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15 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

15 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

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15 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

Awe is felt by even the most skeptic of travelers at the sight of the Grand Canyon’s massive expanse of gorges, ridges, and rock formations. Enjoying the view – from various vantage points – is an activity that could take hours. A hiking tour that takes you to the bottom of the canyon is one of the best ways to admire it: some of the best trails include the Bright Angel and Rim trails on the South Rim. A helicopter tour is another option, as is rafting the Colorado River.

Grand Canyon Village

Grand Canyon Village 15 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

#1 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Village is the park’s most popular entrance and, as such, is often packed with people during peak season in spring, summer, and fall. Yavapai Point is one of the best vantage points for viewing the canyon, so there’s a reason the area is so popular. You may want to look for lodging here if you don’t like camping but want to stay within the park.

Visit the village’s sights at least half a day if you stay elsewhere. Visit the rustic Grand Canyon Railway Depot, which welcomes Grand Canyon Railway passengers to the village. Discover how the railroad expansion impacted Grand Canyon tourism here. At the Hopi House, an adobe-style building representing a traditional Hopi crafts studio, you can find authentic Native American souvenirs. In the meantime, art lovers can view works of art inspired by the Grand Canyon at the Kolb and Lookout studios.

The convenience of Grand Canyon Village is particularly appreciated by visitors, including its gift shops, restaurants, markets, and ample parking. In addition, they praised the beauty of the area and highly recommended taking a sunrise tour from the village. Some of the park’s best hotels are located within the village boundary, including the El Tovar Hotel and the Bright Angel Lodge. (Note: Accommodations within the park can be very pricey.) The Grand Canyon Village visitor center is usually open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Blue, Orange, and Purple accessible shuttle routes and the Hikers’ Express Shuttle all stop at the visitor center. For more information, visit the NPS website

South Rim

#2 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon’s most popular activities can be found on the South Rim, more popular among average travelers than the rugged North Rim. Several attractions on this side of the Grand Canyon, including Grand Canyon Village, the South Kaibab Trail, Bright Angel Trail, Mather Point, and the Yavapai Geology Museum. On the south side of the canyon, visitors can explore scenic areas and hiking trails or take guided mule tours. There are camping areas at Mather Point and Desert View and an RV park equipped with grills, laundry facilities, and picnic tables. 

According to recent travelers, there are many things to do and places to see on the South Rim. Visitors who use wheelchairs were delighted by how much this section of the canyon is accessible. Families with young kids noted that many lookout areas and paths are accessible. There are enough things to do at the South Rim to keep you busy all day, so if you plan on hiking a lot, start early in the day and pack plenty of food and water. On this side of the park, you will find various restaurants, dining rooms, and coffee shops so that you won’t go hungry during your visit.

The South Rim is open all year round in contrast to the North Rim (from May to October). Free shuttle buses run throughout the summer on the South Rim. For more information, see the South Rim webpage on the NPS website.

Mather Point

Mather Point -15 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

#3 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

Mather Point is where many visitors see the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. Taking a 5-minute walk from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, travelers can reach the lookout point, which – if you don’t mind sifting through some crowds – offers exceptional views of the rugged cliffs and trails below. Visibility can exceed 30 miles to the east and 60 miles to the west under ideal weather conditions. Matthew Point is also a popular spot to watch the sunrise and set over the canyon.

Mather Point has received only positive remarks from travelers, praising its easy accessibility and stunning views. They also mentioned that it is close to restrooms and a cafe in the visitor center. Although avoiding the masses is admittedly tricky, some reviewers recommended arriving outside of peak hours around sunrise and sunset to avoid the crowds.

Mather Point itself does not have a parking lot, but it is walking distance from lots one to four near the visitor center. The Kaibab/Rim (Orange) shuttle stops here as well. Matter Point is wheelchair accessible and opens 24/7. For more information, visit the NPS website

North Rim

#4 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

The North Rim is known for its rugged trails, sparse facilities, and lack of appeal to mainstream tourists. This reputation, however, is only partially accurate. Sure, the North Rim is less crowded than the South, but only relatively. At peak times of the year, from late spring to early fall, the North Rim accommodates many visitors. The good news for nature purists is that the North Rim has few facilities, so the area is likely to remain relatively undeveloped. Bright Angel Point, which offers views of the North Rim’s only water source, Roaring Springs, is one of the most popular sports in the North Rim. Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim, stands 8,803 feet tall.

Visitors recently called the North Rim spectacular and a must-see area, praising its peaceful and quiet atmosphere. Booking accommodations here at least a year in advance is also recommended.

On Highway 67, the park’s North Rim is located 30 miles south of Jacob Lake. The route is 212 miles from the South Rim. Many shuttle services make daily rim-to-rim trips, including the Trans-Canyon Shuttle and Grand Canyon Service. Winter service can be limited. 

There is only one lodge on the North Rim and one campground. For the lodge, nightly rates average $200, and reservations (the earlier, the better) is a necessity. Travelers can book rooms up to 13 months in advance. The North Rim is only open to visitors from mid-May to mid-October. A visitor center has a bookstore, bathrooms, and informative exhibits staffed by park rangers. From mid-May to mid-October, the visitor center is open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. To learn more about the North Rim, visit the NPS website

Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon

Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon

#5 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

Indeed, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are not located within Grand Canyon National Park, but they are both within driving distance, making them excellent day trips. Both attractions can be visited the same day; Horseshoe Bend can be explored independently, but Antelope Canyon requires a guided tour reservation. 

The Antelope Canyon is a unique geological feature formed by water erosion over millions of years within Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park – just east of Page, Arizona, and about 130 miles northeast of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Guided tours are available to explore the slot canyon’s deep, winding, bright orange, and red tunnels. When the sun is at the perfect angle to shine in from above, the canyon is especially magical between late March and early October. Recent visitors say that bringing a camera is essential, though the canyon is even more stunning in person. 

Horseshoe Bend is less than 10 miles west of Antelope Canyon. This Instagram-worthy attraction is located within Glen Canyon Recreation Area, about 9 miles away from the border of Grand Canyon National Park. As a result of its proximity to the park, the jagged mountain encircled by the Colorado River is often referred to as the “east rim of the Grand Canyon.” Visitors to Horseshoe Bend can go hiking, rafting, and even take small plane tours to explore the area. Recent visitors enjoyed the views and hiking here, but warn there is a 15-minute walk from the parking lot to the overlook.

Several tour companies offer tours to Antelope Canyon, and parking at Horseshoe Bend costs $10 per vehicle (if you plan to explore on your own). Visitors can also choose to take a combo-guided tour of both sites, which will eliminate the stress of planning the day and finding a parking spot. Antelope Canyon lacks restrooms and trash cans (though there are facilities at Horseshoe Bend), and food, bags, and selfie sticks are not permitted. Visit the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend websites for more information.

Bright Angel Trail

#6 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

You can see the Colorado River from Plateau Point, located just west of Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village. Remember: The Bright Angel Trail is a little more than 6 miles long one way, and recent visitors and travel experts say it is not a good idea to hike to the river and back in one day. Pack camping gear if you plan to go all the way to Plateau Point and carry plenty of water. Some rest stops along the trail only offer water during certain times of the year.

Traveling the Bright Angel Trail by mules is unique to experience the Grand Canyon. Riders are taken to Phantom Ranch for an overnight stay and a lunch break at Indian Garden. Most trips are safe, but those who aren’t used to spending time in a saddle may find it difficult. About $705 per person is required for the ten 12.5-mile, five-and-a-half-hour ride. Xanterra Travel Collection also offers mule ride options that vary in price and duration. For more information, go to its website.

Rim Trail

#7 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

While Grand Canyon Village has plenty to offer visitors, don’t ignore the rest of the South Rim. As one of the most popular and comprehensive trails in the Grand Canyon, the Rim Trail is one of the best ways to see the South Rim’s most acclaimed attractions and viewpoints. A paved walking path traces the canyon’s edge, stopping at favorite lookouts such as Maricopa Point and Hopi Point.

Rim Trail begins at the South Kaibab Trailhead (several miles east of Grand Canyon Village) and ends at Hermit’s Rest lookout point west of the village. It is about 12 miles long. Travelers will benefit from the park’s free shuttle bus, which runs along a paved road along the trail, allowing access to the village and points along the way.

The trail provided a variety of experiences for travelers, from crowded tourist spots to more desolate stretches where visitors can enjoy nature. According to recent travelers, crowds are thick on the east side, near the gift shops, restaurants, and lodging, but thin out as you walk west. Other people commented on the accessibility of the trail, pointing out that much of it is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. Water is only available at Grand Canyon Village, Yavapai Point, and Hermit’s Rest, so you should pack plenty to stay hydrated. Admission to the park is free. You can find more detailed information about the Rim Trail on the NPS website.

South Kaibab Trail

#8 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

In the same way that the North Kaibab Trail begins at the North Rim, the South Kaibab Trail begins at the South Rim. Visitors can access the trail near Yaki Point and hike down to the Colorado River. However, since this trail does not provide drinking water (and is relatively steep), the National Park Service recommends hiking up the canyon via the Bright Angel Trail instead.

Travelers recommend planning before hiking South Kaibab. Be sure to bring at least two quarts of water, hiking poles, and snacks. A sunhat and sunscreen are also recommended, as there is little shade on the trail. Those up for the challenge will be rewarded with stunning canyon views, and you may even see wildlife like sheep and birds. 

Kaibab/Rim and Hiker’s Express shuttle buses service the South Kaibab Trailhead, and mule rides are also available. Visit the NPS website to learn more and to plan your hike. 

North Kaibab Trail

#9 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

If you choose to explore the North Rim, the North Kaibab Trail is the area’s best hike. The 14-mile trail leads to the Colorado River (one way). In the summer, the hot sun can be unforgiving to hikers. There is little shade along the way, making the journey even more difficult. If you walk the trail in the spring or fall rather than the summer, you’ll experience some of the best views without the sweltering heat. You should probably stay on the tourist-friendly South Rim if you are new to hiking and camping. You can still take a guided mule tour through this trail from May to October if you want to avoid the crowds.

North Kaibab hikers reported seeing breathtaking views along the trail. Ribbon Falls, Coconino Overlook, and Pumphouse Residence (the former home of artist and park worker Bruce Aiken) are favorites. Travelers also recommend the Supai Tunnel, which starts at North Kaibab’s trailhead and is a 4-mile round trip. Most travelers agree that the views are worth the effort, despite some travelers describing the route as strenuous (especially on the way back).

The North Kaibab Trail can be accessed by private or the Trans-Canyon Shuttle, which charges $90 to travel between the South and North Rims. Two campgrounds are located along the trail: Cottonwood and Bright Angel. Past hikers suggested splitting your journey into two days and pitching a tent at one of the campgrounds if you want to take your time. You can find more information about the North Kaibab Trail on the NPS website

Colorado River Rafting

#10 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

To see the Grand Canyon from a different point of view:

  1. Consider taking a rafting trip down the Colorado River.
  2. For a family-friendly experience, opt for a float trip through Glen Canyon (about 75 miles northeast of the center of the Grand Canyon) with a company like Advantage Grand Canyon.
  3. If you’re looking for an intense day trip, travel with Hualapai River Runners.

The company takes passengers through the roughest part of the canyon, between Diamond Creek and Lake Mead.

Traveler-approved tour companies offer Multiday trips like OARSCanyon Explorations/Expeditions, and Outdoors Unlimited. Because these companies only provide oar and paddle boat tours, you must be comfortable rafting and paddling. If you’d prefer not to row or paddle yourself, Wilderness River Adventures offers motorized raft tours. 

Pack a change of clothes, water, and sunscreen no matter where you go. Schedules and prices vary depending on the company and type of rafting experience offered.

Havasu Falls

#11 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

Travelers consider Havasu Falls one of the most beautiful sights in the Grand Canyon, complete with crystal blue waterways and gushing waterfalls that add a surreal quality to the dry canyon backdrop. On the Havasupai Indian Reservation, the falls are just south of the national park. It takes four hours to drive from Grand Canyon Village to Hualapai Hilltop. There are only a few portable toilets and a large parking area. Peach Springs, Arizona, offers more facilities and services. At Hualapai Hilltop, you must hike about 10 miles to the waterfall.

Unless you plan to spend the night camping, you shouldn’t visit Havasu Falls. The initial hike to the waterway is far too strenuous for visitors to complete in one day, so they must make a reservation for an overnight stay. Travelers said the sheer beauty of the falls and the enjoyment of swimming in them made the hassles of getting a permit and hiking to the falls worthwhile.

The campground is open from March to November. In 2019, overnight camping cost $100 per person per night during the week and $125 per person per night on the weekend. Permits, fees, and taxes are included. After visiting the falls, visit the village of Supai, where the Havasupai Tribe sells souvenirs and snacks. Because the economy of this community is based on tourism, prices here are incredibly high.

Grand Canyon Skywalk

#12 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a large, semicircular bridge with a transparent glass floor that allows tourists to walk 70 feet out over the canyon and view its base from 4,000 feet above. It is one of the more controversial additions to the canyon’s surroundings. The Skywalk is located outside the park on the grounds of the Hualapai Indian Tribe. Initially, purists criticized the construction of the Skywalk, claiming it destroyed the natural aesthetic of the area. However, the attraction has drawn thousands of visitors since 2007.

It takes about four hours to drive from Grand Canyon Village to the Skywalk, both South Rim and the North Rim. Recent travelers warn a trip to the Skywalk will take an entire day. Hualapai Indian Reserve visitors must purchase a package to gain access. Starting at $59 per person, the cheapest Skywalk option includes general admission. A lunch package begins at $78. From May 1 to mid-October, the Skywalk is open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.; from mid-October to mid-April, it’s available from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Many Grand Canyon helicopter tours stop here. Visit the Grand Canyon West website for more information.

Grand Canyon IMAX Theater

#13 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

After hiking and sightseeing, enjoy a brief escape from the summer heat by visiting the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater. Inside the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, the theater shows multiple showings of “Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets” throughout the day. The 34-minute film takes viewers on an immersive adventure, complete with stunning scenes of the Colorado River and aerial views of the canyon. Travelers will also learn more about the Grand Canyon’s history so that they will leave with a deeper appreciation of this natural wonder.

Recent travelers say the film is not to be missed, and they recommend making it your first stop on your Grand Canyon vacation to learn more about the national park before visiting it. Visitors also enjoyed the snack shop outside the theater and the gift shop on-site. Although some reviewers were less than impressed, they noted that the film quality was somewhat dated and had some technical glitches.

Grand Canyon Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. a.m. a.m.-7 p.m. 365 days a year, and the IMAX theater shows the film every half hour between 9:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $14 for adults, $10 for children ages 6 to 10, and $12.50 for military and senior citizens. As long as an adult accompanies them, children five and younger can attend the movie. You can purchase tickets at the theater or online in advance for a 20% discount. A wheelchair-accessible seating area is available for eight guests in the theater, which seats 488 people. Translation headphones are available for travelers who do not speak English. For more information, visit the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater website.

Grand Canyon Railway

#14 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

This historic railroad was built in the late 1800s to transport ore from the Anita mines, located north of Williams, Arizona. The railway began operating to the Grand Canyon in 1901, making it accessible. But the rise of automobiles caused passenger trains to lose business, and the Grand Canyon Depot saw its last train in 1968. In 1989, the Grand Canyon Railway reopened after extensive restoration.

Currently, this historic train carries passengers between Williams and the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Depot. Passengers will see a variety of landscapes, from Ponderosa and Pinion pine forests to expansive prairies and canyons. Most recent passengers describe the scenery as breathtaking, and their train guides as entertaining and informative, telling stories about the train and the region.

The train leaves Williams at 9:30 a.m. each day and arrives at Grand Canyon Village around 11:45 a.m. Return trips leave the village at 3:30 p.m. and come back in Williams around 5:45 p.m. A second train departs during peak visitor periods, such as summer. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, the train runs an hour earlier than usual. Six classes are available: Pullman, Coach, First Class, Observation Dome, Luxury Dome, and Luxury Parlor. The cost of an adult ticket ranges from $67 to $226, depending on the class. The depot has a gift shop and a Wild West-themed show. Visit the Grand Canyon Railway website for more information.

Desert View Watchtower

#15 Best Things To Do in Grand Canyon

Desert View Watchtower was built with rugged stones by renowned southwest architect Mary Colter in 1932 to blend in with the canyon and mimic the look of original Puebloan structures. In addition to the Kiva Room, which features a fireplace, rest area, retail shop, and views of the canyon, the tower also has a gallery with Hopi artwork and a top floor with panoramic views, including the North Rim and Colorado River, stretching as far as 100 miles away.

Visitors reported that the views from the top of the tower were some of the best they saw on their trip to the Grand Canyon. They were also impressed by the intricate architecture of the tower itself, noting that the structure was well-maintained and the tribal art was exciting and beautiful. 

On the South Rim, the Desert View Watchtower is free to enter, and the retail shop (on its ground level) is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day. About 25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village is the tower. Visit the Grand Canyon Desert View website for more information on hours, history, and more.

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