surgent wrote:North Rim is always far less crowded, but farther drive from most anywhere.
Day hikes do not require permit, nor does hiking below the rim as long as you exit that day. Overnights require permit. Mountain biking below the rim is not allowed.
Be aware that it can be very pleasant up on the rims, but extremely hot down below. Temps above 110 on the river itself are common. Generally, if you want to know how hot it is at the bottom, read the forecast for Phoenix. Bring lots of water, and be conservative especially if you have children or family members not used to this kind of terrain or scale.
If this is your first time and you have a family along (and possibly kids), I'd suggest to do a series of dayhikes and explorations. Despite the crowds on the S Rim, there is still plenty of places to see in your own vehicle along state route AZ-64. Just pull into a parking lot and start walking.
The upshot is no matter what hikes you do, even if you just "show up", you won't be disappointed. Don't trust the photos you've seen. Imagine the prettiest GC photo you've ever seen, then multiply that by a million, and that's what you'll feel when you see it in person.
The far-off places in the GC, like Toroweap, require longer drives over remote dirt roads and can be hot. The N Rim may offer a better chance at some single-day canyoneering routes.
Do basic prep: have maps and some general idea of the layouts and restrictions that may apply. Have supplies, and just piece your itinerary day by day. You'll then get a better idea of a multi-day return trip down below. Trust me, you'll be back.
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