Andrew Pielage from Phoenix shares Grand Canyon Experience

Andrew Pielage from Phoenix, United States provides insight into a Grand Canyon Trip. Andrew shares perspective on the best Grand Canyon attractions and things to do in Grand Canyon. See some incredible photos of Grand Canyon South Rim and surrounding area too!

From Landscapes and wildlife to history and adventure, what’s the one thing about the Grand Canyon that has intrigued you?

What a tough question…I think the thought of seeing something new every time is what keeps bringing me back to the Canyon. Being down to the bottom 25+ times you would think you have seen it all. But that is never the case. Every single trip down the Canyon, I see something new and in most cases don see it again. I consider these little moments or rare sightings a gift from the Canyon. A way of saying thank you for taking the time to visit and more importantly respecting the power it holds. Just writing this makes me want to go back.

Tonto West

If this is your first visit to Grand Canyon, what motivated you to visit? If this is a revisit, what’s your reason for wanting to come back?

Always seeing something new is the juice that keeps me coming back to the Grand Canyon. My most recent trip was last week on a six day backpacking adventure starting on the Bill Hall trail down to the Esplanade to Tapeats Creek and back over Surprise Valley to Deer Creek Falls. Being a huge fan of the Canyon I had always heard about large birds in the Canyon but in 25+ trips down to the bottom I had never seen one, little ones here and there but nothing of dinosaur scale. Well that all changed last week as I was reaching the top of the Esplanade from Surprise Valley. As you can imagine, I was a little out of breath after just finishing 1000+ feet of vertical and was taking a short break when I noticed a massive shadow flying by on the desert landscape in front of me. I quickly turned around to what I was sure was going to be a pterodactyl swooping down to have me for lunch. What I witness next was a scene that I will never forget. Only a hundred feet above me was a California Condor gliding flat and effortlessly along the cliff of the thousand foot drop off I had just hiked up. For over ten minutes, I watched in amazement as the largest bird in North America soared up and up, catching the winds of the canyons for the return trip back above the cliffs I was still standing on. Looking down to the Colorado River thousands of feet below and endless miles of deep canyons to the West, I had never felt more at peace as this massive and endangered creature soared by for a second time. I still get goose bumps thinking about it.

Wintery Canyon

What are five things your Backpack to the Canyon must contain?

1. Water. Whatever you think you may need, double it! You can never have to much water in the Grand Canyon.

2. Water. Yep. Mentioned it again. I can’t stress how important it is to have it. Throw in some Gatorade or Crystal Light mix to spice it up a little.

3. Snacks. I always have a Cliff Bar or Pro Bar in my pocket and snack on it one bite at a time as I am hiking. You will feel more refreshed and get more miles in this way then waiting until you are super hungry to eat.

4. Map. True, it maybe difficult to get lost if you stay on the trail but I don’t always use the map to know where I am going, I use the map to tell me how far I have to go. Knowing whether you have one mile or five miles to your next water source or camp can save you a lot of energy and possibly your life.

5. Camera. Even if everyone in your group is bringing one, bring yours too. The Grand Canyon is so many things to so many people and you are going to want to capture it how you see it.

Tapeats Flow

What is the best way to get to the Grand Canyon – By Air, By Road or By Rail? Why?

I am going to have to go with road on this one. I love road trips and although the South Rim is one heck of a beautiful drive from Flagstaff, it does not compare to the diverse landscapes you will see driving from Flagstaff to the North Rim. I don’t want to ruin the surprise by the high desert plateaus to the majestic Vermillion Cliffs to the high alpine forests will be just a few of the sights you will see. Breathtaking landscapes around every corner.

What is travel to you in one word?


What are three tips for an awesome budget trip to the Grand Canyon?

1. Camp. Budget or not, I am a huge fan of camping out. Stay in one of the campgrounds at either the North or South Rim. Everything is close to walk too.

2. Enjoy all the museums, interpretive/visitor centers and art galleries while you are there. Sure the helicopter tours are great but so are all the activities you can do for free right on the rim.

3. Buy a Golden Eagle Park Pass. Believe me, once you have stood on the Rim of the Grand Canyon at sunset you will be hooked for life. And there are other awesome National Parks less then a days drive away. Go Explore.

What type of camera did you bring? Any tips on shooting the Grand Canyon?

I brought my Canon 5D Mark II this time. A little bulky but you can’t skimp on your camera when you are visiting one of the seven nature wonders of the world. Always bring the best camera you own.

Always have your camera handy on the trail because magical things happen all the time at the Grand Canyon. Keep it in your pocket or in your backpack so you can grab it at a moments notice.

Wide angle lenses is great but don’t limit yourself. The Grand Canyon has little treasures too just wanting to discovered. A tiny frog or a small blooming desert flower, never stop looking.

What surprised you about the Grand Canyon?

How wonderfully removed you can become at the bottom of the Grand Canyon looking up at the rim less then 10 miles away. I remember on a backpacking trip a few years ago, laying out on a rock in shorts and a t-shirt as I witnessed a snow storm on the rim. Being surrounded by its might walls at the bottom is a completely different experience then looking down at them from above. I would encourage everyone to do both at least once.

Warm Sunset Glow over the Colorado River

As a travel destination, how would you rank the Grand Canyon from 1 to 10?


The Gentler Side of Granite Rapids.

Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Andrew Pielage and I am a freelance photographer based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Born to an adventurous mother and geologist father, my childhood was spent exploring the back roads of Arizona. I had been to the rim of the Grand Canyon many times as a child, but it was not until high school that I did my first backpacking trip to the bottom. It changed my life forever. Now fifteen years later, I have tallied 25+ trips to the bottom and one ten day rafting trip from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead. And I still have more trips on the list =)

Andrew Pielage
Arizona, United States


Please note: Photography on this page is copyright of Andrew Pielage.

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