Did you know the Grand Canyon is larger than the state of Rhode Island? This National Park is a mile deep, 277 miles long, and 18 miles wide. It is also the most visited National Park in the United States due to its accessibility and just awestruck views that take your breath away. While this park is designated After visiting this location several times this past year, we wanted to share our ideal 3-day itinerary, which we believe encompasses the best experiences in Grand Canyon National Park.
Activities to do:
One of the most sought out trails in the world is the Grand Canyon’s Rim to Rim Trail. Only 23 miles long one way, many strive to hike it in just one day. This hike will take about 12-15 hours to complete and this time includes recommended breaks that should be taken throughout the day. The best time of year to hike this trail is between May and October when both rims are open but be mindful of the summer months as the canyon floor reaches temperatures in the high 90s. To learn more about this trail and what starting point is best for you, head on over to the complete Rim to Rim Grand Canyon Hike Guide.
If you’re looking for an adventure much easier than that, try one that doesn’t require you to move at all, stargazing. This National Park offers the best views of the night sky in the entire state. Some of the best spots to view the night sky are from the South Rim at Mather Point, Lipan Point, and the Desert Watchtower, and if you didn’t want to stay in the darkness too long each of these viewpoints also offers spectacular sunrise and sunset views. Be sure to give your eyes at least 10 minutes to adjust to the darkness and avoid looking at headlights, lamps, screens, and more so you can take in the night sky in its entirety.
This one is an untraditional activity recommendation but one of the best ways to take in the canyon is from the sky above it. If you have a short amount of time to spend in the area but want to take it all in before driving to your next destination, try a helicopter tour. You fly over several destinations within the Canyon and around it such as the Hoover Dam, Colorado River, and Lake Mead. Depending on what tour you choose you can choose a take-off from the Grand Canyon itself, or Las Vegas if you didn’t want to make your way down to Arizona.
Another untraditional recommendation we have is River Rafting through the Canyon. This activity is perfect for the adrenaline junkie in your family but if you want to take the calmer tour, then opt for a trip to Glen Canyon which is 75 miles northeast of the Grand Canyon. This tour will take you to the west side of the canyon where the river is rougher and can get you the most excited. To check out your options for river rafting, click the link here.
Passes & Permits:
The Grand Canyon does require you to pay upon entry as most National Parks do. This gives you full free range of the park and you can hike any of the trails you choose. However, if you are going to be hiking/ camping overnight you are required to obtain a backcountry hiking permit. Once you obtain your permit, you are not allowed to deviate from the permitted itinerary. To learn more about how to obtain a permit, visit the National Park Website here.
Grand Canyon Weather
When planning your trip to this National Park it’s extremely important to consider the weather you’ll be facing when you’re here. The winters have seen several inches of snow and temperatures in the negatives and the summers are very dry and scorching especially on the canyon floor. See below what you can expect during each season so that you can better plan your trip for yourself and your family.
Summer – With temperature highs averaging at 105 degrees and lows in the 70’s, you can definitely feel the heat. While you may be visiting the park just to admire its views, hydration will be just as important even though your movement will be minimal. If you chose to hike the canyon, remember that the bottom will be about 20 to 25 degrees warmer than at the Rim so pace yourselves and be safe.
Fall – A beautiful time to visit the park as temperatures are starting to cool down and crowds are diminishing. However, weather this time of year can be unpredictable. Surprise rainstorms are common as the canyon is capable of producing its own weather systems so don’t forget your rain gear during this season.
Winter – Winter is one of our favorite seasons here due to the smaller crowds but it is cold and slippery. During the day, temperatures warm up just enough to melt some of the snow but then cause black ice overnight. On average, you can expect highs in the ’50s and lows in the ’30s but during our last venture here, our team started their day with temperatures in the negatives. Be sure to carry proper attire with you and if your dog is joining you, if you’re cold, your pup is even colder.
Spring – You can start exploring the canyon without feeling like you’re freezing! And if you’re planning on hiking the Canyon, both Rims are now open and the crowds haven’t quite hit their peaks. The Rim temperatures are becoming comfortable but don’t forget that the floor will be about 20-25 degrees warmer so prepare for both cooler and warmer temperatures and drink water accordingly.
The Grand Canyon is a photographer’s dream. From sunrise to sunset, and even into the night, the canyon shows a different face, one more beautiful than the next. To learn more about some of our favorite photo spots read our list below.
- Mather Point
- Yaki Point
- Hopi Point
- Pima Point
- The Night Sky
- Yavapai Point
- Lipan Point
Remember, be mindful of those around you, watch your footing and not every viewpoint has a railing and keep the park clean & pristine so we can continue to share it with others.
When visiting this National Park, you won’t feel short of amenities. There are several gas stations, restaurants, lodging, and stores right outside the park entrance as well as in Williams, Arizona just an hour south of the park. Given the South Rim is open all year, you will find a lot more amenities on this side of the park than you will on the North Rim.
There are a handful of gas stations at both the north and south rim as well as in Williams, Arizona. There is also a mechanics shop in the Grand Canyon village should you run into any car troubles while on your trip.
Cell Phone Service
Within the park, cell service is spotty so don’t expect a reliable signal until you leave and are in the Grand Canyon village right outside of the entrance. Once you leave that area, the signal will be spotty again as you drive away from the park towards Williams, Arizona.
Firewood is available for purchase at the Villages Market Store and while it may be tempting, gathering wood, even starter twigs, is prohibited within the park so come prepared with these items.
There are a few general stores and delis in the Grand Canyon Village but if you’re looking for a full stock up of your fridge then the best place to do this is in Williams, Arizona. They have a large grocery store and are able to accommodate all your nutrition needs.
There is a handful of dumping stations available and some of them are located at the Mather Campground (Free), North Rim Campground (Free to Guests), and at the Grand Canyon Camper Village ($3 Fee for Guests, $6 Fee for Non Guests).
Pets are allowed in Grand Canyon National but only in the park’s developed areas i.e. campgrounds, paved roads, etc. While they are allowed in these areas they still must remain on their leash and need to be supervised at all times. For more information on where you can stay and what you can do with your pup in tow, read here.
Where to stay
From Camping to Hotel stays there will be plenty to choose from, but all of these accommodations fill up months in advance so a trip to the Grand Canyon isn’t one to just come up with on the fly.
There are several campgrounds to choose from and all of which require reservations. These fill up fast and will be booked for months so just check in regularly to try and secure your spot. All campgrounds have no access to hookups.
- On the RIM
- Mather Campground (Open Year Round)
- Desert View Campground
- North Rim Campground
- Trailer Village (Located outside of the campground and does have hookups)
- In the Canyon (Permits Are Required)
- Bright Angel Campground
- Phantom Ranch
- Cottonwood Campground
What’s great about the Grand Canyon is that it’s surrounded by thousands of acres available for dispersed camping. Permits are not required which makes traveling here easy so if you’re interested in learning more about the dispersed camping areas, head on over to the TMBTENT website.
There are a few hotels located right outside of the park’s entrance but these will be fully booked for months and tend to be much more expensive so keep that in mind for your travel plans. However, while these may be full, you will find better luck in Williams, Arizona which is an hour outside of the park and if you were looking to stay in an actual city, Sedona Arizona is just another half-hour down the road.
Day #1 Itinerary
Depending on what adventure you want to focus on, your trip to the Grand Canyon can be as short as one day or as long as one week but we put together an itinerary perfect for the weekender. No matter what you do though, we recommend entering the park in the morning. This park can experience up to two-hour wait times just to enter so plan your day accordingly.
Morning: If souvenirs are your thing, head on over to the visitors center and gift shop as they open because the lines will get long. Check-in with park rangers to learn about possible road closures and must-see attractions as they change season to season.
Afternoon: Drive to the Desert View Watchtower. With several viewpoints along this 22-mile long road, this scenic drive will be sure to fill up your afternoon. Pullover at Moran Point and enjoy a picnic of a view.
Evening: Watch the sunset and stay to see the stars. The park at night is very calm and as the visitors make their way out of the park, the animals make their way in. You can find elk, horses, coyotes, and other animals exploring the land at this time which makes for a fun wrap to an evening.
Day #2 Itinerary
Morning: Rise and Shine! We recommend heading to the park early to watch the sunrise. You will be able to see the hikers starting their day in the canyon below and see the glow of the canyon as the sun starts to make its appearance. You won’t have a sunrise quite like this one so have your camera ready.
Afternoon: Visit the Yavapai Museum of Geology and learn all about the rock formations that make up the Grand Canyon. You can learn about the millions of years worth of rock layers that are missing, and why each layer of the canyon has its own color, shape, and texture.
Evening: Because of the early rise you had today, we recommend taking the evening easy and grabbing dinner at Yavapai Tavern. Try their regional craft beers, classic pub food, and just enjoy the atmosphere before calling it a night.
Day #3 Itinerary
Morning: If you’re looking to get just a little bit more adventure in before heading home, visit one of the many other local attractions. For the animal lovers, stop by Bearizona near Williams, Arizona, and experience a drive-thru zoo experience. Here you can see bears, burros, wolves, and more.
Afternoon: If Flagstaff is on your way out, visit Buffalo Park. This park will let you get one last taste of Arizona and a final stretch of the legs before making your final trek home.