Touring the Grand Canyon, By Bus, Plane, or Mule
If you’re in Phoenix, tours to the Grand Canyon are easily worth the four-hour trip. Luckily, there’s no “right way” to see the Grand Canyon. Stretching 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, this colossal desert rift comprises myriad trails, overlooks, gorges, ridges, and vistas. And you can witness the canyon from every conceivable angle—from aerial heights to subterranean depths. Given its scope, the Grand Canyon offers macro- and micro-views, and choosing a tour first depends on how you’d like to engage the canyon.
The South Rim
The South Rim is the most popular starting point for visitors, and for good reason. In addition to stunning vistas and overlooks, the South Rim features the Grand Canyon Village, a historic village with railroad depots and pioneer lodges, plus a shuttle bus for visiting the village’s shops and restaurants. Various points along Hermit Road, a 7-mile scenic route along the rim, overlook the Colorado River, an 1890s-era copper mine, and vertical views straight down the canyon. Ideal for the sublime, spectacular, taking-it-all-in view that makes the Grand Canyon famous, the South Rim is especially optimal for watching sunrises and sunsets.
The North Rim
More remote than its southern counterpart, the Grand Canyon’s North Rim draws a fraction of the visitors. After all, it’s a five-hour drive (or 21-mile hike) from the South Rim, and it’s entirely off limits in the winter. But there are plenty of rewards for those who venture here. From an altitude of more than 8,000 feet, the North Rim features scenic drives and challenging hiking trails, and lookouts such as Cape Royal offer some of the more comprehensive vistas of the canyon—including a view of the river framed by the natural arch known as Angels Window.
Tours and Transport
Many companies offer Grand Canyon tours from Phoenix, which typically entail car or bus rides and stops at signature overlooks. Across Arizona Tours, for example, leaves from Phoenix and features a 25-mile ride through the South Rim as well as stops in Sedona and the Cameron Trading Post on the Navajo Indian Reservation. (Aerial views via helicopter are also available.) Visitors looking for a close encounter can opt for one of the Grand Canyon’s guided mule tours, a staple of the Grand Canyon experience. Open Road Tours carries out bus tours from Phoenix as well as raft, rail, and plane rides.
Scott Hirsch is a published poet, an amateur boxer, and a devout reader and writer of fiction. He dedicates his accomplishments to the memory of his mother and attributes his many failures to colorblindness.