Spanning over 275 miles from end to end and over a mile high, the Grand Canyon lives up to its name in immeasurable wonder and majesty as well as in size. For the first time visitor, the sheer magnitude of possible activities can also be pretty daunting. To help make the most out of your epic trip to the Grand Canyon, here are a few ways to experience the best this natural wonder has to offer.
The Grand Canyon Railway
If you are interested in the Grand Canyon experience without the hassle of following directions or paying for parking, jump aboard the Grand Canyon Railway!
Buy a round trip ticket or book a multi-day package and ride in one of the trains five cabin categories. Include a night's stay in the historic Grand Canyon Railway Hotel or a guided tour of the South Rim. From the 1923 style Harriman coach car to the glass-enclosed Observation Dome, you can tailor your experience exactly the way you want it.
If you want to experience the true immensity of the Grand Canyon, then be sure to experience it from the water. Motor or paddle, half day or full canyon day trips, the Colorado River offers the best views in the house.
Float past hidden waterfalls and vistas accessible only by river. But you better book in advance, these excursions are very popular and wait lists can be pretty long.
Whether you're looking for a peaceful afternoon excursion into nature or a hard-core hike from the rim to the river and back, the Grand Canyon is your one stop shop for hikes suitable for all ages and abilities.
Backpack for days as you explore the riverbank, hidden caves and beautiful waterfalls. Make sure you check the average temperatures for your trip dates though. The area is desert after all and conditions can at times be rough.
Many veteran visitors say that the best way to see as much of the Grand Canyon as you can is on two wheels.
Biking is a healthy, environmentally friendly mode of transportation, and the National Park is currently working on linking over 70 miles of bike trails along the north and south rims. Stop in at the visitors center for a map with accessible bike trails.
When anyone thinks about exploring the rims of the Grand Canyon, the most well known type of travel is on the back of a mule.
There are options available for three-hour rides, half-day trips, and even overnight adventures. Horses and mules both are available, as well as twilight campfires and wagon rides at the end of your trip.
Airplane and Helicopter Rides
Explore the breathtaking vistas of the Grand Canyon from on high in one of the areas many state-of-the-art helicopters as a knowledgeable tour guide explains the geology and history of the area. Or enjoy a more lavish and comfortable view from the sky in a multi-passenger plane. This is a good short trip for those who don]t have much time but still wish to see as much as they can.
Grand Canyon Skywalk
One of the newest attractions on the western rim of the canyon is the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This feat of modern architecture is a semi-circular bridge with glass floors that extend out over the canyon. Not for the skittish, visitors can look right between their feet to the bottom of the canyon almost a mile below.
Admission is cheaper than the aerial flights over the canyon, and you can experience the same awe-inspiring vistas.
Jeep and Shuttle Bus Tours
One of the best ways to hit all the hot spots and still make it back in time for dinner is to hop in one of the National Parks Jeeps. Lean back with the top down and the wind in your hair as your driver whisks you over off-road trails and back roads to hidden vistas and scenic overlooks.
Or you can hop on one of the free shuttle buses after a long hike in the canyon and get whisked back to your car or hotel. Some shuttle buses offer guided tours of the rim as well.
Become a ranger for a day, trace a path through geological time, or learn about the canyons more than 1,500 plant types and 300 species of birds by joining a specialty tour.
Free guided tours by park rangers provide the insiders scoop on the flora and fauna of the region. Guided tours on almost every subject are available. If you only have time for one tour, and none of the guided tours fit your schedule, the Trail of Time is perfect for you.
This walking trail takes you on a geological history adventure, telling the stories of the many rock layers and formations, helping you better appreciate the wonder in the forces of nature.
Museums and Ruins
People interested in learning more about the history and culture of the area will find the south rim full of interesting sites. The Tusayan Museum and Ruin opens a window to 13th century Pueblo Indian life. Learn about a new way of life and see some of the original 2,000-year-old artifacts in the museum, and then take a walk through the ruin and experience it for yourself. Admission is free and guided tours are available.
If geology is more your thing, you can visit the Yavapai Geology Museum to learn more about the Grand Canyon through 3D models and exhibits.
The North Rim is only open from May 15th to October 15th, but the South Rim is open year round. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit because of the less extreme weather conditions. If you want to avoid the peak tourist season, your best bet is to visit between September and October before the bitter cold sets in!
Is the Grand Canyon on your travel bucket list?
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