9 Adventurous-to-Easy Ways To See the Grand Canyon
Lets face it, the Grand Canyon is, well, Grand. It may not even be possible to gain a true appreciation of the geography without looking at it from several different perspectives. Which is why the wide variety of choice can make a vacation to Arizona one of the most exciting ones you've ever had without breaking the bank. Most of the options are affordable and require a bit of adventure in the great outdoors.
Every traveler or group will have different requirements for an ideal visit to the Canyon, so it is only fitting that such an intense place would have many different perspectives to offer. You don't have to be an athlete-in-training to enjoy your visit, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the majesty of the canyon without working too hard.
For the more adventurous type, well, you can find plenty of ways to sweat at the Grand Canyon too.
Helicopter or Airplane
Without a doubt the best way to appreciate the sheer size of the canyon is to see it from the air. Both the Grand Canyon Airport and the Las Vegas International Airport offer flight tours of the canyon and Colorado River. Seeing things from the air puts a whole new perspective on the power of the Colorado river and the ability of running water to artfully rearrange its surrounding landscape with such little effort.
Taking a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon allows you to get close to rock formations and swoop through canyons that even small planes won't navigate.
Planning Considerations - This is an option for those with a strong stomach who enjoy the thrill of riding in a small aircraft. There are many types of aircraft to choose from, some affording a far more comfortable and quiet ride. Chances are, the wilder the ride, the better the views.
For those that would rather row than ride (or walk) rafting down the great Colorado offers glimpses of the Grand Canyon that can't be seen from the trails or the sky. The river is the great creative force behind the canyon so harnessing its power to tour the area is an adrenaline-pumping way to go.
There are peaceful spots on the river where those who prefer smooth sailing can enjoy a raft ride too.
When planning your rafting trip remember that water releases in the river are controlled, so the ideal times of year to go are April, September and October.
Probably the most old fashioned of the bunch, hiking is a good way to see the area the way nature intended, on your own two feet. Hiking allows you a much more intimate way to truly appreciate the geological masterpiece that is the canyon.
Being powered by your own feet is easily the most eco-friendly way to go and provides a chance to get up close and personal with a natural wonder. Do a little research so you can be fully prepared to recognize the important sights as you amble along.
Beyond the basic research required for a hiking trip (like weather conditions and available fresh water spots) it's important not to get overenthusiastic about hiking goals. Don't plan to hike down to the river and make it back up again in one day. All of the trails are challenging and not for the feint of heart. The beauty of hiking is going at your own pace, it's a long way back up.
Mules and Horses
Perhaps the best way to stay in the spirit of the old west is to tour the canyon via mule. Part of the Equus family, the mule is known for being particularly surefooted on mountain trails and the Grand Canyon mounts are chosen for their strength and temperament.
Riding an animal for extended periods of time (especially up and down steep trails) will use muscles you didn't know existed. If you are planning a mule trek you might consider getting on a horse before you attempt a Grand Canyon ride. In fact, giving yourself time to practice will teach you to balance, keep you from being as sore and help you relax on the ride.
There is usually a waiting lists for these rides, plan to book 6-8 months in advance, and when riding an animal is involved there are usually height and weight restrictions.
A modern answer to the horse, taking a tour via ATV allows for the outdoor experience with a slightly more comfortable seat. A guided tour is worth its weight in gold as much for safety reasons as for the intimate knowledge of the land possessed by local guides. Millions of years of history could easily go unnoticed to the untrained eye.
While the ATV is a fun vehicle they are hardly practical for getting up and down steep trails in the canyon itself. Most of the ATV trips are located on the rim, but many offer breathtaking vistas of the canyon that aren't as tourist heavy.
The most innovative and possibly the scariest mention on the list is the sky walk a glass walkway that hangs 3,600 feet above the canyon floor. It is owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe and was unveiled March 20, 2007. The sky walk protrudes 66 ft beyond the edge of the canyon and is made of 4 inch thick glass.
This is the option that requires the least amount of physical exertion to appreciate the scope of the canyon, although perhaps not the easiest to get to.
You can fly into the Grand Canyon West Airport or make the 120 mile drive from Vegas. If planning to drive consider that 18 miles of the road is unpaved and bumpy.
The concept of canyoneering includes traveling through canyons using whatever means necessary including climbing, walking, jumping, swimming and rappelling. Beyond even hiking, this is truly the most intimate way to navigate the Grand Canyon, and perhaps the closest to the experience of prehistoric man.
Best undertaken with a guide and a boat , canyoneering is for the adventurous types who enjoy a high level of physical activity.
These are outdoor trips and often more than one day in length, participants must be able to handle sustained physical activity and enjoy camping circumstances.
Taking a tour in a 4x4 allows tourists to see spots of the canyon that no one without four wheel drive can go. The canyon isn't just about getting up and down, there is a lot of in-between the people often forget to enjoy. 4x4 adventures can be found on the rims and inside the canyon.
There will be limited access to any motorized vehicle, you are better off trusting mule power to get you down steep canyon walls. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy many of the sights the canyon and the river have to offer in a vehicle.
For those who are stuck vacationing at home, you can still appreciate the majesty of the Grand Canyon in a number of ways, providing you have an internet connection and a working computer.
Google Earth - An interesting way to gain perspective of the sheer scope of the canyon from a perspective only recently available.
Flickr - Professional and not so professionals from around the globe upload shots to flickr. Search for Grand Canyon and take a tour of the area through their camera lenses.
YouTube - Experience the canyon in any of the exciting ways above without leaving the comfort of your own home. See it through the eyes of others who have been there and lived to upload the video to youtube.
The Best Tour
Obviously the best tour is the tour best suited to you and your traveling partners. The beauty of selection means that everyone involved can appreciate this natural wonder in a manner they enjoy.
Julie is a travel writer based in sunny Southern California. She choose a career in writing so she could take her office with her wherever she goes. You can find more of her writing at tours4fun.com.
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