grand canyon guide
Travel,  USA

12 Best Things To Do At The Grand Canyon

From stunning views to hidden gems, this national park has so much to offer. Here’s my ultimate guide to the very best things to do at the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon has legendary views that stretch to infinity and some of the greatest hiking trails in the country.

But it has so much more to offer from cutting-edge sky walks to outdoor adventures and local history.

It’s a sprawling national park that you could spend days exploring – and you’ll always discover new gems with each visit.

Here’s my ultimate guide to the best things to do at the Grand Canyon – along with insider tips and destinations from some of my favorite travel bloggers.

1. Walk over the canyon at SkyWalk

skywalk grand canyon

Grand Canyon West boasts the stunning Skywalk – a glass walkway suspended over the canyon with majestic views of the Colorado River. Just two hours from the strip, it’s one of the best things to do around Las Vegas.

SkyWalk was built in 2007 and has quickly become one of the canyon’s most spectacular attractions – though it’s not for the faint of heart.

The horseshoe-shaped cantilever walkway stretches out 70 feet (21 meters) over the canyon. You get incredible views through the glass floor that’s elevated 1,160 feet (350 meters) above the bottom of the canyon.

Cameras aren’t permitted on the SkyWalk, so have a stroll along the edge of the canyon and admire its majestic scale from various viewpoints.

Don’t miss Eagle Point. It’s a rock formation resembling a giant eagle that’s sacred to the native Hualapai tribe. And head to Guano Point for the best panoramic views of the canyon and the mighty Colorado River.

There’s a Native American village that includes a gift shop and several exhibits that showcase the history and culture of the regional indigenous tribes.

And there are plenty of sporty adventures. Grand Canyon West offers rafting along the Colorado River, helicopter tours, ziplines and some delectable dining with spectacular views.

– contributed by Kenny of Knycx Journeying

2. Hike Rim-to-River in a day

South Kaibab To Bright Angel Trail

Challenge yourself and hike the cult classic Rim-to-River route – a bucket list experience for seasoned and adventurous hikers to the Grand Canyon.

The Rim-to-River-to-Rim hike is via both of the South Rim’s most famous trails: South Kaibab and Bright Angel.

Hiking South Kaibab to Bright Angel (via Phantom Ranch on the Colorado River) in one day is an iconic bucket list trail. But it’s no mean feat and should only be attempted by very strong hikers in safe weather conditions (from late autumn to early spring).

This classic route can be hiked either way. But the most popular and easiest way is descending via South Kaibab and ascending via Bright Angel.

South Kaibab Trail is steeper and quicker on the downhill section, starting at 7,200 feet (2,190 m) elevation and reaching Phantom Ranch in just 7.3 miles (11.7 km).

Bright Angel Trail is more gradual at 9.8 miles (15.7 km) back to the trailhead on South Rim at 6,840 feet (2,080 m).

If you thought the scenery was impressive from the rim, wait till you see it from inside the canyon. You’ll never forget the sight of those towering layers of limestone and sandstone rocks up close.

It’s an unforgettable experience to look back up at the mightily South Rim from the halfway point at Phantom Ranch.

Now, just climb the remaining 4,320 feet (1,300 m) to complete one of America’s most sought after hikes.

– contributed by Kristen of Where are those Morgans 

3. Ride the Hermit Road

grand canyon

This 8-mile scenic route includes 9 overlooks with breathtaking canyon and river views. It’s the road less traveled and perfect for jogging, hiking or just admiring the views.

Private vehicles are allowed on Hermit Road from December to February, when the Arizona sun is cool yet shining.

The Hermit Trail and other features in this part of the canyon are named after Canadian-born miner and explorer Louis Boucher, who rode a mule named Calamity Jane. Though he wasn’t a true hermit, Boucher carved a trail into the canyon and lived alone for years near a spring.

Drive towards the Trailview Overlook and gaze into the abyss of the canyon and the green hiking trails along the road.

People walk their dogs, sit in the gravel admiring the views, or jog and bicycle down the shady trails. It’s a more laid-back vibe than the crowded lookouts near the visitor centers.

The most incredible lookouts on Hermit Road include The Abyss, a dizzying view that goes 2,600 feet straight down. And don’t miss Hopi Point, which looks farther out into the canyon than any other viewpoint.

The Hermit Trail ends with a snack bar and toilets at Hermit’s Rest.  Finish your ride with some chips, coffee and souvenir shopping.

4. Get off the beaten path at Cape Royal, North Rim

cape royal north rim

Cape Royal along the North Rim is not only one of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints but it’s also far less crowded than the South Rim.

Enjoy stunning panoramas of the Colorado River as it crashes through magnificent red rock canyons – without all the crowds.

But prepare for a journey. Because the North Rim is about a 4-hour drive from the South Rim.

The North Rim is open from mid-May through mid-October and then it shuts down for the winter weather. So check opening times before your visit.

To access the best views, take the easy 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) out-and-back hike along the Cape Royal Trail. The trail is easy to follow and features a wealth of markers with in-depth info about local natural history.

When you reach the end, step onto the Angles Window natural arch and land bridge. You’ll get some incredible photos of the majestic landscapes.

Visit in autumn for brilliant foliage at its most vibrant. And get there early before sunrise to catch some amazing morning light and avoid the crowds.

– contributed by Meg of Fox in the Forest

5. Hike the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point

South Kaibab Trail

South Kaibab Trail

Escape the crowds at the South Rim and head deeper into the Grand Canyon with a challenging miles-long hike to Skeleton Point via the South Kaibab Trail.

This 6-mile (9.6-kilometer) round trip hike drops nearly 2,000 feet (600 meters) into the Grand Canyon to a stunning viewpoint that spans the Colorado River and the surrounding red canyon walls.

It’s the first point along the South Kaibab Trail from which you see the Colorado River. And along the way you’ll pass the famous Ooh Aah Point viewpoint – aptly named for the best description of this breathtaking view.

The South Kaibab trail continues for another 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) past Skeleton Point until it reaches the bottom of the Grand Canyon and crosses the Colorado River.

Day hikers should turn back at either Ooh Aah Point or Skeleton Point because the reverse summit makes the trail deceivingly difficult. Extreme heat inside the canyon can easily cause dehydration and exhaustion even for experienced hikers.

And while hiking into the canyon may feel like a breeze, don’t forget to save enough energy for the strenuous climb back to the rim.

The trailhead for the hike to Skeleton Point via the South Rim Trail is located near Yaki Point off Yaki Point Road. The road to the trailhead is only accessible via Grand Canyon park shuttles.

The Hiker’s Express or South Kaibab/Rim Route both include stops at the South Kaibab Trailhead.

– contributed by Sarah of Two Outliers

6. Discover Native culture at Hopi House

hopi house

The Hopi House is a gorgeous historical landmark in the South Rim that showcases indigenous architecture and crafts handmade by Hopi artisans.

It’s built in the style of a traditional Hopi pueblo and modeled after 1,000-year-old pueblo dwellings. Designed by trailblazing architect Mary Colter, the Hopi House first opened to the public in 1905 and it’s been a Grand Canyon landmark ever since.

It contains sparse windows, adobe walls and ceilings made of twigs and grass, faithful to Hopi tradition.

Don’t miss the gallery filled with local Native American crafts by Hopi and other local artisans. Exhibits include woven baskets, ceremonial masks, wood carvings and blankets.

Other exhibits including a shrine, or kiva, on the second floor that’s filled with Hopi religious artifacts. Other displays feature original handicrafts in the geometric patters of Hopi tribes.

The Hopi House was the first of its kind at the Grand Canyon to showcase indigenous arts and incorporate indigenous architecture.

It’s a fascinating spot to experience indigenous architecture in a living museum filled with Hopi artifacts.

– contributed by Noel of The Mature Traveler

7. Go rafting

rafting grand canyon

Follow in the footsteps of legendary explorer John Powell and go rafting through the canyon down the Colorado River.

See the walls of the canyon rise and fall as you’re travelling down the river – and see those colored layers of the canyon right beside you rising up thousands of feet above.

Spend your nights camping on beautiful sandy beaches and your days traversing the wild white-water rapids. Venture into the side canyons, caverns and tunnels that are only accessible from the river.

You’ll discover the Grand Canyon like few people ever will.

There are three options for rafting through the canyon.

Motorized rafts are more stable, fast and comfortable. They’re easy enough to get through the entire canyon in a week.

White-water rafting on the Grand Canyon is slower. But if you want more of an adventure you’ll feel the rapids more as you paddle like crazy through the wild water.

And if you really want to feel like an early explorer, opt for a wooden dory – a small wooden row boat rowed by a guide. You’ll feel every bump and spend the rapids bailing water so the boat doesn’t fill up. It’s loads of fun!

Rafting trips are typically for 5-6 days through half the canyon (hiking in or out along Bright Angel Trail). Trips on motorized rafts go through the whole canyon in 5-6 days with no hiking required. Shorter and one-day trips are available at the western end of the canyon, where the canyon isn’t so deep.

– contributed by James of Parks Collecting

8. Hike (and shuttle) along the Rim Trail

grand canyon rim trail

Accessible to almost everyone, the Rim Trail runs along the rim of the Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona for more than 13 miles (20.9 km) of spectacular views.

It starts at Hermit’s Rest and ends at the South Kaibab Trailhead. But tired legs need not worry. There are 14 shuttle stops all along the route to hop on and off as you please. Hike part of the trail or all of it.

The Rim Trail is one of the most popular routes in the canyon and offers some of the most iconic views. The paved trail is well-marked and easy to follow.

Ride the red, blue or orange shuttle bus to your first location to begin the hike. Shuttle stops are located about .3 to 1.8 miles apart. When your legs get weary, just hop on a shuttle to see the next viewpoint or return to the Grand Canyon Village.

And the trail is one of just a few dog-friendly hikes in the canyon – though your furry friends can’t ride in the shuttles.

Each shuttle bus color takes you along a different section of the trail. The red line is the furthest west. The blue covers the central route. And the orange covers the eastern section.

The red line takes you along some of the best overlooks with the fewest crowds. It features notable stops like Pima Point for views of the Colorado River and Mohave Point for excellent sunset views.

– contributed by Catherine of Nomadicated 

9. Take a helicopter ride

grand canyon helicopter

If you only have one day at Grand Canyon National Park, take a helicopter tour for breathtaking views – and one of the best ways to see the canyon.

You can grab a helicopter tour from multiple points including Las Vegas in Nevada and Page and the Grand Canyon Village in Arizona.

Tours usually run from 30 minutes to a few hours depending on the route. And the helicopters can seat up to 6 passengers. But be prepared – they do weigh all passengers before boarding.

Tours prices start around $200 per person for short rides. It’s a bit of an investment, but it’s an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

– contributed by Janae of Adventures with TuckNae

10. Take in the views at Toroweap Overlook

Toroweap Overlook

Make the journey to Toroweap Overlook for breathtaking views of the canyon alongside a remote stretch of the North Rim.

A trip to Toroweap is an off-road adventure that requires a vehicle with four-wheel drive and high suspension – and skills to navigate challenging roads.

A flat tire is not uncommon on this trip and the roadway hides sharp, jagged rocks.

Also known as Tuweep, Toroweap Overlook is some 55 miles (88 km) west of the North Rim headquarters. The nearest towns are Kanab, Utah, and Fredonia, Arizona.

And although it’s only 68 miles from Fredonia, Arizona, it takes more than 3 hours to reach. There is no water, gas, food, lodging or phone service along the route and in Toroweap itself.

The overlook is fundamentally different from other Grand Canyon overlooks. You look over a steep canyon in a narrow corridor that’s 915 meters below the canyon rim.

Eight-million-year-old lava flows through the landscape adorned with cone-shaped black cinder cones. The view from the edge leaves you speechless. And the Colorado River is stunning from this vantage.

Stay for sunset and watch the rocks glow in fire reds and oranges.

Toroweap Overlook is a day-use area with picnic tables and a pit toilet. It’s open from sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Prior permission is required to stay at the campsite overnight.

And explore two hiking trails: Tuckup Trail and Saddle Horse Loop Trail. It’s a desert landscape with no shade or trees, so pack plenty of sunscreen and water.

– contributed by Agnes of The Van Escape

11. Hike the Bright Angel Trail

bright angel trail

bright angel trail

The Bright Angel Trail is a very flexible hike that offers unique views of the Grand Canyon – and it’s one of the most popular trails at the South Rim.

It’s a moderate to strenuous trail but you can make it as long or short as you like. The first viewpoint is only a .75-mile round trip hike. Most day hikers hike to the resthouse at the 1.5-mile mark and make it a 3-mile round trip hike.

If you’re interested in a multi-day hike, hike the entire 6 miles to the river. Then you can either hike back up or take a boat out from the river.

The Bright Angel Trail is a great way to see the Grand Canyon at some unique and different viewpoints – and not just from the top of the rim.

But do bring lots of water and snacks, especially in the Arizona summer. There are a few spots where you can fill up your water bottle – and you’ll want to stay hydrated.

– contributed by Francesca of Homeroom Travel 

12. Go on a wellness retreat

grand canyon wellness retreat

The Grand Canyon has beautiful landscapes ideal for a relaxing wellness retreat.

With its rich history, scenic hiking trails, and peaceful atmosphere, you won’t find a better spot to energize your soul.

Join an array of retreats to grow your spirituality, relax, de-stress, practice yoga and more.

While Arizona has many wellness experiences, the Grand Canyon offers its own unique adventures. You can expect hiking, yoga, meditation, panoramic views and overnight camping against a magnificent backdrop.

The Grand Canyon is also a breathtaking place for stargazing.

Book with a company that offers retreats or through a resort with its own guides. Or join some Facebook Groups revolving around the Grand Canyon to check if any private groups are organizing their own retreats.

Stay at a resort near the Grand Canyon to plan your own itinerary. There are some incredible resorts to unwind like the Amara Resort and Spa or the Enchantment Resort, both about a two-hour drive from the Grand Canyon.

– contributed by Emily of Retreat Pundit 

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