Tips for Exploring the Grand Canyon

By Jean D , last updated November 11, 2011

Exploring the Grand Canyon takes a bit of advanced planning, and these tips may help. The canyon itself is 277 miles long and over 1 mile deep, so there's a lot of ground to cover. By selecting the proper time of year for your trip, planning out each day and preparing for the activities, you'll craft a vacation you'll never forget.

Planning Ahead

The Grand Canyon is an incredibly popular tourist spot, and the spring and summer months can mean crowds and traffic congestion. Skipping the crowds by heading to the canyon at a different time of year may seem like a good idea, but the Grand Canyon can be quite cold, icy and treacherous in the fall and winter months. In order to fully experience the sights and tackle as many opportunities for exploration as possible, you will simply need to battle the crowds. Plan ahead for the extra people by reserving your hotel room in advance. If you're planning to hike or camp in the Grand Canyon, you'll need to obtain a backcountry permit and keep it on your person at all times. Save time and beat the crowds by purchasing your permit in advance. You can do so online by following this link: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm.

What to Pack

The food options near the Grand Canyon are very limited, and the high summer temperatures can make you hot and thirsty. Bring water, juices and teas as you hike and explore, and consider bringing granola, fruit bars or other lightweight snacks you can munch on if you get hungry. On a similar note, bring plenty of sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats for your trip. The blazing sun can quickly burn your skin. Don't forget the camera, either, as you're bound to see some amazing sights.

What to Do

Start your trip by heading to the National Geographic Visitor Center, which is located at the south rim entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. Here, you can watch an introductory video about the Grand Canyon, and pick up brochures describing various hikes and camping opportunities. It’s a short walk from the visitor's center to Mather Point, which provides absolutely beautiful views of the canyon. You can also hop on free shuttles that will take you to popular viewpoints. This is a great way to spend your first day of exploration.

On day two, it's time to take a hike. Many people choose the Bright Angel trail for its beauty and ease, but the trail can get crowded. Instead, take the shuttle from Grand Canyon Village to Hermit's Rest, and take the trail down to the bottom of the canyon. This is considered a day hike, but remember that it takes twice as long to move up as it does to move down, so plan ahead and turn around long before darkness falls.

On day three, take a longer hike from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This is a 14-mile hike with camping opportunities at the bottom, so you can truly spend the night in the canyon and see the carpet of stars above. If this all sounds a bit too grueling for you, consider renting a mule for the day from the Grand Lodge and let the animal take you for a ride.

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