In this article I’ll cover the following:
- Why you should consider visiting the Grand Canyon
- The best time of year to plan your trip
- Benefits of taking a day-trip from nearby Las Vegas
- Other things to think about (why not to day-trip)
Why visit the Grand Canyon?
Isn’t it obvious? It’s the biggest canyon in the World, right? Nope.
Grand, yes. Great, yes. But biggest? Not quite. You might be surprised to know that the Grand Canyon is neither the deepest, nor longest, nor widest canyon on Earth.
However, despite not holding any of these accolades, the Grand Canyon is widely regarded as the single most impressive. It’s also listed as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of The World.
The Grand Canyon truly is a natural wonder, yet it remains exactly that – a wonder – until you experience it for yourself. To fully appreciate it’s huge scale, sheer presence, rich colours and natural beauty, you have to see it with your own eyes; in real life that is, not through a TV or computer screen!
When should I visit?
There are 2 main factors to consider here – weather and crowds.
At the height of summer, temperatures reach a scorching 40℃/104℉ and rainfall is not uncommon. At the other end of the spectrum, winter sees temperatures plummet to around freezing (0℃/32℉) at night. At this time of year, the North Rim is closed due to snowfall and dangerous driving conditions.
The best middle ground for weather then, is spring and autumn; March through to May and September to November have comfortable conditions for exploring.
Peak tourist season coincides with the school summer holidays in July and August. However, the park starts to get busy in June (usually after Memorial Day at the end of May) and crowds can linger into September (generally until Labor Day).
Whilst coming in the heart of winter would guarantee less crowds, a visit in the shoulder seasons would also see significantly fewer people.
Taking both weather and crowds into consideration, here is when I would recommend visiting the Grand Canyon:
➲ North Rim – last 2 weeks of May, or end of September/early October (the North Rim is closed from 15th October to 15th May each year).
➲ South Rim – March, April, October or November (the South Rim is open year-round and has a slightly warmer climate than the North Rim).
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Benefits of a day trip
When I visited the Grand Canyon, I went as part of a tour group from Las Vegas. Here are the obvious benefits that I found from utilising this option:
➲ Less hassle – a guided tour takes the hassle out of organising your own rental vehicle, food, directions etc.
➲ Meet new people – without the need to drive, you can spend the journey time chatting to other members of your tour group.
➲ Time effective – if you’re on a whistle-stop tour of the USA then being able to visit the Grand Canyon in a single day becomes an attractive opportunity.
➲ Cost efficient – for individuals, paying for a place on an organised tour would be cheaper than getting a rental vehicle all to yourself.
As you can see, these benefits largely apply to solo travellers. Therefore, larger groups – or even couples – might be better off hiring a car for the day and driving themselves. You’d be able to stop whenever you like, drive to places not on the tour itinerary and generally have more freedom.
Other things to consider
However, with all that being said, I would actually recommend NOT day-tripping to the Grand Canyon. DO visit, but DON’T choose a day trip. Here’s why:
Essentially, day trips are extremely limiting – all you’re really seeing is the tip of the iceberg.
The Grand Canyon has so much to offer but if you have strict time constraints then you’re going to miss virtually everything of any value. Sure, you’ll get views from the canyon rim and snap a few nice pics, but at the the end of the day that’s what most visitors do. Don’t you want to be different and witness the canyon from an alternative perspective?
It’s not even about being different though – it’s just the fact that there’s so much to do in the Grand Canyon. You could – and probably should – spend a week here (upon returning I intend to spend at least 5 days)! Once you realise that there’s more to the canyon than just views from the rim, you’ll see it in a different light and start planning extra aspects to your trip.
There are activities to suit all budgets, ages and physical abilities. Here are just a few of those ideas:
➲ Hike from one side of the canyon to the other – a 34km overnight hike with camping or lodging on the canyon floor.
➲ Visit the Hualapai Tribe and walk out onto the glass floored Skywalk at the canyon’s West Rim (outside the National Park boundaries).
➲ Go rafting down the mighty Colorado River – choose from a half-day trip all the way up to a crazy 25-day self guided rafting experience!
➲ Get a birds-eye-view by taking a helicopter ride over the canyon – go at sunset for maximum awe.
➲ Hire bicycles to zoom along the South Rim trail – cover greater distance and see more in less time.
➲ Ride a donkey down below the canyon rim – get an alternative perspective without the need for strenuous hiking.
For more details about all of these options, the National Park Service website is a great source of information: www.nps.gov.
If, after all this, you’re thinking to yourself “but I really only have 1 day to visit the Grand Canyon”, then sure, do a day trip – seeing a small part is better than not seeing it at all! But, if you can afford a few extra days, then I’m pretty sure spending them exploring the Grand Canyon will be worth your time.