SouthwestNational ParksTop Nature Vacations

Choose Your Own Grand Canyon Adventure

By , March 12th, 2015

The Grand Canyon deserves its place on the list of Natural Wonders of the World. You can’t help but feel struck with awe and find yourself catching your breath as you stand at the edge of the Canyon. Continuously inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans, this site is nothing short of holy–that is, holy moly! The Grand Canyon definitely deserves a pilgrimage, so choose your Grand Canyon adventure from this scrumptious activity menu!

Choose your own adventure with the kids

Grand Canyon Arizona
Photo by Paul Hudson  CC BY

If you think the Grand Canyon looks impressive to you, imagine being a kid. You can barely grasp the sheer size of the thing without having much understanding of how it came to be. Your kid’s age should help you decide which corner of this vast territory you should visit. The South Rim is more family-centric in terms of activities while older kids would probably love to visit the Havasupai Indian Reservation or do some of the harder hikes on the North Rim.


This impressive feat of engineering is a transparent cantilever bridge swinging out above the canyon making visitors feel like they are literally walking on air. Consider carefully whether your kids are going to be afraid to step on the glass or not. It’s a hefty price to get on the Skywalk,  only accessible by driving down a 10-mile dirt road and costing a minimum of $85 just for reservation fees. Cameras or other personal equipment aren’t allowed on the Skywalk because of the potential of damaging the glass if dropped, so that prized family photo won’t be happening on the Skywalk.

Grand Canyon Skywalk
Photo by Richardjo53 CC BY

Starting from age four, aspiring rangers can earn their Junior Ranger certification, complete with a badge ceremony and swear in by proving their knowledge of the Canyon. Rangers lead the kids through activities in this free with admission program designed to get kids excited about conservation and to learn the history of the Grand Canyon. Pick up a booklet and register at any of the visitor centers a the South Rim. For those who muster the courage to hike or ride mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you’re eligible for the coveted Phantom Rattler Junior Ranger. Speaking of riding mules…

Pack Mule journey through the Grand Canyon
Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns CC BY

What a way to experience the Grand Canyon! Kids ( at least 4’7 tall) and adults have the opportunity to ride a mule, the hardy, sure-footed offspring of a horse and a donkey along the bottom of the Canyon. However, with a 13 month waiting list booking ahead is absolutely necessary! Wranglers stop and point out interesting landmarks and information about the geological formations, the history of the Native Americans indigenous to the area and the flora and fauna. Overnight rides are also possible.

Choose your own adventure with thrills

Grand Canyon Rim view
Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flig CC BY

Aside from the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon, it is a dangerous place which needs to be respected. Every year park officials are confronted with numerous rescues of unsuccessful rim-to river-to rim travelers who were defeated by the long distances, drastic changes in elevation, and weather.  Preparation is key and having a Grand Canyon adventure is in no way discouraged. Here are some ideas on how to experience the Canyon for the brave!


Grand Canyon River rafting
Photo by Grand Canyon National Park CC BY

If you’re looking for a gut-wrenching, water splashing journey, head to the Lower Grand Canyon where the journeys range from 6-9 days with Class IV and V rapids. While the trip itself is exhilarating, you’ll also reach serene areas of nature and see wildlife, including bighorn sheep and eagles that a regular trip to the Canyon doesn’t offer.  The journey starts from Phantom Ranch where you’ll travel 100 miles to Whitmore Wash, passing by Crystal Falls, Laval Falls and other famous rapids. It is best recommended to tackle the rapids with the help of professional guides who not only help navigate the river, but offer gourmet meals and information on the landscape and campfire stories.


Preparation for Grand Canyon Hike
Photo by Joshua M CC BY

The Grand Canyon is on the must-do list of many avid hikers. Grand Canyon Rangers says generally people react in one of two ways to their first Grand Canyon hiking experience: they either can’t wait to tackle it again or they never want to come back. Planning is key for hiking the Canyon, as is understanding your physical and mental aptitude. Regardless of whether you are planning on hiking overnight or just during the day, the preparation for the lack of water, extreme fluctuations in temperature and complete isolation are the same. Understand your limitations and plan to have a life changing experience. All backcountry hikers are asked to follow the Leave No Trace principals (Don’t leave any garbage) so that the Canyon undergoes minimal human impact.

Grand Canyon Backcountry
Photo by Jeremy Pawlowski CC BY

Fifteen trails and hundreds of random roads and routes will lead you to the inner canyon. If you are planning on staying overnight and camping anywhere other than the developed campground, you have to obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center at the earliest four months before your proposed start month. The trip starts at a very high elevation (around 8,000 feet) with a shaky descent down cliffs and a differential elevation of over 10,000 feet from the beginning of your trip to the end. With 1.2 million acres of land, don’t expect to meet too many other hikers — other than the animals! Buy a map from the Grand Canyon Association and get familiar with the territory you will be crossing well ahead of your journey.

Choose your own adventure in Luxury

Grand Canyon luxury
Photo by Grand Canyon National Park CC BY

Not built for dust, climbs and potential dehydration? No worries — you can still take in the natural beauty the Canyon on your own terms. Your lodging doesn’t need to include a tent and a flashlight–unless of course you’re glamping and sleeping under the stars under a down duvet. The Grand Canyon offers plenty of opportunities for luxury adventure seekers who prefer to interact with nature behind a clean pane of glass.


Get picked by a Benz from your Las Vegas hotel and climb aboard your luxury helicopter ride, flying over the Hoover Dam and the Black Canyon before descending onto the view above — the Grand Canyon from the comfort of a sightseeing helicopter. The 70-minute flight includes commentary from the pilot and a 30 minute landing at the Grand Canyon airport so you can pick up some treasured pieces of jewelery and memorabilia from the Hualapai Indian Gift Shop. Feel free to wear your heels!


Train ride through the Grand Canyon
Photo by Drew Jacksich CC BY

Take in the Grand Canyon via the Grand Canyon Railway. The vintage train slips you into a bygone era while travelling 65 miles across the Canyon, chugging through valleys of wild flowers, desert plains past the San Francisco peaks. You’ll hear the “All Aboard!” from the 1908 Williams Depot shortly after witnessing a (staged) Wild West shootout before being escorted to your cabin by a white-gloved attendant. This recreation of train travel in the 1900 means you can wear your Sunday-best and relax till you arrive at the Grand Canyon Depot, a log depot still in operation. Then you climb aboard a narrated bus tour of the Grand Canyon National Parks, showing you the most scenic and stunning parts of the Canyon. All that, and not so much as a wrinkle in your blouse!


View from L'Auberge de Sedona
Photo by L’Auberge de Sedona CC BY

A mere two-hour drive from Grand Canyon Village is the lovely L’auberge De Sedona. Situated at the banks of Oak Creek and all the Sycamore trees, your stay here will be a true tale of relaxation. Enjoy the great outdoors from your heated outdoor shower or a romantic meal for two in their award winning restaurant.

Book a stay at the idyllic Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia in Scottsdale, Arizona and just just four hours from the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Located near the Camelback Mountain, the whole resort is reminiscent of Spain’s Andalusia region. This tranquil oasis is filled with fountains and floral walkways as well as an onsite spa, three pools and an award winning restaurant.

The twinkling lights of Las Vegas are only an hour and a half away from the twinkling stars of the Grand Canyon. Stay at the Palazzo to enjoy the best of both worlds in ultimate comfort.


Find the ideal hotel for your own Grand Canyon Adventure


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Featured image courtesy of Jason Thompson, Unsplash