Not Visiting the National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is a wonder of geology and color. All the best views of the Grand Canyon lie inside the federally protected national park, yet over a million of the five million people who visit the Grand Canyon each year don’t enter the national park. Where do these visitors go instead? The West Rim of the Grand Canyon. The West Rim belongs to the Hualapai Native American Tribe and is located only two hours from Las Vegas—which makes it an easy day trip for visitors. And since I mentioned Vegas, if you’re planning to visit Sin City soon, use this coupon to get up to 40% on all shows, attractions, and tours in the city.
Anyway, back to the article. The West Rim has become a bit touristy and doesn’t boast the same wide, colorful vistas that the national park does. It does have exciting attractions such as the Skywalk (a glass bridge over the canyon), boat rides in the canyon on the Colorado River, and helicopter rides to the bottom of the canyon. But tourists should not let these activities obscure the fact that this part of the canyon is nothing compared to the majestic sections inside the national park.
Not Seeing Multiple Viewpoints
Visitors who avoid Grand Canyon West and do visit the national park often make another big mistake: they don’t see the canyon from multiple viewpoints. Millions of visitors come to Grand Canyon National Park and proceed to the Visitor Center, where they walk out to look at the viewpoints behind it, and then call it a day. If you walk down the Las Vegas Strip, you’ll see ads for dozens of tour agencies that dump their guests off at the Visitor Center and let them roam for two hours before the long haul back to the city.
Grand Canyon National Park is over 277 miles long, and the view changes with every turn and bend in the canyon. At the least, all visitors should check out three of the scenic viewpoints that line the canyon. And for a real perspective-changer, a hike into the canyon is warranted. This requires a minimum of half a day, but if you want to get the full Grand Canyon experience, you’ll need two days. Whether you are driving on your own or taking a tour, make sure you get to see multiple viewpoints.
Not Wearing Layers of Clothing
Grand Canyon National Park is located at over 7,000 feet, and the weather is constantly changing. Visitors coming from Phoenix or Las Vegas can often be unprepared for the drastic change in temperature when they reach the canyon. Even on days when the temperature is pleasant, the wind at the top can turn a warm day chilly. Due to the constantly changing weather patterns at the Grand Canyon, you should always dress in layers when visiting. If the wind suddenly picks up, you can put on a sweatshirt; and if you’re getting roasted in the sun, you can peel down to your shirtsleeves. And always remember that you need full winter gear—including hats, gloves, and jackets if you’re visiting in the winter because the wind pushes cold air to the rim, making for very chilly temperatures.
Feeding the Wildlife
The Grand Canyon is home to over 200 different animals, and some of them look adorable. This leads people to want to feed them. While they may look harmless, it’s a huge mistake to feed the animals at the Grand Canyon for three reasons: First, it’s illegal, and you will receive a big fine if you are caught giving the animals food. Second, if you feed the animals, they may become aggressive and bite you or try to attack you (or other tourists) to get more food. Unfortunately, this has happened many times at the Grand Canyon with both small animals (like squirrels) and big animals (like elk).
Squirrels are actually the most dangerous animal at the Grand Canyon and have sent hundreds of visitors to the hospital. They can become aggressive, and they transmit diseases like Lyme disease, salmonellosis, tularemia, and leptospirosis. And the third reason not to feed the wildlife is that it puts the animals’ lives in danger. If they think they can rely on humans for food, they’ll often wander into the road looking for human food and get hit by cars. Or they’ll rely on human food to the point where their foraging skills diminish, and then they can starve to death in the winter when there aren’t many humans around.
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Not Bringing Enough Water
Don’t let the pine forest at the Grand Canyon fool you—it is actually an arid desert. Some people make the mistake of not drinking enough water while visiting the canyon, and they end up dehydrated. (You can usually tell you are getting dehydrated when you start feeling small headaches). Don’t let dehydration ruin your trip! If you’re going to be hiking into the canyon, plan ahead and know where you can refill your water bottles. Be aware that it’s going to be hotter inside the canyon than on the rim, due to the altitude change. Also, know that you will go through a lot more water on the way out than on the way in. Heat is a major contributor to most search-and-rescue incidents at Grand Canyon National Park.
Being Careless Around the Edge
One of the worst mistakes people make is not fully understanding just how dangerous the Grand Canyon is. There were countless articles earlier this year cautioning people about falling to their deaths at the Grand Canyon. On average, around 12 people die every year within the park. You should constantly keep this in mind as you walk to the ledges of the Grand Canyon and take pictures and selfies. Selfies at the edge are particularly dangerous, as your back is to the danger, and it’s easy to lose your bearings in relation to the edge.
If you must sit on the edge of the Grand Canyon for that death-defying social media shot, use the sit-and-scoot method: sit down five feet from the edge and scoot out; when finished, scoot back five feet and stand up. This method will remove the danger of stumbling and falling over the edge. Most of the Grand Canyon rim doesn’t have a railing, so please use extreme caution when walking around it to avoid becoming a statistic.
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