Though it appears harsh and forbidding from the rim, Grand Canyon has provided food and shelter to people for thousands of years. Descendants of the canyon’s first residents live in the region today. A 5–7-day trip exploring the canyon’s native cultures combines archaeology, adventure, and sightseeing.
The best time to schedule this trip is mid-September through October, when the South Rim  and Havasu Canyon are less crowded and the monsoon season has ended. You’ll need advance reservations for all lodging and to dine at El Tovar . You can obtain permits for visiting the Hualapai reservation when you arrive, but you must reserve your permit to visit Havasu Canyon well in advance.
Travel to Grand Canyon via the Navajo Reservation. As you drive U.S. 89 north of Flagstaff, you’ll skirt the Painted Desert, passing archaeological treasures such as Wupatki National Monument and historic sites that include Cameron Trading Post.
On your way to the East Entrance Station  stop for views of the Little Colorado River, an important Hopi pilgrimage route. Spend an hour or two enjoying the panoramas at Desert View and the 70-foot-tall Watchtower . Architect Mary Colter studied Ancestral Puebloan watchtowers before designing her reconstruction, which opened in 1933. The striking murals and paintings inside are a symbolic history of Southwestern Native American cultures. Along Desert View Drive , several overlooks offer dramatic canyon views.Historians believe that somewhere near Moran or Lipan Points , Hopi guides led Spanish conquistadors to the edge of the canyon in 1540.
On the way to Grand Canyon Village , stop at the Tusayan Ruins and Museum  timing your visit for a tour or ranger program. Cohonina farmers occupied this masonry pueblo 800 years ago. The adjacent museum has displays of prehistoric, historic, and contemporary Native American cultures.
Spend the night at one of the lodges or campgrounds in the village. If you dine at El Tovar  note the large paintings depicting Arizona Indian tribes, part of the hotel’s original 1905 decor.
After an early breakfast, visit Hopi House , designed by Mary Colter to resemble the pueblo of Old Oraibi. The gallery upstairs has museum-quality pottery, jewelry, carvings, and Navajo rugs. If your timing is right, you may be able to watch a rug weaver at work. But try to tear yourself away by late morning, because it’s a three-hour drive from Grand Canyon Village  to Peach Springs on the Hualapai Reservation. (If this is your first visit to Grand Canyon, you’ll probably want to schedule an extra night or two at the South Rim before continuing your trip.) En route, you can stop for lunch in the historic Route 66 towns of Williams or Seligman.
When you arrive at Peach Springs check for tour possibilities at the Hualapai Lodge. The Hualapai (People of the Tall Pines), historically known for their vast trade network, have translated those entrepreneurial skills into tour operations, with rafting, 4WD, helicopter, and bus tours centered around Grand Canyon West, which is home to the Skywalk. If you don’t have time for a tour today, you can arrange one for the last day of your trip.
Spend the night at Hualapai Lodge and get an early start for the 65-mile dirt-road drive from Peach Springs to Hualapai Hilltop, the launch point for the 8.5-mile hike into Havasu Canyon, which takes about 3–4 hours. You can also arrange to travel by horse, mule, or helicopter, giving you more time (and energy) to explore Havasu Canyon and its magical creek and waterfalls.
Historically, the Havasupai (People of the Blue-Green Water) roamed the length of Grand Canyon in search of game and plants, forging many of the trails used today for hiking. If you spend two nights at the lodge or campground, you’ll have more time to enjoy the canyon’s waterfalls and travertine pools, although it’s possible to make this an overnight trip, especially if you travel by mule or helicopter.
You may find yourself reluctant to leave this paradise for the long hike back to the rim. If you have time, explore more of the Hualapai Reservation before heading home, or be content to end your journey with visions of blue-green water still flowing in your mind.