How to Avoid the Crowds in Grand Canyon
You’re finally doing it; you’re going to see the Grand Canyon. Your trip-of-a-lifetime, bucket-list-checking-off, brag-to-the-friends-and-family vacation is finally here. You’ve been waiting years, planning carefully, and have everything envisioned just the way you want it. You get through the gate, you head to the South Rim, and boom; there it is: throngs of people, multitudes of hordes, hives of enormity. There’s so many camera-toting, elbow-throwing, kid-screaming fools out here you can’t even get to the actual rim to even see the thing. Do you give up? Hell no, says The Goat.
How many people visit Grand Canyon?
You have just experienced the Grand Crowdyon, the second-most visited National Park in America tipping the scales at over 6 million guests in 2016. The statistics here are fun to throw around, because they tell you, the savvy Grand Canyoneering, just when to go, where to go, and how to go. The simple truth is this: the vast majority of people who visit the Grand Canyon fit into a very particular category. They don’t hike, they don’t go much of anywhere, and they don’t stay for long.
For example, of the 6 million people who visited Grand Canyon in 2016, 90% stayed above the rim, 65% stayed within a 5-mile radius of the South Rim Visitor Center, and the average visit time to this most awe-inspiring natural wonder is less than three paltry hours. All this is not even to mention that over 60% of the park’s visitors punch their tickets in June, July, and August, meaning that nearly 4 million people cram into Grand Canyon’s most popular attractions in just 90 days (out of 365 if you’re counting).
What does all of this mean? Well, to seasoned Grand Canyon travelers it means that the crowds are actually pretty easy to skirt if you know how. Follow our easy guide, and you’ll have Grand Canyon and all it glory (relatively) to yourself.
1. If you must go in the summer peak season…….
Follow these rules: get out early, get out during the week, and stay away from South Rim madness. If you’re just dying to hike Bright Angel, South Kaibab, or even the Hermit, Tanner, or Grandview Trails during summer, you had best be ready to hit the trail before 5am. This will not only help you avoid the throngs, but it will help you avoid the oppressive midday heat of a Grand Canyon summer. The “get out early” rule applies to every Grand Canyon trail in the summer, even if you’re not concerned about crowds.
Secondly, it’s best to enjoy Grand Canyon during the week. I don’t feel like I need to explain this in detail. Thirdly, staying away from South Rim madness can entail a few things. Go to the North Rim, or head west to Bass Canyon and the like. The South Rim Visitor Center is just the low-hanging fruit, the rest of the tree has so, so much to offer.
2. Go for a Hike
As we said earlier, less than 10% of people go below the rim. Though it won’t necessarily be an isolated wilderness experience, particularly on the always-crowded corridor trails, you will not have to fight tooth and nail for the photos, the space, and the quiet. For those crazy enough to attempt, there’s always the Rim-to-Rim or Rim-to-River and Back option!
3. Go to the North Rim
It’s a bit harder (a longer drive) to get to, so it sees far fewer visitors than its southern counterpart. The amenities at North Rim are only open from May 15-October 15, so plan accordingly. If you do so, you will be treated to outrageous scenery that is a decidedly different perspective than the famous South Rim views
4. Go during the off-season
A previous blog highlighted Grand Canyon as a spectacular winter destination, and we’ll hold true to our claims. Winter brings excellent hiking temperatures, sparse crowds, and discounts at park lodging.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask
Grand Canyon Park Rangers are some of the most knowledgeable, most courteous people in the National Park system.. They will help you plan your trip so that you can avoid the hive even during the busiest times of the year.
It really boils down to common sense. Want to avoid the crowds in Grand Canyon or other popular National Parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Great Smoky Mountains? Use your head and don’t go when and where everyone else goes. One of the best ways to avoid the crowds is going with a guide. These guys/gals are professionals who know their parks like the back of their hands, and are sure to know the hidden spots, best-kept secrets, and locals-only spots in some of the world’s most crowded outdoor playgrounds.
Hiking and exploring Grand Canyon, or any of the National Parks, is a special experience. Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea. For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip. They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.
Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides. Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef. Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore. In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience. Don’t be shy, and call us!
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For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!
For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.
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