The words “Grand Canyon” conjure up many different images to people: deep gorges in the landscape, dark blood red as far as the eye can see. This dramatic landscape took nearly 40 million years to form through erosion and recent science data places the canyon’s origins at around 17 million years ago. This means that what is now the Colorado River was hard at work for 23 million years before the slashes in the landscape really took on their modern forms.
Native Americans, namely the Pueblo people but also the ancestors of modern cultures like the Havasupai, Hopi, and Navajo, lived in this region for thousands of years. To them, the site was a holy one. Puebloan people made pilgrimages to the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is a highlight of American tourism, one of the top tourist attractions in the western United States, and easily accessible from several different places. If you are looking for vacation ideas, why not consider visiting the Grand Canyon? Below, we take a look at some of the different things to do in the area!
Get Your A$$ Down Here: Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
There are several different ways to experience the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. The first, and the most popular, are package tours of the Grand Canyon. The second is camping in and around the Grand Canyon, and the third is by Grand Canyon helicopter tours.
Grand Canyon Tours
Search for “Grand Canyon tours” and you will likely be overwhelmed at the amount of information that comes up. In order to find the perfect vacation ideas for your family, you need to decide how you want to see the Grand Canyon, as well as where you plan to start from. Do you want to see the Antelope Canyon before rafting through Marble Canyon? How about the Inner Canyon? There are also tours that include Lake Powell, Route 66, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon railway. In the old days, tourists hiked up and down the canyon with donkeys (hence our pun intended title!). Today, you are more likely to travel by jeep!
Most tours start and end at either the South Rim or the North Rim. The South Rim is the most visited location in the Grand Canyon, mainly thanks to it’s year-round access, proximity to Phoenix (3.5 hours) and airports, and many tourist attractions. The North Rim is much harder to access and is only open from mid-May to mid-October. At an elevation nearly 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim, the North Rim sees more extreme winter weather, hence its winter closure. The West Rim is another popular tourist attraction, due to its proximity to Las Vegas, but is more popular with package tours. This is where you’ll find the famous Grand Canyon Skywalk - if you dare.
Sleeping Under the Stars: Camping in the Grand Canyon
Camping trips take a bit more planning than the average Grand Canyon tour, but are often well worth the time and effort. The campgrounds around the rim are a mix of commercial sites and National Park sites. Camping at the Grand Canyon is extremely popular in the summer and if you are considering doing so, you need to make reservations well in advance - sometimes months in advance. Basically, the sooner you know your plans, the better.
There are, for spontaneous sorts, one or two campgrounds that are first come, first served, if you feel like taking your chances!
Any in-park camping beyond the rims requires a backcountry permit. These are not easy to get, as the National Park Services caps the number of people that can be within the park’s backcountry at any given time. This is due to the very fragile environment of the Grand Canyon. Overnight camping in the canyon and undeveloped areas, therefore, is heavily monitored. The NPS recommends that you apply for a backcountry permit as far in advance as possible, since although summer is not the best time to hike, it is the most popular. If you can hike in the late fall, you are more likely to get the dates you prefer!
Up, Up, and Away: Flying High over the Grand Canyon
From the deepest corners of the canyon to the open air, we now take a look at Grand Canyon helicopter tours. There are various companies that offer flight-seeing tours, whether they be in choppers or in small planes. Most airplane tours begin at the Tusayan airport, about 45 minutes away from the South Rim, or near Las Vegas’ side of the West Rim. Helicopter and flight tours of the Grand Canyon take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and offer expansive views of the gorge.