The world may chide America for its supersized ways, but when it comes to the Grand Canyon, the more-is-better approach is clearly the right way to go. Just take a peek over the edge. The canyon captivates because of its immensity. It is a tableau that reveals the earth’s history, layer by dramatic layer.
visitors experience the canyon from the rim, others hike within, but there are
three other adventurous options.
Rafting the Colorado is an epic, adrenaline pumping adventure. The
canyon’s true grandeur is best grasped by looking up from the river, not down
from the rim. Its human history comes alive in ruins, wrecks and rock art. You
can hike to mystical grottos and waterfalls, explore ethereally lit slot
canyons and view wildlife in its native habitat.
trips vary in length, from three days to three weeks. Motorized pontoon rafts
are the most stable option. Oar boats are more exciting and common. A fun
alternative is to float in a river dory, a small, elegant hard-shelled rowboat
for four passengers. Still, if you are after thrills, book a trip in an
inflatable raft, which has you, your shipmates and a guide paddling all at
you will be camping under stars on sandy beaches (gear provided). It is not as
primitive as it sounds – guides are legendary not only for their white-water
acumen but also for their culinary skills.
river guides suggest you plan a trip in April or between mid-September and
mid-October, when air temperatures are mild and rafters can tackle day hikes
not possible in summer. Drawbacks of a spring or fall excursion include
occasional storms, headwinds and shorter daylight hours. It takes about two or
three weeks to raft the entire 279 miles of river through the canyon. Shorter
sections of around 100 miles take four to nine days.
If you want to see the inner canyon from the backside of a mule, you have to
commit to an overnight trip to the bottom. Otherwise there is a three-hour ride
from Grand Canyon Village to the Abyss Overlook, the site of a 3,000ft vertical
drop beside Hermit Road.
depart daily from the stone corral west of Bright Angel Lodge and wind over a
mule trail through ponderosas, junipers and piñons. Overnight trips head 10
miles down via the Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch and
up eight miles on the South Kaibab Trail.
be at least 4ft 7in tall, speak fluent English and weigh 200 pounds or less
(225 pounds for a day trip). Wranglers will not let you saddle up unless you
wear a hat tied to your head (April to October), a long-sleeved shirt and long
To book a
mule trip (more than 24 hours and up to 13 months in advance), contact Xanterra. If
you get to the park without a reservation, stop by the Bright
Angel Lodge transportation desk and see what there is available. If it is
all booked, sign the waiting list, show up at 6:15am the following day and hope
for a cancellation. Or make tracks to the other side of the canyon: mule rides
on the North Rim are usually available the day before the trip.
Mountain bikers have limited options inside the park, as bicycles are only
allowed on roads and the Greenway Trail. Hermit Road offers a scenic ride west
to Hermits Rest, about 16 miles round-trip from the village. Keep in mind that
shuttles ply this road every 10 to 15 minutes between March and November. They
are not permitted to pass bicyclists, so you will have to pull over each time
one drives by. The rest of the year, traffic is minimal, making this a very
Canyon shuttle buses have racks that can hold up to three bikes. Alternatively,
you could ride out to the East Entrance along Desert View Drive, a 50-mile
round-trip from the village. The route is largely shuttle-free but sees a lot
of car traffic in summer.
Desert View Drive, the one-mile dirt road to Shoshone Point is an easy, nearly
level ride that ends at this secluded panoramic vista, one of the few places to
escape South Rim crowds. The Greenway Trail, running between Canyon View
Information Plaza and Grand Canyon Village, is open to cyclists but is
shared with pedestrians and wheelchairs. Bright Angel Bicycle Rentals began
renting bikes inside the park in 2010.
The article 'Three alternative ways to see the Grand Canyon' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.