When it comes to things to do at the Grand Canyon there are so many options it can be overwhelming. For this list, we designated if the things to do are on the south rim or north rim of the Grand Canyon. It is not an easy hop skip and a jump to go from rim to rim. If you plan to visit both areas you will want to be prepared to drive or hike a while.
Perhaps the most well-known and certainly the most photographed national park in the United States is the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. I'll never forget the first time standing at the edge while holding onto the rail as I looked out into the great abyss of the Grand Canyon!
I was awe-inspired, yet at the same time, I had a true feeling of just how small we really are. I stood there looking out into the vastness of the Grand Canyon while I permanently etched this view into my memory.
I had never and still haven't, seen anything like it. It quite literally, took my breath away. I was standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
It like most of the area is a wide, flat rock that juts slightly out over the canyon wall. When you look down, it's way down. And there in the distance is the Colorado River.
With virtually no barriers in place to keep the observers from falling, your knees get weak and you almost have the urge to fly. There are truly so many great things to do at the Grand Canyon it is hard to put them all in one list.
The Colorado River is given the credit, by most scholars, as the reason for the existence of the Grand Canyon. While it is also huge, the chasm it created, is far more impressive.
Things to do at the Grand Canyon
Most of these activities can be enjoyed year-round at the park. If you are visiting during the winter check out our Grand Canyon Winter guide for more info on what to expect.
The Grand Canyon is a mesmerizing scenery for many reasons, but probably the one that bedazzles nature lovers the most is the variety of ancient rocks that make up the layers of its striated walls. Established on February 26, 1919, as one of the US national parks, the Grand Canyon covers a 1,902-square mile (4,926-square kilometer) area in the middle of the Arizona Desert. At its widest, the canyon spans 18 miles (29 kilometers) across; its deepest point, Granite Gorge, plunges to a depth of 1 mile (1.6 kilometers).
One of the well-known features of Grand Canyon National Park is Mooney Falls, which cascade for about 200 feet (61 meters); it is one of the three major cataracts on Havasu Creek. In 1979, Grand Canyon National Park was designated a World Heritage site.
Ways to view the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon Shuttle Bus: The Grand Canyon shuttle bus is the perfect way to make the most of your time in the park. It is free and will take you all over the park.
By foot: There are many trails all around the Canyon. You can hike some yourself and there are also daily tours for the inexperienced hiker. The tour guides have vast amounts of knowledge and will keep you entertained, and informed, throughout your walk. Keep in mind that going all the way to the bottom of the canyon takes 5 hours and you will need to plan to spend the night.
By mule: Yes, a mule. You can ride along the rims on a tour led, mule. These trips are fun and also quite informative. Beware though, just like with horseback riding, your thighs will be sore in the morning!
Helicopter: This tour is probably the most visually impressive and certainly covers the most ground. However, it is also quite expensive, so be prepared.
Rafting: Rafting tours are booked years in advance! If this is something you would like to do make sure you plan it early!
Rim tours: There are two rims on the Grand Canyon. The north and south rims. Both offer stunning views and panoramic backdrops for pictures.
This one is a must-do! The North Rim is harder to reach and most photos that you've seen are of the South Rim.
One of the most amazing things about the Canyon is the pictographs that are still on some of the walls. These have been there for thousands of years.
Sunset Photo Tour (South Rim)
The sunset photo tour is a great way to explore the park and see the sun go down. The driver and guides will take you to the best places on the South Rim to see the sunset. You will get to enjoy the canyon walls changing colors and not have to worry about parking or where to go.
Rub the donkey's nose (North Rim)
If you are visiting the North Rim make sure and rub the donkey statues nose for good luck. This donkey statue commemorates a famous donkey who passed away in the 1920s.
Sleep with a view at a Grand Canyon Lodge
It is hard to describe the feeling of waking up and looking out over the Grand Canyon. We had the most epic view from the Bright Angel Lodge cabins and can't wait to go back again. We spent hours curled up just watching the canyon change colors while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.
There are also views from the Kachina and Thunderbird lodge and partial views from the El Tovar.
Hike into the canyon
There are a few ways to hike into the canyon. It really depends on how much time you want to spend in the Grand Canyon and how far you want to hike. The biggest thing to remember is what goes down must come up!!!!
Be prepared for a big hike!!!!
Trail of Time (South Rim)
Walk the Trail of Time between Yavapai Museum of Geology and Verkamps Visitor Center. The Trail of Time is a total of 4.56 km (2.83 miles) long geologic timeline.
This is a great way to get a true scope of just how old the Grand Canyon truly is.
Yavapai Geology Museum (South Rim)
The Yavapai Geology Museum offers an incredible look out over the Grand Canyon along with great information on the geology of the canyon. You can learn how the canyon was created in easy to understand displays.
The building was erected on a site selected by a team of geologists for the express purpose of observing and understanding Grand Canyon geology.
Located at Yavapai Point overlook, in between Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Village.
Visit the Visitor Center
The visitor center complex at the South Rim is filled with great info and places to visit. You can learn about the park geology, what to expect during your visit and park your car to take the shuttle bus during the day.
Be prepared the parking lot is HUGE! We suggest taking a picture of where your car is parked so you know where to go after a long day in the park.
Watch the park film
The film Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder is shown at Grand Canyon Visitor Center daily on the hour and half-hour. The first showing begins at 9 am and the last showing is at 4:30 pm daily.
Grab a stamp or 8 for your National Park Stamp book
If you collect National Park passport stamps you can find different stamps all over the Grand Canyon. Be prepared with your National Park Passport Book or bring these circle stickers we use that can easily be added to your book later.
Grand Canyon North Rim - Tuweep
Grand Canyon South Rim - Phantom Ranch, Tusayan Ruin, Kolb Studio, Indian Garden, Verkamp’s, Yavapai Geology Museum, Visitor Center Plaza, Desert View Watchtower
Visit the Hopi House (South Rim)
The Hopi House opened on New Year's Day in 1905! The Hopi House was the 1st gift shop to open at the Grand Canyon. Since opening over 100 years ago the Hopi House has offered authentic Native American arts and crafts for visitors to purchase.
Hopi House was constructed to be a re-creation of the ancient edifices of Oraibi. Following traditional architecture and using native stone and wood Hope workmen built the Hope House.
You can discover a large representation of artistry from some of the tribes traditionally associated with the Grand Canyon including Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni.
Items available for purchase include Kachinas, jewelry, Hand-woven Navajo rugs, sand paintings, and Pueblo pottery. The gallery on the 2nd floor offers a variety of museum-quality items and rare collector's pieces.
Visit the Lookout Studio (South Rim)
The Lookout Studio was built in 1914 to serve as both a lookout point and gift shop. The Lookout Studio is a National Historic Landmark and well worth visiting. There are two observation points that are open in good weather providing amazing views of the Grand Canyon.
In the summer you can sometimes see California Condors riding the thermals along the rim from the Lookout Studio. the gift shop offers rocks, photography, Native American arts, and crafts, souvenirs and condor themed products.
Visit the Bright Angel History Room (South Rim)
The Bright Angel History Room gives you a glimpse into the rich history of the Fred Harvey Company and the role it played in developing the Grand Canyon. You can see the room's focal point, the geological fireplace with rocks arranged floor to ceiling in the same order as the strata of the canyon walls designed by Mary Colter.
Visit Hermit's Rest (South Rim)
Located at the end of Hermit Road you will find Hermit's Rest which has been a gathering place for more than 100 years. The building is a National Historic Landmark and so worth visiting. You can enjoy amazing views of the Grand Canyon, meet the resident ravens and soak up the warmth of the gigantic fireplace.
If you are hungry stop by the Hermit's Rest snack bar for sandwiches, hot chocolate, and other warm drinks. Don't miss the fresh baked cookies and ice cream.
Desert View Watchtower (South Rim)
Desert View Watchtower was designed by Mary Colter who also designed the Hopi House, Lookout Studio, Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel Lodge. You can climb 85 steps to the top observation deck for an outstanding view of Grand Canyon!
The Desert View Watchtower was built in 1932 and is 70 feet tall. Don't miss seeing the murals that are painted on the inside by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.
Dine with a view
There are quite a few places to eat in the Grand Canyon. Check out our post on Grand Canyon Restaurants - South Rim to see all of the different options from quick service to fine dining.
What are your favorite things to do at the Grand Canyon National Park?
Things to do Grand Canyon - The top things to do in Grand Canyon that you don't want to miss during your trip!
Grand Canyon Restaurants - South Rim - Check out all the delicious places to enjoy a meal during your trip.
Grand Canyon Winter - If you are heading to the park in the winter make sure to plan ahead.
Arizona National Park - Check out all of the amazing National Parks in Arizona you can visit. So many are close to the Grand Canyon!
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