Canyon South Rim
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Hiking famous the Bright Angel trail on the Grand Canyon's South Rim.
Photo by Hermann Luyken
If you must cool your heels in the Colorado River, there are two ways down to the bottom of the canyon: by foot or by mule. Mule trips, like rafting, need to be booked at least a year ahead and include simple accommodation overnight at the bottom, for about $500 per person.
Hiking is the real deal but it's a long way down on the Bright Angel or Kaibab Trail, and even longer back up. Fit people, beware. Unfit innocents, don't do it, at least not all the way down. And preferably book at least one night at the cheap and basic Phantom Ranch, the only lodging option at the bottom of the canyon.
However, you don't have to hike the entire way down to the River to enjoy the views. A mile and a half down the Bright Angel Trail to the first rest stop is awesome. Start just before dawn to beat the heat in summertime, when no one is on the trail and watch the sun rise over the canyon. The only way to do this is to make reservations in the park, wake up early and make your way to the rim. Be prepared, and don't hike in flip flops!
Mather Point Sightseeing, South Rim.
Don't consider driving to both North and South Rims unless you're ready for 215 miles of slow roads between the two. Bottom line is, you've got to see the Grand Canyon but try to leave time to do something other than just looking over the edge...
The best months to visit the Grand Canyon are May and September, not July/August when most trippers go, it gets very hot and rains a lot.
Indian Camping Ground, Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon.
Indian Garden Campground is located in a beautiful tranquil area filled with cottonwood trees. A small creek passes through on its way to the Colorado River. To camp in this zone you must obtain a backcountry permit.
Indian Garden is 4.8 miles below the South Rim and has a ranger station, emergency phone, year-round potable water, and toilets. Mule trains stop to rest on their way to Phantom Ranch. Day hike destinations from here include Plateau Point, with panoramic views of the Colorado River.
Every campsite at Indian Garden Campground has a picnic table, pack pole, and metal food storage can.
Plateau Point is 1.5 miles (2.4 km ) beyond Indian Garden. Getting here is a day hike that takes from 8-12 hours. The total round trip is 12.2 miles ( 19.6 km ) and the change in elevation is 3,195 feet ( 974 m).
Cliff Springs Trail, Grand Canyon.
The Cliff Springs Trail is an easy one mile round-trip walk taking about an hour.
The trail meanders down a forested ravine and ends where a chest-high boulder rests under a large overhang. The spring is on the cliff side of the boulder. President Roosevelt once camped here.
The Trail begins directly across the road from a small pullout on a curve a few hundred feet down the road from Cape Royal.
Cedar Ridge seen from Ooo Aah Point on the South Kaibab trail
Photo by OrangeSuedeSofa
Of course you could take a white water ride through the canyon that would be wild, but you'd better book it way in advance. In fact the National Park Service permits only one private trip to leave Lee's Ferry (the nearest launch point above the Grand Canyon) daily, and there is now a 13 year waiting list! Yes, you read it right, thirteen years!
Of course there are several pricey, mega tourist rafts a day that don't have quite the same frisson of thrills, spills and a turbulent death by drowning.
Marble Canyon Navajo pedestrian bridge 467 ft (142m) above the Colorado River.
Photo by Michael Quinn
Float into the Grand Canyon on a raft on the Colorado river. Most packages offer 280-mile, 15-18 day raft excursions of the canyon, but book a year in advance. All manner of combination trips are available.e.g. The outfitter OARS offers a seven-to-eight-day journey that combines hiking into the canyon from the South Rim with rafting on the Colorado and a helicopter flight out of the canyon with costs well over $3,000 pp.
The Hualapai's glass skywalk observation bridge.
Photo by LasLovarga
Then there's a stroll onto the Hualapai Indian's Glass Skywalk that projects 70ft (20m) out from the Canyon Rim so you feel you are walking on 4,000 ft(1,220m) of air. Opened in March 2007 visitors have to pay to enter the Hualapai Indian National Park as well as $25 to walk on the scary glass along with a maximum of 119 others.
Location: the southwest rim at Grand Canyon West, 55 miles from Peach
Springs on Route 66 or 47 miles from Pierce Ferry Road off Route 93.
From: Las Vegas NV, 121 miles; Flagstaff, AZ, 216 miles; Phoenix AZ, 253 miles; Scottsdale AZ 273 miles; Sedona AZ, 249 miles; LA via Hoover Dam, 375 miles.
Don't miss the Desert View Watchtower at the canyon's eastern edge, built by architect Mary Colter in 1932.
Colter based her design on Pueblo peoples' lookout towers, and commissioned local artists to decorate the interior with murals and copies of ancient petroglyphs discovered in and around the park. It's like climbing into a four-storey dream.
Buy something at Hopi House - Colter's 1905 re-creation of a Hopi pueblo - and support local American Indian artists. Even if you don't purchase jewellery, Navajo rugs, or an American Indian pot, this is the place to learn about local traditions. For instance, the Santa Clara pueblo has kept up an unbroken tradition of pottery-making since pre-Columbian times, while the Jemez tradition died out and has recently been reestablished – making Jemez pots a relative bargain.