Activities in Grand Canyon National Park

Scenic Canyon Drives, Walks and Hikes

With more than 1,904 square miles to its name, the Grand Canyon is so vast that you’ll want to check it out from more than a few different angles. Scenic drives along the canyon’s south rim make sightseeing incredibly convenient. Hermit Road and Desert View Drive are two popular routes that are open year-round, weather and road conditions permitting.

But while driving is easy, there’s nothing quite like exploring the canyon rim on foot. Or better yet, hiking down into the canyon! Both the north and south rims provide access to numerous day hikes along the rim and into the canyon, which means that visitors can get an up-close look at its natural splendor without committing to a more challenging overnight trip. Ranger-led and guided educational day hikes are also available.

Since the rims of the Grand Canyon have of elevations 7,000 to 8,000 feet, walking around can be very strenuous, especially on your way back up to the rim. Couple that with temperature extremes and few opportunities to fill up on food or water, and you’re looking a quite an adventure. As a rule of thumb, it will take you about twice as long coming out of the canyon than it will going down, due to the vertical climb. It is strongly discouraged to attempt trekking from the rim to the river and back in a single day.

Grand Canyon National Park: Bright Angel Trail - Sunset 0162

Rangers rescue hundreds of people from the canyon every year, so the park provides some important tips about hiking that apply even to the easiest trails. Visitors should also review special bulletins about hiking in the summer and in the winter.

Overnight & Backcountry Hiking

Overnight stays in the Grand Canyon are ideal for travellers in search of the simple pleasures of the wilderness: solitude and silence. There are 15 trails and a variety of routes to try, but unless you’re planning on staying in a developed campground, a backcountry permit is required. The park receives more than 30,000 permit requests every year, but only issues 13,000 permits, so it’s wise to book early to secure the itinerary of your choice. Review these stipulations before planning your trip.

Grand Canyon National Park: Phantom Ranch Boat Beach 0028

Park rangers recommend that first timers venturing to the inner canyon stick to one of the Corridor trails (Bright Angel, North and South Kaibab) since they have access to three campgrounds with emergency phones, water and ranger stations. Phantom Ranch is the only place where visitors to the canyon floor are allowed to cross the Colorado River. The ranch’s famous rustic hostelry conveniently provides a break for those on overnight trips through the canyon. 

River Trips

Whether you’re looking for whitewater adventure or scenic views from the canyon floor, river trips through the Grand Canyon offer a unique perspective on the park. Trips vary in length, from single-day outings to multiple-night camping trips, to highly technical rafting journeys that can last up to 25 days.

Commercial (arranged through concessioners) and non-commercial (self-guided) options are available for trips involving more than one day of travel. Non-commercial trips require permits for travel on the Diamond Creek to Lake Mead section of the Colorado River. Non-commercial trips for the Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek section of the river last 12 to 25 days and require permits awarded via weighted lottery. Applicants should review the park’s non-commercial river trip regulations before planning trips.

NPS Approves Stock Use Plan for Grand Canyon South Rim

Mule Rides

Travel by mule in the Grand Canyon has loads of historical precedence. Since the park’s early days, the strong, sure-footed beasts have carried many visitors around the canyon, including President Theodore Roosevelt, an early champion of the Grand Canyon.

Today, guests can tour the south rim and the inner canyon (to Phantom Ranch) on guided mule trips that depart from the park’s historic Bright Angel Lodge. North rim rides are offered as well, but they do not go to the Colorado River.

Fishing

While the Grand Canyon is home to several protected species of fish, anglers can try for trout, striped bass and catfish in Bright Angel Creek. The best seasons to go fishing in the creek are autumn and winter. State or non-resident fishing licenses are required, and artificial lure regulations apply to certain stretches of the Colorado River.