It is rare to find a traveller to this part of the United States who hasn’t at least considered a visit to the Grand Canyon.
This massive canyon carved by the Colorado River is 445km long and about 1.5km deep. Thousands of visitors head to the viewpoints near the visitors’ centres at Grand Canyon Village to enjoy the spectacular view; however it is worth taking the time to escape the crowds and hit one of the canyon’s hiking trails. If your budget allows, you may also consider a scenic flight or white water rafting through the canyon on the Colorado River.
The canyon’s accessible South Rim attracts the most visitors although many people prefer the quieter North Rim (accessible via Kanab, Utah).
A seven-day entry permit to the national park costs $25 per vehicle or $12 per person if you’re arriving by foot or by bicycle.
Grand Canyon Village
Tel (928) 638 7888
Alt Highway 89
Tel (928) 638 7864
Like most North American national parks, it is easiest to visit the Grand Canyon by car, however there is a bus service, operated by Open Road Tours (tel (928) 266 8060 or 800 766 7117) that runs between Flagstaff and Grand Canyon Village for $20.
There are no hostels at the Canyon and most backpackers stay in Flagstaff and visit the Grand Canyon as a day trip. If you want to stay at the canyon and have your own camping gear there are large crowded campsites in the park.
There is a good selection of hiking trails around the Grand Canyon with some very popular full day treks.
The relatively easy Rim Trail (21km) connects many of the South Rim’s scenic viewpoints. It is served by shuttle bus so it is possible to walk a short section of the trail.
The popular Bright Angel Trail (7.4-9.8km, 4-10 hours) starts at Bright Angel Lodge and goes to either Indian Garden campsite (7.4km, 6-6 hours) or Plateau Point (9.8km, 8-10 hours) depending on how fit you feel. Although well graded and crowded, it is a difficult – but rewarding – hike.
Shorter hikes can be made to Mile and a Half Resthouse (2.4km, 1-2 hours) or Three Mile Resthouse (4.8km, 2-3 hours).
The South Kaibab Trail (4.8km, 3-5 hours) is a very scenic hike although there is little shade making it hazardous during summer.
The Bright Angel Point trail (.5km, 20 minutes) is an easy short hike that takes you to a lookout offering spectacular views.
The scenic and varied North Kaibab Trail (7.5km, 6-7 hours to Roaring Springs) is one of the park’s best day hikes. It is possible to hike the entire 23km to the Colorado River at the base of the canyon.
Many travellers report that mule rides in the canyon are an unforgettable experience. You have the option of rides on either the North or South Rim. Most rides require that you weigh under 90kg.
Rides cost from $20 for a one-hour ride along the North Rim to $350 for an overnight trip. Contact Canyon Trail Rides (tel (435) 679 8665; website www.canyonrides.com) or Xanterra (tel (303) 287 2757; website www.xanterra.com) for more information.
Since most people are lucky to visit the Grand Canyon once in their life, many decide to splurge on a scenic flight.
Air Grand Canyon (tel (928) 638 2686; website www.airgrandcanyon.com), Air Star Helicopters (tel (928) 638 2623; website www.airstar.com), Grand Canyon Airlines (tel (928) 638 2407; website www.grandcanyonairlines.com), Grand Canyon Helicopters (tel (928) 638 2764; website www.grandcanyonhelicoptersaz.com) and Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters (tel (928) 638 2419; website www.papillon.com) all offer scenic flights.
The Colorado River running through the Grand Canyon is one of the world’s top white water rafting destinations. However it is very expensive as the rafting trips are long – lasting anything from three days to several weeks.
The following companies offer white water rafting trips in the Grand Canyon; Arizone River Runners (tel (602) 867 4866 or 800 477 7238; website www.raftarizona.com); OARS (tel (209) 736 2924 or 800 346 6277; website www.oars.com) and Outdoors Unlimited (tel (928) 526 4546 or 800 637 7238; website www.outdoorsunlimited.com).