Fun and Exciting Things to Do in Grand Canyon National Park
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Take the time to take in the beautiful and breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon. Raft the Colorado, take an air tour, and enjoy the sights.
The Grand Canyon National Park stretches about 300 miles across the northwest part of Arizona. The Colorado River is at the bottom of the canyon. It is not just a big hole in the ground to go see for a few minutes. There are lots of things to do in and around the entire area of the canyon.
Although many people flock to the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona to behold its views, there are many other activities to do in the park. The south rim of the canyon is the largest point of interest among tourists, although there are viewpoints from the north rim.
People who visit may hike, fish, watch wildlife, and raft or boat the Colorado River in the park, as the area offers much more than breathtaking scenery. The Grand Canyon is the second deepest Canyon in North America (after Mexico’s Copper Canyon) and the fourth deepest in the Western hemisphere, as Colca Canyon and Cotahuasi Canyon, both in Peru, are over twice as deep. The Grand Canyon, however, is certainly one of the most spectacular natural wonders on the planet.
You can attend ranger programs, nature walks, geology talks, kids’ programs, archeological tours, history tours, and more. There are hiking trails or you can go into the canyon by mule. To go on a mule trip you will have to reserve your spot far in advance. These sure-footed mules will take you right along the edges of the trails and to areas of great beauty. You can take short trips or long trips depending on how much adventure you wish to experience. There are even air tours to see the canyon from a bird’s eye view.
Getting to Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is located in Northern Arizona. The north rim of the canyon is accessible from places to the north, such as Las Vegas, although the more popular south rim is about an hour (by car) north of Flagstaff.
Getting to the Flagstaff airport is probably best for out-of-towners, as shuttles, and rental cars make the south rim a short trip from town. Once at either rim, the physically fit may travel from one rim to the other, via the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails. When visiting the upper Grand Canyon, Lee’s Ferry is the place to go, and many float trips begin there. Lee’s Ferry is about two hours from Flagstaff.
Grand Canyon National Park is more than just a sight to see. There are of plenty activities to do in the park, in addition to observing the scenery.
The south side of the Grand Canyon is home to a number of historic structures. It’s on the South Rim where you can take a peek at the historic El Tovar hotel, the Hope house (which has been featuring Native arts and handiwork for over 100 years), the 1906 Verkamp Visitor Center, and the 1905 Victorian Kolb Studio.
For people willing to travel further afield, there are also some historic structures found at Desert View, some 25 miles east of the Grand Canyon village. Along with a 70-foot watchtower observation center with splendid views of both the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert, visitors can walk through the Tusayan museum and the Tusayan ruins.
And talk about museums! Almost everywhere we went during our stay at the Grand Canyon had a mini museum or a set of interpretive panels to explore. The main Visitor’s Center has outdoor and indoor exhibits to help plan your trip, plus a 20-minute movie and an assortment of exhibit cubes. One mile east of the market center is the Yavapai Geology Museum has panoramic views of the Grand Canyon and tells the geologic story of the area. The Tusayan Museum at Desert View provides a glimpse into Pueblo Indian life at Grand Canyon some 800 years ago.
If this is your first time to the Grand Canyon, you might enjoy one of many ranger tours that the Grand Canyon has to offer. Most ranger-led tours originate from either the Yavapai Geology Museum or the Verkamp Visitor Centers. There are also a handful of audio tours available for visitors and an assortment of self-guided tours for those who prefer to set their own schedule.
Hiking in Grand Canyon National Park
When visiting Grand Canyon National Park, hiking is a worthwhile activity. There are many public trails that may be explored, including the Bright Angel Trail (named for bright angel shale, one of the many rock types present in the canyon’s walls), which leads from the south rim to the river, and the other major trail, the North Kaibab, connects the north rim to the Colorado River. At the bottom of these trails, along the Colorado River, lies Phantom Ranch, a hotel for hikers, although reservations must be made to spend the night there.
There is also the Bright Angel campground, which may service hikers not wishing to go down and up on the same day. Hiking from the rim to river, or river to rim (either way) will probably take the average hiker about five or six hours (one way), so doing so is certainly a physically demanding feat. Hikers closer to the bottom of the trail (closer to the river), will be away from drones of people and may see spectacular wildlife.
Wildlife Watching in the Grand Canyon
Anyone into nature will certainly have a ball when visiting Grand Canyon National Park. Even from the rim, people are likely to spot California condors cruising the thermals of the upper canyon.
Ravens, jays, vultures, hawks, warblers, and occasionally, golden eagles may also be seen from the rim. Desert bighorn sheep inhabit the park and may be seen from the river to the rim, along with many other interesting creatures. There are also many species of plants in the Grand Canyon, including several types of cacti. Wildlife in Grand Canyon National Park is everywhere, and people visiting the area are sure to spot many types of plants and animals.
Grand Canyon National Park really does offer more than just spectacular views. The natural beauty is overwhelming, but the wildlife and desert atmosphere add to the feel of the canyon. Although there is lodging along the south rim at Grand Canyon Village, a rafting or float trip on the Colorado is certainly the best way to get up close and personal with the canyon, and the plants and wildlife that it holds.
The trail from the Visitors Center to Yavapai Observation Station will give you fantastic views. When you get to the Observation Station you can see exhibits on geology that will explain how the canyon was formed. From here you can get a view of the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. Take a shuttle trip to Hermit Road. Desert View Drive and Grandview Point is the best place to view the canyon. Yaki Point is the favorite place to view sunset and sunrise.
There are towns all around the canyon. The little town of Marble Canyon has the historic Lees Ferry. This is considered to be mile zero of the river and is where most rafts are put in. A rafting trip down the Colorado River can last from three days to two weeks.
The east end of the canyon has the Tusayan Ruins and museum. Ancestral pueblo people lived in this area around 1200 AD. The word Tusayan in the Hopi Native American language means country of isolated buttes. That is a good name for that area.
At the town of Desert View, on the east side of the canyon, is the Watchtower. It is a seventy-foot tall tower and from here you can view the 3,000-foot high cliffs that the canyon is known for. Desert View was originally a trading post but is now a museum and information center.
So, when you travel to Arizona be sure and see the Grand Canyon. Plan to spend some time there and appreciate one of the wonders of the world. Take the time to see the vermillion cliffs, learn the history and archeology of the area, and just do something like have a picnic at one of the most beautiful sites in the world. The IMAX Theater at Tusayan can take you on canyon trips visually. See the canyon as the eagles do. Be there early to see the most colorful sunrise and you will think you are standing on the edge of the world. The views will be breathtaking and again you will appreciate each new day when you awaken.
For visitors who are seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, this isn’t the type of park where you can drive up to the rim for a peek and then go on your merry way. With all the interesting points of interest, rim trails, historic landmarks, and amazing views that the Grand Canyon National Park has to offer, it’s too easy to overlook popular spots without some help.