Are you looking for a guided group tour to the Grand Canyon, or do you yearn to strike out independently and explore the Grand Canyon your own way on a private trip? Maybe you want to take your family to the same park that impressed you so much as a child. In any case, Off the Beaten Path has you covered. Our small-group trips usually include other parklands as well as the Grand Canyon (like Zion and Horseshoe Bend), and are always led by the very best naturalist guides. Our fully tailored custom trips are designed around your specific interests and needs. We can keep you right in the Grand Canyon for some independent as well as guided hiking, or we can string together a number of parks and iconic destinations—and maybe a rafting trip on the Colorado—for your unforgettable Southwest vacation.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for things to see and do in the Grand Canyon:
Be one of the very few Grand Canyon visitors who ever dips below the rim! Hiking into the canyon is rewarding and arguably the best way to truly get a feel for the immense scale of this incredible place. That said, hiking below the rim requires careful consideration and preparation due to the combination of elevation, dryness, heat, and rugged terrain. Depending on how far you plan to hike, you might carry up to three quarts of water per person, and you must be in good shape. If you’re hiking on a hot day, we recommend an early morning start to avoid the hottest time of day. Wear a hat and sunblock, and know that it typically takes twice as long to hike out of the canyon as it does to hike in.
- South Kaibab Trail (3 miles round-trip to Cedar Ridge, six miles round-trip to Skeleton Point, Trailhead five miles east of Grand Canyon Village via Yaki Point Road Shuttle) is a great half-day outing. There’s no shade or water, so be prepared. The trail from the rim, down “the chimney,” past “ooh aah” point to Cedar Ridge is where most of the elevation change occurs. If you decide to go the extra three miles to Skeleton Point, the trail is milder. Your treat for going the extra miles is a view of the Colorado River.
- Rim Trail – Running from Hermit’s Rest to Pipe Creek (12 miles in its entirety, accessible from many points along the rim between the two endpoints) is paved between Pipe Creek (its eastern-most point) to Powell Point (in the middle), and an excellent gravel trail from Powell Point to Hermit’s Rest (its western-most point). The trail is flat to gently rolling, and offers access to all of the classic viewing points. OBP Tip: If you’re staying on the rim, set your alarm clock, have your morning cup of coffee, then walk (or jog) 1.5 miles east to Yavapai Point for one of the best places to view a sunrise. Enjoy a leisurely walk back, taking in the excellent geological time display as you go.
- South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel via Tonto Trail (13 miles and very challenging, Trailhead five miles east of Grand Canyon Village via Yaki Point Road Shuttle) is an all-day hike for the experienced hiker in good shape. The trail takes you down via the South Kaibab Trail to the Tonto Formation, a level plateau, where you’ll walk from the Kaibab Trail to the Bright Angel Trail via O’Neil Butte, Burro Spring, and Pipe Spring. From Pipe Spring, you’ll make your ascent back to the rim. En route, you’ll be treated to views of the Colorado River below, and get a great sense of the magnificence of the carved layers of rock. It is recommended to do the trail from Kaibab to Bright Angel versus the other direction since the Kaibab Trail has no shade and can get very hot and dusty in the afternoon. Water is available year-round at Indian Gardens, as well as spring, summer, and fall at the three-mile and half-mile rest houses on the Bright Angel Trail.
- Bright Angel Trail (12 miles round-trip, Trailhead just west of Bright Angel Lodge) is one of the most popular hikes in the park, taking you to Indian Gardens and Plateau Point, with gorgeous views along the way. (While the trail goes all the way down to the Colorado River five miles past Indian Garden, it is not recommended that you venture that far for a day trip.) At the very beginning of the trail, you’ll hike through a small tunnel. If you look up on the rock just after exiting the tunnel, you’ll see rock art pictographs in a rich red color.
- Hermit Trailto Dripping Springs (7 to 8 miles round trip. Trailhead at Hermits Rest 8 miles west of Grand Canyon Village) is a rather rough and less maintained trail than others, but you’ll also find more solitude. Do note that the trail grade is challenging, with larger steps to climb up and down. This can be a challenge for the 5-foot-tall and under set! Dripping Springs is a pretty little spring.
- Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa (8-mile round trip, Trailhead at Grandview Point 12 miles east of Grand Canyon Village) takes you to the mesa sitting atop the redwall limestone. This is a rugged hike with wonderful views, and Horseshoe Mesa is quite interesting. There are old mines, an old stone cabin and limestone caves, as well as a breathtaking view from the end of the mesa, where you can dangle your feet off into the canyon and watch ravens flying beneath you.
- Bright Angel Bicycle Rentals (Located in the P3 Parking Lot of the Mather Point Grand Canyon Visitors Center, 928-814-5704) allows you to venture to viewpoints along the rim on your own time, at your own pace, and without feeling like part of the herd! The outfit rents 21-speed, cruiser-style bikes for adults and children, bike trailers for the even younger set, adult tricycles, and tandem bicycles, allowing you to ride paths and roads less traveled to overlooks and other sites along the rim. They also offer shuttles and guided tours. Bicycles are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and by reservation for parties of 8 or more. Note:It is a rare day, though it happens occasionally, that they run out of bicycles.
- Bike Trails! The Tusayan Greenway and Grand Canyon Bike Route together offer 18 miles of biking and walking paths. The greenway begins at the north end of the tiny town of Tusayan and runs for 6.5 miles to the park entrance and beyond to Mather Point. From Mather Point, you can ride along roads and walkways that were formerly open to vehicles but are now open to shuttle buses only, taking you past all the various overlooks and points of interest.
Sunrise and Sunset
- Sunrise and Sunset. A fabled Grand Canyon sunrise or sunset requires planning – what time will it occur, and from which of the many overlooks or spots along the rim would you like to take in the view? Some general tips from the National Park Service are: For sunrise, the National Park Service suggests arriving 30 minutes before the sun clears the horizon and staying for an hour or longer after. For sunset, it is recommended that you arrive as many as 90 minutes before sunset and stay at least 10 minutes after the sun has set and no longer illuminates the buttes and pinnacles – the time at which the sky may turn red, pink, or orange.
- Popular points for sunset include Hopi, Pima, Powell, Yavapai, Grandview, Mohave, and Mather. If you don’t head to one of these points, we suggest you… walk to your own quiet place on the rim, don’t second guess your spot, prepare to be amazed – be amazed! Sunrise is worthy of your attention too, and Yaki Point is a choice spot!