This is useful for a few reasons.
First, it can either make or break your trip parking wise. The main visitor center doesn’t open until 9:00 am. THAT’S FINE. You’re mostly there for the parking. By parking at the visitor center, you are at the closest point to the shuttle hub.
I would recommend being at the visitor center no later than 7:30 am.
Second, for a couple hours, you have very limited crowds on some of the busier trails. If you stay on site or can get there around 5:30 am, I would highly recommend catching a sunrise.
Third, if you want to do a hike down into the canyon, it is HIGHLY recommended to begin in these earlier hours. Even for experienced hikers, these treks can be daunting. Start early!
Ride the shuttle buses. There are 4 different systems (3 within the park.)
The visitor center is the main hub for the shuttle buses. It’s truly too crowded at the Grand Canyon to drive your personal auto or an RV. Plus, most of the park is closed to personal vehicles.
Be smart though. On a map, much of the park looks bigger than it really is. Most of the central area of the park is well within walking distance. Walk if you can. This helps save time on bus rides once you’ve waited on the bus to arrive and go through the various stops.
I feel like this is the worst kept secret. It’s so obvious, but seems to hold true. Want to enjoy the views without the masses? Get off the main road. I can’t emphasis this enough.
Most of the tourist congregate around the visitor center and the rim lookout points. Even walking the Rim Trail for the shorter distances instead of taking the bus from lookout to lookout will provide clear views away from all of the tourists. Most of these are about half a mile long on a paved shaded flat walking trail. You really can’t ask for a better stroll!
The views from the rim and from the various lookout points are spectacular, but you really don’t grasp the magnitude of the canyon from this angle. It is comparable to a birds eye view.
If you REALLY want the solitude and peace away from everyone, plan for a hike into the canyon. Don’t just rule this out. You truly don't have to go further than 1.5 miles in to find some solitude. You might go 5-10 minutes in these areas without seeing other people. Even then, it would be a couple at a time. The views aren’t even comparable. Make this a priority.
I would recommend the South Kaibab Trail. It features two incredible view points:
-Ooh-Aah Point - 1.5 miles round trip
-Cedar Ridge - 3 miles round trip
I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Bring PLENTY of water. Most of the trails that go down into the Grand Canyon do not have water stations. You must carry it on you.
*So, the first question would be –
How much water should you be drinking?
Assuming that you will be taking your trip during the summer months (May-August), you should be consuming about a gallon of water per day. This would be 4 liters per person. Keep in mind that the human body can only absorb about a one quart of fluid per hour. It is also recommended that you drink sports drinks containing electrolytes along with water. It is very important that you are replacing the salts you are losing from sweat.
*The next question would be –
Where can I find water?
This is answered directly from the National Park Service below.
Purified drinking water is only available at a few locations in the canyon along the Corridor trails.
**NOTE: all pipelines in the canyon are subject to breaks at any time of year, cutting off water supplies. Always carry water with you.
Water availability along the Corridor trails:
Mile-and-a-half & Three-mile resthouses (on the Bright Angel Trail) – May to Sep
Indian Garden – All year
Bright Angel Campground – All year
Phantom Ranch – All year
Cottonwood Campground – May – Oct
Roaring Springs Trail Junction – May – Oct
Snacks are equally as important as fluids. It is important to bring both salty and high energy foods. I would plan on bringing a full meal that you can eat if doing any hike over 1 mile one-way. A good rule of thumb is to plan for almost an hour for every mile of hiking down and double that for the hike back up. If you do it quicker than this, great, but it’s important to pace yourself, and I would imagine a significant amount of time will be spent stopping at the various lookout points.
Not going to lie. This one came as a big of a shock to me. Our trip was in late May.. the summertime.. it was pretty cold. I brought and wore thermals, top & bottom, under my hiking clothes. Around 10:00 am it warmed up quite a bit and the layers came off. By late afternoon, I had to put them back on.
The quick list is as follows:
Here’s the thing – You know your body. I tend to get cold pretty easily, but it’s always easier to take these layers off then to not have them at all.
I would recommend hiking pants instead of shorts. Preferably, grab some that are both water resistant and breathable. This also helps with the sun exposure.
Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses. These are a must. The sunglasses especially. Your eyes can also sunburn. Given that this is a Grand Canyon trip, there is a lot of dirt flying around as well. You don’t want to fight that constantly getting in your eyes.
To be blunt – You just traveled across the country.. or maybe the world. Do yourself a favor. It isn’t every day that you are seeing one of the Seven Natual Wonders of the World. You have time for this.
Something to keep in mind, I would arrive early. Several of the sunset spots fill up with visitors. The entire hour before the actual sunset is incredible. Plan time for this.
You don't have to see the sunset from the points mentioned on the NPS website, in the visitor center, and announced on the shuttle buses. EVERYONE is heading to these spots. Instead, we ventured to Yaki Point. You can’t see the Colorado from this spot, but the view is still mind-blowing. Pictured below. It was more important to me not to fight the crowds and to have some quiet. We packed a picnic and walked about 20 yards off the main lookout. There are several spots right around the rim to sit and watch.
**This is another time that you are going to want that jacket. The temperatures will have dropped back down and you aren’t moving around at this point to stay warm.
Make sure that if you are planning on hiking in and camping that you start early. It will probably take you 6-9 hours depending on the hike you choose to get to your destination one way. It will almost certainly take closer to the 9 hours coming back.
Also, you will need to apply for a permit depending on the overnight you are planning.