Arguably one of the most popular tourist destinations in the American West is the Grand Canyon. This 277-mile-long canyon in northern Arizona was carved by the rushing Colorado River between five and six million years ago. At up to 18 miles wide and one mile deep in some places, this gorgeous natural wonder epitomizes the word “grand.”
Photo courtesy of Bernard Spragg. NZ
In addition to its grandeur, the canyon was also considered a holy and sacred place by the Pueblo people, who inhabit the southwestern United States. They made pilgrimages to the canyon, which also served as the site of Native American settlements and cave dwellings. And while the Grand Canyon has become more touristy in recent decades, there are still many opportunities to enjoy its raw beauty. These are the 5 best things to do at the Grand Canyon.
Hike to the North Rim
For travelers who want to eschew the more touristy South Rim area of the Grand Canyon, exploring the North Rim may be more palatable. It’s far less developed than the South Rim, with fewer facilities, but still boasts picturesque vistas. The relatively small number of facilities makes the North Rim far less popular than the South Rim among tourists. That said, a large number of people—roughly 10% of all annual visitors—still visit between late spring and early fall.
Photo courtesy of Deborah Lee Soltesz
One of the best ways to enjoy the North Rim is by following one of the many Grand Canyon hiking trails in the area. The North Rim is known for being quite rugged and remote. One of the more difficult trails is the North Kaibab Trail, which offers little in terms of shade for its 14-mile duration. The trail, which ends at the Colorado River, can also be explored via guided, mule-driven excursions if hiking isn’t your thing.
Visit Grand Canyon Village
While the North Rim is relatively less packed than other parts of the canyon, the opposite can be said of Grand Canyon Village. The village serves as the most popular entry point into Grand Canyon National Park. One of the most spectacular views of the canyon can be seen from Yavapai Point in the village, which is also home to several remarkable, albeit touristy, sites.
Photo courtesy of Alan Levine
Art enthusiasts should not miss the Kolb and Lookout studios, where they can find artwork inspired by the Grand Canyon. Tourists looking for authentic Native American souvenirs should check out the adobe-style Hopi House. And at the Grand Canyon Railway Depot, visitors can learn about the railroad and the impact it had on local tourism. The village is also convenient, as it offers a plethora of restaurants, markets, souvenir shops, and accommodations, though staying in the village is quite pricey.
Camp at Havasu Falls
Of all the magnificent sites in the Grand Canyon, one of the most enchanting is Havasu Falls. This sapphire-hued waterfall is a vibrant pop of color against the reddish-brown rocks surrounding it, making it an oasis of sorts among the desert landscape.
Photo courtesy of Sean Hagen
It takes between a half-day and a full day to reach the falls, which are located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation south of the national park. Because the 10-mile-hike is so strenuous, I recommend taking it slow and camping overnight, as there are very few facilities nearby. It’s worth it to enjoy the beauty of the falls and wash off a day’s worth of sweat by swimming beneath them! Trust me, it’s easily one of the best things to do at the Grand Canyon!
Take a Ride Down the Colorado River
While the Grand Canyon is easily one of the most splendid natural sites in North America, the force that created it—the Colorado River—is sometimes overlooked. But the river actually offers one of the most unique opportunities to explore the canyon, via a whitewater rafting adventure.
Photo courtesy of Eric Hall
Adrenaline junkies will love the one-, two-, and five-day whitewater rafting tours offered by Hualapai River Runners, which take guests down some of the roughest sections of the river. If you’d like to have a Colorado River experience but don’t want the thrill of a whitewater rafting adventure, you can always book an excursion in the northeastern part of the canyon, where the waters are calmer. It’s among the top things to do at the Grand Canyon!
Photo courtesy of Scott1346
While the Grand Canyon is known for its awe-inspiring and breathtaking vistas, it is much more than that. From rugged and challenging hikes to phenomenal waterfalls to pulse-pounding rafting adventures, there is no shortage of things to do at the Grand Canyon. Add in the opportunities to learn about the canyon’s history and Native American culture, and you have a park that’s perfect for all types of travelers.