5 Ways to Access the Grand Canyon (without building a tram to the Confluence)
The Grand Canyon provides a world class visitor experience. Here are ways to enjoy it.
By now, you may have heard about a scheme to build an amusement park-style gondola from the East Rim of the Grand Canyon, plunging 10,000 people per day down to the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. On the rim of the canyon, a small town would be built to support the tourist traffic, while over 30,000 square feet of structures, including a pair of elevated steel walkways, a small restaurant, bathroom facilities and more, would be built mere yards above the river itself. On a recent broadcast of the Diane Rehm show, a representative of the project proponents argued that there are not enough opportunities for people, especially the elderly, young, or less fit to experience the Grand Canyon.
This idea is simply flawed – there are already a myriad of ways for anyone – rich or poor, able-bodied or disabled, American or foreign, to experience and enjoy the amazing, iconic, natural wonder of the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon provides a world class visitor experience, and nearly 5-million people per year will attest to that fact. As a World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is a place deserving of protection and enjoyment without more intrusion by man – as nature intended it:
A hike – along the rim or to the bottom
One of the simplest and most rewarding ways to experience the grandeur and natural expanse of the canyon is to lace on a pair of boots and hike the canyon.
Whether you plunge into the world below the rims, or meander the miles of dirt and paved trails skirting the canyon walls, plenty of options exist for hikers of any skill level.
Even if time doesn’t allow a hike all the way to the river, there are a variety of trails that lead you off the rims and into the abyss in only a few steps. In fact, programs exist today that have led blind, deaf, or otherwise disabled youth into the wilds of the Canyon. If these kids can do it – so can you!
Ride a mule
From either the North or South Rim of the canyon, mule trips as short as an hour to as long as two days exist for those who may not want to hike the trails, or for those who simply want a different kind of experience – old west style!
Mules have been traveling the trails from the rims to Phantom Ranch for over a century and provide a sure-footed, unique, alternative experience to hiking that is an adventure on its own!
Soak in the view from the rim
For those who have no desire to venture below the rims, simply soaking up the spectacular view, the clean mountain breezes, and the soaring condors, hawks, and ravens cruising the skies can be a peaceful, calming, and rewarding alternative to a more physical adventure.
On nearly every visit, you will find painters and artists, photographers and writers, contemplating the landscape, the brilliant light, and the spectacular expanse – from the rim of the canyon. The light and air and silence and sky that one can absorb simply by sitting on a bench or rock or under a tree is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience.
Float the mighty Colorado River
There are a wide array of rafting options available for people who have the time and adventurous spirit to experience a true wilderness getaway in the bottom of the canyon.
From as little as 3 days to as many as 28 days, there are a number of companies who offer commercial trips, as well as a community of private boaters who experience the canyon on the river’s terms – staring upwards at ramparts of rock by day, majestic starry skies by night.
Take to the skies
While certainly not my most preferred way to view the canyon, more modern technological ways to view the canyon do already exist. There are a variety of aircraft tours at both ends of the canyon – whether by fixed-wing airplanes or by helicopter, that cruise the skies overhead across the main canyon, as well as over side canyons, forests, and the desert plains that surround Grand Canyon National Park. Another, ground-based option is the Grand Canyon Skywalk on the west end of the canyon. Accessible by road from the north or from Las Vegas, the glass-floored Skywalk structure on the Hualapai reservation is one way to experience heights in the canyon by peering between your own two feet.
There is a variety of ways that anyone and everyone can currently enjoy and experience the Grand Canyon – and whether you choose to walk or ride or float or fly – you too can take part and enjoy our nation’s most iconic National Park. The Grand Canyon doesn’t need yet another man-made, technological solution to fix a problem that doesn’t even exist.
Now get your map out and get going!! The canyon is awaiting your visit!