Grand Canyon National Park

Trips and Tours

Admiring the Grand Canyon from the rim is a bit like staring at an aerial photo of the earth—it looks pretty, but the real beauty isn't revealed without further exploration. Although it's hard to recommend a specific duration for a visit to Grand Canyon, any trip into the canyon is enriched by a foray below the rim. If you have the money and time, take a 14-day river trip. If you lack these things but are a strong, experienced backpacker, spend a few days walking on the corridor trails. If you lack the strength or skills for this—and many do—ride a mule to Phantom Ranch. All these trips require some planning. And if, by chance, none work for you, set aside a few days for sitting in quiet places on the rim. It still beats driving.

Whitewater rafting
Thirteen river companies offer trips inside Grand Canyon. All charge about $200 a day, and most fill their high-season trips months, if not years, in advance. Trips into the canyon begin at Lees Ferry and end on Lake Mead or in the far western canyon. Many companies allow passengers to join trips late (or depart them early) at Phantom Ranch. All provide food and varying amounts of camping gear. The biggest difference between companies is the type of boat used. Many companies use motorized boats, which go faster and are less likely to flip. The drawbacks to these boats is that they disrupt the silence, pollute, and travel faster from the water's natural pace. If you value the silence and a more natural experience inside the canyon, take a non-motorized trip. Among non-motorized trips, you can choose between paddle boats, in which six passengers and a guide all paddle, and oar-powered boats, in which the guides do nearly all the rowing. Many canyon visitors also take one-day, still water tours that originate at the base of Glen Canyon Dam and end at Lees Ferry, where trips into Grand Canyon start. Other options include one- and two-day trips in the far western canyon, originating at Diamond Creek on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and ending on Lake Mead.

Guided multi-day mountain bike tours include The Moab, and Utah-based Kaibab Adventure Outfitters offers van-supported mountain bike tours of areas on the North Rim. These tours, which travel on 100 miles of singletrack on the Arizona Trail as well as Forest Service and fire roads, skirt the canyon in places. Bicycles and food are provided in the per-day fee.

Mule rides
AMFAC (303-297-2757), the company that now owns the canyon concessionaire Fred Harvey, starts selling slots on its South Rim mule rides nearly two years in advance. If you hope to take one of these rides during high season, call long in advance of your departure. If planning is not your forte, you can inquire about reservations in the next four days by calling the Bright Angel Transportation Desk (520-638-2631, ext. 6015) or put yourself on a waiting list for cancellations by going in person to the desk (inside Bright Angel Lodge). Also, be aware that certain passenger size and weight limitations are in effect, in order to keep the mules sprightly. The one-day and half-day mule rides on the North Rim do not fill up as rapidly as the South Rim rides. A family-run operation, Grand Canyon Trail Rides (520-638-9875) offers half-day and full-day rides, with the farthest canyon ride going 4.7 miles to Roaring Springs.

Courses with Grand Canyon Field Institute
The men and women who lead backpacking trips for Grand Canyon Field Institute (520-638-2485) aren't known as"guides"—they're "instructors," and the hikes they lead are "courses." Ranked according to the required skill level, each course focuses on a particular subject, whether broad (like "ecology") or narrow (like "photographing monsoons"), and each taps into the knowledge of one or more canyon experts. Some gently introduce beginning hikers to the canyon; others seem designed to humble, torment, and ultimately improve expert backpackers. A handful of classes target families and involve only day hiking. There's no better way to gain an appreciation of the canyon than by "studying" it along with the Field Institute.

Canyon Rim Adventures, Inc. - Provides all-inclusive outdoor adventure packages on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Activities include mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, and sightseeing in remote areas of the Grand Canyon.

Ceiba Adventures - Small and personalized Adventure Travel Outfitter that specialized in remote and exotic rainforest tours and archaeological river trips into the Mayan heartland. We also offer river trips throughout the southwestern U.S.

Escape the City Streets Mountain Bike Tours - Fully supported mountain biking tours through Utah's Moab, Escalante, Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Brian Head, California's Lake Tahoe and Death Valley, New Mexico's Taos, Las Vegas, Colorado Rockies, Arizona's Grand Canyon and Sedona, New Zealand, and more!

Timberline Adventures - Guided, van-supported inn-to-inn bicycling, mountain biking, hiking adventure tours throughout western U.S. and Canada, including Yellowstone, Glacier, Alaska, Canadian Rockies, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, New Mexico, California, Oregon Coast/Cascades, San Juans, B.C. plus Scotland.

Western River Expeditions - Guided rafting adventure vacations on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon/Arizona, Westwater, Cataract Canyons, and Utah's Green River. Non-sinkable boats, fabulous scenery, exhilarating whitewater rapids, and gourmet camp meals. Pampering by professional guides.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »