The Grand Canyon is certainly one of the most magical natural wonders in the world. Let's learn about what to see and do, where to stay, directions, how to get around the park, free things to do in the park, and more in this Arizona Grand Canyon Travel Guide!
The Grand Canyon is impressive no matter where you stand, but there are a number of overlook points that offer the best views for photographing or simple enjoyment. A number of sightseeing airlines provide flights over the Grand Canyon that offer the best overall view of the incredible scope of this natural wonder. Helicopter tours can also show you what it's like to dip below the rims of the Canyon and even land on the Canyon floor.
Visit the Grand Canyon for some of the best free things to do in the world. You will be mesmerized by the Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world. There is an entrance fee to get into the park but after that, you could spend all day doing plenty of free activities.
Free Things To Do at the Grand Canyon
- Walk along the Grand Canyon south rim and enjoy the Grand Canyon vistas. There are paved sidewalks that run along the trail and close to the rim lodges and restaurants. One starting point is to park near the El Tovar Hotel and find the sidewalk and then take it west toward the other lodges and then stop near Bright Angel Lodge and Kolb Studio.
- You can take photos of the Grand Canyon and all of the historic buildings and lodges around the canyon. The camera is not free but if you already own one then the process of taking photos is certainly free. If you have a digital camera, bring extra memory cards because it is easy to fill up a single card by taking hundreds of pictures.
- Hike a trail. Some of the major trails around the canyon include Bright Angel Trail, Rim Trail, South Kaibab Trail, and Grandview Trail. If you are going to hike a trail, make sure to take just a short hike down into the canyon, not a long hike unless you know what you are doing. Many people who are not avid hikers think they can hike up and down the canyon. Do not attempt this. Instead, hike just a short distance, less than a mile, then take your photos and come back up. Leave the long hiking to those who are experienced hikers.
- Take the free South Rim Shuttle Bus on its route along with different stops in Grand Canyon Village. There are different routes so make sure to look for the bus signs throughout your stay, or check out this website for specific information on the shuttle.
Getting Around the Park
The Park offers mule rides along the rim of the Canyon or further down into it for some spectacular views, or you can reserve a place on one of the Park Service-led hikes. The Grand Canyon National Park's free shuttle can take you from one end of the Park to another, or you can design your own drives through the Park to enjoy the viewing at your own pace. Be aware that parking can be limited at some outlook points, however. A number of these outlook points mark the hiking trails further into the Canyon.
This outlook is one of the most popular on the South Rim and may offer your first view of the magnificent Grand Canyon. For an interesting look into the different aspects of Grand Canyon formations, find the Temple of Zoroaster outcrop and Vishnu Temple, then go to the East Rim area and find them again. You'll see how the difference in perspective changes the picture of Canyon formations.
Yavapai Point and Observation Station
From this point on the South Rim, see Phantom Ranch, the only lodging on the Canyon floor, and the Colorado River. You can clearly see the North Kaibab and Bright Angel hiking trails from this point. A number of scopes are set up on the lookout for better viewing into the interior of the Canyon. There are also informative displays and a bookstore at the Station.
From this outlook on the South Rim, you can see across the Canyon to East Rim, which has a completely different character than your previous views. It is also the trailhead for the South Kaibab Trail which will take you down to Phantom Ranch and the Colorado River. From here, you can get a good comparative view of Vishnu's Temple and Wotan's Throne. Should you choose to descend, you will be rewarded with magnificent views of the central portion of the Canyon.
From the West Rim, visit this point projects into the Grand Canyon for a closer look at the rock layers that comprise the Canyon. This point has often been recommended for the best sunset viewing of the Canyon.
This point is also on the West Rim and is known for its steep walls. Located along an indentation in the Grand Canyon walls, the outlook offers a unique viewing experience.
Great Historic Lodges
The lodges and motels at Grand Canyon Village are not free, of course, and you need to make reservations as far in advance as possible, especially if you are going there in the summer.
There are many choices but make an effort to reserve a room at Bright Angel Lodge. Check out the Xanterra website at GrandCanyonLodges.com for information on reservations.
Getting to the Grand Canyon
The National Park Service website has a web page dedicated to directions to the Grand Canyon. Basically, if you are coming from California or Nevada, go east on Interstate-40 and travel to Arizona. Once inside the state, you will need to look for signs for the city of Williams. Keep going east until you get to Williams and then go north on Highway 64 until you get to the Grand Canyon. If you're coming from the south or east, you can take Highway 180 from Flagstaff which connects with Highway 64 and takes you to the park. Always bring extra maps and plenty of water in your car.
Make sure your plan your trip well in advance of your visit. The National Park Service has an excellent website that offers many tips about visiting the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
The South Rim is open every day of the year, according to the National Park Service Grand Canyon website. The winter season often has lots of snow and thick, dense clouds that cause poor visibility into the canyon. Many people who come during the winter months go away frustrated because the clouds prevented them from having great pictures of the Grand Canyon. Remember that it is less crowded in the winter months but visibility is also poor so there is a tradeoff.