Grand Canyon Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Places to Visit in the USA
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Courtesy of Piriya Photography/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in Grand Canyon

If you have extra time, Bright Angel Trail is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Grand Canyon
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    #1 in Grand Canyon
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
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    Grand Canyon Village is the most popular entryway into the park and, as such, often suffers from heavy crowds during the peak seasons in spring, summer and fall. But there's a reason the area is so appealing. It's home to Yavapai Point, one of the best places to view the canyon. If you don't like camping but want to stay within the park, you should consider looking for lodging here.

    If you're staying elsewhere, anticipate spending at least half a day visiting the village's sights. Stop by the rustic Grand Canyon Railway Depot, which welcomes Grand Canyon Railway passengers to the village. Here, you'll learn about how the expansion of the railroad had an impact on Grand Canyon tourism. For authentic Native American souvenirs, head to the Hopi House, an adobe-style building representing a traditional Hopi crafts studio. Meanwhile, art aficionados should stop by the Kolb and Lookout studios for works of art inspired by the Grand Canyon.

  • #2
    North Rim
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    #2 in Grand Canyon
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free, Neighborhood/Area
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    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free, Neighborhood/Area
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    The North Rim has a reputation for its rugged, isolated trails, its sparse facilities and a lack of appeal in the eyes of the tourist mainstream. However, this reputation is only partially true. Sure, the North Rim is less crowded than the South, but only relatively so. During peak tourism periods – from the late spring to early fall –  the North Rim accommodates a large number of travelers (about 10 percent of all Grand Canyon visitors). The good news for the nature purist is that there are few available facilities in the North Rim, so the area will likely always remain relatively underdeveloped. Popular spots in the North Rim include Bright Angel Point, which allows views of the Roaring Springs, the North Rim's only water source. You should also swing by the 8,803-foot Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim.

    Recent visitors called the North Rim spectacular and a must-see, remarking on its peaceful and quiet atmosphere. They also recommended booking accommodations here at least a year in advance to guarantee a room.

  • #3
    Bright Angel Trail
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    #3 in Grand Canyon
    Hiking, Free
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    Hiking, Free
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    Take this steep trail, which starts just west of the Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village, to Plateau Point for some great views of the river. But you should be warned: The Bright Angel Trail is a little more than 6 miles long one-way, and both recent visitors and travel experts say that attempting to hike to the river and back in one day is not a good idea. Make sure to pack camping gear if you plan on going all the way to Plateau Point and carry plenty of water with you – some rest stops along the trail only offer water seasonally.

    For a unique Grand Canyon experience, consider traveling the Bright Angel Trail by mule. Riders are taken to Phantom Ranch for an overnight stay, with a lunch break at Indian Garden. While trips are usually safe, those who are not used to spending time in a saddle may find the ride grueling. The overnight, 10 ½-mile and 5 ½-hour ride costs $588.43 per person. Xanterra Parks & Resorts offers additional mule ride options that vary in price and duration. Visit its website for more details.

  • #4
    Rim Trail
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    #4 in Grand Canyon
    Hiking, Free
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    While the Grand Canyon Village has plenty to offer visitors, make sure you don't ignore the rest of the South Rim. The Rim Trail is one of the most popular and comprehensive trails in the Grand Canyon and one of the best ways to see the South Rim's most popular attractions and viewpoints. This fairly easy walking path traces the canyon's edge, stopping off at favorite lookout points like Maricopa Point and Hopi Point.

    The Rim Trail begins at Pipe Creek Vista (several miles east of Grand Canyon Village) and ends at the popular Hermit's Rest lookout point west of the village. In total, the Rim Trail stretches about 12 miles. Fortunately for travelers, the park's free shuttle bus runs along a paved road along the trail, allowing for easy access to the village and points along the way.

  • #5
    North Kaibab Trail
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    #5 in Grand Canyon
    Hiking, Free
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    Hiking, Free
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    If you've chosen to explore the North Rim, the North Kaibab Trail is the area's premier hike. The trail leads all the way to the Colorado River, and hiking enthusiasts can take the 14 miles to the Bright Angel Campground near the water. The trail is rough going in the summer, when the hot Arizona sun is unforgiving to hikers. There is little shade along the way, making the journey even more difficult. You might want to walk the trail in the spring or fall rather than the summer; you'll get to enjoy some of the best views in the park sans the sweltering heat.

    If you're new to hiking and camping, you should probably stay on the tourist-friendly South Rim. But if you want to escape the crowds, you can still take a guided, mule-driven tour through the trail from May to October.

  • #6
    Havasu Falls
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    #6 in Grand Canyon
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Free
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    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Free
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    Lauded by travelers as one of the most beautiful sights in the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls is a desert oasis, complete with crystal blue waterways and gushing falls that add an almost surreal quality to the dry canyon backdrop. The falls lie just south of the national park on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. To get there, you must hike about 10 miles, beginning at the Hualapai Hilltop. Facilities are scarce, with just a large parking area and a few portable toilets. For more facilities and services, you'll have to stop in Peach Springs, Arizona. 

    Don't try Havasu Falls if you don't plan on spending the night camping. The initial hike to the waterway is far too strenuous to complete in one day. Recent visitors said that despite the hassles of getting a permit and taking the long, arduous hike to the falls, the sheer beauty of the falls and the fun of swimming in them made it all worth it.

  • Lees Ferry
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    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Free
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    2 hours to Half Day
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    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Free
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  • Parashant National Monument
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    Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Recreation, Free
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    Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Recreation, Free
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  • Tuweep
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    Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
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