No trip to Arizona is complete without taking a road trip to the iconic Grand Canyon National Park. As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, you’ll have endless hiking, biking, and sightseeing opportunities, so it’s best to allot as many days as possible to explore this incredible geological wonder.
If this is your first visit to the Grand Canyon, you’ll want to spend some time taking in the unreal canyon views from the South Rim’s easy-to-access Desert View Drive. Along the way, you can enjoy spectacular vistas of the beautifully layered canyon from Grandview Point, Moran Point, and Lipan Point, to name a few.
If you prefer hiking to driving, you’ll be spoiled for choice! Experienced hikers who are up for the challenge will love tackling the rewarding multi-day hikes to either the 98-foot cascade of Havasu Falls or the hidden grotto of Elves Chasm. For something a bit easier, you can follow the scenic Canyon Rim Trail or learn about the Grand Canyon’s geologic history on the Trail of Time.
Thrill-seekers will love kayaking along the Colorado River’s picture-perfect Horseshoe Bend, embarking on an unforgettable helicopter tour through the canyon, or testing their limits at the glass Skywalk, where you’ll have the chance to look down at the canyon floor 4,000 feet below. There are so many incredible things to do in Grand Canyon National Park, there truly is something for everyone!
With so many cool things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Grand Canyon National Park for you. Stick to these fun and unique Grand Canyon bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this beautiful corner of Arizona!
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The 15 Best Things to Do in Grand Canyon National Park
1. Go on an Epic Hike to Havasu Falls
A hike to Havasu Falls should be at the top of every Grand Canyon bucket list – especially for outdoor lovers! Those who are willing to tackle the challenging 10-mile trail to Havasu Falls (and 10 miles back!) will be rewarded with views of the beautiful cascade tumbling into the postcard-perfect blue-green waters below – and so much more.
It is important to note that the waterfall is located on the Havasupai Reservation in the western corner of the park, which means you will need to apply for a highly coveted 3-day permit to hike to Havasu Falls. To obtain a permit, visit the Havasupai Reservations website before February 1.
If you’re lucky enough to snag a permit, you’ll want to allow roughly 4 to 7 hours to complete the hike and up to 8 hours to return to the trailhead. Along the way, you’ll come across the spectacular Beaver Falls, Mooney Falls, Fifty Foot Falls, and the Little Navajo Falls.
Since this is a multi-day hike, you can camp anywhere between the base of Havasu Falls and the top of Mooney Falls. Do note that the campgrounds are first come, first served.
2. Take a Scenic Drive on Hermit Road
If you’re entering Grand Canyon National Park via the South Rim entrance, you’ll definitely want to take a scenic drive along Hermit Road. The 7-mile stretch of road starts in Grand Canyon Village and ends at the historic Hermits Rest, where you’ll find a 1914 cabin, a gift shop, and a snack bar. But the thing that makes Hermit Road one of the most popular Grand Canyon attractions are the nine jaw-dropping viewpoints along the way!
The road is closed to private vehicles for much of the year. But there is a free hop-on, hop-off Red Route shuttle that will whisk you to each of the nine designated viewpoints from March 1 to November 30. The complete shuttle route takes 80 minutes to complete.
If you feel like stretching your legs, the Canyon Rim Trail extends along the rim and Hermit Road for 7.8 miles and is popular among hikers and bikers. You don’t have to tackle the whole thing if you don’t want to. You can simply hike or bike between viewpoints using the short trails and hop back on the shuttle whenever you feel like it.
3. Capture Stunning Photos of Horseshoe Bend
Located 4 miles from Page – in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near the Utah border – Horseshoe Bend is easily one of the best sights in the Grand Canyon. This is a must if you find yourself exploring the East Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
Horseshoe Bend is a cinch to reach if you’re in the area. You can hike the easy 1.5-mile out-and-back trail from the parking area to the viewing deck, which is just off of Highway 89. Perched on a sheer 1,000-foot cliff, you’ll have a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the horseshoe-shaped stretch of the Colorado River wrapping itself around a towering sandstone formation.
For the most beautiful views and photo ops, it’s best to visit during sunrise or sunset. Photographers will definitely want to bring their gear to capture the pink- and blue-swathed sky reflecting in the Colorado River below.
4. Test Your Limits at the Grand Canyon Skywalk
If you’re looking for a thrill, the Skywalk is one of the coolest things to do in the Grand Canyon. Located at Eagle Point on the West Rim, it’s well worth a detour if you’re approaching the Grand Canyon National Park from Las Vegas.
The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a 70-foot glass walkway that’s perched 500 to 800 feet above the canyon floor directly below and offers endless views of the 4,000-foot-deep canyon that stretches into the horizon. If you’re not afraid of heights, you’ll love taking in the sweeping Grand Canyon views from this unique attraction.
It’s best to purchase tickets in advance in order to avoid waiting in the long lines. It’s also important to note that you cannot drive to the Skywalk. Instead, you’ll have to hop on one of the frequent shuttles that will whisk you from the parking area and Visitor Center to Eagle Point.
After you’re done marveling at the canyon views, the shuttle will then take you to picturesque Guano Point and Hualapai Ranch before taking you back to the Visitor Center.
5. Learn About the Geology of the Grand Canyon at the Yavapai Geology Museum
Located just one mile from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, the Yavapai Geology Museum is a great place to start your Grand Canyon excursion. The museum was built in 1928 so that visitors can both observe and get a better understanding of the geology of this natural wonder.
One of the coolest things about the museum is the to-scale topographic representation of the Grand Canyon. Explore the museum, and you’ll also learn all about the history of the canyon’s formation, the different layers of rock, and how history is embedded in the rocks through the various exhibits, 3D models, and interactive lessons.
The museum’s founding geologists chose the museum’s location to offer visitors the best view of the canyon’s geology. So you can feel free to compare the topographic model to the view from the observation deck!
6. Go Glamping at Under Canvas Grand Canyon
If you’re anything like us, glamping under the stars is always a good idea. If you want to tick off this incredible Grand Canyon bucket list activity, look no further than Under Canvas Grand Canyon.
Located on 160 acres of land in the Grand Canyon Junction area, this luxurious campground is just 30 miles from the South Rim entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. So it’s the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the park!
Each of the Instagrammable tents boasts stylish West Elm furnishings, plush king-size beds, and ensuites with hot showers and complimentary organic toiletries. Each tent also features a wood-burning stove to keep you warm and a private patio with lounge chairs so you can enjoy the incredible nature views.
There are a variety of luxury tents to choose from, but for the ultimate experience, we highly recommend The Stargazer. With its viewing window, you can stare at the stars each night from the comfort of your own bed!
Get ready to update your Instagram feed with all sorts of incredible pictures. There’s a good reason Condé Nast Traveler included Under Canvas in their list of the “Top 15 Resorts in the Southwest!”
7. Spend Some Time in Grand Canyon Village
If you’re entering Grand Canyon National Park from the South Rim entrance, you’ll want to allot at least a few hours to explore Grand Canyon Village. Plus, if you’re looking for a hotel with easy access to the entrance, there are plenty of excellent hotels in this little town, including the historic Bright Angel Lodge.
You’ll definitely want to pay a visit to the Grand Canyon Village Visitor Center to help you map out your trip. After that, you can take in the stunning canyon views from Yavapai Point, learn about the area’s railway history at the Grand Canyon Railway Depot, and shop for Native American souvenirs at Hopi House.
If you’ve got more time, pick up Grand Canyon-inspired works of art at the Kolb Studio or fuel up for the day at one of the village’s many excellent restaurants. Once you’re ready to hit the road, you’ll have easy access to Hermit Drive, which will take you to nine stunning lookouts with unreal canyon views.
8. Hike & Camp Along Bright Angel Trail
Going for a hike along the popular Bright Angel Hiking Trail is easily one of the coolest things to do in the Grand Canyon. That being said, the challenging trail should only be attempted by experienced hikers.
The trailhead starts near Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village and takes you down roughly 4,380 feet into the canyon, culminating at the Colorado River. Because the 15-mile out-and-back trail can take two or even three days to complete, you’ll want to come equipped with full camping gear if you’re going to tackle the entire route. If you plan to camp, you can do so at the Indian Garden Campground or the Bright Angel Campground.
Although the trail is challenging, it’ll be well worth the effort for the sweeping views of the Colorado River cutting through the canyon from the top of Plateau Point!
9. Go Road-Tripping on Desert View Drive
It’s no secret that the Grand Canyon is perfect for road-tripping, and there’s no better place to hit the road than Desert View Drive. The 23-mile stretch of pavement starts near Grand Canyon Village and offers plenty of stunning canyon and Colorado River views.
Along the way, you’ll come across six surreal canyon viewpoints, four picnic areas, and several notable landmarks. Don’t miss out on the vistas from Moran Point, Lipan Point, Grandview Point, and Navajo Point. It’s also well worth packing some picnic supplies, setting up shop at one of the picnic tables, and spending some time taking in the views while refueling for the rest of your journey.
For the best views, visit during sunrise or sunset when you can witness the surreal landscape as it gets bathed in hues of orange, pink, and yellow. History enthusiasts will also want to pay a visit to Tusayan Pueblo & Museum, which are the ruins of an 800-year-old Puebloan village.
10. Hop Aboard the Historic Grand Canyon Railway
If you happen to be staying in the town of Williams, taking a ride on the historic Grand Canyon Railway is one of the most fun things to do in the Grand Canyon. You can even stay in the railway’s luxurious Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, which is right next door!
Both the railway and hotel have been in operation since 1901. All of the vintage trains have been meticulously restored and depart daily from Williams, whisking passengers 64 miles (2 hours) to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
You can choose from six different train cars, but if you want to go all out, the Luxury Dome is the most grandiose option. You’ll love the full-length dome at the top, the luxe lounge below, and the private bar service. From prairie land to the high desert, the views all along this one-of-a-kind train ride are nothing short of spectacular!
11. Kayak Horseshoe Bend & Marble Canyon
Adrenaline junkies will want to add a kayaking excursion to their Grand Canyon bucket list. For an incredibly memorable experience, you can even go kayaking down the Colorado River and around the iconic Horseshoe Bend!
You can arrange self-guided kayaking or paddleboarding tours with the company Kayak Horseshoe Bend. It’s possible to bring your own gear, or you can rent everything you need from the company, including kayaks and paddleboards for $35. The backhaul service is an additional $75 per person, and the captain will drop you and your gear off wherever you want in the general area.
Excursions start at Lees Ferry (which is where the Grand Canyon begins) and take you 15 miles up the Colorado River, through Glen Canyon, and to Horseshoe Bend. The waters here are fairly calm with a few mellow rapids, so this is a fun excursion for the whole family. Be sure to bring your camera because gazing up at the sheer canyon walls from Horseshoe Bend is something you’ll never want to forget!
12. Discover the Grand Canyon’s Geologic History on the Trail of Time
If you want to learn more about the geology of the Grand Canyon, hiking along the Trail of Time is one of the most interesting Grand Canyon attractions. Located near the South Rim entrance at the Yavapai Geology Museum, the Trail of Time is an easy 2.83-mile-long paved pathway that was designed as a timeline of the Grand Canyon’s geology.
Each meter of the trail represents one million years of the canyon’s geology to give visitors a better understanding of how the canyon was formed, its stages of evolution, and what the various rock layers mean. Along the way, you’ll come across educational exhibits that offer interesting factoids to help make sense of this natural wonder.
The Trail of Time will take roughly one hour to complete. Not only will you learn more about the Grand Canyon’s geologic history, but you’ll get stunning views of the canyon all along the way!
13. Take a Sunset Helicopter Tour of the Grand Canyon
It’s no secret that there are countless places to glimpse unreal views of the Grand Canyon’s beautifully layered rocks, but there really is nothing quite like taking in the bird’s-eye views from the vantage point of a helicopter!
You can choose from tons of different tour options, but if you want to take a sunset tour of the Grand Canyon, GC Helicopters offers a very popular sunset tour, which departs from the Las Vegas Strip.
On this tour, you’ll get a limousine transfer from your hotel to the airport. The helicopter will then fly you over Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead before touching down inside the Grand Canyon.
Once you land in the canyon, you’ll have around 30 minutes to soak up the views while enjoying a champagne picnic. As the sun sets, your pilot will whisk you from the Grand Canyon back to Vegas, where you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the Strip’s dazzling lights.
14. Get Off the Beaten Path at Elves Chasm
A hike to Elves Chasm is one of the coolest Grand Canyon attractions for those who don’t mind getting off the beaten path. Tucked away on the Royal Arch Loop Trail, Elves Chasm is a picture-perfect waterfall that streams into the magical emerald grotto below.
But getting to this remote corner of the Grand Canyon is not for the faint of heart. This challenging hike should only be attempted by experienced hikers with the proper equipment, and hiring a guide is highly recommended. You’ll also need to acquire a backcountry camping permit from Grand Canyon National Park before heading out.
The Royal Arch Loop stretches 32 miles and takes three to four days to complete. But those who take the time to complete this heart-pumping hike will be rewarded with an unforgettable Grand Canyon bucket list experience.
Once you reach Elves Chasm, you’ll likely have this hidden gem all to yourself! Plus, it’s the perfect place to take a refreshing dip after days of hiking.
15. Take a Hike on the Popular South Kaibab Trail
There are so many epic hikes in Grand Canyon National Park, but the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point is one of the best. Conveniently located near the South Rim entrance, this is the perfect day hike if you want to get a true appreciation of this geological marvel.
While there is no parking area at the trailhead, you can hop on one of the free shuttles, which will drop you off near the trailhead at Yaki Point. The six-mile, out-and-back trail is moderate to challenging but is well worth the effort. The complete trail will take you roughly three to four hours to complete.
Along the way, you can marvel at the views from the famous Ooh Aah Point, gawk at the sheer drop-offs leading to the canyon below, and gaze at the Colorado River winding through the canyon. Plus, the views from Skeleton Point are some of the best in Grand Canyon National Park!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Grand Canyon National Park. What’s your favorite thing to do in the Grand Canyon?
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