lipan Point. Each view point offers something unique such as walking trails or views of the Colorado river. At the end of the drive you will reach the desert watchtower where you will find another small visitor center, trading post, and cafe along with some of the best views you will find on the south rim.

Tips & Tricks

If you are looking to go to the Grand Canyon, try to go in the spring or fall. Summer, despite the heat, is the peak season meaning lotsa people. If you are feeling adventurous and want to explore the canyon a bit more, make sure to wear hiking boots or tennis shoes and bring plenty of water. Many people who decide to spend the entire day outside opt to bring a camelback full of water which can come extremely handy. The park has spots where you can fill bottles as well so you won’t have to worry about running out. Also be sure to wear sunscreen (but this is obvious.. unless you’re me..) If you do decide to go in the summer, prep yourself for rain. June to September is considered monsoon season and when it rain, it pours. Last but not least, if you decide that Williams doesn’t seem like your kind of place, stop by Flagstaff. It’s a short hour and a half drive and here you will find shopping, yummy restaurants and plenty of good hikes.

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? If so, what’d you do? I’d love to hear about it. XO

10 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Your post is perfect timing! I’m looking at ideas of where to say in this area for a road trip or weekend trip this summer. I will look into these recommendations! Thanks!

  2. Great to know that there are places to full your water bottle around the park. And I did not know it rained in summer!

  3. I was there in the late fall and it was perfect time! I am sorry I missed Williams and the Hat Ranch…both seem very cool!

  4. Loving your photos! I would love to take a trip to The Grand Canyon one day and I would definitely take your tips on board when I do. Thanks for sharing (:

    Ashlee |

  5. I was so impressed by the Grand Canyon the first (and only) time I saw it. I’m still dying to go back and hike down into it for a few days. I thought Williams was wicked cute but I agree, wouldn’t really want to stay there for more than a day.

  6. I’ve never been, but my fiance has and always stays in Flagstaff. For our trip he wanted us to try and find somewhere else, but outside of a campsite near the watchtower we were having a hard time finding anything unique or interesting. i think we just found our spot!

  7. Looks like a nice trip! I have heard a lot of this national park and Arizona as such. I also prefer to start visiting the touristy places early morning – especially for pictures. Thanks for sharing!

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