Thu, September 13th, 2012 - By

3 Budget-Friendly Activities at the Grand Canyon

When talking about the Grand Canyon, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World* and perhaps one of America’s greatest geographic treasures, it’s important to be specific about locations, because the Grand Canyon is… well, rather grand. You can’t drive around it in a day, unless you plan on driving about 1,000 miles.  (With stops, that would take you about 5 days.)

The majority of the sightseeing, attractions, and tourist amenities are centered around what’s called the South Rim, though the national park extends around the entire canyon. The south rim is home to the Grand Canyon Village, a miniature city in the park that includes accommodation, restaurants, museums, a post office, and even a train depot that offers daily service to Williams, Arizona, 65 miles south of the park.

While views of the canyon are endless and free (once you’ve paid for your park entrance fee, of course), what about some budget-friendly activities? Here are some ideas to get you started.

grand canyon

The view from the Grand Canyon Village.  Yes, it’s real – not a painting!


A hike into or around the canyon can be a fantastic way to spend the day and offer you numerous photo opportunities from jaw-dropping cliffs without railings. However, the canyon is, of course, a dynamic force of Mother Nature and thus one must be prepared when going on a hike.  Good things to know include the fact that temperatures can soar up to 30 degrees higher than on the rim of the canyon. Another fast fact is that lightening tends to love striking at the rim, particularly those metal railings, so when the fast-moving thunderstorms that come here roll in, take cover.

Where to hike?  Three suggestions:

  • For beginners, walking the flat and well-paved rim trail gives you lots of great views without the fear of sliding down a cliff; the most scenic parts, in my opinion, are from Mather Point and the Visitors Centre heading west.
  • For a great intro hike into the canyon, try the hike to Ooh Ahh  Point, which is about an hour from the South Kaibab trailhead.
  • If you really want to feel the burn, consider the Bright Angel trail, which departs a steep incline down from the village.

No matter the trail you choose, don’t forget lots of water as well as food – for those feeling the altitude, salty snacks and ginger chews can help.

Take the Train

Taking the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams, an old Route 66 town, can be a very relaxing way to arrive into the village. You don’t need a car at the canyon – there are frequent shuttles to everything, and you can walk most places if you have the time.

What’s nice about the train are their packages, which can help you get a hefty discount on both your hotel (packages typically are for Maswik Lodge) as well as dining in the area. It’s also the perfect opportunity to enjoy some of Route 66, which Williams sits right on, and explore some of the oldest bars in Arizona.

Learn Some History

Want to learn a bit about American history that is often overlooked? Then check out the historic museums of the Grand Canyon Village and area. The history room at the Bright Angel Lodge is free and an insightful view into one of America’s early tourism entrepreneurs.  Over at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Centre (a short shuttle ride away), there are several exhibits that go more into the details of how the Grand Canyon came to be – though the geologists who have been studying it for years still have unanswered questions. After the centre’s film presentation, consider a walk back via the Rim Trail (mentioned above) where you can enjoy another outdoor interpretive exhibit of all the rock layers that make up the canyon, called the Trail of Time.

Have you been to the Grand Canyon? What are your favourite budget tips?

Photo credits: Stuart Seeger & Andy Hayes.

* Do you know what the 7 Natural Wonders are?  I didn’t know all 7 either.  Here’s the list.

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Thursday, September 13th, 2012 at 10:00
Category : Holiday Tips
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