One of the most enjoyable things to do at the canyon is also one of the simplest: Find a quiet place on the rim or off a trail and just sit for an hour or so. Feel the air rise, watch the shadows and light play across the monuments, and listen to the timeless hush. No matter how fast you drive or how far you walk, no matter how many photos you take or angles you see the canyon from, you'll never "do" the canyon. So relax and enjoy it.
The itineraries below list some wonderful activities, all of which are described in detail later in the book. Remember, the rims are 210 highway miles apart.
If You Have 1 or 2 Days
On the South Rim -- After stopping at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, hike a short distance down the Bright Angel Trail in the morning. If the weather is hot or if you are not in top-notch condition, walk the Trail of Time between Yavapai Point and Verkamp's Visitor Center. Mid-day, attend a ranger presentation, for which times and locations are posted at the visitor centers. Later in the day, take the Hermits Rest Route shuttle along Hermit Road. From any of its stops, walk a short distance along the Rim Trail to quiet spots where you can savor the canyon. If possible, watch the sunset from Hopi Point.
The next morning, get an early start so that you can watch the sunrise from Desert View on the South Rim. On your way back to Grand Canyon Village, stop at the viewpoints along Desert View Drive. Most of them are open year-round and boast expansive views of the central and northeastern canyon. Upon returning to Grand Canyon Village, take a walking tour of the historic buildings. Then relax with an iced tea or cocktail on the veranda at El Tovar Hotel's lounge.
On the North Rim -- In the morning, after checking in at the North Rim Visitor Center, hike down the top of the North Kaibab trail to Coconino Overlook (less than a half-hour down) or Supai Tunnel (about an hour down). A less strenuous option is the short walk from Grand Canyon Lodge to Bright Angel Point. In the afternoon, drive down Cape Royal Road. After returning, buy a cold beverage at Grand Canyon Lodge's Roughrider Saloon, then sip it while sitting on the lodge's enormous, canyon-facing deck. After sunset, if the evening is calm, warm yourself by the fireplace here.
If you're an early riser, head to Point Imperial (the Grand Canyon's highest point) before dawn the next day to watch the sun rise. Or, consider Cape Royal -- which affords brilliant views of the canyon's colors -- if you don't want the sun in your eyes. Then take a walk on one of the rim trails -- the Transept Trail, the Uncle Jim Trail (to Uncle Jim Point), or, my favorite, the Widforss Trail (to Widforss Point).
If You Have 3 or 4 Days
With 3 or 4 days at the canyon, a 3-day hike may be in order.
On the South Rim -- Choose from the Bright Angel, South Kaibab, Grandview, Hermit, and Rim trails.
On the North Rim -- Try the North Kaibab Trail and two rim trails. Explore Forest Service roads, peer over the 3,000-foot vertical drop at Toroweap Overlook, or visit Pipe Spring National Monument, which memorializes the pioneering of the American Southwest. The North Rim has fewer diversions, so be prepared for deep relaxation on the third and fourth days.
On Both Rims -- Consider riding a mule into the canyon, taking a ranger-led walk, or just sitting and reading on the porch at one of the canyon's peaceful lodges.