USA Travel

Top Reasons to Visit Grand Canyon National Park

By
Tim Gillespie
on
June 22, 2021

One of the Seven Wonders of the World, Grand Canyon National Park’s natural beauty is unmatched throughout the rest of the world. Grand Canyon National Park encompasses 277 miles (446 kilometers) of the Colorado River, including the famous Grand Canyon, where layered bands of colorful rock reveal millions of years of geologic history. Rim-to-rim hiking, donkey rides, and whitewater rafting are popular ways to view the majestic beauty of Grand Canyon National Park. Beyond the natural beauty, Grand Canyon National Park is also home to National Historic Landmarks and incredible museums.  

Whether you're looking for a scenic drive to view the highlights of the park or considering a multi-day adventure, Grand Canyon National Park is loaded with opportunities that will not let you down. Here are the top reasons to visit Grand Canyon National Park.

New to camping? Read our Camping Tips: A Beginners Guide to Their First Trip.

Photography

Way before the advent of Instagram, photographers were flocking to Grand Canyon National Park to capture the vast landscapes and stunning vistas that make the park so famous. We’ve all seen photos stuck to refrigerators or tucked away in family scrapbooks. Simply speaking, if you visit the park, you better get your photo with that iconic background.

The desert landscape can change drastically depending on the season or even the time of day. Orange and red tones cover the cliffs during sunrise. Cloudy days bring out hues of purple and blue. Perhaps the best is when winter brings dustings of snow to the rim. Grand Canyon National Park is filled with so many amazing places for photography. Here are some of the top spots to capture a worthy photo.

  • Yaki Point - Best photos are captured at dawn when the Vishnu Temple and Wotans Throne are silhouetted against the sky to the east. To the west, you’ll see O’Neil Butte lit up by the dawn light. Visitors can access this point via the Kaibab Rim Route Shuttle Bus.
  • Ooh Ahh Point - A spectacular lookout point that is reached via a 2-mile (3.2 kilometers) along the South Kaibab Trail.  
  • Desert View Watchtower - This historic 70-foot (21 meters) cylindrical stone building offers a 360-degree panoramic view from the top. Though you can also frame it in the foreground while capturing the sweeping views of the canyon behind the building. The Desert View Watchtower is located at the East Rim Entrance to the park.
  • Angel’s Window - This spot is less crowded as it requires driving along a road that is only accessible from May through October. This natural arch is located at Cape Royal near the North Rim. The arch is best viewed in the morning.

Hiking

Exploring Grand Canyon National Park by foot is one of the best ways to experience the majestic grandeur of the park. Most people don’t realize that the best views aren’t from the top. To get the real scope of the park’s size and beauty, visitors should lace up their hiking boots and hit the trails. With over 358 miles (576 kilometers) of established trails, there is something for every level of hiker to enjoy. Here are a few of our recommended hiking trails:

  • Bright Angel Trailhead to Indian to Indian Garden Campground - this 8.8-mile (14 kilometer) trail takes hikers past 2 billion years of geology and incredible rock towers. This is one of the premier hiking trails in the park.
  • South Kaibab Trail - this 7-mile (11 kilometers) path descends 4,780 feet (1,456 meters) to the river, passing Ooh Ahh Point and Skeleton Point along the way.
  •  Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa - descend steeply down the canyon walls for 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) to a flat platform extending out into the space of the canyon, known as Horseshoe Mesa.

Additional reading:  Top Hikes in Arches and Bryce Canyon national parks

Mule Trips

Mules have been carrying visitors through the canyon since the late 1800s. Nowadays, guided trips offer visitors a unique adventure while taking in breathtaking vistas of Grand Canyon National Park. Mule trips are offered for day-trippers and those that want to head down to the Colorado River for a one or two-night stay at Phantom Ranch. South Rim tours are offered year-round though reservations are required and do fill up fast. North Rim tours are offered from mid-May to mid-October, these trips do not go down to the Colorado River.  

Rafting

Float for a half-day or multiple days along the Colorado River as it snakes its way through Grand Canyon National Park. Not only will you experience the awe of the canyon’s breathtaking beauty, but you will be tossed and turned through hundreds of roaring rapids along the way. Along the scenic river, you may spot bald eagles and desert bighorn sheep, plus the remains of past human civilizations in the form of rock granaries, ruined stone shelters, petroglyphs, and pictographs. If rapids aren’t your thing, there are smooth-water trips as well.

Biking

There are several options for biking within Grand Canyon National Park, on both the South and North Rim. The Hermit Road, which is closed to private cars from March through November, winds along the South Rim for 7 miles (11.2 kilometers). Cyclists can also follow the Greenway Trail to Yaki Point, for more spectacular canyon views. The Arizona Trail segment on the North Rim provides great mountain biking opportunities. The trail traverses 12.1 miles (19.5 kilometers) of forest inside the park. The trail continues north of the park boundary in the Kaibab National Forest, which is also home to the legendary Rainbow Rim Trail.

Additional reading:  16 Must-see Parks in the Southwestern United States

Museums and Historical Sites

On September 17, 1901, the First Steam-Powered Train, a spur line of the Santa Fe Railway, arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. With the arrival of the train, the quiet area of the South Rim rapidly expanded into the bustling Grand Canyon Village. Today visitors can take a step back in time and wander through this historically preserved village dating back to the early 1900s. 

Several museums and historical buildings designed by Mary Colter also serve as top attractions within Grand Canyon National Park. Here are a few worth visiting:

  • Yavapai Geology Museum - discover the story of the Grand Canyon's formation through beautiful photographs, topographical models, artwork, and interactive exhibits. 
  • Tusayan Museum and Ruins - Over 800 years ago, the Pueblo Indians built a thriving community on the edge of the Grand Canyon. With its collection of pottery, arrowheads, and household items, the Tusayan Museum and ruins provide a unique window into their way of life.
  • Hopi House - Mary Colter created this building to pay tribute to the Hopi and their ancestors that have inhabited the Grand Canyon for centuries. Today visitors can view a large selection of Native American art that is housed here.
Looking for that next solo adventure? Read our Top Travel Solo Destinations in the United States.

Must-See Destinations on Your First Trip

So perhaps you may not have enough time to explore every corner of this amazing park, so if you’re limited on time, be sure to check out these iconic spots:

  • Bright Angel Point - Most people’s first glimpse of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim, Bright Angel Point is the centerpiece for a series of mindblowing viewpoints.
  • Point Imperial - The highest point on both of the North and South Rims, offers dramatic views of the canyon and the Painted Desert.
  • Mather Point - Located a short walk from the Visitor Center in the South Rim area, visitors can view one of the most dramatic sceneries in all of the park.
  • Hermit’s Rest Road - This scenic road follows the canyon rim for 7 miles (11 kilometers) with 9 designated viewpoints and opportunities for short or long walks. The road is closed to private cars from March through November but can be accessed by a shuttle bus.

Grand Canyon National Park is one of America’s most distinguished landmarks and a natural wonder you must see to believe. Its rocky walls descend more than a mile to the canyon’s floor, displaying layered bands of colorful rock, revealing millions of years of geologic history. Whether you are seeking a multi-day adventure packed with adrenaline-rushing activities or simply just want a scenic drive through the picturesque desert, you’ll find your expectations met.  

Let Under30Experiences handle the logistics of your next camping and hiking adventure on our Grand Canyon, Moab, & Arches trip.

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Tim Gillespie
Tim is U30X's Thailand Manager & Community Builder, and has been living, traveling and accumulating experiences in SE Asia since 2009. He loves being in the outdoors, immersing himself in local cultures, and tasting exotic foods.

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