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10 Natural Wonders Near the Grand Canyon

As a temporary resident of Arizona, I had grand plans for hiking the famed Bright Angel Trail and camping at the bottom of the Grand Canyon this summer. I submitted my request for a backcountry camping permit in February, pleased as punch that I was planning a trip five months in advance. Then came the rejection letter from the National Park Service.

Requests for camping permits, I was told, should be made at the earliest possible date (January 1 for May, February 1 for June, etc.). And reservations for Phantom Ranch and South Rim mule trips open up 13 months prior to your desired arrival date. My hopes were raised again when I read “cancellations plus a small number of Corridor campsites are held in reserve for last-minute walk-in visitors.” They were quickly dashed again two sentences later: “In busy months, it often takes two to three days for a walk-in visitor to obtain a one- to two-night trip within the canyon.”

I turned my sights to Havasu Falls, a 22-mile round-trip hike, but its lodging and hiking permits were booked until November. The West Rim Skywalk was an option, albeit an expensive one at more than $40 per person—not including the actual Skywalk. Even the Grand Canyon Lodge on the less-visited North Rim fills up early; I watched my room reservation get snagged by someone who could clearly type their credit card number faster than me.

It all got me thinking: Why fight the crowds during peak season at the Grand Canyon when there are a slew of other must-see natural wonders within driving distance of either rim? So here are 10 eye-popping places you can visit instead of (or in addition to) the Grand Canyon.

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