The Grand Canyon is in northern Arizona, and is one of the great tourist attractions in the United States as well as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The massive canyon encompasses several distinct areas, most famous of which is Grand Canyon National Park, a United States national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors to the national park have many options, including: the remote North Rim; the more accessible (and therefore more crowded) South Rim; parts of the canyon, such as Phantom Ranch or the Colorado River, upon which many boating trips are made. In addition, parts of the southwestern end of the canyon are within the borders of two Indian reservations: the Havasupai Indian Reservation and the Hualapai Indian Reservation (which includes the development known as Grand Canyon West). Lastly, part of the southeastern end of the canyon is within the borders of the Navajo Nation. Except for the Navajo Nation portion, all sections of the canyon offer amenities for visitors. However, the national park, and in particular the South Rim, is by far the most popular destination and the best equipped to handle the millions of yearly visitors.
|“||The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world.||”|
The canyon is an overwhelming experience, and nothing can prepare a visitor for the sight. The Grand Canyon is a massive canyon carved over several million years by the Colorado River. Grand Canyon National Park boasts an elevation change of nearly 7,000 feet (2,130 m) from Point Imperial (at nearly 9,000 feet (2,740 m)) to the banks of Lake Mead (at just over 2,000 feet (610 m)). The canyon is over a mile (1610 m) deep, from rim to river. In spots the rock layers exposed in the canyon display over two billion years of geologic history.
Grand Canyon National Park was founded as Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, and became a national park in 1919. Today the park contains over 1.2 million acres (490,000 ha; 4,900 km2), slightly less than the entire state of Delaware, and in 2018 received about 6.4 million visitors.
Throughout the past century, hundreds of authors have attempted to depict the enormous landscape that is Grand Canyon. Not surprisingly, words most often fail to invoke the sense of awe and wonder that many visitors experience. Edward Abbey, a noted Southwest author, once penned: "Those who love it call it the canyon. The canyon. As if there were no other topographic feature on the face of the Earth".
There are, of course, other canyons on the planet. Some are longer, others wider, and there are even some that are deeper. Canyon visitors are often surprised to learn that Grand Canyon sets no records for sheer size. It is, however, simply regarded by most as the "grandest" canyon of them all.
Geologically, the canyon extends from Lees Ferry near the city of Page and the Arizona/Utah border to the Grand Wash Cliffs near Las Vegas, a distance of 277 mi (446 km). It ranges in width from about a quarter mile to over 18 mi (29 km) wide. In places the canyon is over a mile (1.6 km) deep.
However, it is not the statistics that define this landscape as "grand", but rather a combination of factors. The desert environment and a lack of herbaceous ground cover reveal a geologic story that is unparalleled. Surprisingly, the rock layers displayed at Grand Canyon show little sign of wear. The layers have been preserved almost perfectly, as though they were layers in a cake. Nowhere else on Earth displays so many volumes of the planet's history in such pristine condition.
The resulting landscape provides visitors with some of the most magnificent and unsurpassed vistas on the planet.
Flora and fauna
The most famous animal in the park may be the rare California Condor. They can occasionally be seen flying near Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Common bird life includes Canyon Wrens, Stellar's Jays (with their peaked caps), swallows, hummingbirds, and the playful and entertaining raven.
Mule deer are common. Some of the largest elk in North America can be found in the national park, and in the adjacent Kaibab National Forest. Desert bighorn sheep are also seen on occasion, mainly in the inner canyon.
You'll often spot coyotes no matter where you are in the park, and if you're lucky, you'll get to hear them sing. Other predators are cougars (aka mountain lions and many other names) and bobcats. Black bears are rare, and they generally stay away from the inhabited areas.
Some of the smaller creatures that can be found in the inhabited areas of the park are the ringtail (called a cat, but not in the cat family), which like to live in the rafters of some of the historic buildings on the rim. They are quick and stealthy, but they often forget how visible that tail is, and you'll see it hanging out over a beam.
A favorite with visitors is the Abert's squirrel with their tufted ears. Other varieties of squirrels and chipmunks are also popular. They seem tame and like to beg for food behind the Bright Angel Lodge, near the Ice Cream fountain. But heed the warnings and resist the urge. One of the most common injuries in the park are squirrel bites.
You might also see the common striped skunk, and if lucky, you might even see the rarer western spotted skunk (usually at lower elevations). Skunks here are also habituated to humans and may seem tame, but they will react as all skunks do, so don't come up on them suddenly!
For the reptile family, there are variety of small lizards, and a few snakes. The most striking (in more ways than one) is the Grand Canyon rattlesnake; with its reddish (almost pink) coloring it neatly blends into the rocky terrain of the canyon. They are interesting to see as long as it is at a safe distance. Rattlesnakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. If given the chance, they will avoid any contact with humans. Most rattlesnake victims are young males that are chasing or trying to capture a snake.
Do not feed the animals. It is unhealthy for them, and may be unhealthy for you. A seemingly tame squirrel might bite you – they carry plague, rabies, etc. A deer or elk can charge at you without warning. If the animal is aware of your presence, you're too close.
Temperatures and weather within the canyon vary greatly by location. Temperatures on the North Rim are often 20–30°F (11–16°C) cooler than at the river. This is a land of extremes. It can be snowing at the rim, while others are comfortable sunbathing at the river. Conversely, it can be cool and comfortable at the rim in the summer, while temperatures at the river exceed 120 °F (49 °C). It is not unusual for local canyon guides to encounter neophyte hikers in desperate shape. Some die. An unusual number of fatalities occur among young people who overestimate their abilities. Due to the high altitude, snowfall is a regular occurrence on the rims during the winter months. The North Rim closes during the winter season.
July and August are monsoon season in Arizona and strong thunderstorms can sweep in quickly with lightning strikes every few minutes and sudden downpours. Flash floods can occur suddenly, even in areas where there is not immediate rain; rain can originate upstream and quickly rush downstream. Due to the elevation of the Grand Canyon rims, people are struck by lightning fairly regularly so take shelter indoors during storms.
The majority of visitors to the South Rim of the park arrive from the south on Arizona Route 64 (AZ 64, conjoined with US highway 180). Or, you can enter the South Rim from the east on AZ 64.
For the south entrance: from Flagstaff, you can take US Route 180 (US 180) northwest to Valle where it joins with AZ 64, and continue north to the South Rim; or take I-40 west toward Williams to the junction with AZ 64 and continue north to the South Rim. Both routes are approximately 80 miles (130 km). The approximately 60 miles (100 km) on US 180 is a narrow 2-lane mountain road through a heavily forested area. The I-40 west is a wide multi-lane interstate for approximately 20 mi (32 km), to AZ 64 which is a slightly wider, less mountainous 2-lane highway, and the recommended route during winter weather. There are two lanes at this entrance reserved for pass and prepaid entrance fees (now lanes 1 and 4), which can be pre-purchased outside of the park at the National Geographic Theater/Visitor Center.
For the east entrance, take US 89 south from Page, AZ or north from Flagstaff to the junction with AZ 64 at Cameron. It is approximately 25 mi (40 km) from the junction to the east entrance of the park, and approximately 25 mi (40 km) from the east entrance to the South Rim village area.
Visitors to the North Rim use ALT US Route 89 (US 89A, not to be confused with AZ 89A south of Flagstaff) to AZ 67 (closed in winter). While the average distance across the canyon is only 10 miles (16 km), there are no roads or bridges or ferries, meaning the trip by car is a five-hour drive of 215 mi (346 km).
People visiting the Havasupai Indian Reservation use AZ 66, turning onto Indian Road 18 (which may appear on maps as BIA 18, or Hualapai Hilltop Highway) for approximately 60 mi (97 km). The road dead ends at Hualapai Hilltop, which is the trailhead for the town of Supai and its waterfalls (permit required in advance; it has reopened for 2023, but no new permits are available until 2024). There are no services along this route.
- Tusayan 1 Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCN IATA) (is just outside of the South Rim entrance). – Primarily used by private aircraft and companies who provide Grand Canyon air tours. Grand Canyon Airlines has flights from Boulder City in Nevada and charter flights to Page, AZ.
Many Grand Canyon visitors fly into one of two major metropolitan airports within half a day's drive of the South Rim:
- Las Vegas 3 Harry Reid International Airport. (LAS IATA) – 275 miles (440 km) west then north from the South Rim.
- Phoenix 4 Sky Harbor International Airport. (PHX IATA) – 230 miles (370 km) south from the South Rim.
- Page 5 Municipal Airport (PGA IATA). – 125 miles (200 km) east from the North Rim, with flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix.
- Las Vegas – 275 miles (440 km) west from the North Rim (via southern Utah).
- Phoenix – 360 kilometres (360 km) south from the North Rim (east around the canyon).
There are no commercial bus lines offering transportation to either rim, but several tour companies offer guided tours originating in Flagstaff, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and other locations, either directly to the South Rim or that include the South Rim as part of an itinerary, and a few offer tours which include a visit to the North Rim. There is a small shuttle service, Groome Transportation, which does carry passengers and luggage from the Flagstaff Amtrak station. The tickets for this shuttle may also be purchased from Amtrak.
- See also: rail travel in the United States
The Grand Canyon Railway operates a train ride from the town of Williams to the Grand Canyon Village (travel time is 2½ hours in each direction). The terminus at Grand Canyon Village is within walking distance of some accommodations. The train features a historic steam locomotive during the summer season, restored Pullman cars, and a staged old west style shootout. However, the Grand Canyon is not visible from the train. It is simply another option for traveling to the canyon, and takes about twice as long as driving to the canyon.
Amtrak's Southwest Chief, with trains operating daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, stops at Williams Junction 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Williams town, with connections to the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams. There is a Thruway bus shuttling passengers from Williams Junction to Williams town.
Fees and permits
Entrance fees for Grand Canyon National Park are valid for seven days – you do not need a fee for the other Indigenous reservations. Fees as of 2020 are:
- $20 – individuals on foot or bike.
- $30 – motorcycles.
- $35 – private vehicle.
- $70 – Grand Canyon National Park Annual Pass.
There are several passes for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot/bike that provide free entry to Grand Canyon and all national parks, as well as some national monuments, national wildlife refuges, and national forests:
- The $80 Annual Pass (valid for twelve months from date of issue) can be purchased by anyone. Military personnel can obtain a free pass by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
- The $80 Senior Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and age. This pass also provides a 50% discount on some park amenities. Seniors can also obtain a $20 annual pass.
- The free Access Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and permanent disability. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
- The free Volunteer Pass is available to individuals who have volunteered 250 or more hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program.
- The free Annual 4th Grade Pass (valid for September to August of the 4th grade school year) allows entry to the bearer and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle. Registration at the Every Kid Outdoors website is required.
The National Park Service offers free admission to all national parks on five days every year:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday in January); next observance is January 15, 2024
- The first day of National Park Week (third Saturday in April); next observance is April 20, 2024
- The National Park Service Birthday (August 25)
- National Public Lands Day (fourth Saturday in September); next observance is September 28, 2024
- Veterans Day (November 11)
Several viewpoints and trailheads in the park have limited or no parking and must be reached using the park shuttle system. The National Park Service runs an extensive shuttle service on the South Rim with three interlocking routes. The service is free, and generally runs from before sunrise until after sunset, depending on the route. Service is more frequent from May through September and includes additional routes. In addition, during the summer the park service operates a shuttle from Tusayan into the park.
Horse and mule riders are required to follow a number of rules and restrictions while in the park, and must get a permit from the park service to keep animals in the park overnight.
From March to November the West Rim Drive is not accessible to most private vehicles (handicap vehicles may request a variance at the entry gate). The park service runs a shuttle during this time. The shuttles are frequent but long lines form during the busy summer months.
Between the North and South Rims, there is no easy connection. By shuttle bus (for a fee), Trans-Canyon Shuttle offers a seasonal daily rim-to-rim shuttle, which runs from rim to rim, through Vermillion Cliffs, with a stop at Marble Canyon. By car, the shortest route is a five-hour drive around the east of the canyon and crossing the river by a bridge near Lees Ferry. By foot, it is a two-day hike across the canyon.
- 1 Grand Canyon Visitor Center (South Rim) (5 mi (8.0 km) beyond the South Entrance Station). Grand Canyon Visitor Center is close to 2 Mather Point, where most visitors park and get their first look at Grand Canyon. Four large parking areas are located here as well as the transit center for the park's free shuttle buses. The visitor center provides park information, a 20 minute movie about the Grand Canyon, exhibits, displays of historic artifacts, and a park store.
- 3 Grand Canyon Village. Good views, the trailhead of the Bright Angel Trail, historic buildings, and massive crowds.
- 4 Desert View. The historic Watchtower is a popular stop for many travellers and provides an excellent vantage point for viewing the canyon and Colorado River.
- 5 Hermit's Rest. At the West end of Hermit Road, this gift shop and snack bar was designed by Mary Colter (the same person responsible for the Watchtower at Desert View) to resemble a Hermit's abode, and fit in harmoniously with the landscape. Constructed of a mix of stone and wood.
There are several other viewpoints along the road between Hermit's Rest and Grand Canyon Village (West Rim) or Desert View and the village (East Rim).
10 mi (16 km) from the South Rim by air, is the 6 North Rim. The North Rim is a 215 mi (346 km), 5-hr drive from Grand Canyon Village. At 8,000 ft (2,400 m) the elevation of the North Rim is approximately 1,000 ft (300 m) higher than the South Rim, and as a result it features more coniferous trees and cooler temperatures. The roads to the North Rim are open only during the summer (from about 15 May to the first fall snowfall), while the in-park facilities usually close by 15 Oct, regardless of the weather. With far fewer visitors, this area can be a great place to enjoy the peace and majesty of the canyon. The main viewpoints are Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal (where the Colorado River can be seen), and Point Imperial (the highest viewpoint in the park).
- 7 North Rim Visitor Center (at the end of the highway 67 within the Grand Canyon Lodge complex). The visitor provides park and regional information, maps, brochures, exhibits, and a bookstore. Public restrooms and outdoor exhibits are located behind the visitor center building.
Havasupai Indian Reservation
Havasu Canyon is subject to flash floods. Some areas remain off-limits to visitors due to flooding in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Havasupai can be loosely translated as "People of the Blue-Green Water". Entry into this remote portion of the canyon requires an entry permit, purchased in advance. Entry permits are $110 per person, and are only available to those people with reservations at either the Lodge (an additional $440 per room per night) or the campground ($300 to $375 per person for a required three night reservation, which includes the permit fee); day hikes are not allowed. Full payment is due when campground reservations are made; transfers may be offered on the Havasupai website for a ten percent fee. Lodge reservations require a $100 per night deposit, and may be cancelled up to two weeks in advance. Those venturing into Havasu Canyon are greeted by spectacular world class waterfalls. Although the Havasupai Reservation is somewhat impacted (trashy), the incredible canyon below the village of Supai is worth the visit. Access to Havasu Canyon is from Hualapai Hilltop north of Peach Springs, in Route BIA 18 (also known as Hualapai Hilltop Highway; no services along this route). Visitors must park at Hualapai Hilltop and hike or fly to Supai Village near the waterfalls. It is an 8 mi (13 km) hike to Supai Village and a further 2 mi (3.2 km) to the campground. Helicopter transportation to and from the village is available on a first come basis four days a week (to fly from the village to the hilltop, sign up early in the morning). On occasion the wait may be many hours in length; service may terminate due to high winds, at which time you would still need to hike out. An extremely rustic lodge is the only public accommodation available in Supai. A large mile long campground is 1 mi (1.6 km) down canyon between Havasu and Mooney Falls. Both the campground and the lodge are extremely crowded most of the year; advance reservations are a necessity, and are very difficult to obtain. A hike further north from the end of the campsite (Mooney Falls) to the Colorado River is a further 8 mi (13 km), which will often have you bushwacking and in the water.
Hualapai Indian Reservation
The 9 Hualapai Indian Reservation borders the Colorado River, with Grand Canyon National Park to the north. Tribal headquarters are in the impoverished town of Peach Springs. The Grand Canyon Resort Corporation is a collection of tourist enterprises wholly owned by the tribe. Activities include motorized rafting trips on last few miles of white water in the canyon, and pontoon boat rides on the smooth waters of Lake Mead. Grand Canyon West (in the remote northwest corner of the reservation) is a collection of viewpoints overlooking the last few miles of Grand Canyon and the stagnant waters of the Colorado River as it flows into Lake Mead. The Hualapai have partnered with dozens of commercial tour operators from the Las Vegas area, and a tour package purchase (ranging from $29–109 per person) is required for entry to the Grand Canyon West area. Helicopter flights are available from Las Vegas to the canyon rim. Extra cost options include the Skywalk, and a helicopter flight to the bottom of the canyon, next to the Colorado River.
- 10 Grand Canyon Skywalk (Grand Canyon West), ☏ , toll-free: , [email protected]. 7AM–7PM. The Skywalk is a 10 ft (3.0 m) wide glass bottomed walkway that extends 70 ft (21 m) over the canyon rim, allowing visitors to look 4,000 ft (1,200 m) down to the canyon bottom. This attraction is what attracts the majority of visitors to this area of the canyon, but be aware that it is not a part of the national park and is pricier than most visitors expect. No strollers or personal items may be taken onto the Skywalk including cameras; professional photos can be purchased for $30 per photograph, or $100 for all photographs taken. $79 per person for a package that includes the option to walk on the Skywalk (prices include tax), $43 per person to visit the area without access to the Skywalk.
Hiking in the Grand Canyon is unlike anywhere else on Earth: trails range in difficulty from 15-minute loops to multi-week treks, and all offer spectacular views. In addition, there are numerous unmaintained trails throughout the park for the more adventurous. For people who prefer guided hikes a variety of outfitters offer options. While most canyon hikes entail significant elevation change, less-strenuous hiking options include nature walks along the rim trail which offer great views without requiring much exertion.
Respect the heat.
Watch for storms.
Know your limits.
All hikers should take trail warnings extremely seriously. Temperatures in the canyon may vary by 50–70°F depending on elevation and time of day, and unlike most places, the most challenging portion of a hike in the Grand Canyon will always be the end, meaning that if you run out of water you will get heat stroke, and if you get too tired you will be unable to get back to the trailhead. Carry more liquid than you think you'll need, and know your limits. It is far too easy to overextend yourself hiking in the canyon, and each year over 250 people require rescue due to underestimating the heat and difficulty. Also be aware that trails may be icy during the winter – if you have crampons for your shoes or hiking poles you should bring them or consider purchasing them from a local shop.
From the south side it is possible to do a loop going down the South Kaibab Trail and up the Bright Angel Trail. You can leave a vehicle at the Bright Angel Trail head and take public transit to the South Kaibab Trail head. While often not recommended as a day hike, if you are fit it can be done in between 6 and 10 hours.
- 1 Rim Trail. A paved, generally flat trail along the South Rim. Viewpoints along this path have views just as good as Mather Point but with way less people. Some points along the trail go near parking lots and shuttle bus stops, so there are lots of options to do just a section of the route, which is a good choice for visitors who want something easier than the more serious trails listed below. A section of the Rim Trail includes the 2.83-mile (4.55 km) 2 Trail of Time, which takes you through the past 2 billion years of geologic history by way of interpretive signs and rock samples.
- 3 Bright Angel Trail. The park's most popular trail is the Bright Angel trail which starts near the Bright Angel Lodge. This trail traverses a seemingly unending series of switchbacks down the canyon wall before leveling out somewhat around the oasis of Indian Gardens. During the summer months water is available at: the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse 1.5 mi (2.4 km), the Three-Mile Resthouse 3.0 mi (4.8 km) and Indian Gardens 4.5 mi (7.2 km). However, check to ensure that the water is functioning before departing, as water main breaks are common. Most hikers will traverse only a portion of this trail, and the park recommends that day hikers never attempt to go further than Indian Gardens. Winter hikers should note that the top 2 mi (3.2 km) of this trail are likely to be icy. Round-trip distances to waypoints are: Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse, at 3.0 mi (4.8 km) with 1,131 ft (345 m) of elevation change; Three-mile Resthouse, at 6.0 mi (9.7 km) with 2,112 ft (644 m) of elevation change; Indian Garden, at 9.8 mi (15.8 km) with 3,060 ft (930 m) of elevation change; River Resthouse, at 16.2 mi (26.1 km) with 4,380 ft (1,340 m) of elevation change; and Bright Angel Campground, at 19.2 mi (30.9 km) with 4,380 ft (1,340 m) of elevation change.
- 4 South Kaibab Trail. Slightly steeper than the Bright Angel trail, this trail starts from Yaki Point and follows a ridgeline into the canyon. Because the trail follows a ridge the views are spectacular and wide-open, but the amazing scenery comes at a cost: there is almost no shade to protect hikers from the sun, and the lack of natural water sources means that there is less plant and animal life. Hikers should be aware that there is no water available along this trail and prepare for brutal conditions – summer hikes can be particularly dangerous. Round-trip distances to waypoints are: Cedar Ridge, at 3.0 mi (4.8 km) with 1,140 ft (350 m) of elevation change; Skeleton Point, at 6.0 mi (9.7 km) with 2,040 ft (620 m) of elevation change; the Tipoff, at 8.8 mi (14.2 km) with 3,260 ft (990 m) of elevation change; and Bright Angel Campground, at 14.0 mi (22.5 km) with 4,780 ft (1,460 m) of elevation change.
- 5 North Kaibab Trail. This trail descends steeply from the North Kaibab Trailhead on the North Rim to Roaring Springs, the headwaters of Bright Angel Creek, where it flattens out for the long trek to the Colorado River. The upper stretch of the trail (from the trailhead to Cottonwood Campground) receives some shade, but the lower stretch to Bright Angel Campground becomes dangerously hot during the summer, and hiking between 10AM and 4PM should be avoided. During the summer, potable water is available at Supai Tunnel, Roaring Springs, and Cottonwood Campground; between Roaring Springs and the Colorado River, water from Bright Angel Creek can be purified for drinking purposes. Round-trip distances to waypoints are: Supai Tunnel, at 3.4 mi (5.5 km) with 1,440 ft (440 m) of elevation change; Roaring Springs at 9.4 mi (15.1 km) with 3,020 ft (920 m) of elevation change; Cottonwood Campground 13.6 mi (21.9 km) with 4,160 ft (1,270 m) of elevation change; and Bright Angel Campground 28.0 mi (45.1 km) with 5,760 ft (1,760 m) of elevation change.
- 6 Hermit Trail. This is a steep, marginally maintained, rocky trail that descends from the South Rim to the river, passing fossilized reptile tracks and abandoned camps from the early 1900s along the way. The trailhead is just beyond Hermit's Rest and is accessible via shuttle bus. Shade is scarce during the summer. Water is sometimes available at Santa Maria Spring, and is always available in Hermit Creek; both sources must be treated. This trail also provides access to Dripping Springs. Round-trip distances to waypoints are: Dripping Springs Trail junction, at 3.2 mi (5.1 km) with 1,400 ft (430 m) of elevation change; Hermit Camp, at 14.0 mi (22.5 km) with 3,840 ft (1,170 m) of elevation change; and Colorado River, at 17.0 mi (27.4 km) with 4,240 ft (1,290 m) of elevation change.
- 7 Grandview Trail. This is another steep, marginally maintained, rough trail that descends from the South Rim to Horseshoe Mesa and Cottonwood Creek; it does not go to the Colorado River. The trailhead is at Grandview Point and leads down to Horseshoe Mesa where several mining relics including ore crushers and cabins are still present. The trail then continues on to Cottonwood Creek, which will be dry at most times of year. There is no water along this trail, so you must carry sufficient water with you. Round-trip distances to waypoints are: Coconino Saddle, at 2.2 mi (3.5 km) with 1,165 ft (355 m) of elevation change; Horseshoe Mesa, at 6.0 mi (9.7 km) with 2,500 ft (760 m) of elevation change; and Cottonwood Creek, at 10.0 mi (16.1 km) with 3,800 ft (1,200 m) of elevaction change.
Whitewater rafting expeditions depart daily during the summer months from Lees Ferry. Commercial trips range from 3–18 days and cover from 87–300 miles (140–483 km). Trips book up fast so be sure to book your trip about a year in advance or you will have to get lucky with cancellations. The most popular section of river for the "true" Grand Canyon river experience lies between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek.
Private (non-commercial DIY) river permits are also available for river trips up to 30 days in length. The new Colorado River Management Plan has changed a 12-20 year wait list to a new weighted lottery.
- Arizona River Runners, toll-free: . This company has been providing complete Grand Canyon whitewater rafting trips since 1970 and offer a wide variety of trips: 3-day Escape, 6-, 7- and 8-day motorized adventures and 6-, 8-, 13-day oar-powered trips. The company is serious about protecting the environment and provides all of the camping and rafting gear you will need for your river experience.
- Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, toll-free: . Offers trips and tours specializing in rafting and hiking along the river corridor.
- Grand Canyon Whitewater, toll-free: . This company offers guided, multi-day rafting tours ranging from 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8- and 13-days on motorized or oar-powered rafts. No river rafting or camping experience necessary, guides and equipment are provided.
- 8 Hatch River Expeditions (HRE), 5348 East Burris Lane, Flagstaff, AZ 86004 (postal); Mile Post 547 N, US-89A, Marble Canyon, AZ 86036 (driving) (9 miles (14 km) west of the Colorado River bridge), ☏ , toll-free: . Hatch River Expeditions as been providing Grand Canyon Colorado River rafting and camping trips for more than 80 years. This company offers motarized (4- and 7-days), oar-powered (6-, 7-, and 12-days) and hiking focused (6-, 7- and 12-days) trips, as well as private charter options.
- Holiday Expeditions, toll-free: . Offers a variety of different tours, from the beginner to the expert, of the Colorado River including most parts of the Grand Canyon.
- Hualapai River Runners. The only one day whitewater trip is available from the Hualapai Tribe in the far Western portion of the canyon (outside of the park boundary).
- O.A.R.S. (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists), toll-free: . Grand Canyon river rafting combines world-class whitewater with breathtaking scenery to make one truly unforgettable river experience. The canyon is filled not only with exhilarating whitewater rapids, but with side canyons and ancient Indian ruins accessible only by river.
- Tour West Rafting (Grand Canyon Rafting Trips), toll-free: . Grand Canyon river rafting combines world-class whitewater with breathtaking scenery to make one truly unforgettable river experience. The canyon is filled not only with exhilarating whitewater rapids, but with side canyons and ancient Indian ruins accessible only by river.
Airplane and helicopter tours are offered by providers outside of the South Rim in Tusayan at the Grand Canyon Airport, and also from Las Vegas. Scenic flights are no longer allowed to fly below the rim within the national park. However, some helicopter flights land on the Havasupai and Hualapai Indian Reservations within Grand Canyon (outside of the park boundaries).
- Grand Canyon Airlines, ☏ . Grand Canyon Airlines is believed to be the world's oldest, most experienced air tour company in continuous operation since 1927. Private charters are available.
- Grand Canyon Helicopters, ☏ . Grand Canyon Airlines Helicopters Grand Canyon Helicopters is committed to preserving the environment and to protecting its precious natural resources, operating EC-130 (the quietest helicopter available) equipped with a "Fenestron" or "fan-in-fan" tail rotor, which dramatically reduces engine exhaust noise.
- Maverick Aviation Group, toll-free: . This Las Vegas-based sightseeing and charter services company offers an array of tours to both the West and South Rims of the Grand Canyon through Maverick Helicopters, Maverick Airlines, and Mustang Helicopters.
- Papillon, toll-free: . Since 1965 Papillon Helicopters has been the world's oldest and largest sightseeing company flying an estimated 600,000 passengers a year on its daily tours to the Grand Canyon (West and South Rim). Private charters are available.
- Scenic, toll-free: . Since 1967, when Scenic Airlines flew the first airborne tour over one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon, Scenic has set the standard for aerial sightseeing tour operators.
- Serenity Helicopters, toll-free: . A variety of Las Vegas – Grand Canyon helicopter tours and private charters.
- Ranger programs. Programs include interpretive talks, rim walks, movies, and museums. At the South Rim, special Junior Ranger programs are available for children in the summer. Check "The Guide", a free publication distributed throughout the park for dates and times.
- Motorcoach tours. Available year round at the South Rim. Tours are offered for the East Rim/Desert View, West Rim/Hermit's Rest, and for Sunrise and Sunset. Smaller naturalist- and geologist-led van tours originate from outside the park in Flagstaff, Williams and Tusayan.
- Mule rides, ☏ , toll-free: . South Rim trips operate year round, and should be booked well in advance due to demand. Individuals can book by calling. Weight limits of 200 lb (90.7 kg), and other restrictions are strictly enforced.
- Star gazing. On your own (fantastic for meteor showers), or with the Grand Canyon Star Party every June at Yavapai Point.
- Bicycling. Only allowed on park roads. It is not allowed on rim trails or in the inner canyon. The best mountain biking can be found on the North Rim and just outside the park in the Kaibab National Forest.
- Educational Courses. The Grand Canyon Field Institute offers short (1- to 5-day) courses at the canyon. Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff offers a Grand Canyon Semester for college credit.
All types of tourist trinkets relating to the Grand Canyon, Native American Indians, and the American Southwest are available in shops in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. The South Rim is overflowing with shopping options. The North Rim has only one shop, which is at the North Rim Lodge.
- 1 Hopi House. This gift shop designed by Mary E. J. Colter opened in 1905. It specializes in Native American crafts: Navajo Rugs, Hopi Kachina's, Zuni Fetishes, pottery, jewelry as well as t-shirts and souvenirs. The upstairs gallery offers Native American artworks.
- 2 Lookout Studio. Also designed by Colter features spectacular views of the canyon from its overhanging patio, and specializes in rocks and fossils along with the souvenirs.
- 3 Hermit's Rest. Another Colter building blends into the canyon and offers a variety of souvenirs.
Additional cafeterias are in the Maswik and Yavapai Lodges. There is a grocery deli at Market Plaza inside the grocery store, as well. Just outside the park, in the gateway community of Tusayan, are a number of dining selections.
- 1 The Arizona Room, 9 Village Loop Drive, Grand Canyon Village (on the East side of the Bright Angel Lodge). Dinner 4:30PM–10PM (open seasonally), lunch seasonally. Also features partial canyon views.
- Bright Angel Restaurant (Bright Angel Lodge). Informal dining, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- 2 El Tovar Hotel Dining Room. Fine dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations required for dinner (not accepted at other times). Dining room is a flashback to the 1910s and features partial canyon views. $20 for lunch, $30 for dinner.
- Grand Canyon Lodge Dining Room. Open daily, mid-May through mid-Oct (exact dates vary year to year), 6:30AM–9:30PM. Wonderful food and an unrivaled view of the canyon. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner reservations required. $7–25.
- Cafe On The Rim. Serves cafeteria-style snacks, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Veggie burgers, salads, sandwiches. $1–10.
- Coffee Saloon. 5:30–10:30AM. In the Rough Rider Saloon. Coffee, bagels, and pastries.
- El Tovar Lounge (South Rim in the El Tovar Hotel). Inside seating year round, patio seating overlooking the rim seasonally.
- Bright Angel Bar (South Rim in the Bright Angel Lodge). Live entertainment seasonally.
- Maswik Pizza Pub (South Rim in Maswik Lodge). Pizza, Beer and Wine big-screen TV and more.
- Grand Canyon Lodge Dining Room. Serves cocktails.
- Rough Rider Saloon.
There are a variety of hotels, lodges, and campgrounds inside and outside of the park on the North and South Rims. As lodging at the Canyon fills early and is fairly expensive, many visitors base themselves just outside of the South Rim in Tusayan. For those willing to stay further from the park the cities of Williams or Flagstaff offer additional options.
- 1 Bright Angel Lodge, 9 N Village Loop Dr, ☏ . Open year round. Built in 1935 only feet from the canyon rim, this lodge is made up of cabins and lodge rooms generally rustic in nature. Some rooms have a shared bathroom, all are non-smoking, and only cabins have televisions. Two restaurants offer family-style dining (breakfast, lunch and dinner) or Southwestern cuisine (lunch and dinner only). There is a nice fire place near the Bright Angel front desk. $97–110 for a standard room, $140–217 for a cabin, $213–469 for a suite (2017 rates).
- 2 El Tovar Hotel. Open year round. A national historic landmark, this full service hotel opened in 1905 and was renovated in 2005. El Tovar is the finest accommodations available on the South Rim, offering a dining room, cable television, full-bath, and room service (limited hours). There are 78 rooms and suites which must be reserved well in advance. All rooms are non-smoking, and many offer a canyon view. $174–268 for a standard room, $321–426 for a suite (2010 rates).
- 3 Kachina Lodge, 5 Village Loop Drive, Grand Canyon Village, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Open year round. Built in the 1960s, this lodge offers family-friendly rooms with in-room coffee, refrigerator, safe, television, telephone, and full bath. Half of the rooms offer partial canyon views. Check-in is at the El Tovar Lodge. $170–180 for a standard room (2010 rates).
- 4 Maswik Lodge. North section renovated winter 2006. Larger rooms are great for families. About a quarter mile from the rim in a wooded area. Both North and South sections are open year round, and cabin rooms open in the summer. All rooms offer full bath. $90 for cabins and South rooms, $170 for North rooms (2010 rates).
- 5 Thunderbird Lodge. A very similar lodge to the Kachina Lodge, with the only major difference being that check-in is at the Bright Angel Lodge. $170–180 for a standard room (2010 rates).
- 6 Yavapai Lodge, 11 Yavapai Lodge Rd, Grand Canyon Village. East section offers 198 air-conditioned rooms while the 160 west rooms do not offer air-conditioning. About a mile away from the rim in a wooded area, both East and West sections are good for families. $107 for a West room, $153 for an East room (2010 rates).
- 7 Grand Canyon Lodge, Hwy 67, North Rim, toll-free: , [email protected]. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. The only lodging within the park on the North Rim, this lodge is a mixture of cabins and motel style accommodations. The main lodge was built in 1928 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open only from May 15 to Oct 15. Motel rooms are within walking distance of the canyon rim, while some of the cabins are along the rim. All lodging comes with a private bathroom, although some cabins have only 3/4 bath (shower, no bathtub). The hotel also offers complimentary shuttle service to the Kaibab trailhead twice daily, which should be booked a day before. It is recommended to make reservations as far in advance as possible; reservations can be made up to a year ahead. $113/standard room, $115–182/cabin (2010 rates).
- 8 Phantom Ranch, ☏ , toll-free: . Phantom Ranch is on the Colorado River and is accessible by foot, mule, or raft. Made up of cabins and dormitories (segregated by gender) with a dining hall. All Phantom Ranch accommodations and meals require advance reservations. There is no cooking allowed in the cabins or dorms, and guests without a meal reservation are not allowed in the dining hall at mealtimes. It is recommended that you reserve meals at the same time you reserve your bunk or cabin. Guests should check in at the Bright Angel Lodge Transportation desk before hiking down to Phantom Ranch, and can do so a day in advance of their hike. $61 per person for a dorm bed, $169 for a 2-person cabin (2020 rates).
There are campgrounds at the North and South Rims. Reservations are highly recommended, especially at the busier South Rim. Outside of the park, Kaibab National Forest has numerous undeveloped campsites and "at large" camping is allowed for up to 14 days. Due to extreme drought conditions, check for closures and camp fire restrictions.
- 9 Desert View Campground (at the East Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, 26 miles/ 42 km east of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of the Park). (April-October) 50 sites. Located at the east entrance of Grand Canyon National Park, Desert View Campground offers a peaceful setting for an enjoyable camping experience. Most sites are sized to accommodate tents or smaller RVss or Travel Trailers (30 ft. maximum length). Campsites are on a first come – first served – self-registration basis. No reservations are accepted. Desert View Campground closes during the winter months. It is open from mid-April through mid-October. $12 per site (2020 rates).
- 10 Mather Campground (From the south entrance, follow the road for about three miles and turn left on Center Road. Travel 0.25 miles and turn right onto Market Plaza Road. The campground is about one mile down Market Plaza Road on the right.). (Year-round) 327 sites, 7 group sites. Mather Campground is located in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Campsites include a campfire ring with cooking grate, picnic table, parking space and room for up to six people, three tents, and two vehicles. There are flush toilets and drinking water pumps throughout the campground. There is a free dump station but no hookups available Almost all of the RV spaces are pull-through. Pine loop is a tent-only area where generators are not permitted. Reservations can be made online or by calling ☏ , outside the U.S. ☏ . $6 for communal hiker/biker sites, $18 per family site, $25 horse camp, $50 group site (2020 rates).
- 11 Trailer Village. (year-round). Adjacent to Mather Campground, this campground offers RV sites with hookups and toilets (no showers). Costs are $36/night for two people, and $3,5 for each additional person. Reservations can be made by ☏ (outside of the U.S. ☏ ).
- 12 Jacob Lake Campground, Forest Rd 579. Open mid-May to mid-October. Outside of the park, 45 miles (72.4 km) north of the North Rim, this campground is operated by the forest service, and has 51 single-unit sites and one group site with water and vault toilets. All sites are first-come, first-served. $12/night.
- 13 North Rim Campground, ☏ (information), (late arrivals), toll-free: (reservations). 87 sites, 3 group sites. Open from Mid-May through October; for the last two weeks of October services are minimal and there may be no running water. Along the North Rim, this campground offers sites suitable for camping and RVs (no hookups). Facilities include water and flush toilets. Reservations are required and can be made online; it is advisable to reserve as early beforehand as possible. $6 Hiker/Bicyclist (Communal Site), $18 RV and Tent Fee, $50 Group Sites (2020 rates).
Any camping below the rim in Grand Canyon requires a backcountry permit. Permits must be obtained through the Backcountry Country Office (BCO) at Grand Canyon National Park. Permits are not available online or via telephone. They are only available in person, by fax or by mail. There is limited water available within the canyon, so backpackers should plan on carrying sufficient water with them. All backcountry users are asked to follow "Leave no Trace" principles.
Permits are limited to protect the canyon, and become available on the 1st day of the month, four months prior to the start month. Thus, a backcountry permit for any start date in May becomes available on 1 Jan. Space for the most popular areas, such as the Bright Angel Campground adjacent to Phantom Ranch, generally fill up by the requests received on first date they are opened to reservations. There are a limited number permits reserved for walk-in requests available on a first come, first served basis.
There are a number of outfitters that provide fully guided backpacking trips (including permits and gear) at Grand Canyon.
Hiking at the Grand Canyon often surprises people who attempt Inner Canyon trips. It can be hotter than you'd expect, colder than you'd expect, drier or wetter. A prepared hiker is better able to survive the extremes of the canyon. Even for short walks into the canyon keep in mind that it is a seducer: it seems easy hiking down into it but when you come back up you find that you have over-extended yourself. It's the opposite of climbing up a tall mountain, where you can stop and turn back when you get tired, knowing that the descent will be much easier.
Respect the heat, plan for heat.
Check the weather forecast, watch for storms.
Take a paper map with you, and know how to read it. If using maps on your phone, download maps before you go.
Cell phone service is unreliable in the wildness. You may be able to call 911 from some locations, but there is no guarantee. But in an emergency, always try 911: even if you have no service 911 may still connect with another carrier.
Tell a responsible person not in your party where you are going and when you expect to return, so they can alert authorities in case of emergency.
Know your limits.
In particular, do not attempt to hike to the bottom of the canyon and back in one day. Hundreds of hikers each year have to be rescued from the Inner Canyon due to exhaustion and dehydration. While the temperature on the canyon rim is cool due to its elevation, below the rim it can be very hot. The vertical distance from the bottom back up to the rim is nearly a mile straight up (1.5 km), in addition to the distance you travel horizontally. If you plan to go to the bottom of the canyon, spend the night (permit required), and take enough food, water, shelter, and other backcountry camping equipment to keep yourself safe and sound. If you don't have the equipment, don't go.
For an eye-opening look at the dangers of hiking in and around the canyon unprepared, Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Thomas M. Myers (long time resident doctor at the South Rim), and Michael P. Ghiglieri (biologist and river guide), describes the various ways in which visitors have lost their lives at the canyon. (ISBN 097009731X).
Don't throw rocks or coins from the rim – these can injure hikers below, and the metal in coins can poison wild animals.
Cell phone service is unreliable in the wildness. You may be able to call 911 from some locations, but there is no guarantee. But in an emergency, always try 911: even if you have no service it may connect with another carrier.
If using maps on your phone, download maps before you go. Take a paper map with you, and know how to read it.
- 2 Grand Canyon Community Library, 11 Navajo St, Grand Canyon Village, ☏ . M-F 10:30AM–5PM. A small branch of the Flagstaff-Coconino County Public Library, housed in a historic log schoolhouse. It has public access terminals, Wi-Fi, and print, copy, scan, and Fax.
- Grand Canyon Research Library, 20 S. Entrance Rd. (Park Headquarters Building), ☏ . M–Th, and every other Friday, 8AM–4:30PM. Two public internet PCs, and free WiFi in the library and surrounding courtyard.
While literally getting out of the chasm may be the most difficult part of your visit, getting out of the national park is relatively easy.
The Grand Canyon is part of the Grand Circle, which includes the Monument Valley, Mesa Verde National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Grand Canyon–Parashant National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Arches National Park and many other attractions in Northern Arizona and Utah's Canyon Country.
From the South Rim, travelers often head toward Flagstaff or Sedona. Further south is Phoenix, home to hiking at Camelback Mountain, golfing, MLB Spring Training and super hot weather. West is Las Vegas, home to casinos, shows and nightlife; Hoover Dam is enroute to Las Vegas.
|Routes through Grand Canyon South Rim|
|Ends at E W at Williams ← Jct E at Grand Canyon Junction ← Tusayan ←||S E||→ Cameron → Ends at N S|
|Routes through Grand Canyon North Rim|
|Ends at Jct N S at Jacob Lake ←||N S||→ End|