For millions of years, the Colorado River has carved its way through the Colorado Plateau, forming this expansive, awe-inspiring landscape that we call the Grand Canyon. And it certainly is grand. Words cannot describe what it is like to gaze across the Grand Canyon for the first time.
Grand Canyon National Park is enormous. With millions of acres of land, four rims to visit, plus the options to hike below the rim and raft the Colorado River, there is a lot to do here.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most accessible and most popular section of the canyon to visit and this is where the most visitors spend their time. But if you are craving adventure or solitude, visit the more remote North Rim or journey below the rim.
GRAND CANYON PARK STATS
Founded: February 26, 1919
Annual Visitors: 6 million. This is the second most visited national park in the USA (Great Smoky Mountains is #1)
Size: 1.2 million acres
Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle, valid for 7 days
Notable Facts: The Grand Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Natural Wonders of the World.
Top Ten Experiences
Visit the South Rim Viewpoints. The South Rim viewpoints are the easiest way to get jaw-dropping views of the Grand Canyon. There are dozens of overlooks to choose from, all located along the 32 miles of road from Hermit’s Rest to Desert Watchtower. Each one of these viewpoints offers a spectacular view, but some viewpoints are just better than others. Some offer panoramic vistas, some are less crowded, and some make fantastic sunrise and sunset destinations. Click here to see the list of best viewpoints along the South Rim.
Hike the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim. If you are up for a big adventure, hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim is one for the bucket list. Over the course of 24 miles, you will descend below the level of the rim, cross the mighty Colorado River, and climb back up the other side. This is typically done over two days, spending the night next to the Colorado River at Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel Campground. However, if you are fit and fast, it is possible to hike rim-to-rim in one day.
Watch the Sunset from the South Rim. Watching the sunset over the Grand Canyon is magical. The top sunset viewpoints on the South Rim are Mather Point, Hopi Point, and Yavapai Point.
Watch the Sunrise at Ooh Aah Point. Hike the South Kaibab Trail to one of the most stunning viewpoints of the Grand Canyon. Not only is Ooh Aah Point a great place to watch the sunrise, but you also get to journey below the rim. The hike is 1.8 miles round trip and it is a strenuous walk back up to the rim.
The Bright Angel Trail. The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Grand Canyon, due to its trailhead location next to Grand Canyon Village and drinkable water sources along the trail. It starts on the rim and ends 9.5 miles later at the Colorado River. Most people hike just a few miles of the trail, turning around at the 1.5 Mile Resthouse, 3 Mile Resthouse, or Indian Garden.
Raft the Colorado River. This is one of the most famous rafting trips in the world. Over the course 6 to 7 days, you will raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, covering a distance of 190 miles. Those who do it say that it is a trip of a lifetime.
Visit the North Rim. The North Rim may only sit 15 miles away from the South Rim but it takes 4 hours to drive here. For the best view, visit Cape Royal Point for sweeping views across the Grand Canyon.
Take a Helicopter Ride over the Grand Canyon. Another way to truly appreciate the sheer size and grandeur of the Grand Canyon is by taking a helicopter ride. Flights last 30 to 45 minutes and leave right from the South Rim. It’s also possible to fly from Las Vegas to the South Rim but these trips come with a hefty price tag.
Climb the Desert View Watchtower. Located at the east entrance of the South Rim, climb 85 steps to the top of the Desert View Watchtower for panoramic views of the Grand Canyon.
Toroweap Overlook. This final recommendation is off-the-beaten-path, but for one of the best views of the Grand Canyon, make the journey to Toroweap Overlook. This remote overlook is located on the North Rim. To get here, you must have a high clearance 4x4 and experience driving rough, dirt roads.
Learn More about the Grand Canyon
When to Visit the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon can be visited year round. Peak season is during the summer months and during the holiday seasons of Easter and Christmas. During these times, expect large crowds, traffic jams to enter the park, and hotels booked to capacity.
Spring and fall are great times to visit the park. The weather is pleasant and the park isn’t overly crowded.
From June through September, expect hot conditions and large crowds.
Winter is the off-season. Crowds will be low, but so will the temperatures. Snow is a possibility, but that will only make the Grand Canyon look more magical.
How Many Days Should You Spend in the Grand Canyon?
ONE DAY IN THE GRAND CANYON
With one day in the Grand Canyon, you have enough time to visit many of the South Rim viewpoints and do a short hike. Make sure you stick around for sunset...it is magical. Read our One Day Itinerary post for more information.
Where to Stay
There are five hotels located in the Grand Canyon Village (El Tovar, Thunderbird Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, Kachina Lodge, and Maswick Lodge). Staying here gives you the advantage of easy access to the shuttles, short walks to several of the viewpoints, and no hassles driving into and out the park every day. However, the hotels get mediocre reviews and many people say they are expensive for what you get.
Click here to view the lodges and get updated pricing. These hotels fill up very far in advance. Make your reservations 4 – 6 months in advance.
You also have the option to stay in Tusayan. From Tusayan, it is a 15-minute drive into the park. There are several hotels to choose from as well as some restaurants.
We stay at The Grand Hotel in Tusayan when we visit the Grand Canyon. It is the highest rated hotel in the area. The rooms are clean and quiet and fit our needs. The Best Western and the Holiday Inn Express are two more hotels to try in Tusayan.
Did You Know?
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 1 mile deep, and up to 15 miles wide.
Almost 2 billion years ago, the first rocks in the Grand Canyon were formed. These igneous rocks were later covered by layers and layers of sedimentary rocks. Approximately 30 to 70 million years ago, the entire plateau was uplifted through plate tectonics. And then, just 5 to 6 million years ago, the Colorado River began working its magic, slowly and steadily carving its way through these rocks, forming the Grand Canyon. If you hike from the rim to the Colorado River, you will literally walk past almost 2 billion years of geologic history.