- Most Dramatic Rim View: Lipan Point (on Desert View Dr., South Rim). Above a sweeping curve in the river and with views far downstream to the west, Lipan Point is the most dramatic and easily accessible place from which to view the canyon. It's also a superb spot to watch the sunset. The Unkar Delta, one of the park's archaeologically richest areas, is visible directly below the overlook. (That said, all of the points overlooking the Colorado River along the rim offer dramatic views. These include Pima, Mohave, Hopi, Moran, Lipan, Desert View, and several unnamed pull-offs.)
- Best Scenic Drive: Desert View Drive (South Rim). You'll see more of the canyon on this route than on either of the canyon's other two main drives (Cape Royal and Hermit roads). From the western overlooks, behold the monuments of the central canyon; the eastern overlooks have far-ranging views of the Marble Platform and the canyon's northeast end. Along the way, stop at the 825-year-old Tusayan Ruin and Museum, which was once occupied by the Ancestral Puebloans. The Watchtower, a historic edifice fashioned after towers built by the Ancestral Puebloans, is a perfect place to finish the drive.
- Best Place to Picnic: Vista Encantada (on the North Rim's Cape Royal Rd.). This picnic area has canyon views and provides a convenient stopping point when you're visiting Cape Royal Road's overlooks. You'll find few tables on the South Rim, so you'll need to be more creative there. If the weather's calm, pack a light lunch and walk along one of the rim trails until you find a bench or smooth rock on which to picnic. (If the weather's inclement, skip the picnic.)
- Best Bike Ride: Hermit Road in summer (South Rim). During high season, when this road is closed to most private vehicles, motorized traffic consists mostly of the occasional shuttle bus. Between shuttles, you'll often have the gently rolling road, and some of its overlooks, to yourself. A 2.8-mile paved greenway trail allows bicyclists to move off the road and closer to the rim from Monument Creek Vista almost to Hermits Rest. This is among the world's most scenic bike rides, and bicycle rentals are now available at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
- Best Rim Walk: Trail of Time (South Rim). This 1.3-mile trail along the rim between Verkamp's Visitor Center and Yavapai Point affords great views along with an education in geology. See and touch rocks from each of the canyon's layers as you walk along a path in which each meter represents a million years of history.
- Best Day Hike Below the Rim: Plateau Point Trail (accessible via the Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim). With views 1,300 feet down to the Colorado River, Plateau Point is a prime destination for fit, well-prepared day hikers. The hardest part of this 12.2-mile round-trip is on Bright Angel Trail, which descends 4.6 miles and 3,060 vertical feet from Grand Canyon Village to Indian Garden. The trail head for the Plateau Point Trail is a half-mile west of Indian Garden on the Tonto Trail. From there, it's a smooth and relatively level stroll to the overlook. This is an especially tough hike in summer, when you may not want to venture farther than Indian Garden.
- Best Corridor Trail: North Kaibab Trail (North Rim). For those backpacking into the canyon for the first time, this is a scenic, less-crowded alternative to the South Rim corridor trails. During its 14-mile, 5,850-vertical-foot descent from rim to river, the trail passes through vegetation ranging from spruce-fir forest to Sonoran Desert cacti. Cottonwood Campground lies halfway down. The trail ends near Phantom Ranch, the only lodging inside the canyon within the park boundaries.
- Best Active Vacation: Oar-powered raft trips. On these trips, expensive and worth it, you'll negotiate thrilling rapids on the Colorado River. Between rapids, though, rafts move slowly and quietly enough to reveal the canyon's subtle magic. During stops, hikers have access to some of the prettiest spots anywhere.
- Best Historic Hotel: El Tovar (Grand Canyon Village; tel. 928/638-2631). Made of Oregon pine, this grand 1905 hotel rises darkly above Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Inside, dim lighting accentuates the hunting-lodge feel; guest rooms feature classic American furnishings. By far the park's most upscale hotel, El Tovar received a significant face-lift for its 100th anniversary. You don't need to be a guest to enjoy the hotel, and the elegant rim-view restaurant is one of the area's finest places to dine.
- Best Hotel near the Park: Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn (Tusayan; tel. 800/622-6966 or 928/638-2681). Just a mile outside the park, this Best Western offers many of the amenities generally associated with big-city resorts. Here, you'll find the town's best dining (in the elegant Coronado Room), its liveliest watering hole (downstairs, in the sports bar that locals call "the Squire"), and its only bowling alley and arcade. The deluxe rooms in the main building are great for families.
- Best B&B: Inn at 410 (Flagstaff; tel. 800/774-2008 or 928/774-0088). Your journey doesn't end at the door of this inn. Inside, each elegantly decorated room evokes a different setting. One celebrates the cowboy way of life; another recalls a 19th-century French garden; a third is fashioned after a music conservatory.
- Best RV Park: Kaibab Camper Village (Jacob Lake; tel. 928/643-7804). Old-growth ponderosas and views of Jacob Lake make this RV park, about 45 miles from the North Rim entrance, the best in the area -- now it even has showers. Tent camping is possible here, too. Supplies are available at the nearby store and gas station.
- Best Campground: North Rim Campground (tel. 877/444-6777). The campsites along Transept Canyon's rim have lovely views accented by ponderosa pines. The trees shade the sites, which are far enough apart to afford privacy. For hikers, the Transept Trail begins just a few yards away. On the South Rim, try Desert View Campground.
- Best Expensive Restaurant: Cottage Place (Flagstaff; tel. 928/774-8431). The quiet serenity of Flagstaff's most elegant restaurant is ideal for special occasions; it's a wonderful spot to peacefully celebrate your vacation to the Southwest. Original art decorates three rose-colored rooms, where soft conversations emanate from candlelit tables. Chateaubriand for two is chef-owner Frank Branham's signature dish.
- Best Moderately Priced Restaurant: Pine Country Restaurant (Williams; tel. 928/635-9718). The pie here is so good that many locals order dessert first. Most of the straightforward dinner entrees -- baked chicken, pork chops, and fried shrimp -- go for less than $15.
- Best Inexpensive Restaurant: Black Bean Burrito Bar & Salsa Co. (Flagstaff; tel. 928/779-9905). Get a burrito as heavy as a hand weight -- at a price that makes it feel like a handout. The food is ready within seconds, making this a great place to get a quick fix after a long day.
- Best Bar in the Park: El Tovar deck (tel. 928/638-2631). It's hard to imagine a more inspirational view of the South Rim than that from El Tovar Hotel's deck. A draft beer come sunset could be the defining moment in your quest to better know the canyon. Light meals are offered as well.
- Best Bar Outside the Park: Cuvée 928 (Flagstaff; tel. 928/214-9463). As wine bars gain in popularity around Flagstaff, this one has emerged as the most spirited, with a terrific selection of California and international wines. Cuvée, popular with locals and singles, offers an excellent selection of light dishes and opens onto Flagstaff's festive Heritage Square.
- Best Place to Watch the Sunset: Grand Canyon Lodge's westernmost deck. While the sun disappears behind the pines along the rim, soak up the colors on the horizon sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping a beverage from the nearby saloon. After the sun sets, cozy up beside the huge outdoor fireplace on the lodge's eastern deck. For unobstructed views, go to Lipan Point on the South Rim or Cape Royal on the North Rim.
- Best Accessible Backcountry Destination: Havasu Creek's waterfalls. Surrounded by Havasu Canyon's red-rock walls, these turquoise falls seem to pour forth from the heavens into the Grand Canyon's cauldron. Travertine dams the creek in places, forming seductive swimming holes. The 10-mile hike from Hualapai Hilltop eases you into this area, home of the Havasupai people.
- Best Area Museum: Museum of Northern Arizona (Flagstaff; tel. 928/774-5213). This museum has one of the most extensive Native American art collections in the country. Functional and striking, the artifacts are compellingly displayed in exhibits that illuminate the close relationship between the indigenous people and the Colorado Plateau land. There's no better place to begin learning about the area.
- Best Place to Escape the Crowds: More than a half-mile from any parking lot or shuttle stop. The vast majority of park visitors seldom venture farther than this. If you do, you'll find quiet and solitude. This is especially the case on the North Rim, which gets far fewer visitors than the South Rim.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.