Planning a trip to the Grand Canyon is a fun, but sometimes complicated task. With so many things to do and so many areas to explore, it can be challenging to find time for everything you and your traveling companions want to see. However, with some advance planning, you can visit every can’t-miss locale on your list.
Planning a good Grand Canyon itinerary requires learning the basic attractions, accommodations and activities available at the National Park and its surrounding areas. If you are into camping, hiking and other outdoor activities, there are hundreds of things to do at the Grand Canyon to create a trip full of memories. Keep reading to learn how to plan your next visit to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Grand Canyon tourist attractions cover a wide range of interests. All visitors should start with the visitor center to get a Grand Canyon attractions map to learn the day’s activities and events. Photographers and Instagrammers love capturing the unique scenery at each of the Canyon’s viewpoints, beginning with Mather Point.
History buffs enjoy visiting the Grand Canyon museums and other historic sites surrounding the park. Thrill-seekers must visit Grand Canyon West for a stroll along the famed glass-bottomed Skywalk Bridge and plan a swim at the stunning Havasu Falls. Another Grand Canyon must-see involves taking an elevator 21 stories underground to explore Grand Canyon Caverns, the largest dry cavern in the United States.
Although you may reach most Grand Canyon activities in your own vehicle, most visitors find it easier to park their car and hop aboard the park’s free shuttle bus system. Most Grand Canyon places to visit in the South Rim are accessible by shuttle service. In addition, a Trans-Canyon shuttle transports visitors between the South Rim and North Rim for a fee.
If you are traveling to the Grand Canyon with kids, then make memories by climbing aboard the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, AZ. This historic train will travel back in time to the Old West with musicians singing cowboy sing-alongs and characters reenacting a Wild West shootout and train robbery. If you visit the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, a shuttle bus service is included in your ticket price.
When planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, finding a place to stay is of primary importance. Note that the North Rim has only a fraction of the lodging choices available at the South Rim. A wide selection of hotels surround the South Rim side of the park, offering accommodations from frugal to luxurious.
If you want to stay inside of the park, Yavapai Lodge, Kachina Lodge and Maswik Lodge are options. Phantom Ranch is at the bottom of the Canyon below the North Rim and is a unique lodging experience for hikers and rafters.
Grand Canyon RV Parks and Camping
RV and camping enthusiasts love Grand Canyon National Park. Primitive camping is available in and out of designated campsites, although a backcountry permit is required to camp in non-campsite areas. Yurt “glamping” is also available.
There are no RV sites within the park boundaries, but Trailer Village and Desert View Campgrounds provide full RV hookups. When seeing the Grand Canyon with kids, campground amenities like swimming pools and playgrounds provide a break from hiking and sightseeing.
Use your Grand Canyon trip planner to find annual events happening during your visit. Annual events in Grand Canyon National Park include historical celebrations, art exhibits, children’s activities and more. Examples include the:
- Grand Canyon Celebration of Art in September.
- Independence Day Parade in July.
- Stargazing Nights in June.
- Native American Heritage Celebration in November.
- Grand Canyon Polar Express in December.
Nearly every Grand Canyon itinerary includes hiking, even if it is just a short stroll along paved beginner trails. Permits are not required for day hiking. However, some of the best Grand Canyon trips consist of longer treks that include rafting or horseback riding, and these require permits. Most of the park’s inner canyon trails are steep, rugged and suitable only for experienced hikers.
At some point, Grand Canyon activities must include dining and shopping. As with lodging, the South Rim offers many more dining and shopping options than the North Rim. Just about any type of cuisine is available in Williams, Tusayan and other towns surrounding the park. In-park dining options include the casual Bright Angel Restaurant and the Maswik food court. The Canyon Village Market & Deli is a good place to grab a bite or stock up on groceries.
When planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, consider the weather you would like to experience. Springtime (March through May) and fall (September to November) offer moderate temperatures. The North Rim is only open from mid-May to mid-October because of the snowy conditions each winter.
Summertime at the canyon is dry and hot, as expected in the desert. However, the heat is at its worst along the South Rim. Summer temperatures along the North Rim and West Rim are more comfortable.
Some of the best Grand Canyon trips are the result of partnering with a sightseeing or adventure tour. If you are traveling to Las Vegas, consider taking a Grand Canyon day trip by tour. Tour guides know all of the must-see attractions and can help you maximize your time at the natural wonder. Helicopter and airplane tours provide unparalleled views of the Canyon, while Colorado River tours provide spectacular views from the bottom up.
To view exquisite red rock formations, head two hours north of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim to Zion National Park. Located in Utah, the park offers easy and difficult hiking trails, horseback rides, a human history museum and more.
Hoover Dam is a National Historic Landmark and an amazing engineering achievement to behold. Guided tours on foot, motor coach or helicopter provide good views and in-depth information about the dam.