The world famous Grand Canyon in Arizona is not called grand for just any reason. Reaching 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, this massive carved out bedrock receives over 6 million visitors a year, and is one of America’s most popular national parks and tourist attractions.
However, the Grand Canyon is not the deepest canyon in the world, so what makes it so darn compelling? The Grand Canyon is visually overwhelming with fantastic vistas showcasing the vastness and magnificence of just how massive this landmark truly is. Add to that a colorful landscape (especially at sunset) and top-notch hiking – this natural wonder is just waiting to be explored!
In order to plan out your visit, you should first choose which rim you want to visit, the North or the South?
Why are there Two Rims?
The 277 mile long canyon (with the mile deep Colorado River creating the barrier) separates the National Park into the North and South Rims. Entering the North Rim is done on the Utah side of the canyon, while the South Rim is accessed on the Arizona side.
How Do I Decide Which Rim to Visit?
The South Rim is the most popular and most visited location. It is also most likely where all of those drool worthy photos seen online and in magazines were taken. The South Rim is open all year and is the easiest to access from Route 64 off Interstate 40. There is also an airport nearby and a free shuttle bus system within the National Park, making it easy to travel to different locations along the canyon.
The North Rim is less popular and harder to access, via Route 67. It is known for being more wild and secluded, and due to its higher elevation and snowfall it is closed throughout the wintertime and only open from May through October.
Due to the South Rim being more popular and the likely destination to be travelled, this guide will focus on the South Rim.
I’ve Arrived at the Grand Canyon, Now What?
If entering the Grand Canyon through the South Entrance station, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the area, and your best bet is to head straight to the Visitor’s Center. Here you can grab some maps, get shuttle bus info, and talk with the National park Rangers on the best viewpoints and trails based on how much time you have and where you are wanting to go. Even if you already have your permits and camping gear and are ready to set out and explore, it’s still worth a stop just to make sure there are no last minute changes or closures that could get in the way of your trip. Also worthwhile to check out is the Yavapai Geology Museum and Market Plaza. The Market Plaza is like the business center of the South Rim, and where you can find a general store, US Post Office, and a bank with ATM.
For the best sunset views over the canyon be sure to stop by Hopi Point – but get there early, you won’t be the only one setting up a tripod to watch the sun disappear.
Lodging can be found inside the park at the Grand Canyon Village.
**Be sure to book well in advance** especially if you are visiting during the summer months.
For cheaper accommodation there is also lodging outside the park (about 7 miles south of Grand Canyon Village).
Check out this link HERE for detailed information about lodging within Grand Canyon Village and outside the park.
Campgrounds along the South Rim
There are three “developed” (meaning vehicles are permitted) campgrounds along the South Rim within the Grand Canyon National Park. Two of the three campgrounds (Mather Campground and Trailer Village), allow reservations to be made in advance.
1. Mather Campground
This campground is open all year round and is within Grand Canyon Village. It provides tent and RV camping, however there are no RV hook-ups. Due to its popularity, it is strongly recommended to make a reservation if planning to visit between March 1st and mid-November.
2. Trailer Village
This campground is adjacent to Mather Campground also within Grand Canyon Village. It is the only campground offering an RV park with full hook-ups.
3. Desert View Campground
This campground is located 25 miles to the east of Grand Canyon Village and does not include RV hook-ups. It operates on a first come, first serve basis, and is closed during the wintertime.
For more information regarding campgrounds and how to make a reservation, check out THIS link.
The North Rim also has a campground that offers tent and RV camping, however there are no hook-ups available. It is closed during the wintertime, however reservations are available and suggested when it is open. For more information click HERE.
If wanting to camp anywhere in the park other than the developed campgrounds on the North or South Rims mentioned above, you NEED to obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center at Grand Canyon National Park. If you are simply doing a day hike, a permit is not required.
It is important to request permits well in advance. Use the Earliest Consideration Guide on the nps.gov website when deciding how far in advance you should reserve your permit. But by a rule of thumb, requesting 6 months in advance is recommended. For detailed information on how to obtain a permit, click HERE.
It’s important to note that the Backcountry Information Center does not make reservations for hiking and camping into the canyon on the Havasupai Reservation. In order to do that, check out THIS link.
There are a plethora of activities to partake in at the Grand Canyon. From mule trips, to jeep and van tours, to helicopter tours, to white water rafting through the canyon, you can do it all! Check out the link HERE and HERE for more information.
A fan favorite (especially for kids) is to enter the Grand Canyon in style on the Grand Canyon Railway. The train departs from Williams, Arizona and arrives at the Grand Canyon Village in approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes. The journey includes on-board entertainment, cowboys, and a mock train robbery that’ll make you feel you’ve taken a step back into the Wild West.
For more information on the railway check out THIS article.
Over to you, what was your favorite part of visiting the Grand Canyon? Lemme know in the comments below!