Behind the Lens
To begin, make sure you have plenty of battery power in your camera or device. You’ll find your finger has a life of its own, and you’ll end the day with dozens or more of fabulous images of this natural wonder of the world.
The first stop on your photo excursion will likely be the iconic Mather Point – a Kaibab limestone peninsula located a literal stones’ throw from the new rim-side amphitheater – and the South Rim Visitor Center. If you arrive before mid-morning or after mid-afternoon, the sun will be low enough to cast broadening shadows over the rugged cliffs and spires of the canyon, providing a particularly impressive 3-D effect across your entire field of view.
Be sure to bring your wide-angle lens and a tripod so you can capture the star-lit night sky over the canyon. Of course, you already know that you’ll need to snap those iconic sunset and sunrise photos as well.
Birding at the Canyon is difficult to exaggerate. In 2014 the Grand Canyon was designated as a Globally Important Bird Area. Global sites hold the highest priority for conservation actions and support species of conservation concern. The Grand Canyon has played important roles for protecting various bird species, such as the endangered California condor, Mexican spotted owl, peregrine falcon and pinyon jays. With more than 379 species of birds recorded at the Grand Canyon you are sure to spot a favorite.
Those who wish to meet the outdoors on their own two feet will find a hiker’s field of dreams here. Legacy Trails – maintained by the Park Service – include Bright Angel (9 miles to Bright Angel Campground), South Kaibab (7 miles) and North Kaibab (14 miles). Visitors with mobility limitations can get close to the canyon’s edge via the 13-mile paved Rim Trail.
In all, 358 miles of trails have been established in the park; 126 of which are maintained. The non-maintained trails can be a bit challenging to follow for an inexperienced hiker. Please be sure to check with a visitor center for detailed maps and conditions before heading out for any hike. Overnight trail adventures require permits.
Rock climbing is available right in the center of the canyon at Zoroaster Temple and Mt. Hayden, though climbers are urged to be in touch with the Back Country office before beginning their ascent.
Those looking for guided or interpretive information should check out the free daily list of ranger programs offered by the National Park Service. Another great resource is the Grand Canyon Field Institute, which offers several classes and trips throughout the fall, including on-demand Family Hiking Adventures.
Adventurers wishing to cover more ground in less time can do so with their own bike or a rental from Bright Angel Bicycles and Café at Mather Point. With approximately 20 miles of Greenway trails to bike, including a newly paved six-mile section reaching all the way to Tusayan, and a nearly equal inventory of roadside miles, the canyon cyclist is afforded a trip through nature unavailable to the motorized visitor.
If you’re interested in the details of your canyon views, you’ll appreciate the in-depth information you will receive on guided Jeep tours through the canyon. The highly visible Pink Jeep Tours begin their excursions from the IMAX Theater and come equipped with convertible tops to fend off those rare instances of inclement weather. Trips of 2–3 hours in length leave frequently and stay on smooth pavement as they pursue their destinations.
Off-road tours are the specialty of Grand Canyon Jeep Tours and Safaris, and their rugged-looking vehicles reflect that focus. Tours here are from 1.5 to 4.5 hours long and include the Rim Trail, American Indian petroglyphs, sunset drives, an 80-foot fire lookout tower and a wildlife photo “expedition.”
If your vision of transport in the rugged reaches of the Grand Canyon tend more toward four legs than two wheels, mule rides are available through the park concessionaire, Xanterra. The regular mule ride starts from the rim of the Grand Canyon, down Bright Angel Trail and across the river to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. The ride usually includes dinner, overnight lodging and breakfast at the ranch. This popular journey often requires advance reservations of a year or more. There are also short mule rides offered throughout most of the year, and they travel through forest near the canyon’s rim.
Horseback rides are available through the forest to the south of the canyon, with Apache Stables offering guided campfire and horse-drawn wagon rides. Kids are welcome. You provide your own food for the cookout; Apache Stables will bring the fire. Adventures from Above
For those who like their excitement in the upper decibel range, the ultimate in outdoor awe is now offered locally – a tandem skydive from 15,000 feet above Tusayan, with views of the Grand Canyon itself. The adventure is offered by Paragon Skydive, an experienced skydiving company with more than 20,000 jumps under its collective belt.
For those of you who want to stay inside an aircraft, the South Rim offers daily helicopter and airplane tours of the canyon as well.
There are calm-water one-day adventures and one-to-three-week whitewater rafting opportunities a few hours north of the South Rim. Tours run from the spring through November.
Where to Stay
For the true outdoor adventurer, there are hundreds of camping and RV sites in and around the Grand Canyon. Those interested in more glamorous accommodations have hotel options both in the Grand Canyon and in Tusayan, located just 1.5 miles from the South Rim Entrance Station.
Want more information to make your next outdoor adventure grand? Visit grandcanyoncvb.org.
(Brought to you by the Grand Canyon Chamber and Visitors Bureau, (844) 638-2901, www.grandcanyoncvb.org.)