The Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in the United States. It is located in the state of Arizona, surrounded by desert scenery. The Grand Canyon is nearly 450 kilometres long and 29 kilometres wide, with a maximum depth of nearly 2,000 metres.
Due to erosion, the Grand Canyon features nearly 2 billion years of history exposed in its rock. There are many trails, sites, and vistas at the canyon, and it can easily take weeks to explore fully. To narrow down the attractions and help you build the perfect itinerary, we’ve listed 19 of the best things to do and see at the Grand Canyon.
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19 Things to Do at the Grand Canyon
1. Desert View Watchtower
The Desert View Watchtower is one of the most famous sites at the Grand Canyon. It was built in 1932 and looks like an ancient Anasazi tower. Beautiful murals and details inside the watchtower reflect the native tribes in the area.
The tower is 5 storeys tall and has different experiences on each level. From the top floor of the tower, visitors can find stunning views of the canyon. It is a must-see for anyone visiting the area.
2. Grand Canyon Skywalk
This landmark is not for those with a fear of heights. The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that extends over the edge of the grand canyon. Visitors on the Skywalk can look down at their feet and see over 4,000 feet down into the canyon.
Although it may seem daunting, the Skywalk is completely safe. The glass at your feet is 4 inches thick and very well maintained. In fact, the Hualapai Tribe that takes care of the site says the Skywalk is strong enough to hold 70 Boeing 747 jets.
3. Yavapai Geology Museum
If you’re visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, visiting the Yavapai Geology Museum is one of the most interesting things to do. The museum was founded in the 1920s by geologists who were studying the area.
The Yavapai Geology Museum has exhibits and information about the history of the Grand Canyon and the natural processes that carved it over millions of years. The museum is a perfect place to visit with children to add an educational element to your visit.
4. Ride a Mule
While visiting the Grand Canyon is an adventure in itself, it is even more exciting to explore the area on a mule! Mules have been used to carry people and equipment into the Grand Canyon since the 1800s and still do today.
Mule rides are available on both the North and South Rims. The groups take 20 people at a time, and the trips can last from a couple of hours to an overnight stay. Mule rides are very popular with tourists and fill up quickly, so it is best to book them in advance of your trip!
5. Bright Angel Trail
The Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon is one of the most famous hiking trails in the world. The 13-kilometre-long trail descends over 1,300 metres through the canyon. The views from this hike are amazing and well worth the trek.
Although the hike down may seem easy, Bright Angel Trail is difficult to complete and should not be attempted by beginners without a guide. It can take experienced hikers an entire day to complete the trail. If you choose to hike the Bright Angel Trail, bring plenty of water for the trek.
6. Walk Across the Navajo Bridge
The Navajo Bridge opened in 1929 with thousands of people present to watch the ceremonial ribbon cutting. It was built to allow cars to travel over the canyon since the only way previously was by ferry.
A new bridge was constructed in 1995 to transport heavier vehicles, and the original Navajo Bridge was kept for pedestrians to cross and enjoy the view. It is a great spot for photographs and to admire the Grand Canyon from above.
7. Tusayan Ruin
Excavated in 1930, the Tusayan Ruin is a major archaeological site of an indigenous town from the 1100s. It is one of the more than 4,000 recorded historic sites in the Grand Canyon. It is thought that around 20 people lived in the town for over 800 years.
Today, only the base of the structure is visible. The building was made from uncut stones and wooden beams. The people who lived there were skilled and thrived at making pottery, arrowheads, and more.
The Tusayan Ruin also features a museum where guests can learn more about the town and the people who lived there. It is a spectacular snippet of history and a must-see for any trip to the Grand Canyon.
8. Take a Guided Tour
Guided tours are offered year-round at the Grand Canyon. There are many different types of tours available, from guided hiking tours to off-road vehicle tours and even stargazing tours at night.
The available tours change seasonally to make sure that new trails and experiences are offered. This also means that if you visit the Grand Canyon on more than one holiday, you are sure to find a tour that you haven’t been on before.
The most popular times for guided tours are summer and autumn. Annual events are also held throughout the year, such as the Star Party, where guests can observe awe-inspiring dark skies from the canyon.
9. Explore the Grand Canyon Visitor Center
The Grand Canyon Visitor Center is a perfect place to start your journey through the area. Here, information booklets, maps, and exhibits about the canyon’s history are available for guests.
The Visitor Center also features a gift shop, cafe, bus terminal, and even a theatre. Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder is shown at the theatre every half hour. The film is 20 minutes long and is a great orientation to the area’s history and preservation.
10. Walk The Trail of Time
For an interactive hike that is as interesting as it is beautiful, the Trail of Time is a must-do at the Grand Canyon. The path is just shy of 5 kilometres long and was built to represent the geological history of the canyon.
The first 140 metres of the trail cover a time span of 1 million years. The remaining length of the path leads you through 2 billion years of erosion and change at the Grand Canyon. Each metre of the path represents 1 million years of time passing at the canyon.
Along the Trail of Time, there are markers explaining that portion of the Grand Canyon’s history. Exhibits also line the path to show how the canyon was formed. It takes about an hour to walk the entire length of the trail.
11. Ride a Raft Down the Colorado River
If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon for multiple days, riding a raft down the Colorado River is a great experience! The river spans nearly 450 kilometres, and takes anywhere from 7 to 18 days to raft the full length.
As you travel down the river, breathtaking views of the canyon will surround your group. In the evenings, rafting groups pull off to the shore and make camp for the night. This is an excellent opportunity to stargaze and experience the dark skies above the Grand Canyon.
The Colorado River is very difficult at particular times. Large waves and steep dropoffs make this experience only for those with previous rafting experience. It is important to dress appropriately for the experience. Bring good shoes, water, and lots of sun protection.
12. Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls is known to be one of the most beautiful vistas in the Grand Canyon area. Located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, the falls feature stunning blue water flowing into pools against the red-rock canyon walls.
In order to access Havasu Falls, visitors must reserve a camping space for 3 nights. A 16-kilometre hike leads down to the falls, where a wilderness campground is located. Although the trek is long, it is one of the best hikes and destinations in the area.
While camping here, guests can swim in the pools and explore the surrounding area. The water stays around 21°C, making it a refreshing escape from the heat. It is an experience unlike any other in the Grand Canyon.
13. Elves Chasm
For anyone who wants to get away from the crowds, Elves Chasm is the perfect place. The hike to the Elves Chasm waterfall is just under 2 kilometres long, but it takes longer than it may seem. The hike is very strenuous and requires expert knowledge or a skilled guide.
Once you reach the Elves Chasm, you’ll find a pristine shaded area with a waterfall feature. The emerald-coloured pool is perfect for a relaxing swim. There’s even a ledge in the rock face that visitors can climb to and leap into the pool below.
14. Take a Scenic Drive
The Grand Canyon is one of the best places to take an iconic American road trip. There are multiple roads you can cruise down that feature stunning views and vistas. From the road, it is awe-inspiring to gaze across the canyon and easy to fall in love with the scenery.
Hermit Road is a popular drive at the Grand Canyon. It is just over 11 kilometres long and has many lookout points to stop at. Desert View Drive is another favourite for tourists. It covers 37 kilometres and is the only scenic road open to private vehicles year-round.
15. Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is a perfect destination for a day trip to the Grand Canyon. The canyon was created over millions of years of erosion. It features winding tunnels that can be explored on foot. The bright red and orange stone tunnels are breathtaking to walk through.
The canyon can only be accessed on a guided tour. The guides provide more information about the area and how it was formed over time. The most popular time of the year to visit Antelope Canyon is between late March and early October. This is because the sun lines up perfectly to shine through the top of the canyon during these months.
16. Go Camping
Camping at the Grand Canyon is a great way to connect with nature. The canyon has 4 established camping sites: 3 on the South Rim and 1 on the North Rim. The North Rim site is closed during the winter months, while the South Rim sites are open year-round. Reservations are required for these sites.
There are also camping sites deep within the Grand Canyon that you have to hike to. For these sites, you must submit a permit application and cannot stay longer than 2 nights. These campsites are perfect for those who want to be fully surrounded by nature.
17. Hopi House
Opened in 1905, the Hopi House has been delighting Grand Canyon visitors for over 100 years. The house was designed to look like a Hopi pueblo; it was built from stone and has several floors.
Inside the Hopi House, authentic Native American arts and crafts are displayed and sold. The local tribes handcraft most of the souvenirs and products available. If something for sale is not made by local craftspeople, it is clearly marked on the tag to maintain transparency.
Although the Hopi House was designed to be a place for local tribes to sell their arts and crafts, it was also where some Hopis lived during the early days. They would live on the upper floors of the building and sell souvenirs on the lower floors.
Browsing through and purchasing the crafts made by the local artisans is a great way to take a piece of Grand Canyon history home with you and support the Native tribes that call the area home.
18. Take a Helicopter Tour
Helicopter tours offer visitors a unique aerial view of the Grand Canyon. Helicopter tours are available from multiple companies and can start at the South Rim, West Rim, or even from nearby Las Vegas.
From the air, guests can fully take in and observe the size of the Grand Canyon like never before. The cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls look amazing from above as the helicopter flies over the natural wonder. Some tours also cover other local attractions, such as the Hoover Dam.
19. Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is one of the easiest and most popular sights to go to at the Grand Canyon. The iconic horseshoe shape was created by erosion from the Colorado River as it flowed through the rock.
Many tourists go to Horseshoe Bend near dusk to watch the sunset behind the canyon. Although it can be crowded during this time, it is an amazing sight and should be on every Grand Canyon itinerary. Just aim to arrive early to secure a good spot.
The Grand Canyon is an Excellent Travel Destination
The Grand Canyon is a must-see natural wonder for anyone visiting the Southwest United States. It was carved through the rock over millions of years, making it a beautiful and educational location for everyone.
With nearly endless vistas and trails to explore, the Grand Canyon is a great destination for both a day trip and a longer holiday stay. Whether you are an experienced hiker or just want to wander through the desert scenery, a trip to the Grand Canyon will never disappoint.
If you’re planning a trip to the USA, check out our list of important travel statistics before you go.
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