One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon has to be seen in person to fully be appreciated. A whopping 5.5 million people travel to visit the one-mile deep canyon every year. At up to 18 miles wide and 277 river miles long, there is plenty to see and do. Travelers can visit the South Rim, North Rim and Skywalk as well as the Inner Canyon for hikers, backpackers, mule riders and river runners.
The South Rim is located on the “Arizona” side of the Grand Canyon and is the most visited part of the park. Open year-round, the South Rim is most popular in the spring and summer. Visitors to this side of the Grand Canyon will find the historic Grand Canyon Village, home to the Visitor Center, Market Plaza and Historic District; Hermit Road; and Desert View Drive. The stunning Hermit Road is a scenic route open to private vehicles December through February but open to bus, foot, bike and tours the rest of the year. The road offers nine designated viewpoints worth a look. Desert View Drive is another option that’s open to private cars with six canyon viewpoints.
Just 10-percent of visitors to the Grand Canyon visit the North Rim. Known as the “Utah” side, the North Rim is much more remote and harder to get to compared to its southern counterpart. Unlike the South Rim, the North Rim is closed during the winter and only open May 15 through October 15. It’s also 1,000 ft. higher than the South Rim, so the climate and vegetation is very different here. Not to mention, the views are very different as well, albeit worth the work to get there. Most notably, the Toroweap Overlook offers a particularly amazing view overlooking the Colorado River with a 3,000 ft. vertical cliffside. Getting here requires traversing difficult roads, changing conditions and more restrictions.
One of the most popular and famous attractions to visit is the Skywalk. The horseshoe-shaped steel frame reaches 70 ft. out from the rim and has a glass bottom floor and sides for unique views all around. The Skywalk is technically located outside of the park at the far western end of the Grand Canyon and is a five-hour drive from the South Rim.
How To Get There
There are multiple ways to get to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Aside from driving yourself, visitors can take a Greyhound bus from Flagstaff or hop on the Arizona Shuttle which operates daily between Phoenix and Flagstaff and between Flagstaff and Grand Canyon Village. The on-demand Grand Canyon Shuttle offers service between Flagstaff/Sedona/Williams and the park. To travel between the North and South Rim, both Grand Canyon Shuttle Service and Trans-Canyon Shuttle are available. For train transportation, Amtrak provides service from Flagstaff with connecting bus service to the canyon. The Grand Canyon Railway offers train service as well from Williams. Those looking to drive themselves from Phoenix can expect a trip of roughly 230 miles at about 3.5 hours, depending on road conditions.
Where To Stay
At the North Rim, lodging options are limited. Visitors can stay in the Grand Canyon Lodge or at one of the few other hotels outside of the park. At the South Rim, there are more places to choose from but with limited availability. Most South Rim lodging inside the park is booked well in advance, especially during spring, summer and fall, so plan ahead to take your pick. Inside the park, guests can stay at Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge or Maswik Lodge, all located within the historic district, or the Yavapai Lodge near the visitor center. Outside the park, there are multiple budget hotels for even more options.
What To Do
While taking in the breathtaking views and stunning scenery is a must, there are plenty of other things to do for those looking for a more adventurous experience. Hiking, mule trips, rafting, bicycling, guided tours, free ranger programs and visitor centers all offer something for everyone. There are also art exhibits, cultural demonstrations, historic sites, dining and more inside the park.
Admission to the Grand Canyon is valid for seven days and includes both rims. There are no refunds for bad weather so plan accordingly when looking to make a visit. Visitors can buy vehicle permits for $35 if driving or $20 for standard entrance. There are multiple places outside the park to buy an entrance pass or you can purchase one at the entrance to the North Rim, South Rim and Desert View. Guests can also buy a digital pass for immediate access or an annual pass for year-round access.
For even more information, visit nps.gov/grca.