Looking for the best things to do at the Grand Canyon? I’ve written this epic guide to help you get the most out of your trip to this spectacular destination.
Ah, the Grand Canyon. Not just a pretty face – this colossal natural formation is packed with hidden caves, scenic trails and wonderful outdoor activities.
If you’ve never been, prepare to be blown away. No matter how many pictures you see, how many videos you watch, nothing can prepare you for the scale of the Grand Canyon – layers of shapely rock delving down into the abyss, winding away to the horizon metre by metre, as far as the eye can see.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times now and I still feel as if I haven’t even scratched the surface – there’s just so much to do and so little time. BRB, just booking my next flight out there…
Planning a trip? Carry on reading, my friend!
Tip: If you’re looking for the perfect accommodation for your trip, I highly suggest Yavapai Lodge – it’s budget-friendly, clean and spacious, and perfectly located.
Top 5 Things to Do in the Grand Canyon National Park
Go on a (Very) Scenic Drive
A visit to the Grand Canyon really is a suckerpunch of gorgeous views – take it from me, no Grand Canyon visit is complete without the token scenic drive.
My fave is the Desert View Drive as the views really are swoonworthy. Expect stunning panoramic views of the canyon and the Colorado River – perfect for sharpening up those photography skills.
Drive along the East Rim for 23 miles (37km), starting from Mile Marker 241.5 near South Entrance road.
You’ll pass six canyon viewpoints including Navajo Point and the aptly-named Grandview Point along the way… not to mention four picnic areas. Load up your basket with goodies, unwind, and absorb the magical scenery – pure bliss.
Hike the Stunningly Beautiful South Rim Trail
I’m not gonna lie – the South Rim trail is the real highlight of the Grand Canyon.
Sure, other trails like the Bright Angel (covered below) take you into the canyon itself, but they’re strenuous… verging on gruelling and don’t offer the same scale of views you get from the rim.
The South Rim Trail is no walk in the park. Verging on 14 miles, tackling it in the hot sun is always going to be a bit of a challenge, but the lack of super-steep climbs and the rewarding views make it well worth the effort.
There are plenty of maps and signposts to help you follow the trail (plus, I mean, you are broadly just following the rim, so it’s kind of tough to get lost on it) but if you aren’t as confident a hiker, you’re better off booking a a South Rim guided tour.
Watch the Sunset
Eye-poppingly-beautiful sunsets? Tick.
The Grand Canyon boasts an abundance of stunning viewpoints such as the Ooh Aah (yup, that’s what it’s called, and that’s exactly what you’ll find yourself saying as you watch the glowing colours of the last light cascade over the canyon), Hopi and many more.
In fact, the South Rim alone has over 50 viewpoints.
And, if you’re struggling to pick a spot (I know, I know, there are so many to choose from), start with Mohave or Pima Point for dreamy sunset views – and the best pictures, of course.
Read Next: The Best Places to Watch the Sunrise and Sunset in the Grand Canyon
Take a Thrilling Helicopter Ride Over the Grand Canyon
It probably won’t come as a surprise if I say that few things come close to hovering above one of the deepest gorges on earth in a helicopter.
So if you’re craving a sense of adventure, then why not fly over the Grand Canyon on this exciting helicopter tour?
This was another real highlight from my most recent Arizona road trip – zooming over the canyon seeing into the depths you can only get the merest glimpse of from the rim.
The ride itself lasts around 30-minutes during the day or at sunset. The guided tour will take you to 3-4 of the best viewpoints, and you can see incredible formations such as the Tower of Ra and the Dragon Corridor.
Top Tip: Book your helicopter tour and pay the extra $50 for the seat upfront for the best views
Try a Spot of Stargazing
The sun may rule over the Grand Canyon, but the stars come out to play at night. The Grand Canyon is one of the best destinations for stargazing in the US due to its elevation of 7,000 feet and low light pollution levels.
To see the night sky up close, join the telescope viewing tucked behind the South Rim Visitor Centre. Or, some telescopes are set up on the porch of Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim every evening.
Though, there’s nothing stopping you from packing your own telescope and nerding out over the night sky (… just me? Okay then). To be honest, the skies are so clear that there’s enough you can see with the naked eye to get you geeking out big time.
Stargazing in summer is best as that’s when the Milky Way is at its most visible.
I recommend going after 9 pm for a magical stargazing expedition – even better if you can time it when there’s a new moon or the moon hasn’t risen / has set for the night for maximum visibility.
Brilliant Things to Do in the Grand Canyon — South Rim
Soooo, the main question is South or North Rim?
Honestly, I say take the time to explore both (plus a day in the West Rim if you’re a thrillseeker like me). That said, the South Rim is by far the go-to area for first-time visitors. It’s open all year round and boasts a handful of fun activities.
Go Horseback Riding at the Canyon
It’s no secret that I’m the first to hop on horseback in a new place – so why not see the Grand Canyon on horseback?
The guided horseback tours offered by the Apache stables are a unique way to venture into the canyon. Top that off with a campfire meal, and you’re basically Clint Eastwood starring in a classic western film. Yeeeee ha!
Hike the Bright Angel Trail
Though I reckon you should totally treat yourself to a helicopter ride that lets you see the Grand Canyon from a bird’s-eye view, scouting this glorious gorge on foot can unearth hidden crevices and unveil rock formations only seen close-up.
That’s where the Bright Angel Trail comes in…
You’ll need to be in the South Rim to get on this beautiful path, and the trailhead will be slightly west of the Bright Angel Lodge.
The hike is moderate to strenuous, about 8 miles (12.9km) long and takes 5-6 hours to complete on average – don’t let this put you off, it’s one of the most rewarding hikes you’ll ever undertake.
Visit Shoshone Point
Yeah yeah, the Mather Point is an iconic viewpoint near the South Main Entrance – but that’s where most visitors flock.
Let me spill the tea on a lesser-known viewpoint that will take your breath away… the South Rim’s best-kept secret: Shoshone Point.
Take the unmarked trail east of Yaki Point to start your journey. From here, continue on a pleasant stroll through pine trees, spot a deer or two, and finally end up at the stunning viewpoint. Thank me later.
Have a Bite to Eat at the Village Historic District
Looking for an authentic taste of Arizona? Of course you are. The Arizona Steakhouse is an excellent choice – their mouthwatering dishes spring from an indigenous cuisine that few foodies are familiar with.
The dining space is a blend of wild west chic, and the food offerings range from ribs to pulled pork burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches. Basically, it’s good ol’ comfort food that you’ll definitely be craving after a day of hiking in the canyon.
Oh, and there’s a decent plant-based menu for vegans – a rarity in a southwestern steakhouse.
Brilliant Things to See & Do in the Grand Canyon — North Rim
Once you’ve explored the South Rim, you can move up to North Rim to find some of the best things to do at the Grand Canyon.
If you fancy an authentic Grand Canyon experience, the North Rim is ideal for camping adventures.
The North Rim Campground operates seasonally between May 15th and October 15th, and it receives fewer visitors than the South Rim. Which means you’re basically guaranteed seclusion and privacy.
You’ll also find several hiking trails, unparalleled canyon views, and plentiful wildlife roaming about nearby.
Brilliant Things to See & Do in the Grand Canyon — West Rim
The West Rim may not be as popular as its Southern counterpart, however, this part of the canyon offers activities and hidden gems to leave a lasting impression.
Soar Above the Canyon
No, this isn’t another helicopter tour, I promise. If you’re a daredevil, why not soar 500 ft above the canyon like an eagle?
To go zip-lining, you must have a General Admissions Ticket to the Hualapai Reservation – you can then proceed to check the availability of the zip-lining tickets and reserve your place at Hualapai Point.
Skywalk Across the Gorge
If you’ve been cursed with a fear of heights, you’ll want to skip this one. But to all my brave-hearted companions, get ready to cross the world’s second biggest canyon on a glass bridge. This fantastic tour grants you VIP access to the skywalk.
Things to Do in Grand Canyon: Practical Tips for Your Trip
Now I’ve armed you with plenty of things to do in the Grand Canyon, you can start planning your trip with these practical tips.
How Long to Visit the Grand Canyon?
This depends on what you want to do – I advise you not to skimp out on time.
A one-day visit is enough as you can catch the sunset, hike into the canyon and check out all the viewpoints within a day. However, two nights will seal the deal to discover even more things to do at the Grand Canyon – ideally, spend a day each in the North, South, and West Rim.
Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon?
This site receives nearly five million visitors annually as one of the world’s seven natural wonders. But an ideal time for Grand Canyon activities is during spring and autumn.
Spring has perfect weather for sightseeing; it’s sunny but not too scorching. You’ll also see wildflowers bloom and spot baby animals during this time.
July and August draw the most crowds, and most trails are open. But if you prefer less noise, then autumn is your best bet.
Where Should I Stay in the Grand Canyon?
I’ve already written a post about where to stay at the Grand Canyon – but these are my favourite places.
Yavapai Lodge (Mid-Range)
What better way to experience the Grand Canyon than by staying on-site?
I’ve stayed at Yavapai Lodge and can vouch that it offers guests a comfortable stay and convenience with its prime location in the canyon. The site features two restaurants and an alluring bar for you to enjoy.
The Grand Hotel (Luxury)
The Grand Canyon Hotel measures up to its name. This 5-star accommodation treats you to a luxurious stay topped with an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, and fitness area.
The ideal location and natural scenery make it easy to reach the Grand Canyon. The Bright Angel trailhead sits only 12 km from the property.
Recommended Tours at the Grand Canyon
- Day Tour from Las Vegas
- Grand Canyon Railway Roundtrip
- Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour
- Horseback Tour of the Grand Canyon
- South Rim Guided Tour
Things to Do in Grand Canyon: Map
Things to do in the Grand Canyon: Read Next
- Unmissable Things to do in Arizona
- Where to Stay in the Grand Canyon
- Unmissable Grand Canyon Hikes
- Taking a Helicopter Over the Grand Canyon
- 2 Days in the Grand Canyon | A Brilliant Itinerary
- The Best Places for Sunrise and Sunset in the Grand Canyon
- The Best Airbnbs for Your Grand Canyon Stay
- 4 Stunning Grand Canyon Road Trip Itineraries
- How to Find the Best Views of the Grand Canyon