enjoying the grand canyon is a wonderful thing to do on solo travel in arizona

Beginners Guide: Solo Trip to Grand Canyon National Park

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The Grand Canyon is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic images in the United States. Our popular culture references Grand Canyon National Park over and over in books, movies, and television shows.

Meanwhile, in traditional travel media, promotional trips to the United States are often include sleek images of the canyon’s famous (and overwhelming) purple and red rocks.

Ultimately for many international (and domestic!) tourists, the Grand Canyon is a true bucket list item. Despite its popularity, I can say that the Grand Canyon is far from overrated. Photos will never, ever do it a justice. 

Truthfully, I think everyone should do what they can to go on a trip to Grand Canyon National Park, especially if you’re a US resident. 

a classic view of the south rim of the grand canyon

But what if you want to take a solo trip to Grand Canyon National Park? After all, a lot of resources are geared toward families and couples who want to take a classic American road trip. I know I personally haven’t seen a ton of information regarding solo travel to the Grand Canyon. 

By taking a few safety measures, you should totally be able to make your dream of visiting this incredible piece of nature come true. 

admiring the grand canyon on a solo trip

My Solo Trip to Grand Canyon National Park

Full disclosure: I, unfortunately, didn’t have time to stay for an extended period in the park. Instead I took a guided tour from Scottsdale to Grand Canyon National Park and absolutely loved it.

As a solo traveler, a guided tour felt like the right fit for me, and now I know that I definitely want to travel for a longer stay in the park sometime in the future. Grand Canyon National Park is seriously gorgeous with so many activities to fill your time. A day truly isn’t enough. 

I’m basing a lot of these tips off my (too brief) visit. However, I want to do more solo travels in our nation’s marvelous parks in the near future.

my first view of the grand canyon

On my trip, I spent a few hours exploring the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. What I noticed right away is that the park has wonderful infrastructure. Clear directions, public buses, lots of food options, plenty of park rangers, and more. A solo traveler won’t feel lost or overwhelmed (except by natural beauty) in Grand Canyon National Park.  

As a solo traveler, I felt like I could connect more intimately with the park’s beauty without other people distracting me. My solo trip to Grand Canyon National Park made me realize the importance of experiencing the outdoors, and like I said, I hope to do more solo adventures in the future. 

Lastly, spoiler alert, I want to revisit the Grand Canyon again in the future without a guided tour. This tour was a brilliant introduction, but there is SO much to see and do. The Grand Canyon is the “gift that keeps on giving.”

admiring the grand canyon's red rocks

Tips for a Solo Trip to Grand Canyon National Park

Are you even more excited to take a solo trip to Grand Canyon National Park now? I bet you are! 

Even though I wasn’t in the park long, I was able to put together a list of tips to help you plan a wonderful and safe visit. You’ll notice right away that a lot of these tips concern safety. Not necessarily safety around other tourists (although that’s always important), but safety in nature. 

The Grand Canyon is gorgeous. Amazing. Breathtaking. Standing at the Grand Canyon is a travel memory that I will carry with me forever. 

But the canyon’s power demands respect.

Let’s get into more specifics, shall we?

use a free map in grand canyon national park
Solo Travel Tip: Don’t Just Rely on Your Phone for Directions!

Invest in the America the Beautiful Pass

Lines to enter Grand Canyon National Park are long in summer. Long. And time consuming. Our tour guide told us that sometimes cars are parked for an hour outside. 

So, if you’re an outdoorsy solo traveler and go to National Parks often, then I suggest purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass. This pass doesn’t only cover National Parks, but also provides access to all federal reaction sites. 

For Grand Canyon National Park, America the Beautiful Pass holders have a special lane that ought to cut down on the wait times. Well worth it, in my opinion. 

loving the red rocks of the grand canyon

Go on a Guided Tour 

Okay, so as I’ve mentioned, I took a guided tour of the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. For me, this felt like the best option due to my itinerary. 

However, you’ll discover plenty of guided tour opportunities inside Grand Canyon National Park if you’re spending a few nights there. As part of a tour, you’re able to enjoy a hummer ride that will take you to see the sunset or pay extra for a half day and private hiking tour

The guided tour experiences are endless. 

All in all, I think taking guided tours are smart and safe ways to enjoy the Grand Canyon’s beauty. You have a much smaller chance of getting lost or dehydrated or hurt if you’re exploring the park with a competent and knowledgeable guide. And, hey, you might make friends on the tours, too! A bonus! 

happily smiling at grand canyon
Glowing on a Solo Trip to Grand Canyon NP.

Get Other People to Take SAFE Pictures of You 

Ask other people to take your pictures. Don’t stand too close to the canyon’s edge, and don’t lean faaaar back to snap that perfect selfie.

I get it. You want the best shots to post on Instagram. However, please, please, please ask others to take safe pictures of you. I promise people will do it.

On my trip, I seriously lost track of the amount of stupid behavior that I witnessed at the South Rim. I seriously thought multiple people were going to tumble off the sides. I didn’t just see selfie stupidity either. Most disturbingly, small children were put in risky situations, because their parents encouraged dangerous behavior to snap that perfect family photo. Not worth it.

Yes, the Grand Canyon is absolutely gorgeous, no doubt, but a fall will also absolutely kill you. It’s not a joke.

Seriously, there’s a book all about people who’ve died in Grand Canyon National Park and it ain’t pretty. 

loving the snow on top of grand canyon

Research the Seasons Ahead of Time

Be mindful of the seasons when you plan your solo trip to Grand Canyon National Park. Summer is warm and it’s easy to get dehydrated. Honestly, you will want to plan your hikes around the temperatures. 

On the flip side, winter in the Grand Canyon is cold. I visited in February, and if my time had been scheduled a few days earlier, I wouldn’t be able to see the Grand Canyon, because of a massive winter storm. 

Scottsdale, where I was based, was about thirty degrees warmer than the Grand Canyon, so I had to pack extra layers. As a side note, traveling Scottsdale alone was also marvelous! 

relaxing on a solo trip to the grand canyon

Know Your Personal Limits 

Back to safety. It’s important to know your physical limits in Grand Canyon National Park. 

For instance, you’ll see plenty of warning signs telling hikers not to attempt to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back again in a single day, because the journey is arduous. Park authorities aren’t just being alarmist either.

Plenty of people have died from overexertion – including top notch athletes. One unsettling example is Margaret Bradley, who ran the Boston Marathon in three hours, but still died in the park. 

So be honest about what hikes and other physical activities that you can reasonably do without succumbing to serious problems. Adventures in the Grand Canyon are not comparable to your apartment building’s gym or Crossfit classes. They just aren’t. 

historic route 66 isn't far from the grand canyon

Share Your Itinerary with Friends and Family 

I know, I know. You’re a strong and independent solo traveler who wants to explore the Grand Canyon on a whim. Still, you’ll want to share a loose itinerary with friends and family to stay safe. 

I understand the urge to just “wing” a solo trip to Grand Canyon, but the reality is that you really can’t, especially in the busy summer months. You need to book accommodation and activities far in advance. So share those plans with your loved ones. It’s always a good idea if you’re traveling alone anywhere, but especially in nature.

south rim grand canyon is gorgeous
Stunning Views from the South Rim.

Start with the South Rim

Even though it’s the most crowded, the South Rim still offers the best views of the Grand Canyon. By visiting the South Rim, you will experience views of endless red and purple rock that have been romanticized in movies and television and magazines. There are over two dozen viewpoints at the South Rim, so you’ll still have quiet moments to just admire the Grand Canyon. 

Furthermore, since the South Rim is accessible year round and easier to reach from bigger cities, you’ll have a lot more tour and food options at your fingertips. 

If you’re visiting in the summer, then you can expand your adventures to the North Rim. However, the North Rim is inaccessible in the winter months. 

a solo trip in the grand canyon had me unable to look away

Stay Hydrated. Always. 

No matter the season, if you plan to hike in the Grand Canyon, always stay healthy and hydrated. Arizona, in general, is quite dry, and you don’t want to succumb to dehydrated as you’re hiking. It truly sneaks up on you, especially if you live in a humid climate and aren’t used to the signs. 

The rule of thumb that I heard on my visit here is to hike until you are halfway through your water, and then turn right back around. Better safe than sorry, especially if you’re alone.

When taking a solo trip to Grand Canyon National Park, it is important that you stay up to date with the weather.

smokey the bear is a national park icon
Let Smokey the Bear guide you! Haha.

Talk to the Park Rangers 

Last but not least, park rangers are everywhere in Grand Canyon National Park. They want to help visitors. Our tax dollars pay for these experts, so you shouldn’t feel awkward or weird approaching them. Park rangers want Grand Canyon to offer a safe and life-changing experience for everyone, including people who are visiting on their own.

If you ever have questions, don’t feel shy asking an experienced park ranger. What’s cool is some of the staff lives year round at Grand Canyon Village. Learning about daily life in Grand Canyon National Park would be an interesting bonus. 

A solo trip to Grand Canyon National Park is even better with expert advice.

impressive rocks at grand canyon national park

Important Essentials for Solo Travel at Grand Canyon

Now that I’m done sharing tips, I just wanted to throw in a few packing essentials and ideas for accommodation. Of course, pack for the seasons and stay at accommodation within your budget, but these are a few items to get you started on the right foot. 

the grand canyon has so many gorgeous views

Packing for a Solo Trip to Grand Canyon

  • Extra Phone Chargers: You will want to bring extra phone chargers to stay safe on a solo trip to Grand Canyon National Park. You don’t want to risk a dead phone. Trust me. 
  • Hiking Boots: Do not save money by buying cheap hiking boots. If you cannot afford hiking boots, then save your trip for another time. I personally suggest investing extra into Merrell hiking boots that are durable and have strong grip.
  • Mirrorless Camera: Do you want to practice your photography? The Grand Canyon is one of the best destinations to do it. I personally love my Sony Alpha Mirrorless Camera and take it with me everywhere. 
  • Reusable Water Bottle: I don’t think I need to reiterate the importance of a reusable water bottle, do I?

williams arizona is close to grand canyon national park

Where to Stay Near Grand Canyon National Park

If you plan to camp, be sure to book well in advance. In high season, the best camping sites sell out early, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to sleep in nature if that’s your main priority.

On the other hand, if you’re a solo traveler who’s keen on sleeping in a hostel or hotel, here are a couple of suggestions within an easy drive of the Grand Canyon. 

  • El Tovar Hotel (in Grand Canyon Village): If you’re willing to spend more money and be as close to the Grand Canyon as possible, then look no further than this historic hotel. See prices on Expedia.com | TripAdvisor.com
  • Grand Canyon International Hostel (in Flagstaff): This charming mountain hostel has been in operation for over 20 years, and welcomes international (and domestic) travelers seasonally to the Grand Canyon, which is only an hour or so away. See prices on TripAdvisor.com 
  • Williams AZ Hostel (in Williams): Small Williams is on historic Route 66 and very close to the Grand Canyon, 59 miles or so. Walking distance to some local shops and restaurants. See prices on Booking.comExpedia.com | TripAdvisor.com
solo trip to grand canyon national park
A Solo Trip to Grand Canyon National Park is Perfect for Practicing Photography.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about how to take a solo trip to Grand Canyon National Park! This national park is truly iconic and worthy of your time and money! I highly recommend a visit in the near future, even if you’re traveling alone.