Visiting The Grand Canyon

Last Updated on May 6, 2022

The Grand Canyon, considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is a destination you should not miss on your next trip across the West Coast of the United States. Visiting the Grand Canyon, you’ll find a breathtaking destination and a great miracle of Mother Nature.

The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. More than six million people visit the canyon each year, drawn by its stunning natural beauty. Chances are, if you’re wanting to visit the Grand Canyon for the first time, it will be part of a larger road trip. If you want to make the most of your visit, do not make the rookie mistake and assume that you can wing it after entering the National Park.

Most first-time visitors to the park do the same thing we did — drive around the South Rim and stop at all the impressive viewpoints. The park seems massive and intimidating to plan anything else. However, pre-planning will ensure that you leave enough time to see what you desire, and are able to enjoy it to the fullest.

Here is our Grand Canyon Guide, a collection of the most common questions about visiting the Grand Canyon:

Table Of Contents

Grand Canyon Guide

How Can You Get To The Grand Canyon?

When we visited the Grand Canyon, we paired it with time in Sedona. The drive between the Grand Canyon and Sedona is absolutely breathtaking. Sedona to the Grand Canyon is only around 177 miles, so it is not a difficult jaunt at a 2-hour drive from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

You can also journey to the Grand Canyon aboard the historic Grand Canyon Railroad. The train carries passengers between Williams, Arizona and the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. It is a full-day tour.

Also, another great option to view the Grand Canyon is by helicopter. There are many options, like a tour departing from Las Vegas or other places in Arizona. Some helicopter tours can also include a hummer excursion option to make a fun day of it.

The most common driving route is from Flagstaff, Arizona. You’ll take Highway 180 North into Grand Canyon National Park. A great alternative is to take Highway 89 North to Cameron. This way you will enter through the less-busy Desert View entrance.

Grand Canyon Guide

Where Do You Fly To Go To The Grand Canyon?

Most visitors choose to fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, as it is the closest major international airport to the South Rim. The South Rim is the most visited area and is just over a 3.5 hour drive.

What Is The Best Part Of The Grand Canyon To Visit?

The South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park is the most visited area by first-time visitors.  And for good reason – the views are simply stunning. You can see for miles in every direction, and the colors are truly breathtaking. The South Rim is also home to a number of interesting attractions, such as the Bright Angel Trail and the Yaki Point Lookout. And if you’re looking for a challenge, you can even hike down to the bottom of the canyon. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking for a beautiful place to take a few photos, the South Rim is a great first visit choice.

The South Rim is also open year-round, whereas the North Rim closes for winter.

How Many Days Do You Need To See The Grand Canyon?

While it is possible to see the canyon in just a day, most visitors choose to spend at least a few days exploring all that it has to offer. There are numerous lookout points accessible by car, and many hiking trails that provide different perspectives on the canyon. In addition, there are several ranger-led programs that take place each day, providing visitors with an opportunity to learn more about the canyon’s history and geology. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or simply want to appreciate the majesty of nature, a few days at the Grand Canyon are sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.

Seeing A Different Perspective

While many people choose to view the canyon from the rim, there is nothing quite like hiking into its depths to see it from a different perspective. The views from below are simply stunning, and the experience of hiking through such an immense and ancient landscape is truly unforgettable. Hiking the Grand Canyon is not for everyone, but those who are up for the challenge will be rewarded with some of the most incredible views on earth.

The easier and shorter trails include:

The Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge: 3 miles roundtrip
Skeleton Point: 6 miles total
Grandview Trail (a little more rugged) to the first overlook: 2.5 miles roundtrip

If you have some time available for hiking, a few of the longer trails are:

Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point (steep):12.2 miles (roundtrip)
Hermit Trail to Dripping Springs (steep): 7 miles (roundtrip)
Grandview to Horseshoe Mesa (very steep): 6 miles  (roundtrip)

Grand Canyon Guide

Do I Need Hiking Boots For The Grand Canyon?

If you plan on hiking at the Grand Canyon, and not just driving around from viewpoint to viewpoint, you sure do need hiking boots. They should be supportive hiking boots. This means that hiking sandals, sports sandals, walking or running shoes, or trail running shoes are not adequate footwear for hiking in The Grand Canyon. Safety first!

What Is The Best Month To Visit the Grand Canyon?

The best times to visit the Grand Canyon are in off-peak months. The temperatures will be more comfortable and the crowds considerably less. March through May and September through November are the best options. The North Rim also closes for winter; it does snow in the Grand Canyon! If you need to visit during the peak summer season, the park will be super busy and lodging will be hard to find.

If you feel that the weather is not the best, go anyway. You will have fewer people around and when the clouds break, you will be treated to some of the coolest scenery.

Watching The Sunset At The Grand Canyon

There’s something about watching the sun sink behind the horizon that fills us with a sense of wonder. And there’s no better place to watch a sunset than at the Grand Canyon. As the sun begins to dip below the canyon walls, the sky turns a deep red, gradually fading to orange and then yellow. The colors reflect off the river below, creating a truly spectacular sight. For a moment, all of your worries seem to vanish as you take in the beauty of nature. Watching the sunset at the Grand Canyon is an experience you’ll never forget.

Watching the sunset at the Grand Canyon is a popular attraction. Make sure you arrive early to the spot you want to watch from; the overlooks can fill up in peak season.

What Are The Entrance Fees To Visit The Grand Canyon?

First of all, no refunds are given due to inclement weather.

A vehicle permit is $35 US. This admits one non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers, up to 15 people. Does not include organized groups.

A Motorcycle Permit is $30 US. This admits a single motorcycle and its passenger(s).

An Individual Permit is $20 US per person. This includes individuals entering by foot, bicycle, park shuttle bus, the historic Grand Canyon Railway or private rafting trip.

The above three passes are good for seven days.

Individuals 15 years old and younger are admitted free of charge.

If you’ll be doing a lot of adventuring, it is also a good idea to take a look at the America the Beautiful, Annual Pass. For $80 US, you are granted access and use of Federal recreation sites that charge an Entrance or Standard Amenity Fee, beginning from the date of sale.

Passes can be purchased online at recreation.gov.

What Could Fit In The Grand Canyon?

At its widest point, the canyon is 18 miles wide and has a length of 270 miles. The canyon is wide enough to fit the island of Manhattan and deep enough to stack three empire state buildings end-to-end.

The Grand Canyon is the biggest canyon in the US and one of the biggest in the world.

Grand Canyon Guide

Can You Go To The Grand Canyon Without A Tour?

Yes! It is a really easy park to tour by yourself. When you enter the park, make sure you grab one of the park newspapers with all the information you will need. If you have questions, you can also go to the tourist center, and you’ll find rangers along the rim that are able to answer questions. The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is a very “Do It Yourself” place.

What Should I Wear To The Grand Canyon?

The best thing to do is to layer your clothing so that you can adjust to the changing temperatures throughout the day. A light sweater or jacket is perfect for the morning, when it can be a bit chilly. As the day heats up, you can remove layers as needed. And in the evening, when the temperature starts to drop again, you can put them back on. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes too – you’ll be doing a lot of walking! And finally, don’t forget your sunscreen and hat. The sun can be very strong at high altitudes, so it’s important to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

Keep in mind that during the winter, it does snow at the Grand Canyon, so prepare appropriately!

Does It Get Cold At The Grand Canyon?

In April and May temperatures can fall below freezing on the rim. Temperatures will reach the 40s by June, with temperatures in the 50s in April, and the 70s by June.

Winter is a magical time to visit the Grand Canyon. The vast majority of the six million annual visitors come during the summer when it can be quite hot in the inner canyon. So, if you don’t like crowds, winter is a great time to visit. Temperatures in the inner canyon are much cooler than at the rim. You can expect highs in the 40s and 50s and lows in the 20s. It can even snow at the South Rim, which elevates about 7,000 feet above sea level. The North Rim is at a slightly higher elevation and usually has more snow. But both rims offer breathtaking views of a winter wonderland. So, if you’re looking for a quieter and cooler experience, plan your trip for wintertime. And don’t forget to pack your jacket!

The Inner Canyon (below the rim) has a distinctly different climate because at the bottom of the Colorado River, the elevation is almost a mile lower.

Can You Bring Food Into The Grand Canyon?

Yes, you can. The food at the Grand Canon is on the bland and expensive side, so you may prefer to bring some food you will enjoy. You are not permitted to bring your own food into Grand Canyon West (where the Skywalk is).

Grand Canyon Guide

What Is The Grand Canyon Skywalk?

One of the most popular attractions is the Skywalk, a glass horseshoe-shaped bridge that extends 70 feet out over the canyon,  giving a view straight down into the canyon at a location called Eagle Point, in the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. Visitors can walk out onto the bridge and enjoy unobstructed views of the canyon floor nearly a mile below. The Skywalk opened to the public in 2007 and has since become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region. While it does not replace the experience of hiking or rafting through the Grand Canyon, the Skywalk provides an unparalleled opportunity to appreciate its natural beauty.

No photography is permitted on the skywalk. You cannot even take your camera or cellphone onto the skywalk, you must use a free locker before entering. They say it is to keep belongings from getting lost in the canyon, but then they offer photo packages to force you to pay for a photo or more.

In our opinion, skip the skywalk. There is no special view to be seen, just the thrill of walking onto the suspended platform.

Do You Need Tickets For The Grand Canyon Skywalk?

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is not actually part of the National Park, even though it is part of the Grand Canyon. This means that there are additional entrance fees to use the attraction. The Fee is charged per person.

How Long Does It Take To Drive Around The Grand Canyon?

It takes around five hours to drive it all. That does not consider making all the desired stops. The driving distance between the North Rim Visitor Centre and The South Rim, around the east end of the canyon, is 220 miles.

Grand Canyon Guide

How Much Is A Mule Ride In The Grand Canyon?

There are a few different options for a Mule ride in the Grand Canyon. For some, you must be at least 7-10 years old (depending on ride). Riders must also not weigh more than 200 – 220 pounds (depending on ride), fully dressed.

Mule rides are offered in both the North and South Rims. The South Rim costs $152.85 and the North Rim has three options ranging from $50 to $100 per person.

If this interests you, more details can be found here.

Grand Canyon Guide

Where Should I Stay When Visiting The Grand Canyon?

Lodging within the park is booked well in advance, so make sure to book ahead. It is especially important to book ahead during the pandemic regulations, as there will be even less lodging available. Most of the lodges in Grand Canyon Village are within walking distance of the canyon rim and are open year-round. Lodging is handled by both Delaware North and Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

The closest lodging outside of the park is located south of Grand Canyon Village, in the gateway community of Tusayan. These accommodations are only 7 miles (11 km) south of Grand Canyon Village, along Arizona Highway 64.

We also suggest checking out Airbnb for some great unique accommodation options. You could go glamping right outside the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, or stay in a beautiful historical cabin. There are so many fun accommodation options to explore.

Grand Canyon Guide

How Much Does It Cost To Camp In The Grand Canyon?

A couple of options for camping in the Grand Canyon are the Mather Campground (open all-year long) and the North Rim Campground, which closes for the winter season.

Also available year-round is an RV park, Trailer Village, with full hook-ups. It is located in the South Rim.

Fees are $18 per site per night ($10 permit plus $8 per group/night). A maximum of 2 vehicles, 6 people, and 3 tents are allowed per site.

Group sites are also available, $50/night, a maximum of 50 people, and 3 vehicles per group site.

Pets are NOT ALLOWED below the canyon rim at any time.

If you are camping below the rim, expect a $10 permit plus $8 per person, or stock animal, per night.

 

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