A Traveler’s Guide to the Grand Canyon

If you’re planning a trip to North America, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t visit the Grand Canyon. Its colossal length, height and geological features attract millions of visitors every year from all over the world. This 40 million year-old structure is the result of erosion caused by the Colorado river, and it’s so huge it’s unbelievable!

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The Grand Canyon isn’t merely a crack in the ground. Its official length is 446km, with a height of up to 1.8km and a width in some parts of up to 29km! Take a moment to let that settle in. When you stand at the Canyon’s edge, gazing out at its brilliant cliffs and studded mesas that align the canyon floor, it’s easy to feel very very small. It’s no surprise that this famous attraction is always considered a wonder of the natural world. Oh, that’s right – one more thing: It’s the scene of one of the most glorious sunsets in the entire world.

Have we convinced you to go? Good. In our vast experience seeing the Canyon, we have compiled a few tips and experiences to share that may help you plan your journey.

North Rim or South Rim?

The South Rim

The canyon runs more or less horizontally across northern Arizona, and the two main places to tour, hike and stay are located in the middle. These two viewing points face each other on opposite sides of the canyon. They are the North Rim and the South Rim. The South rim attracts more tourists, is open all-year-round, and is also home to towns, supermarkets, visitors centres and bars. The South Rim offers helicopter tours, mule rides down the canyon, and a skybridge over the canyon (with a glass floor!). The North rim is quieter and far more secluded – consisting only of a small lodge, a dining area, and some cozy cabins.

The North Rim

In my first trip to the Grand Canyon, I stayed in a town called Tusayan on the South Rim. On my second trip, I visited the North Rim. Simply put, unless you want a peaceful mountain getaway, visit the South Rim. The South Rim is where all the action is at, although it is far hotter in the summer months. There are plenty of hikes and things to see, and if gazing at natural wonders isn’t your thing, there’s always bowling or a movie theatre.

That’s not to say the North Rim was bad! It was beautiful in a different way. It’s greener and quieter. It’s peaceful. It gives you the canyon without the noisy distractions of civilization. Some like it better like that. But if you’re after a bigger, more intense experience, go South!

Take a Helicopter Tour – It’s worth it

My first visit to the Grand Canyon was with the Trek America tour company, and the helicopter tour was listed as an optional extra. The price was over $100USD, but let me say it was well worth it. The views of the canyon from above are spectacular! Make sure you don’t forget your camera, because you’ll see some breathtaking sights here. Throughout the flight, the pilot told us about the history of the canyon and pointed out the canyon’s interesting features.

There are a few helicopter tour companies that depart from Las Vegas, but my advice is not to take these. Instead drive to the South Rim and use a company based within the National Park. It will be far cheaper and far more breathtaking!

Go hiking, but don’t go too far down!

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My tour group before a big hike down the Canyon

To some, the Grand Canyon may look like the hiking challenge of a lifetime. Hiking the Canyon is extremely pleasurable. And even if you’re not into long walks, there are mules available at a cost to help you down. BUT REMEMBER: the Canyon from top to bottom is 1.8km, so walking to the bottom and back up in one day is near-impossible. Don’t even try to do it. Not only will you suffer exhaustion, but you may run out of water, carbs and even shelter as the sun begins to disappear on the horizon. Instead plan short walks, or if you’re really fit, a multiple day hike with plenty of supplies. My tour group did a 3-4 hour walk, and it was a fantastic experience.

Watch the Sunset

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Sunset from the Canyon’s North Rim

It’s one of the most peaceful moments you’ll experience. The colourful skies wash the vast rocky canyon in gold, the windless silence, the awe and amazement of tourists all combine to create an atmosphere unlike any other. It’s perfect.

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