The Grand Canyon is one of America’s most iconic natural sites, a place that everyone should see at least once. It’s vast enough to warrant multiple trips as well, especially if you have a chance to visit with different people, such as your children or spouse. Visiting the Grand Canyon is not difficult, but it does take planning. Ideally, you should give yourself a few days to stay in the area. However, people have been known to make day trips from Las Vegas. The important thing is that you find a way to see this amazing wonder.
Getting to and Visiting the Grand Canyon
To people who haven’t yet seen the Grand Canyon, the prospect of a trip may be a little daunting. You may wonder where you will actually stay and how you will get to the actual site.
The site is actually in Grand Canyon National Park in northwestern Arizona. The Grand Canyon itself is a huge gorge in the Colorado River and is such an impressive site that it’s been named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will probably not get to tour the whole national park on any single visit, so let’s look at a few spots you might want to put on your itinerary.
- South Rim –The Grand Canyon is divided into North and South rims. The South Rim is the more accessible of the two. Here you will find hotels, restaurants, bus service and other tourist-friendly amenities. Some of the lookout points near the South Rim include Mather Point, Yavapai Point and Pipe Creek Vista.
- North Rim – Less popular and harder to reach than the South Rim, this is a good destination if you have more time and want to visit a more remote area of the canyon. It’s not that the views are better, but you will have more privacy and perhaps sense of adventure. This section is closed for the winter. If you visit the North Rim, you can find lookouts such as Bright Angel Point.
- Hopi Point – A great place for views of the Canyon and the river. If you can, try to reach this point at sunrise or sunset.
- Hiking Trails –If you want to do some hiking in the Grand Canyon, you have quite a few options. The Rim Trail is a moderate hike that’s appropriate for kids and people who aren’t athletes. Bright Angel Trail can be a little more challenging, depending on the time of year (it can be icy and slippery in colder weather). Another long trail is the South Kaibab Trail, which can get hot in summer, as it offers no shade.
- Yavapai Observation Station –A good place to stop for information and exhibits dedicated to the Grand Canyon.
- Helicopter Rides –While not a substitute for seeking the Canyon on foot, you can get some spectacular views and photos from a helicopter. Several companies, including Maverick Helicopter offer tours.
- Mule Tours –If you want to experience the Grand Canyon much the way pioneers of a 100+ years ago did, there’s no better way to do it than on a mule. A company called Xanterra offers excellent mule tours. They are quite popular, so make sure you book well in advance.
- Hiking/Trekking/Camping Tours –You can, of course, explore the Canyon on your own. If you want to be led by experienced guides, however, you might want to sign up for a tour. Some companies you might check out for this are Canyonology Treks, Just Roughin’ It Adventure Company and The Wildland Trekking Company.
Where to Stay
You can find hotels, cabins and other accommodations near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Some of these offer great views without even leaving your room. Other choices are a little further away, but have other advantages.
If you want to stay in Grand Canyon National Park, some good choices include Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Maswik Lodge and Yavapai Lodge. Keep in mind that these and other hotels near the Grand Canyon tend to be very basic in terms of amenities; you are mainly paying for convenience and views.
Another option is to go camping. There are several camping sites, including North Rim Campground, Desert View Campground and Bright Angel Campground. There are campgrounds for both tents and RVS. They have amenities such as bathrooms and are close to the trails and lookouts, making it very convenient if you don’t mind roughing it a little.
At the other end of the spectrum, you can find more luxurious hotels and resorts, but you’ll have to go a little further from the Grand Canyon. You could stay in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Scottsdale or Sedona and do a day trip to the Grand Canyon. Some of your choices include the Westin Phoenix Downtown, L’Auberge de Sedona, Montelucia Resort & Spa in Scottsdale –or one of dozens of Vegas’s luxury hotels on The Strip.
It all depends if you want to make the Grand Canyon the central focus of your trip (in which case you’d probably be better off staying right in the park) or having a diverse vacation and making the Grand Canyon a day trip.