Sunset at Grand Canyon: What’s the point? Mohave Point.
J grasped the wonky rail for fear of suddenly losing all balance and falling through the narrow bars, over the edge, into the six million years deep, beautifully eroded, icy chasm below. For a moment, we were on a pre-historic fairground ride.
Perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon, from the safety of a seated position behind a safety railing, we awaited sunset. (Despite his worries, J has yet to fall off the ground whilst sitting down).
Unstoppable as ever, Sun and Earth took up their dance; slowly spinning their way to goodnight.
We watched. The Earth turned away, the Sun went down, the clouds lit up, the canyon – once a majestic scene of a thousand cautionary tales and cross-section of billions of years – faded to grey-blue then blackness before our eyes. The Grand Canyon no longer existed. The few other sunset watchers left. We were alone.
The sky continued it’s magical show until the gloaming became night and darkness fell (probably into the Canyon).
I had read somewhere that it takes 30 minutes for humans and stars to get comfortable with one another.*
Plenty of time to lay out our warm blanket, lie down, look up in anticipation, cuddle up tight and adjust to the light.
The wind imitated distant traffic. We could hear it playing the trees far far away; we lay in silence, listening, following the sound as it blew around the canyon, moving closer and finally swooshing into our little plateau and huddle of trees, swirling the particles before leaving us in quiet, darkness.
The stars… starred!
We took photos, stumbling around the rocks in the dark, putting our trust in the wonky rail; no longer fearful of the disappeared canyon edge. We took long exposure photographs of the stars for at least 5 minutes before we realised the lens cap was on 🙂
[Flippin’ stars though! Just thinking about them makes me feel more incredible.]
We took the lens cap off, we lay still, we felt the cold. We thought about our tiny selves on this planet and how strange/exciting/enchanting it feels to move across huge distances and be tiny human beings in new extraordinary places. On our little blanket. Tiny humans.
The moon eventually hit our eyes, so we were compelled to seek out pizza pies…
…We returned to our warm Canyon lodge, satisfyingly full of awe (at the universe) and pizza (from pizza pub). Which, if you think about it, is how all the best days wind up (and down).
I like this memory.
Pretty simple, pretty incredible; just being alive is pretty wild.
The next morning, we left the snowy Grand Canyon National Park behind and drove to the warm embrace of Las Vegas, baby! (Because, February in America! Woohoo!)
…to make the most of a Grand Canyon Sunset
Best way to have the place to yourself
Stay longer than everyone else!
Best way to avoid crowds
Visit during the winter months, you might also get snow!
How to extend the sunset
Often the most magical, dramatic sunset skies show themselves just after the sunset – stick around for a little while after the sun has dipped below the horizon, to see the full show.
How to make the most of your stargazing
Get comfy and be patient – you’ll need to wait approximately 30 minutes for maximum star-to-eye-to-brain impact i.e. human night-vision.
WHERE WE STAYED: Grand Canyon Village, Maswick Lodge
SUNSET LOCATION: Mohave Point, Hermit Road, Grand Canyon South Rim
TIME OF YEAR: February
TIME OF DAY: We arrived at Mohave Point at 17:15. Too late to be the first ones there, but plenty of time for sunset (your weather app will usually show you sunset times).
Whilst the North Rim of the Grand Canyon closes for Winter (October – May). The South Rim remains open and ready for your adventure all year round. Hooray!
Hermit Road is the place to head to if you enjoy experiencing the edges of things, with plenty of excellent viewpoints of/over one of the Wonders of the World.
Hermit Road begins on the West Side of Grand Canyon Village (very convenient if you’re staying at the village, which we enjoyed) and stretches for 7 marvellous miles (11 kool km?) sticking closely to the edge of the canyon rim. There are 9 viewpoints to choose from, each has a shuttle bus stop and limited parking.
You’re permitted to drive your own vehicle along scenic Hermit Road, throughout December, January and February.
Between 1st March and 30th November there is a free shuttle bus (Hermit Road (Red) Route shuttle bus) available to access the road.
If you’d like to stretch your legs and have a walk/run/day-hike the Canyon Rim Trail also follows the Canyon rim. You can walk the whole thing, or enjoy the shorter walks available between viewpoints. The path is mostly paved, with some dirt trails. Remember to take care when exercising here as you’ll be, on average, 7000 feet (2134 metres) above sea level when you’re up on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon!
Our 3 reasons to choose Mohave Point for sunset
The Quiet – Our research, and a friendly guide at the National Park, told us Mohave Point would be quieter than other viewpoints – Hopi Point was also on our list for sunset, however, Hopi was busy at sunrise and we hopi’d to watch sunset alone, together. So we chose Mohave. It was just the two of us; quiet achieved 🙂
The Overlooks – There are a few separate look-out points at Mohave, as opposed to the one big viewing area you’ll find at other viewpoints e.g. Hopi Point. Having a little overlook to ourselves was awesome and made the experience all our own. We loved it.
The River View – Getting a look at the Colorado River is actually pretty tricky from a lot of places around the Canyon rim. I mean, it is approximately 4000-6000ft (1200-1800m) away, deepy deepy down most of the time. So, it was a bonus to include the River as part of our Grand Canyon experience, even though we had no time to get anywhere near it on this trip. (We think we could see the Hermit rapids – although we didn’t know this at the time).
Mohave Point Amenities
- Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits.
- Parking – Auto, Bus/RV.
- Picnic Table.
- Scenic View/Photo Spot.
- No toilet/restroom facilities – Closest WC at Hopi Point.
Updated April 2022 from National Park Services.
How the wind plays the trees
Wind feels like a huge powerful force of its own, rustling leaves, felling trees and stealing hats, however, really, it is trillions of air particles moving from areas of high temperature (pressure) to areas of low temperature (pressure), which is influenced by the shape and composition of the landscape, which itself is affected by the wind, rain, sun! (And also tectonic movement, of course). The rotation of the Earth has an influence due to the Coriolis effect, ‘cos, y’know we’re spinning around at 1000mph-ish but, mostly, it’s particles moving from warm to cold areas. 🤯
Why do stars get brighter the more you look at them?
The human eye starts adapting to darkness immediately but will be most affective at seeing stars after 30-40 minutes of adjustment. Here’s what happens…
When you first step into darkness, your pupil will dilate to it’s maximum size, to let as much light in as possible. This can take a couple of minutes.
Over the next 30 minutes or so, the chemical rhodopsin slowly builds up in your retina; thousands of times more than would be required for daylight. This decreases your eyes’ colour accuracy, but massively increases the retina’s light sensitivity. Night vision, activated!
Be aware! If you look at a light source such as phone screen or torch light your eyes will reset to ‘day mode’ and you’ll have to adapt all over again. However, if you use a red tinted light, this will not spoil your newly acquired night vision. If you don’t have a red light option but need to look at a screen or use a torch, try wearing sunglasses! Super cool!
Red light torch, if you want one (affiliate link). We have not used this particular model, but it has a lot of good reviews.
What is the ‘Gloaming’?
‘Gloaming’ is another word for twilight; when the sun has dipped below the horizon and is still illuminating the sky. When the light disappears completely, it becomes ‘nighttime’.