One of the country's first national parks, The Grand Canyon is home to one of the world's most beautiful landscapes. A big attraction year-round, the park features 70 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 25 types of reptiles and five species of amphibians. This guide is for travelers who are set out to experience the exquisite wonders of the Grand Canyon and how to make the most of your trip.

Photo Credit: Les Haines

A Sightseers Dream

Not only is the canyon an overwhelming experience to see, but within the park there are numerous viewpoints that are popular and just as alluring as the canyon itself. Desert View's historic Watchtower is a great stop for travelers passing through. At the tower, sightseers have the perfect position to view the canyon and Colorado River. Hermits Rest has a gift shop and snack bar made of stone and wood. Located at the end of Hermit Trail, it's a good stopping place after a day hike.

Other areas of interest are the Indian Reservations located in and around Grand Canyon National Park. The Havasupai Indian Reservation is a remote area that offers spectacular views. Havasu Canyon, part of the reservation offers amazing views of waterfalls. The village can be visited by helicopters during the week, as well as by horseback. The Grand Canyon Skywalk was recently completed and is a must see while visiting the park. Located at Eagle Point, the Skywalk is a glass bottomed horseshoe shaped floor that reaches 70 feet off the edge and 4,000 feet above the canyon. Entrance must be reserved months in advance as the summertime crowds overwhelm the village.

Photo Credit: Al_HikesAZ

Adventures Along the Rim

Hiking - Hikers will find an abundance of trails snaking around the river. Dubbed one of America's most dangerous hikes, Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon is an enduring journey fit for the elite hikers. The canyon can top over 100 degrees in the summer and runs over 9 miles long. For a more relaxed route, the South Kaibab Trail runs along the South Rim and displays ample views of the canyon. The eight-mile hike of Hermit Trail zig-zags through Hermit Canyon's rock formations, water springs and can reach elevations over 4,000 feet. For a scenic view, step onto Grandview Trail which has views in nearly every direction off the side cliffs of the Colorado River. One of the most popular trails in the park, it is more narrow and has interesting artifacts along the way, including stone cabins, mine shafts and machinery.

Whitewater Rafting - Excursions in the Colorado River are a must at the Grand Canyon during the summer. For a true outdoor experience, jump in a raft and sail the water for an unforgettable day. Tourists have an array of tour and expedition companies that they can choose from. Colorado River and Trail Expeditions specializes in whitewater rafting and Grand Canyon Rafting on the Colorado River is one of the most famous trips in the world. O.A.R.S. or Outdoor Adventure River Specialists have incredible sea kayaking, hiking trips, and whitewater rafting with beautiful views of the canyon and river.

Many other non-sporting activities are available at Grand Canyon Park. For tourists who prefer a more leisurely and laid back guide, there are many options. Stargazing is an amazing way to view the canyon. Every June the Grand Canyon has a Star Party at Yavapai Point at the South Rim to view the meteor showers. Mule rides and motor coach tours are also available year round for groups or individuals looking for a fun day trip in the park.

Photo Credit: Todd Petrie

Diverse Dining

Restaurant and lodging options are also plentiful for the indiscriminate tourist. The Arizona Room offers a unique dining experience with a taste of Arizona. Southwest traditions with BBQ ribs and fish local to Southwest culture. Bright Angel Restaurant offers a more comfortable family setting. Fresh fruits, beverages, and small sandwiches are available for those in need of a quick bite. The Bright Angel bar also offers drinks, folk music and Western entertainment for a night out. The El Tover Dining Room is the gourmet choice for upscale ambiance. As it's view of the canyon dazzles the elegant dining room, sit out on the veranda for the true views.

Accommodations for All Styles and Budgets

Lodging at the park offers several hotels tourists can choose from. El Tovar Hotel is the premier choice. Luminaries including Theordore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and many others have stayed in the El Tovar. Their recent renovation attracts tourists who are looking for a more first-class hotel amenities like a balcony or porch. The Phantom Ranch is dubbed an "oasis" located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. As it can only be reached by mule or foot, it is a popular resting place for hikers that offers rustic cabins, bunk beds and dormitory-style lodging for travelers looking for a quick overnight stay. The Maswik Lodge is a laid-back motel spread over the Ponderosa Pine forest just off the canyon's edge. A daily cafeteria is available along with a gift shop and sports bar. Cabins are also available in the summer months.