Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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Grand Canyon National Park stretches over 1,904 square miles and includes the Colorado River, the Colorado Plateau, and the ancestral homelands of 11 different tribes. The park’s namesake Grand Canyon is one of the most remarkable examples of natural erosion worldwide.
This national park has a rich cultural and natural history to explore and learn about. Each year, over 6 million visitors come to Grand Canyon National Park to stand in awe of its immense wonder.
Grand Canyon National Park is located in the northwest corner of Arizona near the borders of Utah and Nevada. Grand Canyon National Park is broken into 2 areas, the North Rim and the South Rim, separated by a 277-mile-long canyon.
The North Rim is located 30 miles south of Jacob Lake, not far from the border of Utah. The South Rim is 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona, and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff.
There are several options for airports for travelers flying to Grand Canyon National Park. There are large commercial airlines and smaller options.
There are 3 popular airports that are most utilized by those visiting Grand Canyon National Park. A good idea is to plan your park itinerary, decide whether you’ll stay near the North or South Rim, and research which airport will work best for your travel plans. Let’s explore which will fit your travel needs.
Flagstaff Pulliam Airport is the closest small commercial airport to Grand Canyon National Park. This airport is approximately 81 miles from the South Rim. Flagstaff connects flights from and through Phoenix Sky Harbor and exclusively serves American Airlines.
Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas is a popular option for flying to Grand Canyon National Park. This airport is 274 miles from the South Rim. Harry Reid serves nearly 30 airlines, including Aeromexico, American, British Airways, Delta, and Southwest. This airport offers nonstop flights to over 100 different domestic and international destinations.
Most Grand Canyon visitors fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for their park vacation. It is the closest major international airport to the South Rim. Phoenix is a 3.5-hour drive to the park. This airport is one of America’s busiest international airports. It serves ~20 airlines that offer nonstop flights to 110+ domestic destinations and 20+ international destinations from Phoenix.
Grand Canyon National Park visitors can visit the park via the North or South Rim. There is a wide variety of options for which route to take to enter the park, which is ultimately determined by which area you visit. Let’s explore the routes from the 3 most popular cities and airports.
The South Rim is open year-round and 90% of the park’s visitors choose this entry. The South Rim is on the Arizona side of the park and is 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona, and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff.
There are multiple routes for arriving at the South Rim, depending on where you are traveling from. From Flagstaff, there are 3 route options for accessing the South Rim, including a path on I-40 to Highway 64, Highway 180 to Highway 64, or Highway 89 to Highway 64. Flagstaff is 81 miles from the South Rim.
Travelers from Phoenix will access I-17 to Flagstaff and from there, take I-40 to Williams and finish by Highway 64 to the South Rim. Phoenix is 231 miles from the South Rim of the park.
If you’re planning a trip from the Las Vegas area, the South Rim is 278 miles away. The Vegas route includes taking Highway 93 to Kingman, then I-40 to Williams, and concluding with Highway 64 to the South Rim.
The North Rim is on the Utah side of the park, and this entry receives only 10% of the visitors that travel to the park. There are several ways to get to the North Rim, depending on where you are traveling from. Since Vegas, Flagstaff, and Phoenix are the most used airports for coming to Grand Canyon National Park, we will explore routes from these cities.
Las Vegas is 275 miles from the North Rim. Visitors can start driving north on I-15 and then take Route 9 to Route 59, followed by Route 389 and then through US 89A. Finally, Route 67 will take visitors to the North Rim.
Visitors from Flagstaff will take Highway 89 north to Bitter Springs, Highway 89A west to Jacob Lake, and Highway 67 south to the North Rim. Flagstaff is 207 miles from the North Rim.
Phoenix is 351 miles from the North Rim. From Phoenix, I-17 north will lead to Flagstaff. Switching to I-40 east to Highway 89 will lead to Bitter Springs. From Bitter Springs, Highway 89A will lead to Jacob Lake, where finally, you can take Highway 67 to the North Rim.
There are 2 different options for those who want to travel to Grand Canyon National Park by train. The South Rim can be accessed by train using the Grand Canyon Railway or Amtrak.
The Grand Canyon Railway provides train services between Williams, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon Village.
Amtrak in Flagstaff offers services from points around the U.S. Those who choose to use Amtrak will need to travel the rest of their journey to Grand Canyon National Park by renting a car or utilizing some other form of transportation to arrive at the park. The North Rim may only be reached by road, as no train services come to this park area.
Other ways to get to Grand Canyon National Park include taking a Greyhound Bus or one of the several shuttles that provide services to the park from surrounding cities:
Driving your vehicle through the park is one of the most popular ways to get around Grand Canyon National Park. If you drive, be prepared for crowded conditions and roadways. It’s also important to keep in mind that driving your own vehicle can mean experiencing road closures.
The National Park Service has provided free shuttle bus services for over 40 years. Utilizing one of the free shuttle services is an excellent way to explore the park without worrying about crowded streets and navigation stresses.
The shuttle services transport visitors throughout the South Rim and have a regular schedule to help visitors explore the park daily. These shuttle services include the Village Route, Kaibab Route, Hermit Route, Hikers’ Express, and the Tusayan Route.
Grand Canyon National Park has no shortage of amazing attractions to see and places to visit. From stunning rock formations to deep canyons, and rushing rivers to ancient tribal lands, there is an endless list to explore. Planning your itinerary around must-see attractions or must-do experiences will help you make the most of your park visit.
Desert View Drive is a scenic road stretching 23 miles along the canyon rim. This road is the most popular drive that provides park visitors with views and places to stop and take in the beauty of the park.
You’ll have access to 6 developed canyon viewpoints, 4 picnic areas, 5 unnamed pullouts, and the Tusayan Pueblo Museum.
Hermit Road is a scenic road that can be accessed by hikers, cyclists, and runners throughout the year. The road is closed to vehicles for 9 months of the year, but open to the complimentary shuttle called the Hermit Shuttle bus.
Private cars are permitted to access the road during the winter months. Popular sites that can be viewed from Hermit Road include Powell Point, Hopi Point, and Trailview Overlook.
Kolb Studio looks like an ordinary home just sitting on the canyon’s rim, but this studio is anything but ordinary. Kolb Studio is the Victorian-era home of the Kolb brothers. These brothers created a legacy of adventure, exploration, and fantastic photography of the Grand Canyon that will stand the test of time.
The Kolb brothers’ photography helped establish the Grand Canyon as a national icon. This studio was built decades ago and is one of the earliest tourist destinations on the South Rim. The Kolb brothers took photographs of mule riders from a small toll shack on the Bright Angel Trail. This shack eventually became part of the Kolbs’ 5-story home, theater, and photo studio.
This studio has been used for over 75 years to document visitors’ trips and create imagery of the Grand Canyon. Today, Kolb Studio is used as an art gallery with ever-changing exhibits and a small store that sells books and information about the life of the Kolb brothers.
The Grand Canyon Visitor Center, in the South Rim, is a wonderful place to learn about Grand Canyon National Park and plan your itinerary. This visitor center is staffed by park rangers eager to help visitors have the best possible experience.
The exhibits in the center include a sizeable video-enabled relief map and the Science on a Sphere program. This visitor center also has a 20-minute movie that teaches park visitors about the park and takes them on a virtual journey through the park from the rim to the river from dawn to dusk.
This is an excellent place to stop and visit to learn about the Grand Canyon, and it’s just a short walk from the visitor center to Mather Point. Mather Point is an incredible overlook and one of the most popular lookouts in the park. From this area, visitors can see sweeping views from a peninsula that juts into the canyon.
Hot Tip: The vistas of the landscape are remarkable to see, especially at sunrise.
Suspended an impressive 4,000 feet above the canyon floor, the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West is a walkway like no other. It opened in 2007, and since then, it has attracted more than 10 million visitors from all over the world.
This skywalk is great for those who love adrenaline but aren’t too big on doing dangerous things. The glass bridge is incredibly strong and can hold the weight of 70 fully-loaded 747-passenger jets.
Grand Canyon West also has a gift shop, several dining establishments, and many activities to enjoy. This includes a zipline that sends daredevils on a 3,200-foot ride across the canyon.
Tuweep is the ancestral home of the Southern Paiute people. This area is managed today so guests can have an uncrowded wilderness experience while visiting the park.
The Tuweep region is filled with historic information and has scenic overlooks, campgrounds, and hiking trails. This part of the park is filled with rich cultural, ecological, geological, and human history.
Verkamp’s Visitor Center is found in the Village Historic District, close to Hopi House and El Tovar Hotel. This visitor center showcases the Grand Canyon community and the history of living and working in one of the 7 natural wonders.
This visitor center is the closest for guests arriving on the train. It has a staffed information desk for answering guest questions about the park, a bookstore, a museum shop, and several exhibits that teach about the area’s local history.
Yavapai Geology Museum was first dedicated in 1928 and is an incredible site for learning about the geology of the park. This museum is located at the edge of the canyon rim at Yavapai Point. A team of geologists selected the site because it’s a great spot to marvel at and learn about the park’s geology.
Yavapai Geology Museum provides extensive information on the geology of the Grand Canyon through its displays and exhibits. Yavapai Museum has panoramic windows that showcase incredible views of rock structures in the park, as well as 3-dimensional models, handcrafted artwork, and informative photographs.
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited parks in the nation. Once you arrive and stand in awe of the magnificence of this natural wonder, it is easy to see why it is so popular. Whether you are seeking adventure or education, these are the best times to visit Grand Canyon National Park.
The North Rim is closed to vehicles from October to May, but the South Rim is open year-round and experiences winter from December to February. December is a fabulous time to visit for those who want to experience Grand Canyon National Park in the winter. It is quiet and peaceful and has excellent hiking weather. It’s also easier to get hotel reservations.
For those who want to stay at places like Phantom Ranch, which usually fills up quickly, there is much less competition to get a spot during December. The canyon views are stunning during December as they are dusted with snow.
Keep in mind there is a possibility of a winter storm occurring during a December visit, which means hiking trails can be dangerous and icy.
To experience Grand Canyon National Park with fewer crowds, the best month to visit is December. The cooler temperatures deter visitors, which makes this month an excellent time for those seeking a solitary park adventure. Those who venture to the park during this month enjoy the quiet experience, stunning, clear views, and the park’s landscape dusted in snow.
October is one of the best months for hiking in Grand Canyon National Park. The summer crowds have died down in October, and the weather during this month is pleasant and warm. Daytime temperatures are in the 60- to 70-degree range, and there’s plenty of sunshine.
Early to mid-September is typically the cheapest time to visit Grand Canyon National Park. With school starting this month, the number of park visitors drops drastically and the shoulder season begins. Flight and accommodation rates also dip in price, which can help save on your vacation budget.
Grand Canyon National Park hosts various special events each year that visitors from around the world enjoy participating in. There are art events, Native American heritage days, and music festivals that happen annually.
Planning a visit where you can enjoy one of these events makes your national park trip even more memorable. Let’s take a look at some of the top events that happened in Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon Star Party happens every June and is a free event open to the public. Incredible sights can be viewed at this event, including planets, double stars, distant galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae. The event starts at sunset, but the best views come after 9 p.m. Telescopes are brought in after 11 p.m., and astronomers share their expertise with visitors. This event is a chance of a lifetime and will be remembered for years to come.
The Grand Canyon Music Festival is a popular event every September held at the Shrine of Ages. This festival features world-class music from outreach programs in rural schools and Native American communities.
Every year from September to January, Grand Canyon National Park hosts the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art. This tradition has taken place since 2009 and is an excellent opportunity for artists and park visitors alike. Artists are challenged to create and capture the beautiful canyon and create one-of-a-kind pieces. Exhibits display art inspired by the canyon, and a fundraiser takes place to support a dedicated art venue at the park. All the art is displayed and sold at Kolb Studios.
There are many lodging options in and near Grand Canyon National Park. Most park tourists stay in the South Rim area of the park or the gateway town of Tusayan. From camping in the great outdoors to lodges to luxury resorts, there’s a perfect accommodation for every visitor. Let’s look at the lodging options available for your Grand Canyon National Park adventure.
There are several options for lodging in Grand Canyon National Park. Grand Canyon National Park has the perfect solution for all guests, from campgrounds to lodges and historic hotels. Guests have been coming to stay in Grand Canyon National Park since the early 20th century and enjoy all that the park has to offer.
Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins is a Registered National Historic Landmark and an iconic park area immersed in a rich cultural history. This lodge has undergone many transformations throughout the years, starting as a hotel, then used as a camp, and finally turning into a lodge. These changes took place to accommodate the growing number of visitors to the park once the train system arrived in 1901.
Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins has 90 options for guests, including cozy lodge rooms and historic cabins. On top of incredible lodging, Bright Angel has a history room that shares information about historic people, events, and artifacts that date back to a hundred years ago.
Other amenities at Bright Angel include restaurants such as Fred Harvey Burger, Arizona Steakhouse, an old-fashioned ice cream soda fountain, a gift shop, an old-style saloon, and a coffee house.
El Tovar Hotel is a historic hotel located right on the rim of the Grand Canyon. This hotel has served park visitors since 1905. The architecture of El Tovar Hotel is stunning and styled in a Swiss-chalet/Norwegian-villa look.
The hotel was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and has hosted well-known guests, including Theodore Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, Albert Einstein, and Oprah Winfrey.
El Tovar Hotel is called the crown jewel of the historic national park lodges because of its incredible architecture and superior services. The facility has a gourmet dining room, gift shop, and lounge. There are 78 guest rooms and suites, each featuring an individual style and theme.
Kachina Lodge sits right on the rim of the Grand Canyon and offers a contemporary lodging option for those visiting the park.
Many guests stay at Kachina Lodge because of its incredible location in the heart of the historic district. The location is within walking distance of restaurants, gift shops, and major attractions like Kolb Studio, Bright Angel Trail Head, and Verkamp’s Visitor Center.
Maswik Lodge was originally the “Motor Lodge,” built-in 1927. Traveling to the park by automobile instead of train became popular during this time. Dozens and dozens of cabins have been added over the years, and today it is a complex with 280 rooms available for park guests.
Phantom Ranch is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the north side of the Colorado River beside Bright Angel Creek. This historic area is the only option for lodging below the rim. It is only accessible by mule, on foot, or by rafting down the Colorado River.
Comprised of dormitories and cabins, Phantom Ranch offers a chance for visitors to disconnect from busy schedules and lifestyles. The cabins and dorms do not have telephones or televisions, so guests can truly reset and enjoy the beauty and nature of the park. Phantom Ranch requires reservations and space is limited, so planning in advance is highly recommended.
Thunderbird Lodge is another lodging option in the center of the Historic District of Grand Canyon National Park. With a contemporary style, the family-friendly lodge has every necessity and amenity for a comfortable stay.
The lodge is within walking distance of popular park attractions including Kolb Studio, Bright Angel Trail Head, and Verkamp’s Visitor Center. Those who enjoy outdoor adventure appreciate the proximity to Rim Trail and the opportunities that await them.
Most Grand Canyon National Park visitors choose to stay on the park’s property. Still, many guests prefer to stay in a gateway town near the park. The most popular gateway town is Tusayan, just a few minutes from the park.
Tusayan is just 7 miles south of Grand Canyon Village. This town welcomes guests from around the world who want to stay near Grand Canyon National Park.
The city has an abundance of lodging options and restaurants. It allows guests to enjoy the natural setting of the town. There’s something for everyone in Tusayan. Whether you prefer hiking or shopping for handcrafted souvenirs, you will find the perfect way to spend your time away from the park in this wonderful town. Let’s take a look at some highly rated lodging facilities in Tusayan.
The Grand Hotel is located in the Tusayan area near Grand Canyon National Park. This 3-story hotel was built in 1998 with a chalet style. The grand hotel is the only 3-diamond hotel near the Grand Canyon. Guests will experience superior services and amenities during their stay.
The hotel has an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub area, which is perfect for relaxing after a long day exploring and hiking through the park. The hotel features a coffee and breakfast bar, the Canyon Star Steakhouse, and the Canyon Star Saloon on the property.
Evenings are for incredible meals and live entertainment with local beers and drinks on tap. The Grand Hotel brings a memorable southwest experience to every guest who visits.
Red Feather Lodge is located about a mile from Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim entrance. This hotel offers affordable, modern lodging, excellent hospitality, and abundant outdoor recreational activities.
A hotel and a motel are available for guests to choose from and offer exciting experiences, such as air tours over Grand Canyon National Park, hiking, horseback, riding, and Jeep tours. The front desk is happy to help visitors plan their itineraries during their park stay.
The hotel section of Red Feather Lodge is a newer building with 3 stories and newly renovated rooms. Every room in this building is a deluxe room with everything you could need for your park stay, including a kitchenette and cozy linens.
The motel comprises newly remodeled economy rooms with outdoor entry to each unit. The motel rooms are comfortable and offer amenities like a small kitchenette and comfortable furnishings.
Guests of Red Feather Lodge can dine at Plaza Bonita Restaurant, which is within walking distance from the lodge. Red Feather Lodge guests receive a 10% discount when they show their room key.
A wide variety of restaurants is available in Grand Canyon National Park. Most lodges have dining rooms, restaurants on-site, and several restaurants near each facility. From quick snacks to coffee shops, steakhouses, and food trucks, guests don’t have to worry about going hungry during their park visit. Let’s take a look at some of the dining options in Grand Canyon National Park.
El Tovar is a gourmet dining option located in the El Tovar Hotel. Guests enjoy the restaurant’s rustic yet classical traditional atmosphere, featuring murals on the walls highlighting 4 Native American tribes from the Grand Canyon.
This restaurant has served famous guests including Bill Clinton, Teddy Roosevelt, and Sir Paul McCartney. The menu is made up of both international and local southwest dishes. Popular menu items include prime rib, hash for breakfast, or salmon tostada for dinner.
The El Tovar dining room is considered one of the best dining establishments in Grand Canyon National Park and is recognized internationally.
Fred Harvey Burger is located in the Bright Angel Lodge. This restaurant is casual and family-friendly, featuring a healthier take on diner-style food. Fred Harvey Burger is decorated with historical murals and scenes from the Native American tribes of the park.
Folk musicians and western singers perform seasonally, which adds to the restaurant’s ambiance. Fred Harvey is open daily and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Yavapai Dining Hall is located in the Yavapai Lodge. This restaurant is open daily year-round and serves southwest-inspired American comfort food. Some of the most popular dishes include beef brisket, smoked ribs, and a wide variety of vegetarian meals. This restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner each day.
Grand Canyon National Park is over 1,000,000 acres, which is large enough to fit the entire state of Rhode Island within the park boundaries.
The Grand Canyon has an elevation ranging from 2,460 feet to 8,297 feet. A wide range of weather conditions are present in the park. Sudden elevation changes can influence the temperature, with temperatures increasing over 5 degrees with every thousand feet lost in elevation.
Controlled burning helps with issues concerning the wildland-urban interface. It also thins the forest of fuel materials that ignite readily, like dead leaves and branches, and recycles nutrients, making it easier for new plants to grow.
Grand Canyon National Park has a specific management department dedicated to controlled burning. Members are responsible for maintaining the natural balance in the park’s ecosystem by using fire. Park managers use controlled fires to protect the landscape of Grand Canyon National Park.
There are 1,000 hidden caves scattered around Grand Canyon, National Park. Cave of the Domes is the only cave open for park visitors to explore.
Between 30 and 70 million years ago, plate tectonics lifted the region that we now call the Colorado Plateau. Later on, around 5 to 6 million years ago, the Colorado River began carving its way down. This water winding downward and erosion helped to create the Grand Canyon.
There is an abundance of fossils in the Grand Canyon National Park. While there aren’t any dinosaur fossils, several ancient marine species and reptiles can be studied. Some fossils date back to the Paleozoic era, 525 to 270 million years ago. The oldest fossils date back to the pre-Cambrian time, between 1,200 to 740 million years ago.
Teddy Roosevelt first visited Grand Canyon in 1903 and immediately felt the need to protect it. After he viewed the canyon, he was filled with awe and wanted to preserve it so others could appreciate its grandeur and loveliness. Just 3 years after he first visited the park, he signed the Grand Canyon Game Reserve Bill, and later, he created the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument.
Over 90 different species of mammals make their home in Grand Canyon National Park. An incredible species living in the park is the ringtail cat, Arizona’s state animal. Other animals are deer, squirrels, and elk.
There are 6 species of rattlesnakes that live inside Grand Canyon National Park. These snakes help control the rodent population, which prevents diseases from spreading to certain plants. The pink rattlesnakes are found only within the boundaries of the park.
Grand Canyon didn’t become a national park until 1919. The first attempt to establish this area as a national park was in 1882, but it was not approved until 37 years later.
A trip to Grand Canyon National Park is a trip of a lifetime. The scenic beauty, iconic activities, and opportunities for adventure are ceaseless. This trip provides an escape from the hectic hustle and bustle of life and can offer moments to put all aspects of life into perspective. Standing in awe of this natural world wonder is an incredible experience that will be cherished for years.
The number of days of your park visit will depend on the number of activities and attractions you want to see while you are in the park. A 1- to 3-day trip would give you ample time to check out the various viewpoints, hike several trails into the canyon or on the rim, and experience the beautiful sunsets and sunrises in the park. For a more relaxed experience, consider extending your stay closer to a week-long visit.
The entrance fee for the park is $35 per vehicle. For those driving a motorcycle, the cost is $30. Those who enter as a pedestrian or cyclist pay $20 per individual. Admission is valid for 7 days of visiting the park.
A permit is not required for a day hike below the rim. A backcountry permit must be obtained if you plan to camp in the canyon overnight.
There are various activities available for visitors to enjoy in the park. Some of these activities include rafting, trips, hiking, meal trips, guided tours, and stargazing.
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