A Guide To Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon Arizona
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Arizona has tons of natural beauty to offer and the Grand Canyon is its most prized destination. It is a gorge of stunning proportions carved out of rock formations that line the Colorado River, making it a wholly breathtaking sight and an abyss of fun activities. The Grand Canyon occupies the northern side of the state, sharing its borders with Utah. While the entire canyon has been broadly divided into the North and South rims, it is the latter that falls on the Arizona side and receives the maximum footfall. Here’s a comprehensive guide to Grand Canyon, Arizona, that focuses on the popular things to do on the Southern Rim, which is a mammoth undertaking in itself (given its sheer size!). Use this and you should be covered for good.

Things to do

Grand Canyon South Rim 2019 3
Source: Photo by user Steven Lek used under CC BY-SA 4.0

There’s no dearth of the things you can do at Grand Canyon’s Southern Rim and following are some that count for top experiences. Given the vastness of this natural wonder, it’s nearly impossible to curate everything into one piece of writing, really!

Catch superb bird's-eye views

Airplane and helicopter trips across the Grand Canyon are a great way to catch some fantastic views, sans the worry of negotiating human traffic and hot weather. It unearths the canyon’s vastness in its truest sense and will leave you utterly awed! You can hitch one of the regular airplane tours that leave from the Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan and other cities, as well. Else, several 25-50 minutes long helicopter tours are also offered by operators. Check Grand Canyon’s official website for the most updated information.

Enjoy incredible views from land

While airplane and helicopter tours are quite the thing among visitors, the canyon can be admired from land just as much. The Desert View Drive connects the Grand Canyon Village with Desert View, offering stupendous panoramas of the central and eastern sides of the canyon. Else, you can hitch one of the free shuttle rides to the Hermit’s Rest viewpoint and watch the canyon in its full glory out front. Catching the sunset from Lipan Point is another amazing experience you can have.

Mix some adventure with fun

There are fewer activities that’ll put you in better touch with the canyon’s beauty than a paddling trip down the Colorado River. Canyon Explorations, Arizona River Runners, Arizona Raft Adventures, and several other operators offer some excellent, guided tours. You have the option of going in for trips that are limited to a few hours or the 14 - 16 days’ ones that allow overnight camping, with meals and hiking included. Half-river trips, lasting for five to nine days, are also quite hit among travellers.

Kill the thrill

The National Park at Grand Canyon West, on the Hualapai Reservation, has a horseshoe-shaped bridge with a glass-floored walkway that stretches for about 21 m (70 ft). Visitors can walk along this bridge, suspended at a height of about 1,200 m (4,000 ft) above the canyon floor and enjoy some wonderful views of the canyon below. However, remember that cameras are not allowed on this bridge. Also, those of you who have fear of heights or vertigo may think twice before heading.

Go hiking

Grand Canyon is an abyss of hiking trails, with each offering an entirely unique experience. Visitors most often go along the Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim to get the best of hiking experience here. However, do remember that this trail can be slightly challenging.

Appreciating the local flora and fauna

Dense pine forests, wildflowers, and sagebrushes are a hideout for species of deers, mountain lions, tortoises, red-tailed hawks, California Condors, bears, banded lizards, and the likes. Real treat for the nature and wildlife lovers amongst you!

Things to buy

Grand Canyon Park Store Interioir (2013) 1356
Source: Photo by user Grand Canyon Nati... used under CC BY 2.0

Nearly all of the lodges and visitor centres around Grand Canyon have gift shops of their own. Shops at Hopi House, Lookout Studios, Desert View Watchtower, and Verkamps top the visitors’ choices. These sell a range of items, such as Navajo rugs, jewellery, pottery items, and even typically touristy souvenirs like fridge magnet or a poster that you can invest in.

Traveller's tips

Grand Canyon Arizona rock formation
Source: Piqsels

Research beforehand

There’s an endless number of things you can do here. It’s essential that you do proper research, so that you make the most of your time and are able to enjoy the Grand Canyon to the fullest. Go through its official website for all relevant information. Once there, you may find it worthy to seek inputs from those manning the Visitor Centres’ desks. They often have helpful tips that come in handy. Plus, do thorough checks regarding** necessary permits and licenses** if you’re planning to go camping, backpacking, or river rafting in the area.

Manage your time wisely

It’s nearly impossible to cover everything on the Southern Rim in one visit. If you want to make the most of your time, ditch the popular tourist spots to avoid wasting time in queues and go in for the lesser-known viewpoints and experiences. Similarly, avoid heading there in self-driven vehicles and hitch free shuttle rides, so that you don’t get stuck in traffic snarls. However, if you do want to go in for self-driven vehicles, start your days as early as possible. You may pre-pay the Grand Canyon entrance fee at one of the Visitor Centres to be able to use special lanes that bypass traffic points.

Select the season appropriately

Grand Canyon is at its busiest from late-May to early September. Queues are ridiculously long, viewpoints are packed with camera-toting tourists, and there’s minimal peace and quiet around. Although, remember that heat soars around June - August and it can get pretty darn uncomfortable. Mid-December to late-February are probably the quietest months (or as quiet as it can get!) in the year. October is touted to be the best time of the year if you want to catch the foliage at its vivacious best, livening up the experience that much more.

Carry essentials

While a large section of the Grand Canyon is tourist-friendly, it’s always a good idea to carry light snacks and basic essentials that you may need. Basic amenities like shades, sunblock, bug repellants, antiseptics, etc., a change of clothes, and water are a MUST.

How to get there

Grand Canyon National Park: Tusayan Shuttle Bus 0021
Source: Photo by user Grand Canyon Nati... used under CC BY 2.0

By shuttle buses

These are the most popular means of getting around the Grand Canyon Southern Rim, without having to worry about vehicle permits and extra costs. Groome Transportation offers lots of buses that ply to and from various Visitor Centres to several parts. These run at regular 20-minute intervals from 8am - 9:30pm daily. Check out their exact routes and other details on Grand Canyon’s official website.

By flight

You can land in Phoenix or Flagstaff and hitch a short direct flight to Grand Canyon from the Grand Canyon National Park Airport.

By bus

Several bus services ply to and from Flagstaff, Grand Canyon Village, Sedona, Williams, and other major towns in Arizona. These drop passengers off at the Visitor Centres, from where you can hitch shuttle bus rides.

By train

The Grand Canyon Railway provides excellent rail connectivity between Williams and the canyon. Else, Amtrak services are also available to reach Flagstaff, which is about 130 km (80 miles) away.

By car

Follow Interstate 40’s route 64 to head northwest from Williams to Grand Canyon. Else, take route 180 from Flagstaff. Both these drives are about 1 - 1.5 hours long .

Important note: To take private cars inside the national parks, you’ll need to obtain vehicle permits that can cost anywhere between 20 - 35 USD per vehicle. Several tourists find it worthy to invest in a site-specific Digital Entrance Pass for a fuss-free access. This can be bought online.

How to book tickets

Grand Canyon Arizona
Source: Pixabay

Admission tickets to all sections of the Grand Canyon are available at the various Visitor Centres on site. However, tickets to Grand Canyon West can also be purchased online.

You can also invest in an Annual Grand Canyon National Park Pass that allows unlimited visits to the Grand Canyon National Park for an entire year and costs about 70 USD. This pass covers the purchaser’s admission fee, accompanying visitors as well as any non-commercial vehicles.

Grand Canyon information

Grand Canyon Panorama 2013
Source: Photo by user Roger Bolsius used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Grand Canyon

Address: P.O. Box 399, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Opening hours: Varies according to seasons and sections

Official website: Grand Canyon

Department of tourism: Visit Arizona

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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