Grand Canyon Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Places to Visit in the USA
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Grand Canyon Area Map

Neighborhoods

The majority of the canyon's services and facilities – campgrounds, lodges, guided tours, etc. – are located on the popular South Rim. Because the Grand Canyon is a national park, be aware that there is an entrance fee. For private vehicles, the fee is $30 per vehicle. You can also enter on foot, by bicycle, by motorcycle or by free shuttle from nearby Tusayan and pay a $15 entrance fee per person. Keep in mind that visitors ages 15 years old and younger get in for free. 

Once you enter the South Rim of the park, you'll see Grand Canyon Village, which holds the park headquarters and visitor center, the historic El Tovar Hotel, and a handful of local restaurants. You can explore the canyon from here using either West Rim Drive (Hermit Road) or Desert View Drive. Both are accessible by shuttle and private cars, except from March to November, when only shuttle buses are allowed. Desert View Drive follows the South Rim of the canyon for 26 miles, offering views of the canyon's rock formations. Yaki Point and Grandview Point are popular panoramic lookouts along the drive.

For a nice hike that affords great views of the canyon, walk along the Rim Trail, an easy, paved 12-mile trip that can be hiked at length or in short segments, and is accessible via the South Rim heading westward. In the summer and at various points along the trail, you can hop on the free South Rim shuttle bus. 

You can also follow the Bright Angel Trail (on foot or by mule) from the Grand Canyon Village down into the canyon. This 12-mile round-trip trail offers close-up views of the Colorado River and the chance to experience the Grand Canyon from below.

The North Rim is far less crowded than the South Rim. But what the North Rim loses in services or facilities, travelers say it makes up in seclusion and the same great views. The Trans-Canyon Shuttle takes travelers from the North Rim to the South Rim for $90 each way per person. Because the park service does not operate snowplows on the North Rim, the area is closed from the first snowfall to mid-May. Some of the most popular highlights include Bright Angel Point and Point Imperial – the highest point on the North Rim. Point Sublime, about 20 miles west of the North Rim Visitor Center, is an area where you can camp close to the canyon's edge. The road, however, is only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles, and it's necessary to be equipped for wilderness travel. Camping also requires a backcountry permit.

Grand Canyon West (located on the southern side of the Colorado River) is managed by the Hualapai Tribe. The Hualapai Indian Reservation is located on the southern side of the Colorado River, and lies outside the boundary and jurisdiction of the NPS. The tribe operates the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass walkway that extends over the side of the canyon for awesome views and photo opportunities. 

Not only will you save a little money by staying in one of the towns outside of the park, you'll also get a glimpse into the region's culture. Williams, Arizona, the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway, offers inns, hotels, restaurants and gift shops for souvenir-seekers, as well as annual winter and fall celebrations. Even closer to the canyon, the town of Tusayan houses the popular IMAX Theatre Grand Canyon, which features a short film about the canyon. Also, several tour companies sell sky tours of the canyon. Tusayan also offers a number of gift shops with affordable and high-end goods, some of which are hand-made by local Native American tribes.

Nearby Native American reservations offer travelers a glimpse of the area's indigenous culture and history. On the south side of the Colorado River just outside of NPS-administered grounds is the Havasupai village of Supai. Located near Havasu Falls, Supai is accessible only by hiking or horseback. To inquire about hiking permits and campground reservations, see the Havasupai website.

Accessible from Grand Canyon Village, along the South Rim.

One of the most popular trails in the park, the north and south extensions of the Rim Trail offer spectacular views of the canyon while remaining relatively easy on the feet. Here, tourists can walk on smooth ground while eyeing their surroundings. 

Accessible just west of Bright Angel Lodge, along the South Rim.

The Bright Angel Trail is a great scenic trail to hike to the bottom of the canyon, but beware: It's approximately a 12-mile hike round-trip. Rest houses along the way provide water, but avoid taking the full trip in the summer to avoid heat exhaustion.

Accessible at Yaki Point, off of Desert View Drive, along the South Rim.

If you're feeling adventurous, the South Kaibab Trail is a better alternative to the nearby Bright Angel Trail. While the trail is steeper and lacks the shade and frequent rest stops of Bright Angel, many visitors say the South Kaibab Trail is more scenic. Be sure to bring plenty of water, especially if you're hiking during the summer.

Accessible via Bright Angel Trail, along the South Rim.

Plateau Point Trail is arguably the best day hike below the rim. The trail runs 12.2 miles round-trip through the difficult Bright Angel Trail.

Accessible two miles north of Grand Canyon Lodge, along the North Rim.

North Kaibab Trail is best for those trying to avoid the crowds on the South Rim. You can camp at the Cottonwood Campground halfway along the trail.

The greatest safety concern in the Grand Canyon is the outdoors. Never hike or camp alone in the park unless you know the park very well. Even experienced hikers have become lost in the park because they were not acquainted with the oftentimes dangerous trails. Be sure to bring an adequate amount of water during your trip and wear sunscreen. And check the weather before hiking, since lightning during summertime thunderstorms can be deadly.

Encountering wildlife can present another danger. The park service advises travelers keep a distance of at least 100 feet, or about two bus lengths, away from the park's larger animals, such as elk, deer, bighorn sheep, California condors and mountain lions. As for smaller animals, such as squirrels, birds and reptiles, visitors should stay at least 50 feet, or about one bus-length away.

The Grand Canyon is a relatively safe park in terms of crime. If you park your car within the canyon, be sure to lock your vehicle and safeguard any belongings just in case. For more information, see the National Park Service's website.  

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