Fun things to do in Grand Canyon National Park

  • Lookout Studio-view of Bright Angel
    Lookout Studio-view of Bright Angel
    by BruceDunning
  • Supai Tunnel carved out of rock
    Supai Tunnel carved out of rock
    by BruceDunning
  • View of roling buttes on horizon
    View of roling buttes on horizon
    by BruceDunning

Most Viewed Things to Do in Grand Canyon National Park

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    Hiking and more hiking

    by goodfish Updated Feb 28, 2013

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    This is THE best thing to do at the South Rim. Shuttles are fine if you must but you'll see and experience a lot more on foot. You'll also get some relief from the crowds at the main part of the rim.

    The South Rim Trail along Grand Canyon Village is paved for 1 and 1/2 miles - easy walking for any ability (and most crowded). The west end of the trail becomes an unprotected path for 8 miles to Hermit's Rest. Large parts of this trail are right (and I do mean right) on the edge of the rim with deadly drops-offs but the views are stupendous. Watch your feet and don't bring small children (or even the older ones if they lack a healthy regard for their necks).

    Parts of Bright Angel and South Kaibab can be day-hiked - just remember that every step down becomes a step back up and keep track of how far you've gone. The farther down you go, the hotter it's going to get (see safety tips.) Grandview and Hermit trails are unmaintained and not recommended to anyone but experienced desert hikers.

    Have fun and take time to enjoy the scenery. Heck, just wandering the Village and campground roads is fun here! See the link below for suggested day hikes.

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    Day hiking: North Rim

    by goodfish Updated Nov 25, 2011

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    This is a great place to day hike. There are a bunch of trails for everyone from coach potato to long-haulers with scenery ranging from rim panoramas to peaceful forest surrounds.

    We did several; our favorite being North Kaibab down into the canyon for several miles, just beyond Supai Tunnel. They don't recommend going father than Roaring Springs (10 miles round trip) although this trail goes to the bottom. It's steep, there's not much for shade, and it's a bit fragrant in warm weather as it's also a mule path (watch your step!) but a great below-the-rim experience. If you look closely at the picture you can see the trail falling off towards the canyon floor.

    Other of the trails we did during our short 2 days and can recommend were:

    Bright Angel Point: paved and only 1/2 mile round RT to killer viewpoint

    Cape Royal: paved and only .6 mile RT to another killer viewpoint

    Roosevelt Point: at .2 mile, another easy stroll to another nice eyeful

    Uncle Jim: 5-miler through forest to a great overlook and North Kaibab trailhead

    Point Imperial: easy 4-miler through a recovering burn area

    Transept: easy 3-mile RT along the rim from lodge to the campgrounds and back.

    See the link below for the full listing, and do read the highlighted safety warnings, OK?

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    Both Rims: What to do?

    by goodfish Updated Nov 24, 2011

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    The excellent NPS website has a TON of great information for planning a trip to the canyon but, judging from the amount of questions I see on the forums about the park, a lot of folks either aren't taking a look, or have trouble finding their way around it.

    That said, I thought I'd make it easy by providing a few key links to getting started.

    Click on this to go directly to the best page on the website for downloading seasonal newspapers in 8 different languages, guides, maps, info on permits, tours, weather etc. The park newspapers and guides cover ranger walks and talks available during specific seasons and are updated regularly: great to have before you go. There is also a link to a terrific, downloadable planner that encapsulates all the general info you need to know.

    Additionally, you can plug your dates into the schedule of events calendar.

    Knowing where the visitor centers are and the scope of services they provide is nice too.

    My photo above is of the patio at the North Rim lodge. The rangers give a fair amount of informative talks from this venue and it's THE place to hang out with a beverage (like a cold beer from the bar) after a long hike. Very nice any time of day as the view is amazing but it's particularly great for star-gazing beside a roaring fire at night: definitely a "thing to do"!

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    Hug a Ranger

    by goodfish Updated Nov 22, 2011

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    Just kidding.

    Gotta put in a plug here for the men and women of the NPS, though. We've come into contact with a lot of rangers in the parks and they're the best resources you can find for what/where/how to have a good time.

    These folks are the caretakers of our most valuable natural treasures and the multitudes who come to enjoy them. When you run across one on a trail, they'll be making mental notes of how much water you have, if your footwear is going to get you into trouble, and generally what kind of shape you're in. These are also the folks that have to come and get you if you break a leg, collapse from heat exhaustion or fall over an edge. It's good to keep in mind that anytime you decide to risk your neck doing something careless, you're risking theirs as well?

    Getting the skinny from the rangers at NPS visitor centers is the very first thing we do. They love to be asked about "their" park and are full of great ideas for activities that match your specific skill levels. They're also regularly re-assigned to different parks and often have but a few short weeks to learn enough about the flora, fauna, geology and history of that location to be able to give those great, free campfire talks and tours.

    So be nice to them - they're pretty amazing people.

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    Camping at the North/South Rims

    by goodfish Updated Aug 4, 2010

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    We didn't tent but were through the North Rim campground several times on our way to the general store for coffee and hiking supplies. The trail (Transept) from the lodge to the campground is about 1 and 1/2 miles and a pleasant trek through the forest.

    The sites looked really nice - very clean and well-maintained. I'd recommend this campground for anyone interested in pitching a tent or parking a camper on the North Rim. You MUST make reservations (can do so 6 months in advance) as there are only 83 sites and they fill quickly. Good little campstore (although prices are high due to remoteness). Showers and laundry.

    Some other campsites are located on trails into the canyon that require overnight permits (see park website). There is also a campground on the South Rim (Mather) that fills even more quickly than that on the North so again, make your reservation 6 months in advance either by phone or online:

    http://www.recreation.gov/

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    Fishing for Trout

    by Nicckie Written Dec 23, 2009

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    I was so excited when I heard there was fishing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I'm not a bigger fisher person - I don't have my own poles and I don't always like hooking the bait on myself, but its an activity I always enjoy and like to try whenever the opportunity presents itself. Being at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is a bit different than being out on a chartered boat from the marina, though and I soon realized this may not be the activity for me. You need to bring your equipment with you. If there are rentals available, I didn't see any. But also be prepared to do some paperwork before leaving. You need to get a fishing license from Arizona and it must include a trout stamp, which runs about $50. So while it initially sounded fun, it quickly disappeared off my to-do list for this trip. However, we were in the same group with our buddy, Romano. At the ripe young age of 85, this was Romano's 40th (yes, that is not a typo) trip to the canyon. He was clearly well prepared, with his grappa in his pocket and his fishing pole in tow. He caught 17 fish while we were there! Nice job for a day's leisure activity...

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    SAnta Fe Railroad-Amtrak

    by BruceDunning Updated Nov 30, 2009

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    This is still in use, and a number of people come to the park on a train. The ride is from Williams Arizona (60 miles south) to Grand CAnyon. This was built in 1901 by Atchison, Topeka and Santa FE RR which had a newer track coming west and to here then. It wanted to promote tourism to the park, and aligned with Fred Harvey for hotel and eateries. The depot is two story and of original wood made in log cabin style. It is only one of three still remaining. It is used by Amtrak today.
    The train operated until 1968, and later revived by a group in 1989 to bring back the railway rides. Cost to rework was $2 million. It carries over 200,000 visitors annually now.
    The RR line closed in 1968, but revived in 1989 and now carries over 200,000 passengers annually.

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    North Rim -Lodge

    by BruceDunning Written Oct 23, 2009

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    This is 80 years celebration of the finishing of the lodge. It is not changed at all; maybe some upgrades, and the new lodge that was built over the first in 1937 after a fire in 1932. It totally destroyed the old lodge. The huge wood beams make the inside seem as rustic as it is. Gilbert Stanley Underwood made the back porch area a spectacular view for the guests/tourists. The views never did change, though

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    Bright Angel Lodge

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 23, 2009

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    This is the main anchor of where people come and congregate. It gets very clustered around the back door on the trail. Many buses come here and drop off tourists for short stays of 1-2 hours and that brings in another 100-200 at one time. I had a hard time just getting through the crowd to see the hotel. The lodge has an ice cream shop, gifts shops, 2 restaurants, and a history room. The history room is a lot on Fred Harvey era, who had the concessions for food and operated the hotels. In 1935 Mary Colter designed the lodge and Fred Harvey built it.

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    Kolb Studio-Lookout Studio-O'Neil cabin

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 23, 2009

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    These are three sites near the Bright Angel lodge and worth the walk along rim trail to get to see the insides. The Kolb Studio is now a gift shop, was built in 1904 by Ellsworth and emery Kolb. they loved the park and every day, in good weather they took tourists down the Bright Angel trail a way and took photos of them on mule back. They did not work every day, so in the interim, they hiked all around the canyon. Daily, they went down to the canyon floor to process the photos. That takes going down in 4+ hours and getting back up same time. A long day. In 1911, they decided to follow the route of John Wesley Powell and explored the Green and Colorado rivers over 3 month period. They were close to losing their lives more than once. The result was they made a film and showed it for a fee to tourists in the studio, and later on road shows. The Lookout studio was designed by Mary Colter in 1914. Bucky O'Neill cabin is from 1895 and when he was a miner used it for shelter. later he became a judge, politician, and author. The building is the original.

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    Hopi House-VErkamps Curios

    by BruceDunning Written Oct 23, 2009

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    These have a lot of history form the days of old. Mary Colter designed and helped build Hopi House in 1905 and the theme was patterned after the Hopi name of Orabai, meaning Hopi village. It is two story and chuck full of gifts to buy. The Hopi Indians used to sell the goods themselves here when it first began. The Verkamp Curious was a gift store and from 1905 John and later family ran the store until 2008. It sold out to the park service. It is now the visitor center for main information.

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    South-El Tovar Hotel

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 23, 2009

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    It was built in 1905 by Charles Whittlessey, and famed architect who also designed other structures for Fred Harvey group. This is a four story hotel and has 79 rooms. It is in the same condition as when built, but some porches were added. The lobby has open faced log supports. There is a gift shop, restaurant, and lobby relaxing area. It is a luxury hotel, and has been that since the Atchison, Topeka, SAnta Fe RR brought people here on its tracks back in early 1900's

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    Tusayan Indian Ruins

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 23, 2009

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    This is a great place to stop and see the exhibit inside the old structure as well as the ruins on the trial outside. There are Ranger programs every 1/2 hour to walk along the trail and explain the history of the Tusayan Pueblo Indians settling here and how they lived over 800 years ago. They had a good environment to find food, hunt, access to water and shelter in this area, and on a flat plateau, with suburb views. The living quarters were about 1 mile form the cliff edge, and in a forest area. Archeologists believe they lived here in late 1100's. These ruins are as they were found in 1930's when excavated.

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    Western Bluebird

    by richiecdisc Updated Jun 6, 2009

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    The Western Bluebird is amongst many different birds that call the Grand Canyon home at some point during the year. Since the canyon has many different terrains, bird variety is unsurprisingly large. The bluebird is in the thrasher family that feeds on insects and berries. This particularly colorful male was putting on quite a show for us at El Torvar one afternoon.

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    Tusayan Ruins

    by richiecdisc Written Jun 5, 2009

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    The Tusayan Ruins are the National Park's concession that indeed Native Americans once called this area home around 1185 which is little surprise considering its beauty. This is just one of 4300 such recorded sites within the park's borders. The Grand Canyon does extend beyond the park's borders and there are Native Americans still living in some of those areas. They can be visited but are not part of the National Park pass system. The ruins here are not the most elaborate but are interesting to see if you have the time. We visited them on our way out of the park. It was an overcast day and it was a nice break from all the Grand Canyon splendor of the proceeding days. Remnants of the circular kivas are easy to see though not as well preserved as what you can see at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. There is also a free small museum on site to help explain what you see.

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