Grand Canyon planning starts with the basics. Here's what you need to know to visit this iconic park (no matter if your travel styles are wild and a bit wimpy like me!)
Few locations capture the beauty, mystery, and romance of the American Southwest like the Grand Canyon. This extraordinary natural wonder captivates thousands of people each year and for good reason – it really is stunning! While extraordinary adventures are everywhere to be found, the Grand Canyon is still a wonderful destination for anti-adventurists like me! You could spend days admiring the scenic vistas, honing your photography skills, and enjoying informative presentations from the renowned park rangers. But Grand Canyon planning starts with the basics. Here's what you need to know to organize your trip.
What and Where is the Grand Canyon?
The term “Grand Canyon” refers to the massive natural canyon; and the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park do encompass most of this canyon. However, parts of it are on independent land and on aboriginal territory. The famous Sky Walk (way too adventuresome for me!), isn't within the National Park boundaries, to the surprise of many tourists. It can take as much as 6 hours to drive to different sections of the canyon, so make sure you plan your trip accordingly –distances are deceiving! Getting lost in the desert is one adventure you don't want!
Mother Nature Rules
Even extremely experienced hikers and outdoors people run into serious trouble in the Grand Canyon, and, sadly, deaths are not uncommon. Even anti-adventurists just heading out for a short nature walk should heed warnings to bring water, snacks, sturdy shoes, and sun protection – and expect cold nights.
Those on independent excursions should do extensive research in advance, check in with the park rangers, and proceed with caution.
Smell the Roses - and the Cactus Blooms!
Be sure to pace yourself. Park rangers adamantly urge hikers to not attempt a rim-to-rim or down-and-back trip in one day. This is no place to rush! Take the time to savor the experience, enjoy the natural surroundings, and take care of your body so you will feel fit and strong the next day.
Endless Activities for Everyone at the Grand Canyon
Whether your adventure tastes run mild or wild, chances are you will fall in love with this gorgeous place. There really is something for all ages, abilities, interests, and budgets. Activities range from simple walking paths to the popular 2 day mule trek to month long excursions rafting the Colorado River. You can experience hot air balloon rides, cave exploration, rugged climbing, and be part of volunteer restoration missions. Periodically, the chance to participate in archaeological digs, wild condor tracking, and pictograph preservation comes available.
Finding a Grand Canyon Outfitter
There are hundreds of independent tour operators that specialize in planning Grand Canyon adventures. With so many choices, how can you find a reputable outfitter? Try to get personal recommendations from someone you trust, consult a reputable guidebook, and narrow down your choices by looking at some peer review sites. Choose someone who has been in business for a while to benefit from their experience. Small groups mean more personalized attention. Read the very fine print – often, companies will neglect to mention additional fees to pass through the aboriginal reservation or admission fees to the National Park.
Say Hi to the Neighbours
While the Grand Canyon is one of the most famous sites in the word, it does not sit in isolation. The American Southwest is an absolute gold mine of jaw dropping national and state parks. If you can’t find an activity or program at the Grand Canyon, consider a neighbouring park such as Zion or Bryce Canyon.
The nearby small city of Flagstaff is home to three national monuments and plenty of great attractions and made it onto my list of great cities for first time travelers.
Final Advice? Plan Ahead!
There’s no hidden secret here – the whole world knows how phenomenal the Grand Canyon really is! But with a little research, you can have a great experience – there are lots of tips to spend less and experience more. Accommodations in the park can book ahead as much as 13 months in advance and certain park activities are done on a lottery system. Plan ahead for your own fitness as well – now is the time to start getting in shape so you are ready for whatever the canyon throws at you!
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Would the legendary Grand Canyon tempt you to push your limits and seek adventure?
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