For serious backpackers, casual day-trippers, and adventurous families alike, the Grand Canyon is a must-see attraction waiting to be checked off their bucket list. Nearly five million visitors flock to the Grand Canyon each year to marvel at the canyon’s sweeping vistas, learn about its rich history, and explore its many trails.
Because of its size, it can be somewhat tricky to cram everything you want to do at the Grand Canyon into a single day. However, when my family and I recently took a trip to Sedona, I knew I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see the Grand Canyon, if only for a few hours. Better to have seen it briefly and leaving wanting to go back then to have never seen it at all!
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” -Gandalf the Grey
Much to my delight, my family and I were able to make the most of our day in the park, and experience it in a way that felt fulfilling but not exhausting. To help you do the same, I’ve written three tips to ensure you take full advantage of your time at the Grand Canyon. After all, it is one of the seven wonders of the world, and who knows if you’ll make it back to see it twice!
Take killer photos, but don’t kill yourself for the perfect photo
I can not stress this enough: safety always comes first. I don’t know how many people I saw throughout my trip to the Grand Canyon risking their lives for a selfie. There are many areas of the Grand Canyon that don’t have railings and also offer killer (pun intended) views of the park. While it seems like it would be common sense not to stand too close to the edge, I learned during my visit (and subsequent reading of the book Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon) that numerous people have died this way over the years.
I love a good photo op just as much as anyone else, but I made sure not to put myself in any truly dangerous situations close to the edge. With that said, I do recommend taking ample time at the beginning of your visit to take as many photos as you like. The Grand Canyon is a trip you’ll want to remember for the rest of your life, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to remember what you looked like before hiking all day in the hot Arizona sun.
Get into it, but make sure you can get back out
If at all possible, I would highly recommend going on a hike during your visit to the Grand Canyon. The sweeping views from up above will take your breath away, but there are some details of the canyon that you simply must go over the edge and into the canyon to fully appreciate.
My family and I decided to hike a portion of the Bright Angel Trail, which is located on the South Rim. The trail is 12.2 miles roundtrip, but we decided to turn around at about the halfway point. Hiking this trail in the summer heat is no joke, and I would highly suggest bringing plenty of water and listening to your body. It’s easy to get caught up in the beautiful scenery on the way down and not realize how taxing it’ll be to climb back up and out of the canyon.
If you’re looking for a shorter hike, the Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge is 3 miles roundtrip, or Grandview Trail to the first overlook is about 2.5 miles roundtrip, but a bit more rugged. No matter which trail you choose or how far you go, I promise you won’t regret taking the opportunity to see the canyon up close.
Take advantage of park resources
One of my favorite parts of our day in the park ended up being a presentation we saw by one of the park rangers. She taught us all about the California condor, a rare bird sometimes spotted in the canyon. Although we didn’t see one during our trip, my family and I really enjoyed learning all about them from one of the highly knowledgeable park rangers. Be sure to make time during your trip to learn about the park by reading the signs, making a stop at the visitor center, or attending one of the park ranger programs.
Another unexpected highlight of our trip was the ice cream! Nothing is better after a long hike on a hot August day than grabbing a root beer float from Bright Angel Fountain. It’s located right on the rim of the canyon just a short distance away from the Bright Angel Trail Head. I’d recommend packing a lunch for your day trip to the canyon (food can be expensive in the park) and saving your money for a post-hike ice cream cone instead.
And there you have it! Those are my top three tips for enjoying your limited time at the Grand Canyon. Have you ever been to the park before? What made your time there so special?