The Grand Canyon National Park is a World Heritage site located exclusively in northern Arizona. More than 4 million people visit every year. The Grand Canyon was designated as a national monument on 11 January 1908 and a national park on 26 February 1919. The Grand Canyon encompasses over 277 miles of the Colorado River and is spectacular example of erosion. At certain places the Grand Canyon is over 6,000 feet from top to bottom!
Schedule & Fees
The Grand Canyon is open year round. At least parts of it are. The park entrances remain open 24 hours a day. The Village and Desert View at the South Rim are open all the time. The North Rim facilities maintains a schedule from May through October.
The park charges fees at the entrances or select locations outside of the park. Current pricing is $30 USD per private car, $25 USD for a motorcycle, or $15 USD per person for people walking, bicycling, on a private rafting trip, on the park’s shuttle bus, or visitors riding the Grand Canyon Railway.
Getting To The Grand Canyon
The closest major airports are located in Phoenix Arizona, 223 miles away, and Las Vegas Nevada, 270 miles away.
Driving from Phoenix takes approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes. You drive interstate 17 north, then interstate 40 heading west, then from Flagstaff head north on US highway 180 for 52 miles.
Driving from Las Vegas takes approximately 4 hours. Drive south on interstate 515 to US highway 93 South/East, then interstate 40 going east, then from Flagstaff head north on US highway 180 for 52 miles.
There is Greyhound Bus Lines service and Amtrack service to both Flagstaff Arizona, 52 miles away from the Grand Canyon, and Williams Arizona, 56 miles away from the Grand Canyon. Both are located on interstate 40.
This is not the easy access location by any stretch of the imagination. If you want to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, you are going to have to travel.
The entrance to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is located 30 miles south of Jacob Lake on Highway 67. To get to the actual rim you will need to go another 14 miles.
If you were to travel from Phoenix Arizona to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the distance it 351 miles compared to 223 miles from Phoenix to the South Rim. Instead of heading west from Flagstaff, take interstate 40 east to Highway 89 to Bitter Springs. From Bitter Springs take highway 89A to Jacob Lake, ~56 miles, then highway 67 south to the North Rim, ~43 miles.
The distance from Las Vegas to the North Rim is 264 miles, similar to the distance to the South Rim of 270 miles. However, you would take a different route that has you driving north on interstate 15 for 128 miles just past St. George Utah then to route 9. Route 9 east for 10 miles to route 59. East on route 59 for 32 miles where the highway changes to route 389 at the Utah / Arizona border, the 33 miles to the junction with US highway 89A. East on 89A for 30 miles to the junction with route 67. Finally, drive south on route 67 for 43 miles.
Note well that highway 67 closes on December 1st or when snow closes the highway, whichever comes first.
Your furry little critters are welcome on a limited basis.
Pets have to be leashed at all times. What you can’t do is take you pet below the rim, on shuttle buses or inside buildings.
There is a kennel on the South Rim that us open daily from 7:30AM to 5:00PM. Call 928-636-0534 for reservations. If you want to board your pet, you will need to have proof of vaccination for rabies, DHLP, bordetella and parvo for dogs. For cats, you will need proof of vaccination for rabies, feline leukemia, and distemper combo.
On the South Rim, pets are allowing on trails above the rim, Mather campground, Desert View campground, Trailer Village and the developed areas.
On the North Rim, there is no kennel and the only place pets are allowed is on the bridle trail that connects the North Kaibab Trail with the lodge.
The only exception to these rules are for service animals. If you want to bring a service animal below the rim, check with the Backcountry Information Center.
Be prepared for any type of weather any time of year at the Grand Canyon.
Given the high altitude, 6,800 feet at the South Rim and 8,000 feet at the North Rim, and the low humidity, you can expect large changes in temperature from day to night, up to 30F differences. In general, temperature increases 5.5F for every 1,000 feet of elevation loss. From the top of the South Rim at 6,800 feet to the Colorado River at ~2,200 feet, you can expect over a 25F difference at any given time of day.
Record weather conditions recorded at the Grand Canyon are:
- -22F /-30C on the North Rim on 1 February 1985.
- 120F / 49C at Phantom Ranch has been recorded multiple times.
- 45.03″ rain at the North Rim in 1978.
- 2.7″ of rain at Lees Ferry in 1955.
- 272.8″ snow at the North Rim in 1978, that’s just about 23′ of snow.
In general, the spring weather usually kicks in my mid-April with the high temperatures in the 50s and 60s during April to the 80s by June. It is still very possible to get freezing temperatures and even a snowfall. The latest snowfall reported was in mid-June.
The summer weather at the South Rim is pleasant with daily highs in the 80s, North Rim is generally in the 70s due to the higher elevation. Lows are usually in the 40s and 50s with occasional nights were the temperatures drop below freezing at the North Rim. Monsoon season with lightning, torrential rains and sudden flash floods usually occur in July, August, and early September and often occur in the late morning through afternoon.
The fall tends to be a time when the weather dries out. The rim temperatures go from the 60s in September to the 50s in November while the river valley goes from 90s to 70s in the same time frame.
Winter weather can be extreme at both the North and South Rim, in particular the North Rim where driving access is shut down by December 1st regardless of conditions.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is less visited than the South Rim. At ~1,000 feet higher and requiring more driving to get to, the North Rim provides beautiful canyon views. Facilities such at the North Rim Visitor Center and the Backcountry Information Center are open from mid-May through mid-October.
At the North Rim you can enjoy the views from the Grand Canyon Lodge or a stunning view like this from Walhalla Plateau.
There are a few good driving viewpoints worth checking out.
From the visitor center, drive 11 miles to see Mount Hayden and Marble Canyon.
Also drive 45 minutes from the visitor center you can see Angels Window and the ancestral Puebloan ruins at Walhalla Glades.
Inside the park is the Grand Canyon Lodge. Don’t be surprised that this books up well in advance. Call 877-386-4383.
You can find fuel and limited garage services at the North Rim Chevron Station. There is a coin operated laundry and showers on the access road to the North rim Campground. The Grand Canyon Lodge area has a post office, lost and found, and books and gift shops.
Camping is available in the park at the North Rim. The North Rim Campground limits campers to seven days per season, most nights the campground is filled up so advanced reservations are recommended by calling 877-444-6777. Cost is $18 to $25 per night as of this writing. There are no hookups, but their is a dump station.
Outside of the park, US Forest Service camping is available at DeMotte Campground 18 miles from the North Rim and at Jacob Lake Campground 45 miles from the North Rim. There is private camping just a quarter of a mile south of Jacob Lake at Kaibab Camper Village with full hookups available.
There is a lot to do at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. More than 4 million visitors go to the Grand Canyon every year with the majority of them passing through the South Rim are. July and August are the most popular months while January and February have the least amount of visitors.
Consider using the free, natural gas powered shuttle bus system when at the South Rim. Buses can carry your bicycles and have wheelchair ramps.
If you do want to drive your vehicle, some drives worth considering are the 7 mile Hermit Road with numerous viewpoints.
Take the 25 mile Desert View drive and climb to the top floor of the Desert View Watchtower for spectacular views.
There are a few places to stay inside the park at the South Rim; Yavapai Lodge, El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel, Maswik, Kachina and Thunderbird lodges.
Outside of the park you can find lodging at these pet friendly resorts: Canyon Plaza Resort, The Grand Hotel, and the Red Feather Lodge.
Unlike the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, there is no service station in the Grand Canyon Village. There is fuel available approximately 7 miles south of the park. However, there are garage services such as emergency repairs for belts, batteries, tires, fuses and hoses at the public garage behind the Grand Canyon National Park Lodges General Office building.
There are groceries at the Canyon Village Market. You can also purchase camping equipment there also. At the Market Plaza is a Chase Bank with ATM, post office. At the entrance to the Mather Campground is a coin operated laundry and showers.
Inside the park you can camp at the Desert View Campground, Mather Campground, and Trailer Village. The first two are National Park Service campgrounds with no hookups. Desert View is first come, first served. Mather does accept and recommend reservations, call 877-444-6777. The Trailer Village campground has pull through sites with hookups. Desert View is open mid-April to mid-October. Mather and Trailer Village are open year round.
Tours and Trips
Grand Canyon Airlines
Grand Canyon Airlines has a number of tours starting in Grand Canyon, West Rim or Page Arizona or Las Vegas Nevada.
For instance, the Grand Canyon Deluxe Tour is a 9.5 hour trip from hotel to hotel and includes pickup at most major Las Vegas hotels, a 1:10 flight from Las Vegas that includes views of Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and of course the Grand Canyon. Once you arrive at the Grand Canyon, you will be shuttled to the South Rim where you will have time to visit a couple of popular viewpoints. Lunch is included. Then it is everything in reverse … transportation back to the airport, flight to Las Vegas and drop off at your Las Vegas hotel.
Booking a tour looks like this. Current departure times are 6:30AM and 9:00AM. They will ask your weight – be honest, what hotel in Las Vegas you are staying at – based on your hotel the pickup time will be up to 2 hours before your departure, and if you would like to request a window seat for an extra $10.
There are a number of other tour options available including the Smooth Water Float trip which takes approximately 12.5 hours with a 3.5 hour drive to Lee’s Ferry where you will board a motorized inflatable river raft.
Or there is the Top of the World Navajo Style tour from Page Arizona with a 35-40 minute helicopter flight that includes Horseshoe Canyon, Glen Canyon and stop at Tower Butte.
Grand Canyon Helicopter
There is certainly more than one way to see the Grand Canyon from the air. 5 Star Helicopter Tours based in Las Vegas, Nevada offers a number of different tour packages of the Grand Canyon that involves a helicopter.
Most of the helicopter tours involve an additional activity. For instance, there is:
- Grand Canyon Skywalk
- West Hualapai Ranch Overnight Stay
- Landing at the Valley of Fire after flying over the Hoover Dam.
Grand Canyon Wedding
Want to get married while flying over the Grand Canyon? You are in luck. Sign up for the Grand Canyon Helicopter Wedding Package. Choose the number of guests – there is a limit and it is not a lot of people, choose the date and time of day – either 7AM, 9AM, 11AM, 1PM or 3PM Pacific time, provide your name and email. On the next page review what you selected and make payment – either a deposit or in full. Note that if the wedding is soon, you will only have the option to pay in full. Type in your credit card details and submit. Done!
While it might be easy to order a wedding trip to the Grand Canyon, just make sure your partner knows what you are doing!
Grand Canyon Railway
The Grand Canyon Railway departs from Williams Arizona. It is recommended that you plan a few days for a trip as the closest major airports are in Phoenix, 2.5 hours away, or Las Vegas, 3 hours away.
The Railway has been running since 1901. There are a number of packages you can take … a recommended trip package is the Canyon Limited Plus that features a roundtrip coach class train reservation that comes with a guide-narrated motorcoach rim tour on the South Rim. Includes two breakfasts and two dinners per person at the Railway’s Grand Depot Cafe and two nights at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams for the first and last nights and finally an overnight stay at the Maswik Lodge inside Grand Canyon National Park.
Here is an example booking train tickets on the Grand Canyon Railway – this is the most expensive option as of this writing. You can make special requests for wheelchair, scooter, lift, etc. You will want to pick up your tickets at the depot in Williams, Arizona before 9AM the day of departure. Train leaves at 9:30AM and returns at 5:45PM – a full day.
One of the first obvious natural landmarks when boating on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park is the Ten Mile Rock. If your river guide tells you a story that this was flown in by the Civilian Conversation Corps during the Great Depression, don’t believe him or her.
An absolute monster of an amphitheater located near river mile 33 that was carved by high water flows in the Grand Canyon. This comes after South Canyon, Stanton’s Cave and Vasey’s Paradise. Great place to be when there is a rain storm!
Not surprisingly, boating on the Grand Canyon is popular. Commercial river trips typically need to be booked a year or two in advance. For noncommerical river trips there is a weighted lottery system.
South Rim Day Hikes
Bright Angel Trail
Looking at the first two miles of the Bright Angel Trail. If you look very, very carefully on the left side of this picture you might see the ranger station at Indian Garden.
Straight from the Grand Canyon National Park:
The Hermit Trail offers hikes to Santa Maria Spring, 5 miles (round trip), and Dripping Springs, 7 miles (round trip). Trail conditions are tougher than the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails. Unmaintained steep trail requires caution. Begins 500 feet west of Hermits Rest. Water from springs must be treated before drinking. For experienced desert hikers. Hiking boots recommended.
This picture shows the upper section of the Hermit Trail – very steep, dropping almost 2,000 vertical feet in the first 2.5 miles.
Interesting trivia: The Hermit Trail was built for a luxury campground near Hermit Creek. At one time there was a tramway from the rim. The name comes from Louis D. Boucher who lived in the area for 20 years. He built the Boucher Trail and residences at Dripping Springs and Boucher Creek.
Very steep trail for experienced desert hikers. This trail gives you access to Coconino Saddle which is a 2.2 mile round trip and Horseshoe Mesa, a 6.4 mile round trip.
North Rim Day Hikes
Follows the canyon rim from Grand Canyon Lodge to the North Rim Campground. 3 miles round trip.
North Kaibab Trail
Depending on your final destination, travel times and distance vary. A short round trip to Coconino Overlook is 1.5 miles, to Supai Tunnel and back is 4 miles. A full day trip gets you to and from Roaring Springs – you will descend and ascend over 3000 feet and hike 9.4 miles – plan on starting early if you do this hike.
Not Day Hikes
Or at least not easy day hikes. Actually, depending on your health, fitness, experience, all or none of these Grand Canyon hikes are easy or difficult. However, the next trail is called out as the toughest Grand Canyon hike.
Hiking to the Ancestral Puebloan granaries at Nankoweap Creek is no easy feat.
The National Park Service has this to say about the Nankoweap Trail.
This trail is classified as MOST difficult of the named trails in Grand Canyon. It has the largest total rim-to-river drop (5640 ft / 1735 m) and is one of the longest trails. Hikers must be experienced in canyon route finding; this trail is not recommended for inexperienced or solo hikers. The Nankoweap Trail is not enjoyable as a summer hike as there is no water and little shade until Nankoweap Creek. The hike will require a minimum of 4 to 6 liters of water per person, per day.
If you hike from the Nankoweap trailhead to the Colorado River you will descend, and ascend, 5000+ feet and cover 11 miles. There is no readily available water sources with the exception of a small seasonal seep located just above the trail approximately 150 yards past where the trial passes Marion Point. There are permanent water sources at the Colorado River, obviously, and at Nankoweap Creek.
Beautiful 90 foot vertical drop. Havasu Falls is located 1.5 miles from Supai. The vivid blue green color of the water is the result of high calcium carbonate concentration.