Raft on Colorado River going through Grand Canyon
Whether you want leisurely or thrilling, a short jaunt or a long excursion, there's a rafting trip for you.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

8 Incredible Ways to Experience the Majesty of the Grand Canyon

Have a Grand Adventure

Despite its reputation as a frequent road trip stop, the Grand Canyon has a lot more to offer than a quick glance from the South Rim. Exploring the Grand Canyon calls for a keen sense of adventure as many activities here require a high fitness level and tolerance for the great outdoors.

For a chance to really experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world and one of the top destinations in the US, consider our picks for essential things to do at the Grand Canyon.

Whitewater Rafting Trips

One of the best ways to tour the Grand Canyon takes you straight down into it — on a whitewater rafting trip. The Colorado River has hundreds of miles of rapids from the slow, low-grade Nankoweap Rapid to the Lava Falls Rapid — one of the fastest and most well-known rapids in the world, perfect for the extreme adventure travelers in our midst.

Rafting trips range from a single day to multiple weeks, depending on how much of the canyon you want to see. Arizona Raft Adventures, based in Flagstaff, offers Upper Canyon, Lower Canyon or Full Canyon tours, which can even be combined with hiking, yoga or your own private music fest, with songs performed by your tour guides.

Helicopter on ground in the Grand CanyonSee it all aboard a helicopter flying over the Grand Canyon.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Helicopter Tour

There’s no better way to take in the awesome majesty of the Grand Canyon than with an aerial view. A number of helicopter tours take off nearby, flying over the canyon with on-board narration. For 25 to 50 minutes you’ll get to see some of the most impressive features the Grand Canyon has to offer, with views of the North, South and East Rims.

Tours, such as the ones offered by Papillon, are also great for photography and give you a chance to capture the canyon from a unique overhead angle making this one of the best Grand Canyon tourist attractions.

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Pink Jeeps lined up in parking lotAfter some wildlife sightings? Take a Jeep tour through the forest.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Jeep Safari

Grand Canyon Jeep safaris give you the chance to see some of the local wildlife that lives in nearby Kaibab National Forest. On board an open-air Jeep 4×4, you’ll journey through the forest while your guide describes the history, geology and ecology of the area.

The Grand Canyon Safari & Rim Walk adds on a walking tour, which takes you along the South Rim and through Grand Canyon Village. Although it’s still an adventurous activity, the low-key nature of the tour makes it one of the best things to do at the Grand Canyon with kids.

Stone watchtower in front of Grand CanyonThe tower houses a Pueblo meeting room and murals done in the traditional Hopi style.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Desert Viewpoint Watchtower

Did you know that the Grand Canyon has its very own castle-like structure? Built in 1932 as a homage to the original Pueblo watchtowers found all around the Southwest, the Desert Viewpoint Watchtower not only provides sweeping vistas of the Grand Canyon, but also acts as a historical landmark and museum.

The tower houses a kiva, or Pueblo meeting room, complete with furniture and a fire-pit, along with murals done in the traditional Hopi style by the painter Fred Kabotie. There’s even a gift shop on the bottom floor with Native American crafts, jewelry and souvenirs to take home with you.

People sitting on mules on trail overlooking the Grand CanyonSee the majesty of the Canyon aboard a trusty mule.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mule Trips

For an iconic experience on your Grand Canyon vacation, consider a mule trip either along the rim or into the canyon. Mule wranglers will lead the way, stopping at points of interest to rest and providing in-depth information about rock formations and local folklore.

While most rides only last a few hours, Xanterra Travel Collection has overnight rides into the canyon with lodging at the historic Phantom Ranch. Because of the popularity of these trips, stays are booked through a lottery system, which books 10 months in advance for a desired stay.

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Woman hiking on narrow trail in Grand CanyonThe North Kaibab Trail is one of the most strenuous hikes in the Grand Canyon.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hike the North Kaibab Trail

While none of the hiking trails within the Grand Canyon are particularly easy, the North Kaibab Trail definitely ranks as one of the most strenuous. Measuring 14 miles long, this backcountry trail provides a challenging multi-day hike for solo travelers, couples and groups. Despite its difficulty, it rewards with two designated campgrounds, water and toilets along the way.

Gather your camping supplies and hit the trail. Besides the impressive rock formations inside the canyon, a hike on the North Kaibab Trail will also bring you to Ribbon Falls and the Bright Angel Trail’s Silver Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge that crosses the Colorado River.

Waterfall from red cliffs in Grand CanyonDuring the early summer and fall months the water is warm enough for swimming and cliff diving.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Havasu Falls

Within the tribal lands of the Havasupai Indians are a few different waterfalls, but one of the most picturesque is Havasu Falls, a breathtaking turquoise waterfall. During the early summer and fall months, the water is warm enough for swimming and cliff diving. However, because it’s on protected land, reservations are required for a one-night minimum stay at the tribal campground.

Demand is extremely high due to the Instagram-worthy beauty of the falls and its functionality as a swimming spot, so it’s best to plan this aspect of your Grand Canyon trip at least a year in advance.

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Skywalk above the Grand CanyonWant to look straight down into the Canyon without risking your life? Thanks to the Skywalk, you can.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Looking straight down into the Grand Canyon used to be a death wish, but that all changed in 2007 with the construction of Skywalk at Eagle Point. Extending 70-feet from the edge of the canyon, a U-shaped glass walkway allows visitors to enjoy panoramic views of the Grand Canyon, while also observing it below them.

With the addition of the Skywalk, the surrounding area has become a popular tourist attraction with multiple dining options, a gift shop, a Native American Village and an amphitheater where tribal dances are performed.

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