The Grand Canyon: What to Do and What to Pack

birds eye view of the grand canyon

Ranked third behind Aurora Borealis and the Harbor of Rio De Janeiro as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon, located in Arizona, stretches 277 river miles long, 10 miles wide, and one mile deep. About six million years ago, the Colorado River sliced through what was likely vast desert landscape to form this magnificent canyon that draws nearly five million visitors each year. Despite how much you read about it, how many documentaries you watch on it, or how many stories you hear, the Grand Canyon is truly something you can’t fully appreciate until you experience it for yourself.

If you’re wanting to take a trip of a lifetime—something you’ll remember forever—then plan a trip to the Grand Canyon. With this How To Guide, you’ll be extra prepared when it comes to activities to do while visiting and key items to include in your packing list.

5 Key Activities to Do at the Grand Canyon

From bird watching to flying in a “bird,” there is no shortage of activities in and around this incredible slice of earth. Consider including these five to-dos in your itinerary:

  1. Take a walk on the Skywalk: Jutting out 4,000 feet above the Canyon floor is the infamous Skywalk, a 10-foot-wide, horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that extends 70 feet out over the western rim of the Grand Canyon.
  2. Reserve a helicopter ride: If looking down 4,000 feet while walking out a glass bridge doesn’t get your heart rate up, perhaps a ride in a “bird,” or helicopter will. Offering an unforgettable vantage point and jaw-dropping views, a helicopter ride can offer an entirely new, profound perspective of this truly mind-boggling wonder. There are several different helicopter companies to choose from, which makes booking easy.
  3. Pack it in: If exploring the canyon from above isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps a Grand Canyon backpacking trip is. With hundreds of trails and countless routes weaving down and around the canyon, you’ll have no shortage of backpacking trips to choose from. Whether you only want to spend a couple of nights or are eager for a week-long backpacking adventure, the Grand Canyon has the perfect option for you. Check out some of the most recommended routes here.
  4. Hitch a mule ride: So if walking on a glass sky bridge gives you a fright, flying isn’t your thing, and hiking doesn’t appeal to you, then a mule ride might be just the thing. Mule rides, which are offered year round, are quite an adventurous way to explore the canyon while also serving as a time-honored method of traditional canyon transportation. The sure-footedness and immense strength of burros makes them the ideal animal to carry canyon visitors up and down the steep canyon walls. You can book your trip either directly through the National Park or through one of the local lodges.
  5. Camp out: With four developed campgrounds located within Grand Canyon National Park, there’s no shortage of options for finding your ideal camping spot. All campgrounds are within walking distance of the canyon’s rim, providing you with easy, intimate access to spectacular views day visitors don’t always get. From watching the sunset over the Canyon’s Western Rim, to catching the sunrise as it showers the Eastern Rim in golden light, to gazing at the unfathomable amount of brilliant desert stars, camping offers a truly unforgettable way to experience the Grand Canyon.

With countless activities to partake of during your Grand Canyon adventure, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got your packing list down pat.

Grand Canyon Packing List

The activities you choose to do while visiting the Grand Canyon will largely determine the contents of your Grand Canyon Packing list. There are, however, several general items you’ll want to be sure to include in your packing repertoire:

  • A good bag: Rugged country calls for a durable bag that can withstand adventurous demands. The Travel Bag from NOMATIC checks all the boxes and more. Deemed The Most Functional Travel Bag Ever, NOMATIC’s travel bag has all the pockets you need to keep your canyon gear safe, and the compartments you need to store the layers of clothing essential in the Grand Canyon’s varying climate. It is the perfect get-up-and-go size for all your adventures throughout the Natural World Wonder. Best of all, it’s made with durable waterproof materials that can withstand every adventure from mountain to sea.
  • Quick-drying clothing: Whether you’re working up a sweat in the hot desert sun or splashing through the Colorado River on the Canyon floor, packing wicking, quick-drying clothing is essential.
  • Layers: A fleece jacket or vest, fleece pants, a waterproof rain jacket and pants, a bandana and sun-shielding hat, winter hat, and gloves or mittens should be included regardless of what time of year you’re visiting. Days can get exceptionally warm, while nighttime can bring cool or cold temperatures, so having plenty of layers will help you stay comfortable and warm.  
  • Shoewear: The Grand Canyon’s rugged terrain means you can leave your city shoes at home. Instead, be sure you include durable, supportive hiking boots or shoes, synthetic or wool socks, and waterproof sandals for bumming around camp or splashing through streams.
  • The extras: If you’re heading to the Canyon floor, consider packing swimwear, as the inner canyon has a drastically different climate than above the rim. You’ll also want to include the following items in your NOMATIC Travel Bag:
    • A reusable water bottle  
    • Sunscreen and lip balm
    • Toiletries and hygiene items  
    • Insect repellant
    • A first-aid kit
    • A camera
    • Binoculars

Lastly, when traveling throughout the Grand Canyon, be sure you obtain the necessary permits for whatever activities you’ll be doing. In addition to a National Park Pass, you’ll also want to inquire about things like a backcountry permit for backpacking and a fishing permit if your plan to cast out a line during your visit.

There you have it! You’re officially ready for your Grand Canyon adventure. Shop for your NOMATIC Travel Bag and accessories today; pack up, print your itinerary and prepare to have your life changed by one of the world’s greatest wonders.