What To Do at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the most famous U.S. National Parks, earning millions of visitors every year. With awe-inspiring natural wonders, it draws in visitors from all over the world. Whether you enjoy hiking, rafting, or just a relaxing picnic taking in the views, the Grand Canyon is worth a visit. Keep reading to learn about the different ways to explore the park.

Hiking & Camping

Hiking is probably the most popular activity at the Grand Canyon. Exploring on foot is one of the best ways to take in all of the sights:

South Rim Trail: This easy 13-mile trail runs along the rim of the canyon, offering stunning views of the Colorado River and the canyon walls. The trail is paved and accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.

Bright Angel Trail: This moderate 7-mile trail descends into the canyon, offering a more challenging hike with even more spectacular views. The trail is well-maintained but can be crowded, especially during peak season. 

South Kaibab Trail: This strenuous 6-mile trail is the shortest route to the bottom of the canyon. The trail is steep and rocky, but the views are worth the effort. You can also bike along this trail if you prefer that to hiking. Bike rentals are available at the South and West Rim.

If you plan a multi-day trip to the Grand Canyon, camping is a great way to continue taking in the natural beauty of the park. Star gazing is a great activity in the canyon because of its low light pollution, so try staying at one of the many campgrounds in the park for maximum outdoor time. You can find camping at the South Rim, North Rim, or even out in the backcountry (with a permit).

Sights

During your hike or camping trip, be sure to check out some of the popular sights within the park.

  • Mather Point: This is the most popular viewpoint on the South Rim, offering panoramic views of the canyon.
  • Yavapai Point: This point is home to the Yavapai Geology Museum, which exhibits rocks, minerals, and fossils found in the canyon.
  • Hopi Point: This point offers views of the Painted Desert and the San Francisco Peaks.
  • Desert View Watchtower: This 70-foot tower offers 360-degree views of the canyon and the surrounding landscape.

Whitewater Rafting

With the rapid Colorado River running through the canyon, it’s no wonder that whitewater rafting is a popular activity. Rafting is an exhilarating adventure and will take you through one of the most beautiful national parks on Earth. As you navigate the rapids of the Colorado River, you’ll be surrounded by towering canyon walls, ancient geological formations, and diverse wildlife.
There are a variety of whitewater rafting trips available in the Grand Canyon, ranging from half-day to multi-day expeditions. The type of trip you choose will depend on your experience level, budget, and desired level of intensity. To gain insights into the range of trips offered by the 17 outfitters, spanning from half-day to 16 days, explore Advantage Grand Canyon. This complimentary reservation service is designed to pinpoint excursions aligning with your interests and preferred timeframe.

Mule Rides

Mule Rides are an iconic and time-honored way to experience the incredible depths and diverse terrain of the Grand Canyon. They are a fun experience and provide a unique perspective of the park. Types of mule rides include:

  • Rim Rides: These shorter, one-hour rides offer a leisurely experience along the canyon rim, showcasing breathtaking panoramic views and insights from experienced wranglers.
  • Canyon Rides: These longer journeys range from two to three hours and descend deeper into the canyon, offering closer encounters with its geological wonders and lush vegetation.
  • Overnight Rides: For the ultimate immersive experience, multi-day rides descend deep into the canyon, allowing you to stay overnight at Phantom Ranch, a historic lodge nestled within the canyon walls.

Helicopter Tours

Helicopter rides offer a truly unique and exhilarating way to experience the Grand Canyon’s vastness and breathtaking beauty. If you want to get panoramic views of the canyon, this is your best bet.

Scenic flights are typically shorter tours, typically lasting 20-30 minutes. You can soar over the South Rim and showcase panoramic views of the canyon’s depths, colorful rock formations, and the meandering Colorado River.

Longer tours include landing in the canyon, which can take 45 minutes to several hours. These trips offer extended aerial views and include landing so you can explore. For an epic adventure, you can book a tour that combines helicopter flights with other activities like hiking, whitewater rafting, or exploring the Grand Canyon West Rim.

Museums

In addition to all of the beautiful outdoor activities, you can also find some indoor ones at the park. Check out some of the museums and art studios to learn more about the park.

  • Yavapai Geology Museum: This museum exhibits rocks, minerals, and fossils found in the canyon.
  • Kolb Studio: This museum is home to the photographs and artifacts of Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, who were early explorers of the Grand Canyon. You can see a film they made in 1912 during a river trip.
  • Grand Canyon Visitor Center: This visitor center exhibits information about the canyon’s history, geology, and ecology.

Tips for Planning Your Grand Canyon Trip

Traveling to any new destination comes with its challenges, and the Grand Canyon is no exception. With its desert terrain and hot temperatures, it’s important to properly prepare for your trip.

  • Plan your trip far in advance: The Grand Canyon is a popular destination, so it’s important to book your lodging and activities well in advance.
  • Choose the right time to visit: The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is in the spring or fall when the weather is mild. Summers can be very hot and crowded.
  • Be prepared for the weather: The weather at the Grand Canyon can vary greatly, depending on the time of year and the elevation. Be sure to pack for all types of weather.
  • Bring plenty of water: It’s important to stay hydrated while hiking in the canyon. Be sure to bring plenty of water with you, as well as salty snacks if you plan to hike.
  • Respect the wildlife: The Grand Canyon is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, and coyotes. Be sure to respect the wildlife and give them plenty of space.

No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something enjoyable at the Grand Canyon. With its stunning scenery, diverse activities, and rich history, the Grand Canyon is a truly unforgettable place.