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The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Grand Canyon

February 9, 2017
Visiting the Grand Canyon
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Are you planning on visiting the Grand Canyon? If so, I think this is a fabulous idea. 😉 The Grand Canyon is not called “grand” for just any reason. It reaches 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep.

It’s basically a massive carved out bedrock that receives over 6 million visitors a year. And is one of America’s most popular national parks and tourist attractions. Ready to learn everything you need to know for your visit to the Grand Canyon? Let’s go! 

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Grand Canyon

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Grand Canyon

Where to Stay at the Grand Canyon (South Rim)

Do you need a hotel for your trip to the Grand Canyon? Check hotel rates here.

Inside the Park

Lodging inside the park can be found in a town called Tusayan, Arizona. Most of the lodging is in an area known as Grand Canyon Village. The prices within the park tend be more expensive, however location is ideal. 🙂 

Here are some recommendations for staying within Grand Canyon Village:

  • Yavapai Lodge – The Yavapai Lodge offers prime location. The rooms are spacious, and there are convenient shuttle buses so if you have a car, you wouldn’t need to use it. 
  • El Tovar Hotel – El Tovar Hotel is considered the crown jewel of Historic National Park Lodges. It is a historic railroad hotel, with a rustic, yet elegant, old fashioned feel. 
  • Bright Angel Lodge – Bright Angel Lodge offers cozy and up to date cabins right along the rim of the canyon. 

Outside the Park

For cheaper accommodation there is also lodging outside the park in a town called Williams, Arizona (roughly 7 miles south of Grand Canyon Village). The only disadvantage is you will have to drive or take a shuttle daily to reach the Grand Canyon. However, I stayed in Williams and did not find it to be too inconvenient. 

Here are some of my recommendation for staying in Williams:

  • Motel 6 East & Motel 6 West – If you are on a budget, you will not find anything cheaper than the good ole fashioned Motel 6. There are actually two to choose from, East and West. They’re clean and tidy, nothing fancy but has a more forgiving price tag. 
  • Grand Canyon Railway Hotel – This place is nice! It’s a super quaint boutique hotel with all the rustic, western charm you could want.
  • Canyon Country Inn Bed & Breakfast – If you’re looking for a quaint and cozy experience, than the Canyon Country Inn is for you. You can even ask for a room with a porch and eat breakfast out there. 

Note: Whether booking inside the park or outside, be sure to book well in advanceespecially if you are visiting during the summer months. Check out this link for detailed information about lodging within Grand Canyon Village and outside the park.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Grand Canyon

About the Grand Canyon

So fun fact, the Grand Canyon is actually not the deepest canyon in the world. So this may lead you to ask, what makes it so darn compelling? Well, the Grand Canyon is visually overwhelming.

It has fantastic vistas showcasing it’s vastness and magnificence. Other canyons don’t have this. At the Grand Canyon, we are able to see just how massive this landmark truly is. Add to that a colorful landscape (especially at sunset!) and top-notch hiking. No wonder people flock from all over to see it. This natural wonder is just waiting to be explored. 

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Location

Google Maps

The location of the Grand Canyon frequently causes confusion. That’s because it actually lies on on the border of two states, Arizona and Utah. Depending on which side of the canyon you choose to visit, will determine which state you will be in. 

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.

Which leads to my next point, which rim do you want to visit? The North Rim or the South Rim?

 

Deciding Which Rim to Visit

The South Rim

The South Rim is the most popular and most visited location. It is also most likely where all of those drool-worthy Grand Canyon photos were taken. The South Rim is open all year and is the easiest to access. You can access it from Route 64 off Interstate 40. There is also an airport nearby and a free shuttle bus system within the National Park. All of this makes the South Rim super accessible and easy to travel to different locations along the canyon.

The North Rim

The North Rim is less popular and harder to access, via Route 67. It also has a reputation for being more wild and secluded. If that’s what you’re into, then it could be tons of fun!  An important note, however, is due to its higher elevation and snowfall, it is closed throughout the wintertime.  The North Rim is only open from May through October.

Note: Due to the South Rim being more popular (and the likely travel destination), this guide will focus on the South Rim.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Grand Canyon

Camping at the Grand Canyon

South Rim Camping

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.

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North Rim Camping

The North Rim also has a campground conveniently called The North Rim Campground. It offers tent and RV camping, however there are no hook-ups available. It is closed during the wintertime (open generally May through October), however reservations are available and suggested when it is open. For more information check out this link.

Camping Permits

If wanting to camp anywhere in the park other than the developed campgrounds on the North or South Rims (mentioned above), you have to obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center at Grand Canyon National Park. However, 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. By rule of thumb, requesting 6 months in advance is recommended. For detailed information on how to obtain a permit, check out this link.

Note: It’s important to note that the Backcountry Information Center does not make reservations for hiking and camping on the Havasupai Reservation. In order to do that, check out this link.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Grand Canyon

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. 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.

I’d recommend finding the best viewpoints (more on this below!) and trails based on how much time you have. And of course, where you are wanting to go. Also worthwhile is checking out the Yavapai Geology Museum and Market Plaza. The Market Plaza is like the business center of the South Rim. Here you can find a general store, US Post Office, and a bank with ATM.

Note: Even if you already have your permits and camping gear and are ready to set out, it’s still worth a stop just to make sure there are no last minute changes or closures. 

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What to Do at the Grand Canyon

There is so much to do at the Grand Canyon! If you choose to have a “do it yourself” itinerary I would recommend heading to the Visitor’s Center to get advice from the rangers regarding the best hikes/sights for your skill level. 

The tour options are endless at the Grand Canyon! Below are some of my favorites that I know you’ll love:

  • Inner Canyon Tour to the Colorado River – This tour takes you to the bottom of the Grand Canyon until you reach the Colorado River. It’s about an 8-hour tour in total and includes lunch. 
  • Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour – This 25-minute helicopter tour provides breathtaking views over the Grand Canyon
  • Grand Canyon Airplane Tour – If helicopters aren’t your thing, this helicopter tour might be a good options. Plus it’s a bit cheaper!
  • Grand Canyon South Rim Jeep Tour – This 2-hour Jeep tour informs you about the history and geology of the Grand Canyon. It includes an IMAX Theater ticket to see “Grand Canyon: the Movie” and hotel pick up and drop off.
  • Grand Canyon Ultimate Tour – This is a full-day tour where you are guided around the Grand Canyon’s South Rim taking in the scenery, learning about the Grand Canyon, and even eat lunch at a Navajo country restaurant. Bonus is pickup and drop-off is included. 
  • Skydive the Grand Canyon – What is more epic that skydiving at the Grand Canyon? This company is one of the Top 10 places in the WORLD to skydive!

The Grand Canyon Railway

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. I recommend booking tickets in advance here

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Tours from Las Vegas

If you’re not planning on traveling to the Grand Canyon on your own, these day trip tours might be a great option!

Best Location for Sunset Views

For the best sunset views over the Grand Canyon be sure to stop by Hopi Point. My recommendation?  Get there early. It get crowded and you want a good spot, especially if you're setting up a tripod.

Read More: 10 Tips for Taking Great Photos of Yourself

Read More: 5 Tips You NEED to Know to Take Amazing Photos of Yourself When Traveling Solo

 

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Grand Canyon

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Visiting the Grand Canyon

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TIFFANY NICOLE

Tiffany created Lavender Vines as a place to share her love for Jesus and adventures from around the world. She has a slight obsession with salted caramel lattes, Japanese kimonos, and an ongoing love affair with NYC and Paris.

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