You’ll find plenty to see and do up top. Miles of paved paths make smooth routes for bikes, available for rent at the visitor center. Then there are the mules, the park’s most famous rides. A long stint in the saddle is not required. Mule caravans carry sightseers on overnight trips into the canyon, but the sure-footed animals also clip-clop daily on two-hour guided tours along the rim.
Check in for your reserved mule ride at Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village. Established in the early 1900s, when the Santa Fe Railway reached the rim, the village remains a hub serving cars, buses, and also a train—the daily Grand Canyon Railway from Williams, Arizona, 65 miles away.
Many original buildings still stand. They include El Tovar, an ornate hotel reminiscent of a Swiss chalet, and the hewed-stone Hopi House, designed by architect Mary Colter to resemble a Hopi pueblo. Completed in 1905, it became a busy market for American Indian art. With its spread of sandpaintings, dream catchers, and handwoven baskets, it serves the same purpose today.
Hopi, Navajo, and nine other Native peoples all have ancestral land in or around the canyon. Many of their cultural heritage sites are off-limits, but not the Tusayan Ruin, where evidence of an 800-year-old tribal structure endures in the stone remnants of living quarters, a storage room, and a kiva, or prayer room.
The ruins stand half an hour east of Grand Canyon Village along Desert View Drive, a road tough to drive because it so often tempts you to stop. Shoshone Point, one of the park’s sleeper hits, lies off the highway 3.5 miles east of the village (between mileposts 244 and 245), where a gentle one-mile walk leads out to a rocky perch and a panorama that’s easy to admire but hard to believe.