Ah, one of nature’s most amazing wonders. The Grand Canyon is one of those places that literally makes your jaw drop. It’s perfect for adventure seekers, families, or solo travelers. If you’re looking for your next vacation spot, ditch the beach and make your way to one of the most beautiful places on earth.
When to Go
There’s really no bad time to go to The Grand Canyon, but like anywhere, weather is more comfortable during certain times of the year. Since the Canyon is set out in the desert, the summer months can get quite hot. Average temperatures in the summer are in the 80’s (26-32º celsius) at the rim and to heat to over 100º fahrenheit (38º celsius) at the river. But not to worry, it’s a dry heat so you won’t be dripping with sweat like you do in Thailand.
The Grand Canyon’s peak season is during the summer months, so expect some hot weather and lots of tourists. Nearby accommodations may fill up fast, so if you plan to stay in the area for a few days and can plan ahead, book early.
Because of the altitude, there is often snow during parts of spring, fall and winter. Temperatures around the rim can average in the teens while the area around the river typically stays with the 40-50’s (4-10º celsius). Take a look at the pictures below from a hike in April 2015. The snow and icy conditions can add another element of danger and it is essential to have the right equipment if you plan on hiking. A lack of planning may leave you without ice cleats. Slipping on your ass takes on a whole new level when you’re 6,800 feet up.
Be sure to check the National Park Service site before you head out.
How To Get There
There are obviously a number of ways to get to The Grand Canyon.
It is best to access the Canyon from Las Vegas, NV or Phoenix, AZ. For most international travelers, Las Vegas is almost always on the itinerary. For domestic travelers, maybe you’d like to fly into Phoenix and head north. From either city, The Grand Canyon is roughly 200-300 miles (322-483 km) from The South Rim.
We recommend renting a car if you can – the drive through both Nevada and Arizona on the way to The Grand Canyon offers some amazing scenery. If you make the drive from Las Vegas, you can also cross ‘Drive on Route 66’ off your bucket list!
If renting a car isn’t within your means or budget, there are plenty of tour companies that schedule bus trips and tours from both Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Where To Go
Ok, so The Grand Canyon is HUGE. Basically, there are four areas of interest: South Rim, North Rim, Grand Canyon West and Grand Canyon East. We’ll give you a basic summary here. Generally, we would recommend The South Rim for first-time visitors, but it truly depends on your particular interests. We’ve specifically been to both the South Rim and Grand Canyon West, so we can also provide personal accounts for these two areas.
The Grand Canyon’s South Rim is what people picture when they think of The Grand Canyon. It’s the most popular not only because of its stunning views, but the visitor services are also top-notch in this area. Services offered include anything from hiking trail advice and maps to cafés offering a cold drink on a hot summer day (or hot chocolate, in Dan’s case). The South Rim is also referred to as the best place at The Grand Canyon for those with kids in tow. It has the most lodging options for those looking to stay in the area for a few days to take in the beauty.
Colder, higher, and quieter than the South side, The North Rim is best for those seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures or those taking their second trip to the area. It’s great for couples and those in good physical condition that can handle the high altitude at 8,000 feet (2,400 m). If you’re looking to get away from the crowds or want to hike in peace, this is the place for you.
Grand Canyon West
Grand Canyon West is home to the infamous Skywalk and Eagle Point. It’s also home to the Havasupai Indian Tribe and parts of the Canyon are actually part of the Indians’ protected reservation. We were fortunate enough to have one of the tribe members as our tour guide during our visit. Eagle Point is truly an amazing site and this part of the canyon isn’t nearly as crowded as the South Rim during peak seasons. Try not to book the skywalk ahead of time. You decide when you get there and you may find that the views are stunning enough as is and may be able to save yourself some cash.
Grand Canyon East
Grand Canyon East, while less popular, is know for Horseshoe Bend and Navajo Bridge. This is also where Nik Wallenda crossed over The Grand Canyon. If you have enough time, you can drive down Desert View, a scenic route to the East Entrance.
Where To Stay
No matter where you are planning on staying at The Grand Canyon, be sure to make reservations months in advance. Hotels and restaurants around the South Rim can be pricey, so it may be worth cashing in some travel points, if you have them. There are various lodges within Grand Canyon National Park that are reasonably priced and offer great proximity. Phantom Ranch is the only lodge below the canyon rim and accepts reservations up to 13 months in advance.
Of course, check all of your usual resources: Airbnb, Expedia, Kayak, Hostel World, Couch Surfing, etc. You should also consider checking Grand Canyon Lodges is also an excellent resource for fair prices and booking information.
What To Do
World class hiking, period. There are a ton of amazing trails for both beginner and advanced hikers. At the South Rim, you can park your car and take a free shuttle bus to one of the many trailheads. Do yourself a favor and check out the Grand Canyon National Park Trail maps. Also, make sure to visit the information center before your hike. We know first hand that the information center at the South Rim provides excellent advice about current conditions. It may be obvious, but don’t forget – you’re hiking a canyon! The way down will be fun and full of great scenery, but remember, every step down requires another step up. Don’t get in over your head.
No matter how experienced you are, the below links are super helpful to ensure you have a safe hike. Every year, multiple deaths occur in The Grand Canyon. Make sure you’re not one of them.
Rafting the Wild Colorado River
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can go on a white-water rafting excursion on the Colorado River through The Grand Canyon. There are parts of the canyon that are only accessible by water, so this is a great activity for those looking to ‘get off the beaten path’. You can find anything from half to full-day excursions to fuel your need for adventure. If this is something you’re interested in, it’s best to visit the South Rim.
Ride a Mule!
This is a personal bucket-list item for us! You can take a three-hour ride around the rim for about $120. Alternatively, you can adventure deep into the canyon and stay overnight under the stars for approximately $532 (lodging included). Waddling around like a penguin for a couple days will not last near as long as the memories. Check out Mule Rides at Grand Canyon for more information.
The Grand Canyon can be a magical place, but if you plan on taking an adventurous excursion, it takes planning. Have you been to The Grand Canyon? What are your tips for visiting Arizona’s beautiful gorge?