Visiting the Grand Canyon

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Perhaps the most impressive of the natural wonders1 of the United States, and certainly of Arizona, the Grand Canyon is now one of the most powerful tourist pulls of the world. This enormous hole in the ground attracts five million people every year. And with this enormously recognizable image, it has attracted its own airline2, an expedition company and a veritable host of lodging, eating and shopping franchises.



One of the best hotels of North America lies at the Grand Canyon. Most hotels offer tours and various activities of the Canyon. Being near an old Hopi Tribe village, tours and visits to ruins are often provided. Every major hotel company in America stakes a claim around the area, including Holiday Inn, Best Western and many other chains.

Somewhat less expensive and extensive accommodations are available. There are several campgrounds available for the more stingy traveller3.


Of course the hotels offer many fine restaurants, but other than that, there are several good places, both around the national park and surrounding areas. Being in a south western state, don't expect many vegetarian foods.

The Grand Canyon also has a wide variety of fast food outlets. The areas around the park additionally have fine native cuisine and some dinner shows. Or if you prefer to cook on your vacation, there are some grocery stores in the park.


Having a huge attraction of tourism, the Grand Canyon also has many tourist fed shops. Besides stands on the side of the road, there are many souvenir shops around. Some typical souvenirs include arts and crafts of Native Tribes, like baskets, pottery, rugs and other various things.


The Grand Canyon is the Mount Everest for hikers4. It offers a challenge, physically and mentally. The descending sides offer many rocks jarred loose from years of erosion. Within it is hundreds of rock walls, valleys and cliffs. The huge landscape does more than make you small, it warps your perspective and in seeing the whole mountain it leaves out the details and pitfalls of the trails.

Hiking or traveling along the side of the mountain is considered one of the most beautiful sights and endearing experiences of America. In fact, it's probably the only tourist trap in the USA that lives up to all the hype, besides the Mall of America.

Aerial Tours

In aerial travel, there are three different ways to fly. Helicopter, airplane and hot air balloon. The Grand Canyon offers them all. From up above, you can see the entire hole as a whole.

Airplanes offer a generally longer tour. They can stay airborne for hours, while helicopters and balloons are more suited to shorter tours. While it's true that airplanes are more expensive than a hot air balloon or helicopter, it is much safer in some respects.

A helicopter tour can manouvre itself much closer to the Canyon, and can go some places where airplanes can't. Helicopters also generally offer a much better view, with larger windows and doors. Additionally, helicopters can give the more exciting experience, in thinking that you're going to die. There are at least four helicopter companies around the area.

Hot air balloons tours aren't as central to the canyon. Many tours wouldn't even be over the Grand Canyon. But still, for a more scenic view5,
hot air balloons are a good choice.

Horseback Riding

Horseback tours are good for the person who wants to see the canyon, but doesn't want to walk. Tours usually lead to the rim through the forests surrounding it. While the tours don't go into the canyon, or around it for very long, it is worth seeing the areas around it as well as the Grand Canyon itself.

You can also ride a burro down into the canyon itself. They tend to be much softer and padded than horses.

River Rafting

The Grand Canyon's Colorado River has led to the creation of rivr rafting. Since it goes through the center of the canyon, one can see the walls at a leisurely pace. There are no white water rapids, so the tour is more drifting than rafting.


The Grand Canyon Railway is a historical recreation of the early 1990s. This train is more for entertainment (historical entertainment, including a shootout) than travel, though it does go to the canyon daily.

Other Travel Tips

People are advised to remember two major things. One- although the Grand Canyon provides for the very essentials shopping, eating, sleeping, and aerial tours, it is still in a remote part of the desert. The closest major city is Flagstaff6, which is still quite far from the park. Two- the Grand Canyon is a National Park, and being so, it has a number of rules to protect the enviroment around it. Don't bring things in you won't take out with you when you leave.

Even with a few small businesses around the park, including auto repair and film shops, they are often very crowded, and the long wait for such things may be unavoidable. It's good advice to be prepared and water, a variety of clothes and an indestructible camera. If packing lightly, one would be advised to visit the Southern Rim, as it has more services.

Be aware that in the area of the Grand Canyon, they do not observe daylight savings times, as they are in Mountain Standard time.

Weather around the area can be harsh at times in the summer, but in the winter7 it can snow. One would be well adviced to prepare for the weather (As well as temperature at different elevations) and pack appropriately.

Why Go?

The Grand Canyon is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. No matter how unlikely it may seem that you're going to be awed by a hole in the ground, it would probably happen. Against all odds, almost anyone you will talk to that has been there will try to impart a feeling that you can only get by seeing it.

I guess it's hard to describe in words, but the first time I visited the Grand Canyon (in the 70s when I was a boy) it had a tremendous impact on me ... that impact is never diminished, every time I return
1In fact one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Others include Victoria Falls, the Northern Lights, Mount Everest, the Great Barrier Reef, The Harbor at Rio De Janeiro and the Paricutin Volcano2It's really just a flying tour of 100 miles but they call it an airline.3Or perhaps someone who wants to "rough it"4That is non-mountain hikers5...of a less scenic place6Though you can get to Las Vegas is a few hours7Being 2100 metres above sea-level

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