Welcome to Grand Canyon National Park! One can spend a lifetime exploring the depths of the inner canyon, fathoming the deep time, and gaining inspiration from the unbelievable vistas, but how do you best experience Grand Canyon, if you only have a short amount of time? Let’s start with the shuttle buses. Open your newspaper guide and you will find the map with the shuttle bus routes indicated by different colors: red, orange, blue, and purple. All the shuttle buses are free; simply get on and get off at the designated stops. A bus will arrive at each stop every 15 minutes throughout the day to offer you a ride to the next stop on its route.
For example, the orange bus route offers five beautiful vistas and is a great way to experience the canyon if you only have two hours or less. The village blue route takes you to the general store market, campgrounds, historic hotels and restaurants. Importantly, it also connects you with the red route which offers the most scenic vistas of the canyon. This route takes 80 minutes round trip, not including the time you spend out enjoying the views in between bus arrivals.
Again, expect a bus within 10 to 15 minutes. The red bus will stop at all of the stops on the way up, and 3 on the way back. You can think of these 3 stops as turn-around points because there will be a bus to offer you a ride back toward the village if you so choose.
The red route runs all year except December, January and February. The purple route bus only runs during the busy summer months and goes to the nearby town of Tusayan; the first stop being the IMAX theatre. Check the newspaper for up-to-date information & schedules of the shuttle systems. One of the best ways you can experience Grand Canyon in 3 to 4 hours is to combine walking with shuttle bus riding. Begin by walking to Mather point, just past a bathroom and a water refill station.
Once at Mather Point, stop and gaze at the beautiful view, then continue left on the Rim Trail, to Yavapai Geology Museum Continuing on the path, you’ll enter the Trail of Time, an educational trail along incredible views of the canyon, toward the historic village. Total walking distance is about 2.5 miles and takes about 90 minutes. After a walk through the historic village, take the red route to more popular views like Hopi and Pima Points; both are great views of the Colorado River and excellent for sunset and sunrise. Finally, return on the blue route to the visitor center. Remember, your guide contains further suggestions on how to best utilize your time.
Feel free to ask your park rangers about inner canyon day hikes, free ranger programs or how kids can become Junior Rangers themselves. During your journey at Grand Canyon, stay hydrated, be aware of sun exposure, stay safe away from the edge, and don’t feed or approach wildlife. But most of all, enjoy your National Park !