Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon Nation Park for sure is one of the most famous national parks within the United States. Each year it attracts a vast number of visitors from all over the States and even from all over the world. Covering an area of almost 2.000 square miles, it offers one of the most impressive sceneries in the Rocky Mountains. It is an excellent place for hiking, which is the best way to explore wildlife and wildflowers, but also to access the more than 2.000 prehistoric Indian sites in the Grand Canyon. Here and there you will also encounter abandoned mining camps which stem back to the nineteenth century.
Getting thereThe two main entrances to the park are the South Rim Entrance Station and the North Rim Entrance Station. Both can easily be accessed when arriving through Arizona or when approaching the park from the north, respectively. Be sure to check if the entrance you are planning to use is open. Especially during the winter months, this may not be guaranteed, as the North Rim Entrance is usually not open during the winter months.
Outside the park, lodging is available in Tusayan about 1 mile before the south park entrance. From here it is about a 20 minute drive to the closest south rim overlook Mather Point and the Visitor Center. Inside the park, the Bright Angel Lodge and the campground are available. It pays off to compare prices: The Bright Angel Lodge even be less expensive than the motels in Tusayan. During the off-season, lodging should never be a problem.
Exploring the parkThe Grand Canyon National Park offers hiking at various levels. However, one should be aware that virtually all of the many beautiful hikes down into the Grand Canyon are very strenuous. The height difference from the rim top down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is more than 5.000 feet. It is very important that you know your limits, especially if you plan a dayhike down into the Grand Canyon. While it is easier to return when walking uphill a mountain, the Grand Canyon in the end makes you walk uphill when you want to return to your car or shelter. Be sure to plan your trip and check with the Visitor Center for conditions and hazards. Watch the weather and take plenty of water. In the summer months, it may be extremely hot, with temperatures in the hundreds or above, while in the winter, the rim may be covered with snow and temperatures may be far below the freezing point. There are also other hazards about which the Visitor Center will inform you thoroughly.
DayhikesThe easiest form of exploring the park is along the south rim. A panoramic road runs along the south rim from Desert View on the east side to Bright Angel further west with many scenic outlooks next to the road. Several easy hikes at the south rim with very little change in elevation are available, such as the Tusayan Ruin Trail (0.2 miles) to a prehistoric Pueblo structure, or the Rim Trail. The Rim Trail is about 9 miles in total and mostly level. Sections of this trail can be hiked by itself, as it can be accessed from all the major viewpoints along the south rim. Some of these outlooks can be reached by the shuttle busses (check the shedule when you get there).
OvernightersIf you are planning a multi-day hike, the Backcountry Office is the first place to go. Here you can obtain all necessary permits and will also find people who will help you plan your trip. Carefully plan your trip. One of the most popular backpacking-trips is the combination of Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail down to the Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch. You can then stay overnight on the Bright Angel Campground or at Phantom Ranch. Flush toilets and a bar at Phantom Ranch will make your stay more of a convenience than an adventure. If you are staying for several nights, dayhiking is available along the North Kaibab Trail towards the north rim or along the Clear Creek Trail (about 9 miles one way!).
Rooms at Phantom Ranch have to be reserved well in advance. Even during the off-season the wait may be one year! However, as there are usually no-shows, chances are good to get a spot via the waitng list as you get there, at least during the off-season.
When hiking down into the canyon from the south rim, the South Kaibab Trail offers more spectacular views over the Grand Canyon from exposed view points compared to the Bright Angel Trail, which takes you along a beautiful creek in a side canyon in the lower third of the trail. It is probably nicer to take the South Kaibab Trail downhill and the Bright Angel Trail uphill. Trail conditions are usually very good.
Drinking water is available about one third up the Bright Angel Trail at Indian Gardens. Indian Gardens is a beautiful oasis along the trail, which also offers primitive camping. This gives you the possibility to hike out of the canyon in two days, if you don't want to hike out all in one day. From Indian Garden it is about 1.5 miles to the Plateau Point, a beautiful viewpoint above the Colorado river.