Safely Visiting Grand Canyon National Park

Yes! Grand Canyon National Park is open for visitors. recently asked me to share my thoughts on visiting one of America’s most popular attractions during the current pandemic.

Being prepared is crucial to ensure that you and your family have a safe, fun, successful trip to one of America’s most amazing natural wonders. As health regulations and concerns are constantly changing, it’s important to double check on things like parking, access to restrooms, visitors centers and available hours of restaurants and other services. Thankfully, the National Park Service maintains a specific web page dedicated to an updated list of closures, detours, and advisories within Grand Canyon National Park.

The first thing I tell people who are headed to the Grand Canyon is that you cannot just simply peek over the edge. There’s a great scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation where Chevy Chase spends about two seconds enjoying the view before hopping back in the family station wagon. (Fun fact – that short scene was one of the few actually filmed on-location. ) Instead of just looking over the edge, make plans to view the canyon by going inside of it.

You don’t have to be the most athletic person to take a short hike down one of the Canyon’s historic trails. Fair warning: if you don’t regularly walk, run, or do any sort of aerobic activity – you’ll definitely want to start preparing your body before the trip. The trails will mess with a lot of travelers who aren’t used to the altitude, so don’t over-do it.  Have water, snacks, good hiking shoes, a hat, and depending on the weather – a jacket.  As long as you are physically mobile, you should be able to take advantage of one of the Canyon’s hiking trails to experience the natural wonder from below the edge and get at least a sense of how incredible this place is.

Some people choose to take a ride around the rim or down into the Grand Canyon on a mule. Often referred to as “sure footed mules”, that old-school mode of transportation has been around for over 100 years. I often hear “but what if they fall over the edge?” The short answer is: they don’t. The last fatal accident involving a mule at the Grand Canyon was way back in 1951.

Hiking in the Grand Canyon after a snow storm in 2015.

While experts tend to agree that transmission of Covid-19 is less likely in outdoor settings, you are still encouraged to wear masks and keep a safe distance from other travelers. This is especially true on trails where it’s impossible to keep hikers all going in the same direction.

If you’re looking for a fun way to see the National Park with kids, consider taking a ride on the Grand Canyon Train. The train departs daily from Williams, Arizona located near historic Route 66. There are various levels of seating options on board though you’re likely to be fine with just a basic ticket. The kids will enjoy some western entertainment and music, as well an old-fashioned shoot-out routine along the way.

Ah, now the big question: where do you stay when visiting the Grand Canyon? There are plenty of accommodations available depending on your budget and whether you’re traveling as a family, couple, or individual. From upscale hotels to more affordable lodges or budget motels can all provide a place to stay during your visit to Grand Canyon National Park!

Hiking along the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon with fellow travel writer, Carri Wilbanks. (2005)

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