One Day in Grand Canyon: Five Unforgettable Experiences
Hiking is one of the peak experiences of Grand Canyon, and a short walk below the rim should be enough to give you a glimpse of its rugged beauty from another angle.
1. Visit the Visitor Center
While it may sound uneventful, this is actually a perfect place to begin your visit since it offers a sneak preview of the experiences that lie ahead.
Says Brossman: “The Visitor Center is where you’ll find bicycle rentals, park transportation, exhibits, and one of the best introductory films at any national park, the Discovery Channel’s Grand Canyon – A Journey of Wonder.
“Whether you’re seeing it for the first time or, like me, the 50th, it’s inspiring to witness on a movie screen the history, geology, and sheer natural beauty of Grand Canyon. Even better is when the movie’s over, it’s just a short walk to Mather Point where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the canyon — but now you get to see it in all its grandeur.”
2. Walk the Rim Trail
While you may not have time to walk the entire Rim Trail (it stretches nearly 10 miles), you’ll have plenty of time to explore the canyonside trail within the Historic Village, which is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of fellow travelers as well as shops, restaurants, and overlooks.
When you’re ready to expand your range, “walk to the far west end, just beyond the entrance to the Bright Angel Trail, and you can board a free shuttle to any of overlook points between the Historic Village and Hermits Rest at the end of the trail,” Brossman says. “Each and every curve and point reveals a new and unique view of the canyon.”
3. Visit the Tusayan Ruins… and Beyond
You’ll need a vehicle to reach these ruins, located about 20 miles east of the Historic Village. Long before there was a national park (or the United States, for that matter) Ancestral Puebloans had established dozens of communities around the canyon, one of which was here.
“The excavation of a Native American village revealed the foundations of homes and kivas that are approximately 1,000 years old. And in the small museum you’ll see tools, jewelry, art, and artifacts that were unearthed here.
“From here it’s another few miles east to the Desert View Watchtower, which was designed in 1932 by Mary Colter who’s considered the ‘Architect of the Southwest.’ Head to the top for one of the most spectacular views of Grand Canyon.”
4. Walk the Bright Angel Trail
Hiking is one of the peak experiences of Grand Canyon, and a short walk below the rim should be enough to give you a glimpse of its rugged beauty from another angle. You’ll find the trailhead at the west end of the Historic Village.
“Before you start hiking down, make sure you have a pole or walking stick for support, sturdy shoes — no high heels, please — and some water and snacks just in case you end up walking farther than you expect,” Brossman advises.
“After you walk through the first tunnel, look up and to the left and you’ll see what most visitors miss: Native American pictographs that are 1,000 years old. Just go as far as your ability and fitness allows, but be realistic — it’s simple walking down, but it’s a strenuous walk back to the rim.”
5. Visit the Hopi House
In the center of the Historic Village is one of the most visually appealing structures in the American Southwest. It’s the Hopi House, and it was designed by Mary Colter of Desert Watchtower fame.
“In 1905 Colter created the Hopi House, which originally was a house where Native American artisans lived and worked, creating crafts and arts for visitors. No one lives there today, but it’s one of the best places in America to find certified handmade Native American merchandise — exquisite paintings, pottery, and jewelry.”
6. Bonus: Dine at the historic El Tovar
A signature experience for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a meal in one of the world’s most recognized restaurants is something you’ll remember forever. The dining room, naturally, features Native American paintings and décor and the superb menu features locally sourced ingredients. The setting, just steps from the South Rim, makes this a uniquely American dining experience.
How to Explore
There’s no better way to make a grand trip grander than on the historic train to Grand Canyon. Travel over 120 round-trip miles through beautiful northern Arizona while being entertained by historical cowboy characters and strolling musicians. The Grand Canyon Railway has been departing daily from Williams, Ariz., since 1901. Spend a night in Williams next door to the train depot at the AAA Three Diamond Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Just walking distance from quaint downtown Williams and Route 66, the modern hotel has a grand lobby, indoor pool and hot tub as well as Spenser’s Pub with its handcrafted 19th-century bar. Packages with train travel and overnight stays in Grand Canyon National Park and Williams are available. Visit TheTrain.com for more information.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.