The best Grand Canyon vacation is one that encompasses plenty of sightseeing, first and foremost. The canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and stretches for 277 miles, so there’s plenty to see. Exactly how you choose to explore the canyon, however, will depend largely on your preferences, the abilities and limitations of your traveling group and the time of year you choose to head to this magnificent area of northwest Arizona.
Sightseeing is a key element to any good Grand Canyon vacation.
Weather is among the first elements to consider when planning your Grand Canyon trip. There’s snow on the ground during the winter months, and although it’s a beautiful sight, the cold can limit your options for exploring the canyon. Temperatures average in the low- to mid-80s from June through August and in the low- to mid-70s in May and September. Rain is scarce at the Grand Canyon, with March, July and August the wettest months with average precipitation levels of about 2 inches.
Join a guided mule tour and you can ride down into the canyon from either the north or the south rim. Overnight trips are available and include food and lodging at Phantom Ranch near the Colorado River. One-hour, three-hour and half-day trips are also available, with options to ride down into the canyon or remain on trails around the rim. Xanterra and Canyon Trail Rides are the National Park Service’s official partners for mule rides; each company has different regulations for age, weight limits and height requirements, so check out the rules before you book.
Rafting the Colorado River is another way to view the Grand Canyon, providing a different perspective than you’ll get from the traditional tourist viewing spots up above. A handful of companies offer rafting trips, with options for everything from short excursions to full-service, seven-day tours that include camping and food. Western River Expeditions is among the companies offering overnight rafting trips, with three-, four- and seven-day trips available. Age and physical requirements vary by company and by length of trip.
Grand Canyon National Park encompasses more than 1.2 million acres of land, some of which is best viewed from on foot. The north and south rims each offer designated hiking trails that provide views of the canyon and its surrounding forest. You can also hike on designated trails down into the canyon from either side, and can camp at developed sites down below or stay overnight at Phantom Ranch, which is the only place you’ll be able to cross the Colorado River. Among the more heavily traveled trails down into the canyon are the Bright Angel Trail, the South Kaibab Trail and the North Kaibab Trail.
Helicopter and airplane tours of the Grand Canyon are available every day from a variety of locations. Tourists fly in daily from Las Vegas, the Phoenix area and dozens of other locations for scenic tours. If you’re staying near the canyon and want to embark on an aerial tour, head to Grand Canyon National Park Airport, from which a handful of fixed-wing airplane and helicopter operators offer daily trips.
- National Park Service: Grand Canyon: Mule Trips
- Western River Expeditions: Grand Canyon Rafting Vacations
- Weather.com: Monthly Weather Averages and Records for Grand Canyon, AZ
- Grand Canyon National Park: Scenic Air Trips
- Grand Canyon National Park: Hiking Guide
- National Park Service: Grand Canyon: Hiking Frequently Asked Questions
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