At every majestic red, brown and pink turn, Grand Canyon National Park wows with nature’s utmost beauty on full display. The scenery has been around for millions of years, but how you take it all in, and what activities you choose, can make quite the difference to your overall experience. There are more than 130 trails within this Arizona park, plus museums to explore, lodges to cozy into and water activities to enjoy.
The Grand Canyon is a global destination that offers more than 1.2 million acres of rocky, woodsy, and Colorado River, landscapes. It’s a paradise that appeals to every type of traveler, from family-centric outings to the most challenging of hikes. Amid the options, here are the top things to do at Grand Canyon National Park.
Immerse yourself in the best experiences the world has to offer with our email newsletter delivered weekly into your inbox. The South Kaibab Trail is a well-maintained dirt path that offers expansive views from the South Rim © Jeremy Wade Shockley / Getty Images
1. Hike Bright Angel Trail or South Kaibab Trail
Everything from a death-defying, drop-filled, 11-mile jaunt (the Nankoweap Trail) to a flat straight-shot to panoramic vistas (Shoshone Point) await. The quintessential trails at the Grand Canyon – each with a range of difficulties within them – are the nearly 8-mile Bright Angel Trail and the 6-plus mile South Kaibab Trail. They’re all located in the South Rim, provide stunning lookouts such as Ooh Aah Point on the South Kaibab Trail and descend into the canyon.
Planning tip: The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with its busiest hours from 10am to 4pm. Arrive early (or late) to avoid the crowds.
2. Kayak the curvy Horseshoe Bend
You guessed it, Horseshoe Bend is sandstone wizardry in the shape of its namesake. Dipping more than 1000 feet to the Colorado River below, the trailhead to this popular attraction is located just south of the town Page. While the trail provides 1.2 miles of sweeping beauty, opt for a kayak adventure for a bottom-to-top perspective. Companies like Kayak Horseshoe Bend and Kayak the Colorado have the goods – and, if desired, guides – to make it happen.
Detour: For more boating adventures, head 15 minutes north to Lake Powell, where operators like Lake Powell Boat Tours offer excursions.
Mather Point is one of the more accessible South Rim lookouts over the Grand Canyon © Jay Yuan / Shutterstock
3. Absorb the canyon’s majesty from several viewpoints
The argument could be made that every step in Grand Canyon National Park provides a viewpoint of its own. However, there are a handful of viewpoints within the park that are easily accessible for all (and with guardrails) along the South Rim’s main drag (Desert View Drive / Route 64). These include the primed-for-a-sunset Mather Point, partially paved Mohave Point and Grandview Point, in which the Colorado River bends below.
4. Venture to the South Rim via Grand Canyon Railway
Getting to the Grand Canyon is half the fun. Sure, you can embark on a desert journey from Las Vegas via car, or weave through towering hardwoods en route from Flagstaff. However you may arrive, consider doing the last leg via the Grand Canyon Railway. With daily routes from Williams, Arizona – approximately 60 miles south of Grand Canyon Village – the railway provides the perfect hybrid of desert and forest landscapes. And it’s always a hoot onboard with Western-inspired entertainment that the whole family will enjoy.
Planning tip: The train departs Williams at 9:30am daily and returns at 3:30pm, with the exception of November through December. With this schedule, you have approximately three hours and 45 minutes at the canyon.
White water rafting © Kimberly Harmon / EyeEm / Getty Images
5. White-water raft on the Colorado River
There are few things more refreshing than a hearty splash of the Colorado River after a trek through an often blazing-hot canyon. For more than just a quick dip in the water, why not make a day out of it with a rafting trip? April through October are the best months for rafting, and companies like Grand Canyon Expeditions know exactly where to take the half-day and full-day thrill seekers and tranquil floaters alike.
Planning tip: Beyond half-day and full-day adventures, there are three- to five-day rafting and boating trips you can take from Las Vegas. Advantage Grand Canyon is a comprehensive site that has all of the options available in one spot.
6. Don’t forget a North Rim excursion
The bulk of the Grand Canyon’s buzziest spots – Bright Angel Trail, Desert View Watchtower and the Trail of Time being among them – are at the South Rim. But let’s not forget the generally more remote and less developed North Rim. Some of the best viewpoints in all of this part of The Southwest are to be found here, including Cape Royal and Point Imperial.
Planning tip: The North Rim is open May 15 through December 1 annually and is otherwise closed to vehicular traffic.
7. Gawk at landscape-inspired art at Kolb Studio
As if Grand Canyon National Park wasn’t a piece of art in itself, there is an actual art studio on-site, too. Situated on a cliff along the South Rim, Kolb Studio was once a family residence and photo studio. Today, this multi-level cabin boasts vintage photos from its namesakes – brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb – as well as paintings and portraits of folks exploring the canyon’s acreage in times past. The contrast between the swirling humanity within the museum and photos of humble beginnings may induce a goosebump or two.
Young woman cycling through Grand Canyon park © Getty Images
8. Take in layered vistas with a bike ride along the South Rim Trail
Between the hikes, strolls and drives, add in a bike ride for a full experience. Along the South Rim is a wonderfully paved, 13-mile route with canyon vistas every pedal of the way. Bikes and e-bikes are now permitted in the park and, if you left yours at home, Bright Angel Bicycles and GC-Bikes are tucked near the rim in Grand Canyon Village with offerings for adults and kids alike.
Local tip: When you tire, the park’s shuttle bus system has bike racks. The shuttle stops almost every mile of the 13-mile stretch and runs every 15 to 30 minutes.
9. Stay at Phantom Ranch or another woodsy in-park lodge
As for the only lodging option below the canyon rim? That would be Phantom Ranch, which is nestled alongside Bright Angel Creek and just a half mile from the banks of the Colorado River. The grounds have 11 cabins as well as single-sex dormitories. Reservations are typically booked up months in advance. Beyond Phantom Ranch, there is a handful of above-rim lodges within the park, too, including the Maswik Lodge South, which opened in 2022, Charles Wittlesey-designed El Tovar and the contemporary, cement-draped Kachina Lodge.