I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to be this impressed when we visited Grand Canyon National Park, but I was! The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s natural wonders and lives up to the hype. At one mile deep, 18 miles wide and 277 miles long, The Grand Canyon follows the Colorado River winding through the Colorado Plateau. If you are taking a road trip across America or simply touring around Arizona, you cannot miss visiting the Grand Canyon. To help you start planning, here are some things to do in the Grand Canyon to make the most of our visit.
Things to do in Grand Canyon National Park
Table of Contents
South Rim Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a national park and has an entrance fee. The cost to enter the Grand Canyon is $35 per vehicle or $30 per motorcycle, for a seven day pass. An annual park pass costs $70.
There are three main sections of the South Rim to explore, The Rim Trail, Hermit Road and Desert View Drive. They are all easily accessible for taking scenic drives and shuttle busses are on hand to transport visitors from the Visitor Center to the trailheads.
There are so many things to do on your visit to the Grand Canyon, it can take days to see it all. It’s no wonder it is at the top of many people’s bucket lists. But it can be overwhelming to decide that to do. Never fear, we are here to help. We’ve rounded up the best ways to experience the grand canyon from the best hiking trails to the best view points. So are you ready to see this spectacular wonder? Let’s go!
Grand Canyon Village
Let’s start in Grand Canyon Village. This is an excellent place to make a base when you visit the Grand Canyon. Here, you can book Grand Canyon tours, it’s a hub for hiking trails and shuttle buses, there are hotels and shops to purchase hiking gear, and you can visit some of the Grand Canyon’s top attractions like the Lookout Studio, and Kolb Studio, Grand Canyon Railway. There are even restaurants and coffee shops and a market to stock up on groceries if you are RVing.
Have a short time at the Grand Canyon? Book this fun Pink Jeep Tour – Enjoy a 2-hour tour including entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park where you’ll see the best, viewpoints on the South Rim in a luxury jeep. If you have a short time at the Grand Canyon, this is an excellent option.
Where to Stay in Grand Canyon Village
Staying in the village is pricey and the hotels have been around for decades. So expect to pay a lot without the luxuries of your usual stays. But remember, this is a national park and you cannot beat the location. If you work a couple of nights here into your budget, you can really explore all of the best things to do on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
- El Tovar Hotel – This historic hotel opened in 1905. It’s an expensive hotel and you are paying for the history and location. Prices at the Grand Canyon are expensive because of the location and this is as pricey as it gets.
- Mid-Range: Yavapai Lodge – This lodge is a more affordable option but it is about a mile from (1.6 km) the South Rim
- Trailer Village RV Park: For RVers The Trailer Village RV Park takes vehicles up to 50 feet long. It’s located within the park and the good news is the bus line stops right in front of it. Read our How to Live In An RV on $2000 Per Month
- There are several campgrounds in Grand Canyon National Park that make for a more affordable option. Hikers will want to look into Bright Angel Campground and Indian Garden Campground.
- Camping at the village includes Mather Campground. See our Ultimate Camping Gear List
- Other hotels in the village include Thunderbird Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, Kachina Lodge and Maswick Lodge.
South Kaibab Trailhead
The South Kaibab Trailhead is another great stop on the shuttle bus for exploring the Grand Canyon. It is a popular stop for people hiking the South Kaibab Trail down to the Colorado River, but but there are other trails to explore here too. Take the orange line shuttle bus to the trailhead from the Visitor Center or Grand Canyon Village and then choose from several different day hikes. You can even do multi-day trips from here. Read: The 17 Best Hikes in Arizona
The orange line stops along many stops on the Rim Trail including Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Mather Point, Yavapai Point Geology Museum, South Kaibab, Yaki Point and Pipe Creek Vista.
Hermit Road Shuttle Bus
From Grand Canyon Village, you can hop on the Hermit Road Shuttle Bus to Hermits Rest. Hermit Road is one of the best scenic drives on the Grand Canyon, but it is closed to traffic between March 1 and November 30. We took this bus when we visited the Grand Canyon. The round trip route lets you hop on hop off at some of the most scenic lookouts along the south rim.
There are 9 stops along the seven mile drive (14.4 km) including the Canyon Rim Trail, Greenway Trail, Trailview Overlook, Powell Memorial, Mohave Point (where we took in sunset) The Abyss, Pima Point, Hermits Rest and Hermit Trial. You can hop off at any stop you like, explore the trails and viewpoints and then catch the next bus. If you are not hiking the Grand Canyon, this is a good way to see a lot in one day.
South Kaibab Trail
The South Kaibab Trail is a 7.3 mile (11.7 km) one way trip to Bright Angel Campground way down in the canyon. If you do this in one day, you’ll want to leave early as it is a steep ascent back up. It will takes about 4 to 5 hours alone to get to the campground located on the Colorado River. If you are planning on camping, be sure to book ahead of time as slots fill up quickly. The campground is located on the north side of the Colorado River and you’ll cross the scenic Kaibab Suspension Bridge.
Want to see the Grand Canyon from Above? Book this scenic flight over the Grand Canyon to enjoy the majestic views of the Grand Canyon, as you fly over the Zuni Corridor, Imperial Point, Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, Kaibab National Forest and Kaibab Plateau.
Yaki Point and Ooh Aah Point
If you don’t want to do the full South Kaibab Trail, there are two other popular trails here. Yaki Point is just a 1.6 mile round trip hike (2.5 km) from the trailhead or you can hike to the Ooh Aah Point which is just .8 of a mile (1.2 km) from the trailhead. You’ll definitely want to see both of these viewpoints before moving on. Many people say that the Ooh Aah Point is their favourite view of the grand canyon.
One of the most popular hiking trails in the Grand Canyon is the Rim Trail. This paved walking path goes along the south rim from the South Kaibab Trailhead to Hermit’s Rest for 13 miles (20 km). The hike takes approximately 5-6 hours and goes through the visitor center, the village, Powell Point or Mojave Point, Monument Creek Vista and finally Hermit’s Rest. You can hop on this travel at several points so you don’t have to do the entire walk.
If you aren’t planning to do many hikes, Mather point is a popular stop from the Visitor Center. It is just a short walk but it packs a huge punch, you’ll see some amazing views. This is the most popular viewpoint in the Grand Canyon as it is just a short walk along the trail before you come out to vistas of the canyon. But expect to share this view with a lot of crowds. Mather point is just a five minute walk from the Visitor’s Center and you can also stop here whenn hiking along the Rim Trail.
Yavapai Point is another prime viewpoint on the Grand Canyon south rim. You can hike to it from Mather Point it is just 1.5 mile round trip hike (2.5km). It gives the best view of Bright Angel Canyon on the North Rim and it is here that you can visit the Yavapai Museum of Geology. This is one of the best places in the Grand Canyon for sunset.
Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden
For a more challenging hike in Grand Canyon National Park, the Bright Angel Trail is a popular day hike to Indian Garden. The trail starts at Grand Canyon Village and goes to the Colorado River. The Bright angel Trail head can be accessed at Bright Angel Lodge. It is a steep descent, and what goes down must go up, so be prepared for the ascent and give yourself plenty of time.
Indian Garden is a good turnaround point if you are doing a day hike, but you can continue on to other trails from the Bright Angel Trail. If you feel that you have time, you can contiue on to Plateau Point, but be warned it is a 14 mile round trip (22 km) hike and going up is much tougher than going down. Full day hikes are not recommended for long hikes. I know we couldn’t finish this in a day.
Bright Angel Campground
If you want to take on a multi-day hike you will contiue along the Bright Angel trail to the. Bright Angel Campground north of the Colorado River. To get to the campground you cross the Colorado River via the Bright Angel suspension bridge. The early planners of the Grand Canyon thought of it all!
This trail is also used by mules so be sure to give them the right of way. And when the mules are passing make sure you stay on the cliff side and give plenty of room. When on a mule ride you’ll head to Phantom Ranch which is a historic ranch located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and offers cabins and dorm rooms. Book well in advance as there is a lottery system in place for reservations. Details of Phantom Ranch here.
North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim
And then if you want even more of a challenge Bright Angel Trail meets up with the North Kaibab Trail where you can hike all the way to the North Rim. The Phantom Ranch is also down here on the Colorado River and you may choose to stay here instead of the Bright Angel Campground. This is the classic rim to rim hike and if you want bragging rights when visiting the Grand Canyon, this is it! We have heard that avid hikers compare the Grand Canyon’s rim-to-rim hike to climbing Mt. Whitney. Regarding Transportation, don’t worry, there are shuttle busses at the Grand Canyon between the North Rim and the South Rim.
Grand Canyon Mule Rides
One of the most iconic things to do in Grand Canyon National Park is to take a mule ride down into the canyon. These overnight rides take you deep into the canyon to the Phantom Ranch located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon next to the Colorado River. This is such a popular tour that spaces are limited and to stay at the ranch, there is a lottery and to book mule rides, reservations are highly recommended: Mule rides may be reserved by calling 1-303-297-2757 or toll-free within the United States at 1-888-297-2757.
Yavapai Geology Museum
The Yavapai Geology Museum is just 2 miles (3.2 km) from Grand Canyon Village. The National Park Service offers daily programs at but the most interesting thing to do here is to walk the Trail of Time. The Trail of Time is a loop from the Yavapai Geology Museum. Take this trail back to town as you walk along the path you’ll learn of the Grand Canyon’s Geological history through a geology timeline where you’l work your way back in time 1 million years. This interactive timeline has signage and maps, rocks and viewpoints with every 1 meter representing 1 million years.
Grand Canyon Visitor Centre
One of the best places to start when you visit the Grand Canyon South Rim is at the Grand Canyon is at the Visitor Center at the South entrance. It’s worth going inside to pick the park ranger’s brains, get information on the hiking trails and to learn about the national. There are plenty of points of Interest of the Grand Canyon leading out from the visitor center. You can hop on the Rim Trail in either direction from here and see some of the best views.
Grand Canyon Railway
If you are looking for a unique way to experience the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon Railway leaves from Williams Arizona and offers a different perspective to see the Grand Canyon. In true American fashion, there are performers and cowboys reinacting life in the wild west complete with a great train robbery.
Williams Arizona is an awesome stop on Route 66 that truly feels frozen in time. The train leave from here. The Grand Canyon Railway has been taking passengers to the Grand Canyon since 1902 and you’ll get to explore just as the early explorers of the Grand Canyon did. The train lets you off at the Grand Canyon depot where you can enjoy the Grand Canyon’s south rim.
Many people combine a stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams. Williams is a great place to stay near the Grand Canyon.
Helicopter Flight Over the Grand Canyon
One of our favourite things to do whenever we travel is to take a helicopter ride and another unique way to experience the grand canyon is to take a helicopter flight. For an unforgettable trip to the Grand Canyon Book this helicopter tour over the south rim. This 25 minute trip gives you a birds eye view of the South Rim and Kaibab Forest. Plus you’ll take a breathtaking journey through Dragon Corridor, the widest and deepest part of the canyon.
Grand Canyon South Entrance
IMAX Move Anyone?
Tusayan is located at the south entrance of the Grand Canyon and is another good place to make a base when you visit the Grand Canyon. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants, you can book Grand Canyon Tours here and you can visit the National Geographic Visitor Center where you can watch an IMAX Movie. This is a fun thing to do when you need a break with the whole family.
Desert View Drive
From Tusayan, a good scenic drive is to take Desert View Drive. Desert View Drive is a 23 mile (37 km) scenic road between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View and unlike Hermit Road it is open to all vehicles so you can drive yourself. There are several stops along the way so you can take a half day or so to explore. Head north from the South Entrance along highway 64 and then turn right away from Grand Canyon Village on to Desert View Drive. There are several viewpoints and pullouts including Duck on a Rock, Grandview Point and Moran Point. As you continue east past the Tusayan Museum you’ll come to the Desert View Watchtower.
Indigenous culture is very important to Dave and I. When visiting national parks of Canada or the United States, chances are it is on ancestral land. And the Tusayan Museum of Grand Canyon National Park is located out to Ancestral Puebloan ruins. There are artifacts dating back 2000-4000 years. This is a sacred land and while visiting the museum, you can hike the Tusayan Ruin Trail to a kiva used by Ancestral Puebloans.
Whitewater Rafting the Colorado River
It’s a dream to raft the Colorado River and if you have the time there are several tours that offer rafting in the Grand Canyon. Many start at the upper canyon and end at the Phantom Ranch. So be warned, you will have to hike out of the Grand Canyon for nearly 10 miles (16 km) up along the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim.
Tours range from a day trip to multiday trips lasting up to 5 to 8 days. Depending on how long you want to be on the water, there’s something for everyone.
If you want to plan a Whitewater Rafting trip in advance, check out this Full Day Whitewater Rafting tour. It is a self drive tour to the start. Take a road trip to Peach Springs, Arizona to Hualapai Lodge. Where you’ll meet your guide and take a 40-mile (64 km) journey through the canyon.
If you are rafting you are staying in Vegas which is just over 2 hours from the Grand Canyon and want to experience Grand Canyon national park in all its glory, this full day whitewater rafting tour takes you on a whitewater adventure along the Colorado River. This Grand Canyon Tour is led by a Native American Hualapai Guide along class 3 and 5 rapids.
Grand Canyon West
Grand Canyon SkyWalk
If you are heading to the Grand Canyon West Rim, or driving from Las Vegas, chances are you’ll be stopping at the West Rim. The Grand Canyon Skywalk is just 2 hours from Las Vegas making it a popular day trip. This horseshoe shaped glass bridge is a fun way to get those incredible vistas of the Grand Canyon from the West Canyon Rim. It is 10 feet wide and reaches 70 feet over a 4000 foot drop. I don’t care if people aren’t fans, I love these types of glass floor adventures that take your breath away.
If you are in Vegas – Book this helicopter tour from Las Vegas. On this flight you will fly 3,500 feet below the rim of the Grand Canyon and land near the Colorado River in Hualapai Territory where you’ll enjoy champagne as you overlook the Colorado River and the majestic Grand Canyon.
Take this Grand Canyon Tour from Vegas – Explore the West Rim on this day trip from Vegas where you’ll enjoy views of Eagle Point, Guano Point, and Hualapai Ranch. Plus the option to expderience the world famous Skywalk, experience rim views and rim walk
Bonus: Little Colorado River Overlook
One of the unique things to do near the Grand Canyon is to stop at the Little Colorado River Overlook. Located Near the Grand Canyon National Park, it is not in the actual park. But it is a good stop when driving between the north rim and south rim of the Grand Canyon. This is a gorge carved by the Little Colorado River, a tributary of the Colorado River. If this is little, Mother Nature has a cute sense of humour.
Facts About Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is a national park and has an entrance fee. The cost to enter the Grand Canyon is $35 per vehicle or $30 per motorcycle, for a seven day pass. An annual park pass costs $70.
The Grand Canyon is a national park located in the state of Arizona. It was designated a National Park in 1919. It is a whopping is one mile-deep, 277 miles long, and 18 miles wide. (1600 meters, 445 km, 29 km) The Grand Canyon can be enjoyed from the North Rim, West Rim, and Grand Canyon East but the South Rim is the most visited and has the most attractions, accommodation and viewpoints.
How to Get to the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is 3-4 hours from Phoenix Arizona and 5 hours from Las Vegas to the South Rim.
We drove to Grand Canyon National Park while on a road trip from Las Vegas via Zion National Park and it gave us the freedom to enjoy the scenic drives of the north rim and the south rim. We highly recommend having a car when visiting the Grand Canyon, but it can be done without one.
If you are flying into the Grand Canyon, you’ll be flying to the Grand Canyon National Park Airport just outside of the town Tusayan. Tusayan is located at the Grand Canyon south entrance.
You can also book tours from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and it is a popular thing to do from Vegas with the West Rim being much closer than the South. .
Getting Around the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Shuttle Bus
If hiking isn’t your thing don’t worry, the Grand Canyon Shuttle bus offers free shuttles along the south rim. There are different shuttle buses: The Orange Route (Kaibab Rim Eastbound) shuttle begins at Grand Canyon Visitor Center with service to the South Kaibab Trailhead, Yaki Point, and Pipe Creek Overlook. There is also a Hiker’s Express shuttle that will take you out early in the morning. You can take the bus to different stops and pick is up every 15 minutes.
When to go to the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a year round destination with summer (obviously) being peak season. This is when prices are highest, but it is also crowded and hot. Like many travel destinations around the world, shoulder season is the best time to visit for better rates, less crowds and less traffic. Plan for Spring and Fall as the weather is still quite pleasant. It’s actually great for hiking in the fall with dry conditions and cooler temperatures.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only seasonal. It is closed in the winter and open in the spring from mid-May to mid-October.
Where to Stay Near the Grand Canyon
When staying at the Grand Canyon the best place to stay is at the Grand Canyon Village which we mentioned above. But it is pricey and you don’t get what you pay for accommodation-wise, but it is walking distance to the south rim and all of the Grand Canyon viewpoints and attractions. However, to save money we suggest staying out of the Grand Canyon Village (unless you decide to spurlge for a night or two).
The South Entrance of the Grand Canyon is just 13 minutes to Grand Canyon Village. There are plenty of restaurants, a visitor center and it is close to the airport.
- Grand Canyon Holiday Inn Express – When it comes to doing a road trip in America, we prefer staying in chain hotels. You cannot go wrong with a Holiday Inn Express.
- Best Western Premier Grand Squire – Like the Holiday Inn, Best Westerns are usually quite reliable.
- The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon – This is the only 3-diamond hotel in the Grand Canyon area with an indoor swimming pool. It’s one mile from the south entrance with the south rim being only a short drive away.
Grand Canyon Railway Hotel – Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Designed to resemble the century-old train depot and is a fun place for families to hop aboard the Grand Canyon Railway. You can have your luggage forwarded to the Grand Canyon so you can take the railway one-way to the South Rim of the Canyon.
If you are looking for a cabin away from it all, check out Elk Meadow Cottage located 1 hour from the Grand Canyon. It borders the Kaibab National Forest and is 20 minutes from Flagstaff and Williams/Polar Express and the Grand Canyon Railway. Sleeps 8.
And these are some of the best things to do in the Grand Canyon. This is definitely one of those bucket list destinations so be sure to add it to your road trip in America or simply create an itinerary around an entire stay at Grand Canyon National Park.
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