With close to 5 million visitors a year just to the South Rim alone, it is no secret that the Grand Canyon is a highly sought-after travel destination in the American Southwest. But, hidden within its many layers, this 277-mile-long canyon has more to offer beyond hiking and tour buses. Whether you are an avid adventurer or a creature of comfort, this geological masterpiece can turn any vacation into a life-changing experience.
When to Go
The Grand Canyon has two distinct seasons: South Rim Season and North Rim Season. The South Rim Season encompasses spring and fall, which present the most pleasant (and popular!) times of the year to visit. The North Rim Season, however, extends from summer through fall—specifically June 1st through October 1st. Given the larger forested areas located on the North Rim, this lower-traffic side of the Grand Canyon experiences temperatures in the high 80s and low 30s in August, making it surprisingly comfortable for summer break trips with the family. Plus, the aspen groves begin changing their leaves in September.
Alternatively, try visiting the South Rim in an unlikely season, the winter, often referred to as the “secret season.” With lower rates, more availability, pink and purple-hued sunsets, cooler temperatures, and the simple magic of seeing the contrast of snow falling against the bright red rock, it will be a secret that you will want to keep to yourself.
Hot Tip: The North Rim closes in the winter due to driving conditions. Plan to stay on the South Rim, considered the Grand Canyon Village.
What to Do
Hiking will always prevail as the top activity in the Grand Canyon, but we challenge you to take the path less traveled and try one of these alternative or additional activities.
Helicopter tour: See the Grand Canyon safely from above on a private helicopter tour from the South Rim. These flights run from the East and West Rims and allow for a panoramic view that few get to witness.
Mountain Biking: The North Rim is phenomenal for mountain biking with its combination of high desert vistas, forest trails, and alpine meadows. The Arizona Trail and Rainbow Rim Trail are especially scenic.
Railway Express Tour: Step away from the canyon and take a vintage train ride from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon South Rim. This fan-favorite experience is especially great for seniors and families.
Paleontology and Geology Tours: Set out with a private paleontologist or geologist to discover the Grand Canyon's 1.2 billion years of history, including its geological formation and its former residents.
Native American encounters: The Grand Canyon is home to six Native American tribes. Meet with an American Indian code talker or enjoy a Hoop Dancing presentation to engage more fully with the region's cultural identity.
Stargazing: The Grand Canyon has been designated an International Dark Sky Park, making it a sanctuary for pristine night skies. Be sure to observe the celestial beauties with a local astronomer.
Hot Tip: For the best stargazing, plan your visit around the phases of the Moon. Be sure to avoid the Full Moon for optimal star viewing. Mather Point on the South Rim and Cape Royal on the North Rim are some of the best spots for stargazing.
Where to Stay
Plan on staying at least one or two nights at the Grand Canyon. If staying in the Grand Canyon Village feels too hectic and backpacking to campgrounds is unimaginable, consider glamping. Booking a Grand Canyon glamping trip with Ker & Downey is the perfect combination of being out in nature, while also getting a good night’s rest. With home-cooked seasonal meals prepared by a private chef, private guides with exceptional knowledge, and access to secret spots away from wandering tourists, it will be a trip you will not forget.
If glamping still feels too rugged, opt for the high-end lodges like Tovar, or head to the North Rim for quieter, more remote accommodations.
Hot Tip: Alternatively, stay at the incomparable Amangiri in Canyon Point, UT and simply helicopter over to the Grand Canyon for an unforgettable day trip.
What to See
Be sure to pack binoculars to spot the many species that live in the famed 7th Wonder of the Natural World. From bald eagles, desert big horn sheep, and grey fox, to a plethora of bird and reptile species, wildlife is abundant. Specifically, be on the lookout for the endangered California condor. The species declined rapidly in the 1980s but was brought back to life thanks to The Peregrine Fund recovery program. There are now more than 400 condors flying freely in the canyon.
Hot Tip: The best time of year to spot the California condor is springtime in the Grand Canyon, especially the month of May. (source: The Peregrine Fund)
With the popularity of the Grand Canyon, planning and booking early is highly recommended. Securing backcountry permits and prime lodging requires extra lead time. We therefore recommend starting to plan a year in advance. Speak with one of our designers and tell them about your dream trip.
Want to See More?
See more national parks of the southwest on our Grand Circle itinerary where you'll spend 12 days venturing to Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Arches in Utah and Arizona.See the Itinerary
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