No words can describe the awesomeness of the Grand Canyon. It’s no wonder almost 5 million people visit each year. But what do you do once you’ve done the tourist stuff on South Rim with everyone else, or want to avoid it altogether? Thankfully there are so many options to explore the area without the company of thousands of others.
Check out the National Park’s website to find out about the backcountry permits needed. Be prepared and well-equipped for any walk longer than a 15 minute nature walk.
Head to North Rim or Toroweap
There are a many walks around the South Rim area, but also a lot of other people on them. This often includes those who obviously didn’t know what they were in for. Like any area, it’s important to be prepared, wear good footwear and take plenty of water.
To avoid the crowds, stay away from South Rim and head for other areas, such as North Rim and Toroweap. They’re just as spectacular and have some other benefits.
While South and North Rims are only 10 miles apart, it’s a 215 mile (346km) car drive between them. The hike between North and South Rims is one of the most popular in the park.
North Rim is slightly cooler as it is higher and further north, plus hikes around the area are more sheltered by evergreen forest. North Rim is closed from October through to April and sometimes May, but is stunning in the summer months. There are campsites as well as hotels and other accommodation. It does take longer to get to and doesn’t have the wide spanning vistas people associate with the Grand Canyon, but North Rim has lovely trails and uncrowded spectacular views.
West Rim is even less crowded than North Rim. It is not part of the national park and is owned by the Hualapai Indians. As it is closer to Las Vegas, most visitors to this area are day-trippers on tours. Private cars are not allowed, and there is little hiking in the area.
Close to the Arizona-Utah border, Toroweap is a long bumpy ride along country roads that keep most people away from the area, but the stunning scenery and serenity makes it worthwhile. There’s more chance to see local wildlife and few fences and warning signs.
Visiting in winter is one way to avoid have to share the area with so many other people. Just be aware that the weather can change suddenly and you must be prepared for it. It is easier to get back country permits during winter.
Places within the canyon can be milder. There are a range of walks to enjoy from the Bright Angel Campground, for instance.
Spring may not be so quiet, but it is less crowded than summer, and it’s also cooler.
Walk away from it all
Less than 1% of the Grand Canyon National Park’s visitors move far away from their cars and go for a decent walk.
The popular Rim to Rim walk between North & South Rims is steep descent and ascent over 25 miles (40km). Down the bottom there’s the Bright Angel Campground or the exclusive Phantom Ranch, plus other walks along the bottom of the canyon. It’s the most popular longer walk in the park, and plenty of mules take it every day too.
The North Kaibab Trial is the only maintained walk to below the rim from North Rim and is 28.3 miles (45.5km) in full. The full walk is difficult though stunning but going even part of the way can lead to some beautiful spots. Novice walkers and families could make it to Coconino Overlook for a great view. The hike to Ribbon Falls is a 12 mile (19km) round trip and is less strenuous and crowded than many other walks in the park. The highlight is the waterfall itself. It’s best to get there early before the waterfall becomes shaded by the canyon in the afternoon.
Uncle Jim is a pleasant 5 mile (8km) loop starting from the North Kaibab Trailhead. Mostly it runs through the forest, but heads to a spot with stunning views of the Canyon.
Take an Aerial Tour
Another thing you might consider when out in near the Grand Canyon is an aerial tour of the area.
This is a great way to escape the crowds and see the entirety of this natural wonder. The nice thing about taking an airplane or a helicopter tour is that not very many people can fit on a small airplane or helicopter.
You can learn more about airplanes or helicopters here.