8 things to do when visiting the Grand Canyon

It’s one of the country’s most beautiful natural sculptures, and a hot spot for hikers, outdoor enthusiasts and tourists alike. The Grand Canyon is split into the South and North rims, each of which provides tourists with an array of different and geologically rich experiences embedded in Arizona’s desert.

Some of those experiences can be had on foot, a raft or even a commercial tour bus. But across the canyon walls, visitors can find a variety of awe-inspiring activities for any age and hiking expertise.

1. Rim trails

Trails run along both the South and North rims of the canyon and give hikers a panoramic view into the inner canyon. Parts of the trail are paved and are perfect for hikers looking for something easy. Take the hike alone, with others or even with an organized tour group, like the North Rim Family Hiking Adventure.

2. Multi-day hikes

Along with easier day hikes, the Grand Canyon Field Institute offers more difficult, multi-day tours. While they tend to be pricier, some hikes focus on drawing and yoga classes, wilderness skills or a comprehensive overview of the canyon’s natural history.

3. Raft the canyon

Water lovers can take advantage of the canyon’s walls and the river that carved through them by rafting with any one of over a dozen rafting opportunities along the canyon. Some trips are motor powered, while others are oar or paddle powered. While the trips can be short, they generally tend to be more than a daylong adventure. Some trips span across entire weeks and go through the whole canyon.

4. Desert View Watchtower

The 70-foot-tall stone tower is located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, perched up against the desert sky. It was built in 1932 and remains the highest point on the South Rim, making it a popular hiking destination for visitors. Inside the walls of the tower, visitors will find murals by Hopi artist Fred Kaboti.

5. Grand Canyon Railway

Take a ride on the historic train, which starts at Williams Depot, a historically popular pit stop built more than 100 years ago for travelers heading to and from California. The trip is 2 hours and 15 minutes, starting about 30 minutes west of Flagstaff and then on to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

6. Kaibab trails

Leading to the Colorado River, the South Kaibab Trail runs along a ridge and offers 360-degree views of the Grand Canyon. The National Park Service warns that the hike’s stunning views often lead visitors to forget how far they’ve hiked, so plan the length of the hike before setting out. It can be a little steep, but sections of it are perfect for day hikes and mule rides.

7. Hermit Road

Rather than hiking or spending the day in a visitor’s center, shuttle buses and tour buses travel down Hermit Road. Bring a backpack and get off at Hermit’s Rest, another one of the canyon’s historic structures and the home of more extraordinary overlooks, goodies and souvenirs for visitors.

8. Yavapai Museum of Geology

When it gets too hot to hike, this museum is perched on the canyon’s edge looking across and beyond the Colorado River, giving visitors a similar view to a rim trail but indoors. The museum, originally built for geologists to observe the Grand Canyon, now has several exhibits, 3-D models and photographs of the formation for visitors to do the same.

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