Plan ahead: Mule rides require at least a six-month advance reservation—longer for the busy season (most can be reserved up to 13 months in advance). Multiday rafting trips should be reserved at least a year in advance.
Once you arrive, pick up the free detailed map and the Guide, a newspaper with a schedule of free programs, at any of the visitor centers. The free Grand Canyon Accessibility Guide is also available.
The park is most crowded on the South Rim, especially near the south entrance and in Grand Canyon Village, as well as on the scenic drives, particularly the 23-mile Desert View Drive.
Grand Canyon in 1 Day
Start early, pack a picnic lunch, and drive to the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Visitor Center, just north of the south entrance, to pick up info and see your first incredible view at Mather Point. Continue east along Desert View Drive for about 2 miles to Yaki Point. Next, continue driving 7 miles east to Grandview Point for a good view of the buttes Krishna Shrine and Vishnu Temple. Go 4 miles east and catch the view at Moran Point,then 3 miles to the Tusayan Ruin and Museum, where a small display is devoted to the history of the Ancestral Puebloans. Continue another mile east to Lipan Point to view the Colorado River. In less than a mile, you'll arrive at Navajo Point, the highest elevation on the South Rim. Desert View and Watchtower is the final attraction along Desert View Drive.
On your return drive, stop off at any of the picnic areas for lunch. Once back at Grand Canyon Village, walk the paved Rim Trail to Maricopa Point. Along the way, pick up souvenirs in the village and stop at historic El Tovar Hotel for dinner (be sure to make reservations well in advance). If you have time, take the shuttle on Hermit Road to Hermits Rest, 7 miles away. Along that route, Hopi Point and Powell Point are excellent spots to watch the sunset.
Grand Canyon in 3 Days
On Day 1, follow the one-day itinerary for the morning, but spend more time exploring Desert View Drive and enjoy a leisurely picnic lunch. Later, drive 30 miles beyond Desert View to Cameron Trading Post, which has a good restaurant and is an interesting side trip. Travel Hermit Road on your second morning, and drive to Grand Canyon Airport for a late-morning small plane or helicopter tour. Have lunch in Tusayan and cool off at the IMAX film Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets. Back in the village, take a free ranger-led program. On your third day, hike partway down the canyon on Bright Angel Trail. It takes twice as long to hike back up, so plan accordingly. Get trail maps at Grand Canyon Visitor Center, and bring plenty of water.
Alternatively, spend Days 2 and 3 exploring the remote West Rim, 150 miles toward Nevada or California and far away from major highways. Fill the first day with a horseback ride along the rim, a helicopter ride into the canyon, or a pontoon boat ride on the Colorado River. The next day, raft the Class V–VII rapids. Another option is to get a tribal permit and spend Days 2 and 3 in Havasu Canyon, a truly spiritual backcountry experience. You can opt to hike, ride horseback, or take a helicopter 8 miles down to the small village of Supai and the Havasupai Lodge.
Grand Canyon in 5 Days
Between mid-May and the end of October, you can visit the North Rim as well as the South. Follow the three-day South Rim itinerary and, early on your fourth day, start the long but rewarding drive to the North Rim. The most popular short trails here are Transept Trail, which starts near the Grand Canyon Lodge, and Cliff Springs Trail, which starts near Cape Royal. Before leaving the area, drive Cape Royal Road 11 miles to Point Imperial—at 8,803 feet, it's the highest vista on either rim. A visit to the North Rim can also work well with a three-day trip, especially if you’re headed north toward Zion or Bryce national parks in southern Utah.