A few hours: With only a few hours to experience the Grand Canyon, your best bet is an air or helicopter tour. Fly in and out from Vegas and you’ll pass the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead along the way, fly over the dramatic drops of the canyon and, if your budget allows, they’ll take you down inside to experience what it feels like to look up at all that rock and down at the river below. All topped off with, of course, a champagne toast. What could be better?
A day: If your time is limited to only one day, maximize your time and your Grand Canyon experience. Get up early and head to Navajo Point for sunrise. Then head into Grand Canyon Village for breakfast at El Tovar’s grand dining room. Hop the shuttle to Desert Point and see one of Mary Coulter’s great works, Indian Watchtower, which offers great views of the canyon and the Painted Desert to the east. Take the shuttle back to town, grab sandwiches and water and head out for a short hike down Bright Angel Trail. Climb back out and grab the shuttle to Hermit’s Rest. On your way back, stop at Pima Point for a dramatic view and a gorgeous sunset. You’ll make it back to the village in time to head back home.
A few days: With more than a day to explore, you can make more of your time. As the North Rim is a real time commitment, the South Rim is still your destination. Book overnights inside the gates if you can at El Tovar or Bright Angel Lodge and ask for canyon views. You might as well make the most of your time and have the canyon at your fingertips! If you’re mobile enough, plan a short hike for each morning before the day gets too hot. There are plenty to choose from, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a few that suite your experience and fitness level. Make it back in time for lunch and once had, head out on the shuttle to experience some of the canyons amazing views. Plan on heading east one day and take in Desert View and Indian Tower, the Tusayan Ruins and Grandview Point. Head west another day and hit Hermit’s Rest and Pima Point. Try to include the historic buildings at Grand Canyon Village. They each have a distinct and decidedly western history you won’t want to miss. And be sure to take in a sunrise and a sunset at some point. You’ll leave tired but you’ll have gotten all you came for.
A week: For the real back-to-nature outdoorsman and with a week to explore, the North Rim is a must do. The views and hiking are outstanding and the feeling of being more isolated from crowds and modern life appeals. But for those wanting to experience more than nature and beauty, the South Rim is still your destination. Fly into Williams where you can choose from taking the Grand Canyon Railway to Grand Canyon Village and book time at one of the lodges for easy access to all the South Rim sites. Or if you’re up for a real adventure, book a rafting tour! If you have the time and the physical ability, rafting the canyon is the way to go. Floating down the green water, exploring side canyons unavailable otherwise, running rapids and sleeping under the stars; nothing provides a more up-close-and-personal experience. And you benefit from the knowledge of the guides. Most end at or at least stop at Phantom Ranch and you’ll be taken out by mule or a dramatic hike up Bright Angel Trail, taking in the canyon at all elevations. If you can tack on enough time, don’t miss the gorgeous Havasu Canyon. You won’t be disappointed!