Best Ways To Tour The Grand Canyon

Updated Feb 24, 2020

A world heritage site. One of the unofficial wonders of the world. Top five in the must-see-places-before-you-die list. Yes, we are talking about the Grand Canyon. Before the excitement gets to you and you rush off on a Grand Canyon Tour without any guided notion or itinerary in hand, we recommend you read this. There are several ways to tour the Grand Canyon, but it pays to understand its topography and basic layout beforehand. Having a mental image of what lies before you helps you plan that itinerary well and make that Grand Canyon trip truly memorable.

One of the best ways to take in the Grand Canyon’s beauty is to view the Canyon from its north and south rims, hike down to the Inner Canyon, take a boat ride along the Colorado and finally, take an aerial tour to get a bird’s eye view of the splendor that lies below. Depending on the length of your stay, you can choose to camp in the Inner Canyon, or closer to civilization and creature comforts in the North or South Rim campgrounds.  For the more adventurous, there are Grand Canyon rafting camping trips galore.

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The South Rim

This is the starting point for most visitors. Entry into the South Rim can be made either along US 180 from Flagstaff and the south or AZ 64 from Williams and the west. With its formidable line up accommodation options, a nearby airport, several restaurants, a bustling Tusayan Village, a word famous IMAX theatre and several large RV campsites, it is no wonder that visitors make this spot, the first point of entry. The Backcountry office is also located here. Grand Canyon South Rim has stunning drives with gorgeous viewpoints such as Mather Point or Yavapai Point which can easily be accessed by car.

 Visitor Center, Grand Canyon South Rim

Visitor Center, Grand Canyon South Rim

The North Rim

The North Rim is the more rugged of the two and offers pristine and unadulterated view of the Grand Canyon’s wilderness. The journey from the south rim to the north rim of the Grand Canyon is very scenic and takes about 5 hours and is 215 miles long. Being higher in elevation than its southern counterpart, the Grand Canyon North Rim is much cooler. It is closed in winter. But in summer offers lodging and camping options, for which reservations are recommended. Several popular trailheads are also found along the North Rim.

Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon North Rim. Photo by Mark Freeman and obtained via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Inner Canyon

Several trailheads which start in the North and South Rims lead directly to the Inner Canyon. No Grand Canyon Adventure is complete without a hike into the Inner Canyon which is 4,700 feet below the South Rim and 5,700 feet below the North Rim. Day Hiking requires no permit, but for those interested in staying overnight, a permit can be obtained from the Backcountry office located in the South Rim. Overnight accommodation is available at a shady and popular oasis called Phantom Ranch.

Phantom Ranch

Phantom Ranch. Photo under the Creative Commons NPS.

The Colorado River

The Emerald green waters of the Colorado run right through the middle of the canyon and beckon, people of all ages. From calm placid waters, to raging white waters, there are Grand Canyon rafting tours of all kinds. River running is an adventure to savor and requires a high level of expertise. This is the reason why most visitors prefer to run the river with commercial outfitters.

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Did you know that the Colorado River is due to lose up to 31% of it’s flow by the mid-century? This could affect 40 million people.  Why, because we’re drawing unsustainable amounts of water from it, but abnomally low precipitation and hot, dry condiitions have been shrinking it for years . This will likely worsen as climate change takes a toll, so get out there and experience it now while you can.

Grand Canyon Rafting

Grand Canyon Rafting Photo by Grand Canyon Expeditions.

Aerial Extravaganza

Fly over the vast gorge and see it all at once. Grand Canyon helicopter and airplane tours give you a fresh new perspective and never seen before views of the Canyon. There are several commercial aircraft operators flying from just outside the National park or even from Las Vegas, Nevada. The ride is yours to choose.

Grand Canyon Airlines

Grand Canyon scenic views from the air.

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