Like most national parks, the summer months are the busiest at Grand Canyon National Park, with tens of thousands of people visiting the park between June and August.
With its location in a hot climate, there is plenty to do in the Grand Canyon throughout the year.
Here are 15 of the best things to do when you’re at Grand Canyon National Park.
Things to do in summer
Visit the park’s indoor attractions. It’s hot in the summertime in the Grand Canyon, creating a need for an escape from the heat. This is a good time to check out some of the park’s air-conditioned attractions.
This includes Hopi House, which offers two levels of Native American arts and crafts displays, including pottery, painting, and jewelry. Also, visit the Yavapai Geology Museum, which features a topographic relief model of the canyon in Grand Canyon Village.
Other indoor attractions include the Tusayan Ruins, Fred Harvey History Museum, and the Grand Canyon’s visitor’s center complex.
Hiking is perhaps the best way to explore the park. That said, summertime temperatures can reach well into the 80s and beyond in the Grand Canyon. That, coupled with the lack of cover in much of the canyon, can make hiking strenuous and even dangerous. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy hiking in the summertime.
By planning ahead, some of the park’s top trails, including the Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail can still be enjoyed in these hotter months. Plan to bring plenty of water and snacks and dress appropriately in stout hiking boots. Although these trails are quite long, even just short hikes down these paths offer the reward of stunning views.
Read More : 11 Things to Bring for A Day Hike
Go whitewater rafting
One of the more thrilling ways to experience the Grand Canyon is whitewater rafting, which is best done during the heat of the summer. More than 20,000 visitors raft the canyon each year. The Colorado River ranges from exciting rapids to slow drift between the canyon’s steep travertine walls on calm water.
With single-day and multi-day trips available, there are plenty of options for all kinds of experiences. Numerous outfitters close to the park and as far away as Flagstaff offer rafting experiences.
Things to do in fall
Backwoods backpacking and camping trips are some of the best ways to see all that the Grand Canyon has to offer. However, this can be a challenge in the summertime when temperatures rise to dangerous levels of and water is a limited resource. With the arrival of cooler temperatures in the fall, backpacking becomes a much easier experience in the Grand Canyon.
There are numerous multi-day backpacking trips throughout the park, with many outfitters offering guided trips. Rim-to-rim trips that take you from the North Rim to the South Rim are quite popular. Popular backwoods campgrounds include Cottonwood Campground and Bright Angel Campground.
Just be sure to bring along rain pants and jackets and a good tent as the autumn is a rainy season at the Grand Canyon.
Go horseback riding
One of the more popular ways of viewing the Grand Canyon is by horse. These experiences involve riding a horse down the Canyon’s trails. Horseback riding is one of the ways to connect with the Canyons’ history of horseback riding, as mule trips have been taking place in the canyon for more than a century.
There are many outfitters that provide visitors with single-day and multi-day horseback riding experiences. Multi-day trips will take you deeper into the canyon with pack mules toting along overnight supplies.
These thrilling rides involve descents down narrow trails alongside steep cliffs. Popular trips include Abyss Overlook and overnight trips to Phantom Ranch.
Cycling is a great way to enjoy the Grand Canyon, offering you stunning views as you pedal along. While extreme temperatures make biking uncomfortable during the summer months, cooler fall weather makes this the perfect time to explore the park on two wheels. The park includes about 13 miles of road and greenway trails that allow you to explore the park.
Bikes are allowed on all paved and unpaved roads on the park’s South Rim side.
One of the best routes is scenic Hermit Road. Since the road is close to traffic through the fall, you’ll only have to contend with shuttle buses. The Hermit Road Greenway trail is also accessible on this route. This nearly 3-mile bicycle path skirts the rim of the Grand Canyon, offering amazing views.
Just don’t forget your water bottle as it can still get hot in the fall.
Things to do in winter
Take the scenic route
Winter affords a wonderful opportunity to take the park’s scenic drives, many of which are closed to traffic from the spring through the fall. This includes the 7-mile Hermit Road.
Weather during the winter can be unpredictable, but this affords an excellent time to see the Canyon’s views frosted with a layer of snow.
This is also a great time to enjoy the canyon by letting someone else do the driving. Take the park’s shuttle routes, two of which are open in the wintertime, including the Village Route and Kaibab Rim.
Go for a hike
With a fraction of the crowds, you’ll see at other times of the year in the Grand Canyon, wintertime is a great opportunity to take advantage of much of the park’s hiking trails, especially since most of the trails in the South Rim are open all year round.
While you’ll need to be wary of snow and ice, short hikes down the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails are excellent winter hiking options. As snow and ice are not uncommon this time of year, trails can be treacherous in the wintertime, make sure to come prepared with good winter hiking boots, a winter jacket, and hiking poles.
Go cross country skiing
The road that connects the North Rim to the South Rim is snow-covered and closed to traffic this time of year, making it a great opportunity for cross country skiing or snowshoeing. There are many outfitters in the Grand Canyon that will provide you with the proper gear for this trek.
It’s an opportunity for a short day trip or a longer 45 miles trek from Jacob Lake to North Rim.
Don’t forget to come prepared with the proper winter clothing, including jackets, gloves, and hats. If you plan a longer trek, make sure to talk to rangers and make detailed plans ahead of time as there are no bailout options on this road in the wintertime.
Things to do in spring
Spring brings back warmer temperatures at the park; however, the parks’ large population of crowds have yet to arrive. This makes camping in the park in the spring a great option.
And, given the fact that just two campgrounds exist inside of the park, camping during the peak periods can be a challenge. Both Mather Campground and North Rim Campground book well in advance.
Spring offers a much easier time to find an available spot. Whether in a tent or an RV, camping is one of the best ways to experience the park. Just keep in mind that spring weather can be unpredictable, so pack accordingly with a proper three-season tent, jackets, sleeping bags, and other apparel.
For those thrillseekers, ziplining offers an opportunity to experience the grand canyon in a whole different way. Grand Canyon West features a 3,500-foot zipline that allows visitors to zip over the Grand Canyon. There are few zipline experiences in the country that can match that.
Other thrill-seeking options include Skywalk, a glass walkway that extends 70 feet over the canyon, allowing you to see down into the massive gorge by looking between your feet. The North Rim also offers a variety of bungee jumping opportunities. It’s a one-of-a-kind spring break experience.
The Grand Canyon is famous for its amazing geology, breathtaking views, and beautiful rock formations. It’s also home to unprecedented historical and cultural treasures. Spring offers a good time to visit these attractions without the massive crowds.
Sites include the Yavapai Geology Museum, which explains the Grand Canyon’s formation, the Tusayan Museum, and Ruins, which tells the story of the Pueblo Indians, and architectural attractions Desert view Watchtowers and Hopi House, and Holb studio, which is a photography studio on the rim of the canyon.
Things to do with kids
Take a train ride
Trains are an exciting way to view the canyon for children. The Grand Canyon offers a fully restored, WWII-era passenger train. It includes a mock train robbery by bandits that is sure to thrill children.
Take the train from nearby Williams into the Grand Canyon to the Grand Canyon Depot. Passengers travel to the Canyon in restored 1920s and 1950s coaches, and some trains feature observation cars with full glass ceilings. The railroad between Williams and the Grand Canyon carries some 240,000 passengers a year.
Take a short hike
Many of the hikes in the Grand Canyon are long and strenuous with dangerous drop-offs. There are some hikes that are suitable for younger children, including the walk to Shoshone Point, this short jaunt features little elevation change but offers a tremendous view of the Grand Canyon.
It also includes picnic tables, making this a great option for a lunchtime hike. Other kid-friendly hikes include the Cliff Springs Trail, Roosevelt Point Trail, and Bridle Trail. Just remember to take water bottles, snacks, and proper footwear for these trips as even short hikes can be tougher for shorter legs in the warmer months.
Bike the Rim Trail
This 3-mile section of paved Greenway is an excellent way to view the Grand Canyon for families with kids. This route is five miles one way and features very little elevation change and zero car traffic, making it an excellent option for families with older kids and younger children who can take in the sites from a bike trailer.
Bright Angel Bicycle Rentals offer bike and trailer rentals at the Grand Canyon Visitors Center. This trail can get hot in the summertime, so don’t forget to pack plenty of water and salty snacks.
Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.