Arizona made a deal with the Department of the Interior to reopen Grand Canyon National Park for 10 days starting Saturday, October 12 through October 18. Visitors as well as Grand Canyon area business, tour operators, and park employees should be happy about the news, even if it could be only temporary.
Grand Canyon Tours & Hotels
Figuring out where to stay at the Grand Canyon can be confusing, but it needn't be. Answers to these questions should lead you in the right direction:
First, when are you coming? If you're planning your visit several months from now, that's good; advance reservations at Grand Canyon hotels, sometimes over a year out, are usually needed for in-park Grand Canyon National Park lodging at the South Rim and North Rims. Visiting sooner than 3 months? Your best bet are the dozens of other Grand Canyon hotels and lodging choices just outside the park. You'll find Grand Canyon South Rim hotels in cities near the South Rim like Tusayan (8 miles) and Williams (60 miles). Time of year counts, too; the South and West Rims are open year-round and are busiest in spring and summer, but if you're planning on visiting between mid-October and mid-May, you'll want to note that the Grand Canyon North Rim is closed during this time.
Second, where do you plan to visit? The South Rim is the most popular part of Grand Canyon National Park, so look for South Rim hotels and motels in nearby Tusayan or Williams, just 50 miles from the park. If Grand Canyon National Park is just one adventure on your Arizona vacation itinerary, consider a more central jumping off point and book one of the hotels, resorts, budget-friendly motels and quaint bed and breakfasts in Flagstaff (90 minutes from GCNP) or Sedona (a destination it its own right, just 2 hours from the National Park.) You could even stay in Scottsdale/Phoenix, but only if you're up for an 18-hour day of self-driving, or better yet, a more relaxed full-day guided van tour to the Grand Canyon.
For those longing to visit the newer West Rim, home of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, you can book an all inclusive package and stay near the rim, but lodging there is limited to just the Grand Canyon Lodge and Cabins on the Hualapai reservation. Most visitors can expect to experience the West Rim a long day-trip with 5 hours of driving each way. Most will book their hotel in Las Vegas, but for those disinterested in a lot of driving or planning to head to the South Rim or another destination other than Las Vegas at the conclusion of their West Rim adventure, folks might consider staying at a convenient, pocket-friendly hotel in Kingman.
Grand Canyon North Rim visitors are a rarer breed, due to the short May-to-October season at the North Rim and the extreme remoteness of the area. And frankly, most North Rim folks choose sleeping under the stars in a campsite versus staying overnight in a hotel. But a stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim is an opportunity you should seize if you are able and are planning a year or so out. If you're late to the party, or you're also planning on visiting other national parks in the Grand Circle - namely Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in southern Utah - browse our directory of Page/Lake Powell hotels, motels and resorts.
Third, how long are you staying? One or two nights on any rim of the Grand Canyon are plenty; if you plan to stay longer, venture outward for your lodging. Stay in Flagstaff, Sedona, or even Scottsdale/Phoenix for a South Rim visit, and choose Las Vegas for your vacation hub for a West Rim and Grand Canyon Skywalk tour.
Fourth, what do you plan to do at the Grand Canyon? If your life's ambition is to backpack and hike rim-to-rim, take a mule ride or hike down to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon, plan up 12 months ahead and make your reservations as soon as possible. Get backcountry camping permits and reserve your campsite well in advance of your trip. Likewise, guided Colorado River rafting trips, ranging in length from 3 to 21 nights will include camping arrangements made by the outfitter, but you'll want to choose Flagstaff or Page/Lake Powell accommodations for your pre-trip stay, and perhaps Tusayan, Williams or Flagstaff lodging for your post-trip nights.
But as we know, most of us will experience Grand Canyon in a less adventurous way. Taking a train tour? Stay 1 - 2 nights in Williams near the Grand Canyon Railway station. Taking a air tour to the Grand Canyon Skywalk? Stay in Las Vegas where all flights to the West Rim originate. Taking an helicopter tour of the South Rim? Stay in Tusayan near the Grand Canyon Airport. Taking a bus, van or coach tour? Stay in Las Vegas, Sedona or Scottsdale.
Stand at any viewpoint on the rim of the Grand Canyon and the awe-inspiring vista of the stratified rocks and layered side canyons is equally heart-stirring and mind-boggling. But if you are going to drive the approximately 5 hours from Las Vegas or Phoenix to the South Rim, for example, you may want to consider making more of your visit than just observing, taking photos and repeating, "Wow. Awesome." at each viewpoint. Reserve a popular Grand Canyon tour package, or create your own vacation with 1-2 nights of nearby lodging, and set aside a full day to enjoy a guided hiking, railroad, helicopter, van or rafting tour.
Most of the 5 million visitors who come to the Grand Canyon each year stick to the rim; standing at one of the dozens of viewpoints along the South, North and West Rims and just gazing in astonishment. But there's more to visiting this Natural Wonder, beyond just seeing the Grand Canyon. At every level, theCanyon.com is here to help you experience it. Plan your visit, and select your individual needs, wants and preferences to customize a Grand Canyon visit tailor-made just for you. You can soar high above the Kaibab Plateau in a helicopter; go back in time, retracing the Santa Fe line on the Grand Canyon Railway; or venture down into the chasm on a day hike, overnight backpacking trip, boat ride, rafting trip or mule ride.
A visit to Grand Canyon can be whatever you want it to be: as tame or adventurous; as simple or inclusive; as affordable or indulgent. On the order of tame, simple, and affordable, there's nothing wrong with visiting the Grand Canyon on a day trip and casually walking the Rim Trail, taking the shuttle bus to different viewpoints and spending time in the Visitor's Centers. Check out the National Park Service's free Ranger Talks and get the most out of a full day's exploration without breaking much of a sweat or the bank.
If you have a little bigger activity budget and a taste for moderate adventure, but only a day or a day-and-a-half at the Grand Canyon, we recommend you embark on a helicopter tour, air tour, Skywalk package or railway adventure. You can also opt to go below the South rim on a self-guided hike, or take a Jeep tour, or 1-day river rafting adventure from Peach Springs nearer to the West Rim. Grand Canyon tours are available year round and often last minute deals are a great way to seize the day!
If you've got more time to dedicate to both advance planning (8 - 12 months) and your vacation to the Grand Canyon and a more robust budget, you can really create the adventure of a lifetime. Let's say you want to retrace John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado River; book at least a 3-day whitewater rafting trip; some outfitters even offer 21-day river trips. Ever dreamed of hiking rim-to-rim (or even rim-to-rim-to-rim) to conquer the ultimate Grand Canyon challenge? Prepare yourself physically, hook up with a professional backpacking guide, book a mule trip and reserve your stay at Phantom Ranch. If you have questions,theCanyon.com is here to help you figure it all out.
Grand Canyon National Park covers an area that's more than 1,900 square miles and is divided by a 277 mile-long, 6,000 feet-deep Colorado River gorge that separates the South Rim and the North Rim. The West Rim is somewhat of a misnomer; it is the popular name for an area of Hualapai Indian reservation located west of the South Rim, outside of the National Park boundaries along the south side of the Colorado River, not the western side of the chasm. The West Rim is also known as Grand Canyon West, a Hualapai-owned and operated destination where you'll find the cantilevered glass overlook known as the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
So where do you want to go? No matter which area you decide to visit, you need to understand that the Grand Canyon is in an extremely remote part of northern Arizona. Each located 60 - 72 miles from any town of significant size, the South, North and West Rims require at least an hour to an hour and forty-five minutes of driving if you're traveling by car or tour van. It's likely your trip will originate from a major commercial airport, like Phoenix Sky Harbor or Las Vegas International - each is 5 hours from the South and West Rims, respectively.
In general, most visitors, especially those who start their trip from Phoenix, will choose the South Rim, as will visitors starting from Flagstaff, Williams or all points south and east. Visitors who start their trip from Las Vegas will often choose the West Rim - this is particularly true for those embarking on a helicopter or air tour, as all Las Vegas to Grand Canyon air tours are destined for Grand Canyon West - or the South Rim (if going by van, coach or car.) The North Rim is a destination for those committed to traveling long hours by car, so anyone willing to drive the extra (several hundred) miles can approach the North Rim from Phoenix, Flagstaff, or southern Utah.
The South Rim is most accessible and therefore the most popular destination at Grand Canyon, attracting 5 million visitors each year. With two entrances - one at the south side, called Grand Canyon Village, just north of the small town of Tusayan - and one at the east, called Desert View, near the Cameron Trading Post, the South Rim is where you'll find visitor's centers, several in-park lodging facilities, historical buildings, and over two dozen viewpoints and trailheads. Because of its popularity, visitors should expect crowds and vehicle congestion, particularly in the busiest seasons - spring, summer and fall. The South Rim is open year round, and while wintertime is a beautiful and less crowded time here, the South Rim's 6,000 foot elevation and high plateau climate make for snowy conditions November through April; weather should be a consideration when planning your visit.
When visiting the South Rim, look for lodging and additional things to do in areas like Tusayan, Williams, Flagstaff and Sedona - all of which are within 1 to 2 hours drive from the South Rim or Desert View. There are a few restaurants and hotels in Tusayan, just 8 miles outside the park's south entrance, but visitors may find greater accessibility to hotels, restaurants, bars, entertainment, and other attractions in Williams (60 miles south) and Flagstaff (78 miles southeast.)
And though the gorge only averages 10 miles across "as the Condor flies," from the South Rim to the North Rim, the only way to get from South to North is to a) hike rim-to-rim or b) drive or take the daily Transcanyon Shuttle 215 miles (5 hours) from the South Rim Village to the North Rim.
At the North Rim, which is open (with services) mid-May through mid-October, most visitors who make the journey to the more remote of the two National Park areas stay longer than the 1 - 2 days recommended for the South Rim. The primary activities at the North Rim are hiking and mule rides, but many river rafting trips begin further up the Colorado River at Lees Ferry near Glen Canyon Dam. During the open season, check out the visitor's center at the North Rim, enjoy ranger-led programs, scenic drives, and day hikes. Even truer than the South Rim, weather at the North Rim plays a significant role when making travel plans. Snowfall can restrict access to the highway at any time, and its the reason for the seasonal services at the North Rim. For information on visiting the North Rim in the off-season, visit the National Park Service site.
Due to the limited availability of North Rim lodging, many visitors camp overnight at the in-park North Rim Campground or one of several out-of-park campgrounds. If you'd rather sleep under a roof than the stars, look to these few but wonderful options: Grand Canyon Lodge is the only in-park lodge; there are a small handful of motels and lodging options in nearby Jacob Lake and Fredonia, AZ and Kanab, UT (1-2 hours away); or book a stay in the picturesque Page/Lake Powell, AZ or St. George, UT areas (each 3 hours away.)
The West Rim, which not only includes Grand Canyon West, home of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, but also encompasses two popular backpacking areas - Havasupai Falls and Mooney Falls - is a popular destination particularly for visitors originating from Las Vegas, NV. In addition to Las Vegas, the towns most closely associated with the West Rim are Meadview (a small unincorporated community just outside the rim where the daily park-and-ride shuttle stop is located), Peach Springs (where 1-day rafting trips depart and you'll find the Hualapai Lodge and the turn off Route 66 to Indian Road 18 toward Hualapai Hilltop, the Havasupai trail head) and Kingman (where you'll find greater lodging, restaurant and activity options.)
The star of the West Rim is Grand Canyon West, a Hualapai Indian-owned and managed attraction on reservation land outside the National Park boundaries. Here you'll find the glass-bottomed structure that's cantilevered to extend 70 feet over the rim's edge to the canyon floor 4,000 feet below, the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Grand Canyon West Airport is the destination for all helicopter, air and combination tours originating from Las Vegas and serves as the gateway to Grand Canyon West. Upon arrival at Grand Canyon West, all visitors are required to choose a visitor package to enter the area, so tours from Las Vegas often include these packages and the cost associated in their fares.
Lodging at Grand Canyon West is limited to just two options; Hualapai Ranch and Cabins, available as part of Grand Canyon West tour packages, and Grand Canyon Ranch, available as part of a tour package or a la carte. Visitors will find greater options in Kingman, Peach Springs and Las Vegas.
Activities at Grand Canyon West include the Grand Canyon Skywalk, hop-on-hop-off shuttle to several other viewpoints, horseback riding, helicopter tours with canyon floor landings, boat rides, campfires and cowboy gun fights and more. Grand Canyon West also serves as the take-out point for 1-day Colorado River rafting tours that originate 35 river miles east at Peach Springs. Peach Springs also offers visitors a spot to take a Jeep tour to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, tour underground caverns, or venture northeast to embark on an overnight backpacking trip to splash and play in the crystal-clear aquamarine pools at Havasupai and Mooney Falls. Further west, visitors passing through Kingman can also venture out to pan for gold, reenact Wild West shootouts and explore "living" ghost towns. And don't forget to drive yourself or take a tour of Hoover Dam, one of the world's greatest engineering wonders.
- Map of Grand Canyon
- Map of Grand Canyon Terrain
- Grand Canyon Village (South Rim)
- Map of North Rim and Surrounding Towns
- Map of West Rim and Surrounding Towns
- Popular Trails (Adobe PDF download will begin automatically)
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Grand Canyon National Park is closed during the Federal Government shutdown as of today, October 1, 2013. Here are the facts and some alternative travel plans if you need to make last-minute changes to your Arizona vacation.