Top 10 things to do in Grand Canyon National Park
As far as iconic natural landmarks go, they don't get any bigger or bolder than Arizona's Grand Canyon and from the rushing muddy waters of the Colorado River to the fabulous views from the South and the North rims, some 2,600ft above, this is definitely one of the world's 'must visit' locations.
If you simply can't resist a visit to the daddy of all canyons any longer then make sure you read our top 10 things to do in Grand Canyon National Park as this is where you whet your appetite and discover an amazing array of reasons to visit the GC other than simply because it's there.
10. South Rim Visitor Centre
The info centre on the South Rim is much more than just another sticker and sew on badge shop so make sure you pay it a visit as the first point of call on your visit to the Grand Canyon National Park. You'll often find loads of art and heritage exhibits on display as well as several interactive route planners to help you get orientated and find the most suitable itinerary for everyone in your group. There's also a mini-cinema with half hour screenings of a short film about the canyon which is well-worth taking in just so you can have a more informed experience to add to the brand new fridge magnet that you just couldn't resist buying.
Note: Bike hire is also available from the South Rim Visitor Centre.
9. Walk the Trail of Time
If you're hoping to take a scenic stroll as well as finding out a few fascinating facts along the way then the Trail of Time is definitely one for your 'things to do' list. Rock layers, million year markers and key events are all featured within numerous exhibits and info points which are incorporated into almost 3 miles of pathway with some well-placed telescopes enabling you to get a better look at what you're reading about. This is a great interactive outdoor museum and ideal if you're travelling with keen kids or equally curious adults.
8. Mobile phone tours
If you hate the thought of taking your mobile phone on holiday then who could blame you as from annoying cold calls to an equally frustrating message from work, getting some peace and quiet is often the last thing that that little hand-held gadget is good for. However, if you have brought your phone with you to the Grand Canyon then you maybe pleased to know that you can actually use it for good rather than evil as there are a number of points around the canyon where you can get a cheeky couple of minutes' worth of ranger speak direct to your ear.
Info: Geology, history and things to look out for are all available via your phone and free of charge.
7. Cultural heritage
Finding out more about the Native American people who have inhabited the Grand Canyon area for generations is an excellent way to discover what it takes to live, work and thrive in such harsh arid conditions. The Pueblo Indians were the first known inhabitants and paying your respects at the Tusayan Ruin which can be found around Desert View Visitor Centre is definitely a wise choice for anyone interested in understanding and learning about different cultures. Check out the museum as well as the watchtower to find out more about Pueblo life and how they influenced settlers on the Colorado Plateau.
6. Scenic shuttle buses
One of the best ways to save your legs and get to see some of the best vistas over the Grand Canyon is to take a scenic drive along roads such as Hermit and Desert View. Hermit Road in particular is very popular and taking the Red shuttle bus from Grand Canyon Village to Hermit's Rest will give you ample opportunities (around nine) to stop and stare at some phenomenal sights during the 7 mile trip. As this road isn't open to private cars or buses during spring through to autumn there's no chance of getting caught in traffic and this can only be good news for keeping the environmental effects of car pollution down to a minimum.
5. Great places to hike
If you're planning on undertaking a hiking trail in and around the Grand Canyon National Park then ensuring you have adequate water, sun screen and energy-giving food is essential for enjoying and completing a successful trek. There are numerous options for day, overnight and back country hikers and all manner of means to listen to important ranger guidelines, including regular back country hiking tips and updates that are published as audio podcasts and well-worth listening to before or during your trip.
Popular day trails include: South Rim (easy), Bright Angel (manageable), Hermit (challenging) and Grandview (tough).
4. Rafting on the Colorado River
There are all manner of boat and rafting tours that will take you over the Colorado River and whether you fancy a quiet and peaceful meander or a wet and wild rapids adventure, make sure you do your research and only use a reputable company to ensure complete safety. If you fancy opting for a self-guided trip with an experienced team then this is a superb option but will require a permit as well as all the correct buoyancy gear and adequate provisions for the days and nights ahead. Best advice for newbies is to get on an organised tour as this is an awesome way to see parts of the Grand Canyon from an exciting and unique angle as well as having loads of fun at the same time.
3. Rent a bike
It may seem like a slightly precarious mode of transport however, hiring a bike from the South Rim or Desert View visitor centres is a great way to see more of the park as well as getting those limbs in shape at the same time. Guided tours, free maps and a café selling all-manner of cycle-friendly goodies for your journey make renting a bike in the Grand Canyon National Park a much better option than you may have first thought.
Keep it green: Of course, cycling is one of the best methods of travelling that doesn't harm the environment just make sure you stay on map and don't stray too close to the edge!
2. Helicopter flights
This is some serious scenery viewing from an eagle's eye perspective and if you've been saving up your beans or you just feel the need to do something incredible whilst visiting the Grand Canyon then why not. Imagine skimming the Colorado River or swooping through inaccessible valleys as this is pretty much what you're going to be doing if you've got the nerve and the wallet to experience one of the greatest thrills this side of Vegas.
Note: Pilots are always really knowledgeable so you'll also get to learn a few things as you swoop and fly.
1. Mule rides around the rim
If you're hoping to see parts of the canyon from a totally unique vantage point then there can be few better ways to do it than from the back of a mule (half donkey/half horse). These animals are extremely hardy and visiting the ranch in Grand Canyon village will enable you to find out more about their standard of living and exactly what it takes to keep a mule happy, all year round. Mule rides usually feature a couple of hours in the saddle as well as plenty of rest stops to learn about the geology, history and wildlife of the Grand Canyon as well as giving your trusty steed a chance to get its breath back.
Note: Mule rides are available for both the North and the South rims however, the North ride is only accessible during the summer and booking in advance is essential for both.
Further reading: Anyone looking to tick off one of the world's seven wonders from their bucket list, we recommend first heading to Las Vegas, taking a scenic flight to Boulder City before boarding the motor coach where you can experience the Canyon views from the Skywalk.
Article written by Chris Owens.