16 Best Things to Do at the Grand Canyon
The Colorado River’s best work has been carving the iconic Grand Canyon over the last six million years. The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular parks in the USA, a desert paradise recognized around the world.
Regardless of how you like to travel, there’s something unforgettable waiting for you. The Grand Canyon has many accessible hikes to spectacular viewpoints along with epic treks down to the river itself. Whatever takes your fancy, allow us to guide you through the best things to do at the Grand Canyon.
16. Cape Royal
One of the most scenic viewpoints on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, stopping by Cape Royal, is a must-do on your travels through the park. At the southernmost point of the North Rim, Cape Royal features an incredible 270-degree view.
From the rim’s edge, you can see as far as Marble Canyon to the north and the Palisades of the Desert to the south.
The drive to the amazing view is an adventure. Over 50 miles south of Jacob Lake, enjoy a winding and often narrow stretch of road through wooded valleys and the Kaibab Plateau.
15. Historic Navajo Bridge
The only way to cross the famous Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park is over the Navajo Bridge. When the bridge opened in the 1920s, not only could visitors stop using the river ferries, but the Navajo Bridge became the tallest bridge of its kind on earth.
Standing over 450ft above the Colorado River, the Navajo Bridge transported travelers for 66 years. In 1995, a modern bridge was built alongside its older brother, taking over the bulk of the traffic. Today, you can walk across the original for exceptional views of the national park and the surging Colorado River.
14. Grand Canyon Visitor Center
For those entering the national park from the Southern Entrance, be sure to stop by the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. The center offers a great insight into the history and geology of the park, which will help those exploring the region for the first time.
Not that seasoned visitors should bypass the Visitor Center. The Grand Canyon is a wild and evolving environment, affecting the availability of hiking trails and campsites.
Visitors can also take in a 30-minute video of the Grand Canyon at the Visitor Center’s IMAX. A great activity if the afternoon heat becomes too much. From the center, walk to Mather Point for epic views over the canyon.
13. Grand Canyon Railway
From the historic town of Williams, you can embark on a full-day excursion through magical landscapes and the Grand Canyon from the comfort of your train car. The Grand Canyon Railway departs from the local station, offering a different perspective of the canyon on your way along the South Rim.
Avoid driving in and parking and see it all under welcomed air-conditioning. The real highlight of the experience are the resident cowboys who’ve arrived from the Wild West to take part in an elaborate train robbery. Sit back, enjoy the views and the exciting show.
12. Rim Trail
One of the most popular activities in the Grand Canyon is to trek the Rim Trail. Rated as one of the most spectacular walks in the United States, the (South) Rim Trail is mostly paved and features several accessible sections.
Beginning at the Bright Angel Trailhead, the Rim Trail spans 13 miles along the rim of the Grand Canyon until it ends at Hermit’s Rest. Level with some shade along the way, it’s one trail that everyone should hike along. The strength of the trail is the number of exit points for when you’re ready to hang up the boots. Simply leave the trail and jump into a shuttle bus.
11. Grand Canyon Skywalk
Jutting out of the canyon’s edge, 4000ft above the valley floor, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is an unforgettable experience. At Eagle Point, the Skywalk has a clear, glass floor providing a hair-raising time, with views that are hard to replicate.
Technically not in the national park, visitors will first need to purchase a Hualapai Legacy Day Pass to access Eagle Point and Grand Canyon West. The extra steps are worth it for uninhibited vistas of the vibrant landscape carved by millions of years of erosion.
10. Bright Angel Point
One of the best ways to experience the diverse topography in the Grand Canyon is to complete the short and sweet hike to Bright Angel Point. Beginning on the Bridle Path Trail on the North Rim, the trek guides you through the green forests on the Kaibab Plateau before the stunted pinyon and juniper quickly takes over.
As you experience the incredible transition, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views and minimal elevation change. Aside from the nature and potential wildlife encounters on offer, the trek received its name thanks to the finale. End the trek with views of the impeccable Bright Angel Canyon.
9. Hopi Point
Between Salt Creek and Monument Creek is one of the most popular viewpoints on the Grand Canyon’s West Rim. With no walking needed, visitors can jump on the shuttle bus and head along the Red Route. At stop number four, get off the bus and immediately be taken in by the long-range views.
From the edge of Hopi Point you can see a further twenty miles along the stunning western canyon. As far as the Great Scenic Divide and Havasupai Point. Split by the Colorado River, see mesas rise from the valley floor or peer down 2000ft to spot the Dana Butte. If you’re looking for a top sunset spot, add Hopi Point to your list.
8. Grand Canyon Village
Outside of the exciting trails that meander through the landscape, the most happening spot in the national park is the Grand Canyon Village. This is the center point for all the action and is a great place to base yourself during your adventures.
There are three sections to the village, one includes a visitor center and Mather Point, along with Market Plaza and the park’s Historic District.
To get around, make use of the shuttle buses that will take you along the South Rim to many of the best attractions on this list. But within walking distance will be Mary Colter’s Lookout Studio, Hopi House along with a deli and general store.
7. Grandview Point
For a viewpoint higher than many others along the South Rim, make your way to Grandview Point. The southernmost viewpoint looks out over a large bend along the Colorado River among the pines that thrive at higher elevation.
For experienced hikers looking to get away from the crowds, follow the Grandview Hiking Trail from the point for even better views of the Grand Canyon. The trail is not maintained and can be slippery in sections, so bring along sturdy boots to reach the unofficial but wonderful overlook of Horseshoe Mesa and Tanner Canyon.
6. Colorado River Rafting
Hiking and viewpoints aren’t the only top things to do in the Grand Canyon. Rather than just enjoying views of the raging Colorado River, get out on the water for an adrenalin-pumping experience like no other. Look up and not down and enjoy the peaks of the canyons as you wind through epic rapids.
Many outfits will take you along the river. Suiting all experience levels from greenhorns to experts. You can also enjoy multi-day trips that will give you the opportunity to sleep under the stars along the Grand Canyon. For those that want to kick back and keep their paddling arms free, sign up for a motorized raft tour.
5. Mather Point
As you enter the Grand Canyon National Park from the Southern Entrance, aside from the Visitor Center, one of the first things you should do is walk to Mather Point. Just five minutes away from the Visitor Center, the point provides travelers with epic views of rugged cliffs and the hiking trails that wind down the canyon below.
On a clear day, you can see as far as 60 miles to the west and 30 to the east. Importantly, Mather Point is accessible. However, it’s best to knock this viewpoint off your list early in your trip to avoid mingling with large tour groups just off the bus.
4. Desert View Watchtower
If you’re coming in from the east, add the Desert View Watchtower to the beginning of your Grand Canyon itinerary. Designed by Mary Jane Colter, the watchtower is 70ft tall and opened in 1932. The historic structure was a nod to Native American towers found in Hovenweep and the Round Tower of Mesa Verde.
The tower blends effortlessly into the landscape with the orange and red bricks, seemingly just another part of the canyon. Today you can explore the tower, including the observation deck, for views of the canyon and the surrounding desert.
3. Havasu Falls
A highly rated waterfall in the Havasupai Indian Reservation awaits visitors willing to take on one of the more strenuous hikes on offer in the region. Hikers must trek 10 miles down from the Haulapai Hilltop and to the village of Supai with the turnaround point being the mesmerizing turquoise waterfalls that starkly contrast with the desert landscape.
The popularity, fragility and difficulty of this hike means those wanting to venture to Havasu Falls will need to apply for a permit. If you know this is something you want to experience, book as far ahead as you can. But remember, after the beautiful Havasu Falls is the ten-mile climb back to the rim.
2. South Kaibab Trail
Another hike starting on the rim and ending down in the valley is the South Kaibab Trail. Beginning on the South Rim, hike down to the Colorado River, capturing expansive views of the Grand Canyon along the way. All up on the way down, hikers will “enjoy” 7 miles of walking with 4800ft of elevation loss.
To shorten the uphill return hike, many choose to do only a short section of the trail. Common turnaround points include the amazing Ooh Aah Point after a mile of hiking and Cedar Ridge, which ends after 1.5 miles.
1. Bright Angel Trail
For those up for the adventure, arguably the best thing to do in Grand Canyon National Park is the Bright Angel Trail. Beginning in the Grand Canyon Village, you won’t have to look far for the trailhead. Hike 9.5 miles down into the canyon, losing almost 4500ft in elevation.
With incredible views along the way, you’ll soon forget the strenuousness of the hike. As you get lower, the soaring canyons envelope you on either side, adding more aura to an inspiring trek.
Rather than turn around (which is discouraged) spend the night at the Bright Angel Campground. Enjoy a well-earned beverage and toast to an unforgettable experience, as the stars sparkle above.