Grand Canyon Vacation Ideas

Grand Canyon Vacation Ideas
Nicknamed "The Hole in the Ground," the Grand Canyon is one of the top national park destinations for visitors from around the world. Each year, the one-mile deep, nearly 300-mile-long ditch welcomes five million visitors. Some stay only a few hours. Some stay for weeks. Many become Grand Canyon devotees, returning time and again to explore further and deeper. In Marble Canyon, it's only 600 yards across, while at its widest, a visitor stares across 18 miles from a height in excess of 7,000 feet above sea level. The National Park Service administers large portions of the huge land mass. Several Native American tribes retain and exercise ownership over other areas of intense beauty. Activities associated with the canyon can be civilized, taxing and many gradations in between. Most guests leave the Grand Canyon impressed and awed.

The Rim

Services include campgrounds, hotels, restaurants, groceries, gift shops, shuttle bus, laundry, showers, fuel, post office, bank, emergency medical, child care, kennels and religious services. The Desert View center has fewer but adequate services. During the busiest summer months, parking can be problematic in Grand Canyon Village. The National Park Service has addressed the situation by providing shuttle service to and from parking lots in nearby Tusayan.

You may lodge in your own tent or RV at civilized Mather Campground, at more primitive Desert View or outside the park. Neither campground has RV hookups; Desert View is dry; and only Mather accepts reservations. For those who prefer permanent walls and roofs, the park rents rooms and cabins, and there are motels in Tusayan.

Grand Canyon National Park (NP)
PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
(928) 638-7888
Park entry fee: $25 or national park pass


From the Top

The primary rim activity is admiring the canyon. Just sitting and staring can occupy many hours. Begin at one of the visitor centers -- South Rim, Verkamp's, Desert View or North Rim. Be sure to read the park newspaper you're handed as you enter. There are half a dozen special activities each day, including geological lectures, condor information, child-oriented events and special things to see and do. Habitual national park visitors often are besotted with ranger programs.

While at the South Rim, you can take an easy walk of up to 12 miles along the breath-taking Rim Trail, riding the free shuttle bus as you wish along the way. Both fine arts and crafts abound in gift stores and galleries: a shopper will find plenty to buy. Food choices range from cafeteria to fine dining.

Options Below the Rim

When your eyes become glutted with beauty and your legs beg for use, grab some snacks and a couple of liters of water and head down one of the popular trails. Without hiking boots, the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails offer far vistas and up-close sights such as fossils and petroglyphs. Take experienced canyoneers' cautions to heart, though: drink a liter of water for each hour of walking, even if you don't feel "that thirsty," and turn back well before you're tired. The relentless uphill climb at this altitude is taxing.

Ranger-led day hikes add depth to your Grand Canyon experience. Narrated bus tours are available each day. For an out-of-the-ordinary experience, try a mule or horse tour, an aerial view from a plane or helicopter, or a stylish arrival on the Grand Canyon Railway.

Mule Trips

Horse Rides and Air Tours

Grand Canyon Railway

Going Places

When a single day is not enough -- and it's not -- but your party isn't equipped and experienced enough to head into the canyon on your own, a guided tour may be the way to go. A number of commercial companies offer single- and multiday tours on hiking trails and on the Colorado River itself. If you're well acquainted with desert hiking and canyoneering, get a backcountry permit, assemble a few friends and experience The Canyon up close.

The Grand Canyon Institute offers classes, inclusive of lodging and permits, that span natural history, culture, fine arts, science, yoga and wilderness skills. Single day, no-backpacking and multiday classes are on the schedule.

Just Roughin' It Adventures
2040 S Alma School Rd, Ste 1
Chandler, AZ 85286
(877) 399-2477

Grand Canyon Field Institute
O Box 399
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
(866) 471-4435

The Other Rim

The North Rim takes a little more dedication. Until you've enjoyed the landscape on the several-hour drive, it might seem a chore just to get there. Rather, it's an education in Southwest US history and canyon formation. When you arrive, you'll find that, like Desert View, the North Rim has fewer services than the more-populated South Rim. It's also less crowded. A day hike on the North Kaibab Trail, driving to various rim viewpoints, quiet meditation in the observation room,or more strenuous canyon pursuits will fill your time.


Article Written By Lani Johnson

Lani Johnson is a hiking, writing musician. Recent published work includes journalism, poetry and research. See her online writing at or at

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