Things to Do in Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is a humbling testament to nature’s power. Carved by the mighty Colorado River, this northwestern Arizona wonder is 277 miles (444 kilometers) long and more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep. It’s no wonder Grand Canyon National Park is one of America’s most popular attractions, with over 6 million annual visitors.
Enjoy a sweeping panoramic view of the Grand Canyon from the historic Desert View Watchtower. Architect Mary Colter created the tower, built in the early 1930s, as an homage to the watchtowers built by the Ancestral Puebloan people who once inhabited the Four Corners area. The murals inside were painted by a local Hopi artist.
The Hualapai have been living in the Grand Canyon area for generations, and today the tribe offers some of the area’s best experiences at Hualapai Ranch. Enjoy cowboy shows, cookouts, and wagon rides; visit Indian Village to learn fascinating history; and brave the Skywalk, a platform extending 70 feet (21 meters) out over the canyon.
With its panoramic Grand Canyon views, Mather Point is one of the most visited spots in Grand Canyon National Park. The multitier viewing platform is perched on a rocky outcropping near the South Rim entrance and a short walk from a visitor center. Walk nearby trails to reach multiple vantage points and photo opportunities along the rim.
This scenic drive in the Canyon’s southern section is open year round and boasts scenic views, incredible landscapes and plenty of overlooks. Travelers can explore the 26 miles of highway in about an hour, while en route to the park’s east entrance. While the spectacular views are the highlight of this journey, the Desert View Watchtower and Tusayan Ruin and Museum are both worth a stop for visitors who want to explore the region’s history and Native American culture.
A popular stop en route to the Grand Canyon, the historic Cameron Trading Post combines American Indian art and culture with a modern travel stop. Browse the expansive souvenir shop, eat at the restaurant, or even stay overnight in the hotel—all while experiencing the traditional food, crafts, and decore of Navajo and Hopi tribes.
In 1964, the Colorado River’s roaring waters needed to be harnessed, so the towering 710-foot-tall (216 meter) Glen Canyon Dam was built. The resulting 186-mile-long (299 kilometer) Lake Powell, the second largest man-made lake in the US, took 17 years to fill to capacity. Today, the dam provides hydroelectric power to the American West.
Located in the southernmost point on the Grand Canyon’s south rim, Grandview Point is accessible via a one-mile side road off of East Rim Drive. Travelers agree the panoramic views from this famous vista are some of the park’s most impressive. Easy hiking trails wind through narrow ridges and well-preserved nature, giving travelers the opportunity to stretch their legs while driving the popular pass along Highway 64. But it’s the epic views and scenic landscape that make Grandview Point a quintessential Grand Canyon stop.
At six stories tall and 82 feet wide (25 meters), the screen of the Grand Canyon IMAX is grand, perfect for a screening of Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets in the 487-person theater. The 34-minute show takes travelers into the canyon with historical commentary and incredible aerial views—a perfect introduction to the real thing.
The National Geographic Visitor Center is both a gateway to the Grand Canyon and a destination in its own right. Conveniently located near the South Rim entrance, the center makes a logical first stop at Arizona’s iconic landmark. Visit the center for guidance on your trip, and to experience its IMAX Theater, cafe, and exhibits.
More Things to Do in Grand Canyon National Park
Eagle Point, a popular stop in Grand Canyon West, is the site of a Native American village, amphitheater, and the famous Grand Canyon Skywalk—a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that extends 70 feet (21 meters) over the canyon for views of the Colorado River 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) below.
A visit to Tusayan Ruins and Museumprovides a glimpseinto the life of the Hopi tribe and the Ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the region 800 years ago. Inside the museum, there are artfully displayed exhibits on various aspects of life in the village including pottery,arrowheads, and other household artifacts. The museum also features some of the original 2,000–4,000 year oldsplit-twig figurines, which are made in the shape of deer or bighorn sheep, sometimes with horns or antlers.
The Tusayan Ruins and Museumis part of the Grand Canyon South Rim’s Desert View Drive. The trail itself holds a variety of attractions including Desert View, the breathtaking scenery unfolding from Desert View Watchtower, Navajo Point, where you can see the Colorado River and Escalante Butte, and Lipan Point, where you can see several stretches of the Colorado River. Also here is Moran Point, where you can see a layer of red shale in the canyon walls.
Bright Angel Point is the most popular viewpoint on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, offering views of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim and Roaring Springs some 3,000 feet (914 meters) below. The easy paved Bright Angel Point trail leads to the spot, with panoramic views of Grand Canyon National Park unfolding along the way.
Combining the mystique of the Wild West with the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon Railway has been delighting riders since 1901. As you make the two-hour trip to the canyon from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim, you’ll be entertained by authentic characters and musicians who bring the Old West to life, all the while soaking up the unforgettable scenery of Grand Canyon National Park.
At the Grand Canyon's Yavapai Point, travelers can experience what many consider the best views along the South Rim, with unobstructed landscapes seen in both directions along the river gorge. From Yavapai Point, you can catch sight of Arizona's Colorado River, Plateau Point and Bright Angel Canyon.
The nearby visitor center here is also home to the Yavapai Museum of Geology, which features exhibits covering the canyon's history and how the various formations were shaped. The museum also has panoramic windows that provide another spot with spectacular views where visitors can enjoy the scenery in air-conditioned comfort. Yavapai Point is often included in day trips to the Grand Canyon from other Arizona cities like Sedona and Flagstaff.
Views like those from Toroweap Point in the North Rim are a big part of what draws travelers from around the globe to the Grand Canyon. The vantage point here is 3000 feet above the Colorado River and sheer red cliffs look out over incredible canyon views, ancient lava flows and vast open skies. Though a popular spot for photos, hiking and picnics visitors often find themselves alone atop this awesome and remote destination. That’s partly because these spectacular panoramas come with some difficulty. Toroweap is accessible by car, but the rustic a nature of this incredible overlook means roadways are typically primitive and can be rather demanding for a novice to navigate.
One of the most remote hotels in the Grand Canyon, Phantom Ranch serves as a rustic, idyllic respite adventures who visit the bottom of the canyon. Even getting here is one of the purest ways to experience the canyon: the ranch is only accessible by floating down the Colorado River, by hiking, or by riding a mule.
Phantom Ranch offers nine, simple, stone-walled cabins, all of them air conditioned. This is truly Canyon living: the inside of each cabin as a concrete floor, desk, a toilet, sink, and bunk beds. Outside the cabins, picnic tables sit under cottonwood trees. It’s the only park lodging below the rim. The location is perfect, especially if you’re exploring Ribbon Falls and the River Trail, or if you just want to relax and read. The canteen is a popular spot for hotel guests as well as from the nearby Bright Angel Campground.