If you have several days in which to explore the Grand Canyon and you’re not sure how to divide your time, the best thing to do is to pick your ideal outdoor activity and plan around that excursion. Whether it’s river-rafting, hiking, or horseback riding, reserve that highlight into your itinerary and then find activities to complement it before and after.
People travel from all over the world to raft the Colorado River, and you don’t have to be a pro at it to try—day trips aren’t as challenging and can accommodate beginners; otherwise, there are multi-day trips that involve more aggressive paddling. You can also go on a donkey ride, Jeep trip, or helicopter tour.
As far as non-athletic activities, there are Tusayan Ruins—remnants of a 900-year-old Ancestral Puebloan settlement—to see and a related museum with jewelry and pottery (and 4,000-year-old twig animal figurines!); there’s also an IMAX Theatre and National Geographic Visitor Center, and a transparent Skywalk in Grand Canyon West near the Hualapai Tribe.
There are a few different ways to set up your Grand Canyon itinerary, but a safe bet for trekkers is to hike the Rim Trail from Grand Canyon Village and see the views at sunrise on your first day. You can also hike the Bright Angel, Hermit, Grandview, or South Kaibab trails. Ideally, you should spend the night inside the canyon and hike back out the next day (if you get tired hiking along the Rim Trail, you can hop on the shuttle), but be sure your reservations are all in place before you go, as these activities are all quite popular, especially in summer.
Of course, there is always the option just to book a three-day tour all together. Although you won’t have the flexibility to improvise as much, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks; the pre-planned schedule will ensure you fit in everything you want to see (as opposed to trying to wing it) and you’ll meet new friends while you experience the Southwest landscape with the guidance of experts.
Whether it’s a two-day rafting tour with one day hike, one day around Sedona and two days in Grand Canyon Village, or a three-day trek, you’ll never be short of things to do. Many people only have a day to experience the canyon area (or they’re coming from Vegas and have a long trip both ways), so if you’re lucky enough to find yourself with three whole days, make the best use of your time and reserve your favorite activities months in advance!