Travel Icons… by the Back Door

Grand Canyon – Arizona, USA

Visitors per year: Around 5.5 million

Around 433km long and six million years in the making, the Grand Canyon is nature at its rawest. The National Park that surrounds it is one of the USA’s most timeless – and busiest – attractions, as such, getting a trail to yourself is an art form.

Front Door: Las Vegas day-trippers descend en masse on Skywalk in Canyon West, a glass bridge dangling over the canyon. For many, however, the South Rim is the real Grand Canyon (US$30/£21 per car) with its epic river trips, well maintained trails (South Kaibab, Bright Angel) and some of the best views on Earth. Their first stop is usually the Rim’s Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

Back Door: Visit between September and October – it’s less windy than spring, and avoids the summer crush. Stay onsite at El Tovar Hotel (South Rim) or Grand Canyon Lodge (North Rim) for early crowd-beating starts; far fewer people get to the North Rim but its views are arguably finer and its temperatures cooler thanks to its higher altitude (it’s also shut during winter).

Off the maintained trails, the Grand Canyon is less busy, but hiking these can be very difficult so are not for inexperienced walkers. On the South Rim, Grandview Trail starts at Grandview Point and empties out towards Horseshoe Mesa (5km). More difficult is the Tanner Trail from Lipan Point, a 14.5km hike along Tanner Canyon ridge – one for fi t walkers only.

“On the cooler North Rim, the North Kaibab is a maintained trail that’s well shaded along its upper section and not nearly as crowded as its South Rim counterparts. For a more extreme alternative, the Nankoweap Trail is a rugged, steep and waterless route that is only for very experienced hikers, hence used far less often.

“For great views, head west of the North Rim’s main park road to Toroweap. This stunning overlook has a near-sheer-sided 900m drop. You do have to drive 100km of tyre-shredding gravel road to get there, but even this can get crowded on weekends and holidays, so try to go mid-week.”

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