This year, the Grand Canyon celebrates 100 years since it's designation as a national park. Perhaps the most iconic of America's national treasures, the 1.2 million acre park welcomes 6 million visitors yearly.

A majority of visitors head to Grand Canyon Village on the south rim to spend just a few hours looking over the edge and leave. Estimates are that 10% of visitors hike a short distance into the canyon, and only 1% venture to the Colorado River at the bottom of the crevasse.

However, there is a lot more to do inside the park. So, for the vast majority of park visitors who peer over the rim and depart soon after, this is a guide to what else awaits discovery along the edge.

Unless otherwise noted, activities are free.

Watch the park film

The 20-minute film “Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder,” is shown at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center every half hour and is an excellent introduction to the park.

Get 'up close and personal' with the Canyon

A paved 14-mile walking trail parallels the canyon rim, and a rim road does the same for 30 miles. Both offer plenty of places to find a spot to contemplate the enormity of the canyon alone, away from the crowds. But, visitors must be exceptionally careful. Guardrails are few, and both the path and road meander within 6 feet of the rim.

Talk to a hiker or a mule rider

The popular South Kaibab and Bright Angel trailheads at the canyon rim, which lead to the bottom, offer an opportunity to talk to hikers or mule riders and live vicariously through their experiences as they return to the rim, or listen to their trepidation as they depart by foot or atop a mule.

Canyon Vistas Mule Ride

A rim-top horizontal adventure is a 4-mile, 2-hour mule ride along the canyon edge. Wranglers stop to provide information about the canyon, the area’s native people, and the flora and fauna.

$114 plus tax.

Walk the ‘Trail of Time’

This 1.2 mile path contains signposts with information about the canyon's geologic history, as well as rock samples from each layer of the canyon that date from 250 million years to1.2 billion years old.

Tour with a guide

Several firms offer escorted tours along the south rim and pick up tourists at their accommodations. Guides at Buck Wild tour in 12-passenger Hummers and

explain the history, wildlife and vegetation in the canyon. Stops are made at several popular overlooks.

$115 for a 2-hour tour

Tour by App

With this guide, visitors tune into an audio tour that covers 190 audio points. Included are stories about trailblazers and what to observe at the popular viewpoints along the rim.


Watch the sun rise and set

Getting up early to watch the sun rise over the red-hued canyon is like seeing a fire burst forth from the blackness, while visiting the edge at sunset is akin to observing the fire’s dying embers.

Half the park is after dark

With no nearby ambient light, the Milky Way appears close enough to touch, and chances of seeing a shooting star are increased.

Have a drink courtesy of the canyon

Several water stations along the rim offer spigots for filling water jugs. The water comes from a natural spring 13 miles away on the north rim, which is piped across the vast divide.

Explore the architecture of Mary Colter

One of the few female architects of her day, Colter designed landmark buildings along the south rim in the early 1930s.

Other highlights:

• El Tovar (1905)

The dark, stained timbers of the historic hotel established the style for lodges in America’s national parks. Colter purposefully designed hotel guest rooms without canyon views to encourage visitors to step outside.

• Hopi House (1905)

Modeled after a 10,000-year-old Native American pueblo dwelling, the two-story Hopi House has always been a gift shop for Native American crafts.

• Hermit’s Rest (1914)

With a covered patio a few feet from the canyon rim, the building was designed to appear as a natural stone formation and as a rest area. Today it is a gift and snack shop, and houses a spectacular 20- by 40-foot arched stone fireplace.

• Lookout studio (1914)

Perched just over the canyon edge, this building offers exceptional views of the canyon below.

• Desert View Watchtower (1932)

On a clear day, climbing the 85 steps to the top of the 80-foot circular tower rewards visitors with a 360-degree, 100-mile view. Representations of prehistoric Native American art decorates the walls.

• Bright Angle Lodge (1935)

The layered stones of the Geologic Fireplace hearth inside the lodge history room were placed by Colter in the same geological sequence found from the Colorado River up to the canyon edge.


• Yavapai Geology Museum

This small museum contains exhibits about the formation of the canyon.

• Verkamps Visitor Center

A privately owned curio store for 100 years until 2008, this building is now a National Park Service Visitor Center and pioneer history museum.

• Kolb Studio

The home and studio of the Kolb brothers beginning in 1902, the studio houses a museum about the brothers and their early photography of the Grand Canyon.

• Tusayan Ruin and Museum

The unrestored ruins of a small Anasazi village dating to 1185 are located along the rim. A nearby museum offers exhibits explaining pueblo life, and displays artifacts found at the site.

Ranger programs

Grand Canyon National Parks Ranger Programs include history walks, geology and wildlife tours, and night sky tours.

Rangers will deputize children under 12 with an oath that requires them to learn about the park and share the information with others.

Stay inside the park

In addition to the El Tovar and Bright Angel lodges, there are four other lodging options inside the park. Accommodations begin at $80, but prices vary greatly depending on the time of year. Campgrounds are also available.

Head to the ‘other’ rim

It is 18 miles across the Grand Canyon at the widest point, but a 210-mile, 4-hour ride to the north rim. For information, visit:

For more information on the park:


L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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