The Grand Canyon is one of those world famous places that people from all over have on their list of things to see someday. I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures of it and have most likely heard stories of somebody you know who hiked down into the canyon, took a rafting trip down the canyon, or flew in a helicopter over it. In fact, when I was in England I remember talking to a nice man who owned a shop I happened to be patronizing at the time and he noted that I’m an American.
“Oh, yes, I’ve been to the United States several times. I had a lovely time. Last year I took a trip around the West and flew in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon,” he remarked.
I was a little jealous because, although I’ve been to the Grand Canyon many times in my life, I’ve never flown over it in a helicopter. That must be pretty cool! Here I am, somebody who lives within weekend road trip distance of the canyon and I’ve never done that. Note to self: must do that.
Anyway, whether you see the canyon from the luxury of the skies above or if you explore it on foot like I have, it’s really quite a remarkable place.
There is no photo that will do justice to the Grand Canyon as it is more vast and more incredible than I think a photo can really capture. It’s almost surreal, like a place somebody made up for a matte painting to be used in a sci-fi movie. I highly recommend you take the opportunity to go and see it at least once in your lifetime, because there really is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
There are several ways to see the canyon (some of which we’ve already mentioned, above).
Hike Into the Canyon
If you’re fit, you can hike into the canyon. I do not recommend this option if you are not fit. I’ve done day hikes into the canyon where we just started down the trail and saw how far we could get in a set amount of time, and then turned around. It’s a pretty cool way to see the canyon even if you’re unable to get all the way to the bottom, which takes a very long time. You should note that whatever amount of time it took you to go down into the canyon, it’s going to take you twice as long, if not longer, to get back out. If you hike into the canyon either on a day hike or on an epic trek to the bottom, make sure you bring plenty of food and water. People have died in the canyon from being unprepared. Note that the elevation changes quite rapidly on this hike, which can be difficult for hikers trying to get out of the canyon. Drink plenty of water and pace yourself, allowing for plenty of rest, and you should be fine.
Take a Mule Into the Canyon
You’ve probably seen images of people riding mules into the Grand Canyon. Why not do it yourself? Have your own wild west adventure that will give you memories to last a lifetime. The advantage of mules over horses when riding down into the Grand Canyon is that mules are much more sure-footed, and therefore well-suited to making sure you don’t take a horrible tumble as you descend. You do need to be in decent physical condition to take the mule ride, but it is less strenuous than hiking it yourself. There are options for day rides or overnight adventures, so there’s a mule ride for everyone!
If you really want to get fancy and see some incredible scenery from above, you’ll want to take a helicopter tour over the canyon. There are a lot of different tour companies offering different packages at different rates, but what they all offer is an incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity to be blown away by nature’s awesomeness. If helicopters aren’t your thing, there are also flights on small planes you can take over the canyon. Definitely a unique and fantastic way to see the Grand Canyon!
Rafting or Boating Trip
This is something I’ve always wanted to do. One incredibly unique way to visit the canyon is to take a rafting trip down the Colorado River, which takes you right through the Grand Canyon. You’ll see parts of the canyon that few visitors get to see, and you’ll get to see the canyon from the bottom whereas most people only see it from the top. If you want to go with this option, you’ll need to plan well in advance as it requires reservations and permits, there are limited spots, and it’s quite popular. There are a lot of different companies that offer trips through the canyon, and those trips can last anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks long. There are different kinds of watercraft that will take you through the canyon, from self-powered boats and canoes to motor-powered boats, so definitely look into which option appeals to you the most.
The Casual Visit to the Canyon Rim
Of course, if you’re short on time, don’t feel like exercising, or you don’t want to spend the money on an expensive tour, it’s still definitely worthwhile to check out the canyon from the viewpoints along the rim. This is very easy to do as you can drive to parking areas with incredible viewpoints where all you need to do is get out of your car and walk a few steps, and it’s definitely worthwhile to do.
I should also note that there are two sides to the canyon: the North Rim and the South Rim.
The North Rim
The North Rim is where you’ll find it most convenient to visit the Grand Canyon if you are starting off in Utah or Nevada. Unlike the South Rim, it’s only open seasonally (the South Rim is open year round) and it’s much more remote on this side of the canyon. That being said, it’s definitely worth a visit, as it has incredible views and opportunities to hike or take a mule ride into the canyon. Although more remote than the South Rim, there is a lodge where visitors can stay overnight.
The South Rim
Most people who visit the Grand Canyon do so via the South Rim. You can get there either from the US 180 from Flagstaff or the AZ 64 from Williams in Arizona. The South Rim is a really awesome place to see the canyon, with truly stunning viewpoints that can be easily accessed by car for visitors who either don’t have a lot of time to see the canyon or who might not be fit enough to do the hike down into the canyon. If it’s a hike down into the canyon that you’re looking for, however, they definitely have those here, too. The South Rim is where you should go if your main purpose of the trip is to “see the Grand Canyon”. Take some time and stay a while at the South Rim Historic Village. You’ll love it!