Grand Canyon National Park Guide
The Grand Canyon is probably the most distinctive landmark in the United States, and a visit to Grand Canyon National Park should be on everyone's travel bucket list. It is a vast, majestic, and undeniably stunning natural wonder that must be seen.
When you visit the Grand Canyon, there are so many ways to have an adventure or simply take in the spectacular views in the Grand Canyon, no matter how much time you have.
Plan Your Visit to the Grand Canyon
The primary destination for visitors to the Grand Canyon is known as the South Rim. This region of the canyon is an hour and 20-minute drive northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona and just over 4 hours from Las Vegas, or an hour flight from the Las Vegas area. Other regions that attract visitors are the North Rim and the West Rim.
Grand Canyon National Park’s climate ranges significantly due to changes in elevation throughout the park. While the area tends to remain dry, precipitation is most often seen in the summertime and in winter. The Kaibab Forest and upper gorges are often coated in snow for a short period each winter, offering a natural sightseeing spectacle unlike any other. At the canyon floor - known there as the Inner Gorge - temperatures can range between 0 F (-17 C) and 100 F (37 C). Visitors to the Grand Canyon South Rim are encouraged to plan their trip in accordance with this incredible temperature variation and dress in layers for sudden changes in precipitation.
Grand Canyon Entrance Pass
The entry fees for Grand Canyon National Park vary depending on the vehicle being used. Current entrance fees are listed here.
Since being officially designated a national park in 1919, the Grand Canyon National Park has been managed and protected by the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS is most importantly responsible for preserving the natural environment; from monitoring the delicate balance of plant and animal life to taking every measure possible to prevent forest fires and other avoidable disasters. The NPS also works to ensure that the parks are easy for the public to visit without disrupting the natural ecology.
Your visit to the Grand Canyon National Park will be made safe, enjoyable, and educational because of the hard efforts of the National Park Service, its employees, and volunteers.
Where to Go in Grand Canyon
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most popular destination at Grand Canyon National Park, is close to Flagstaff, Williams, and Tusayan, and is generally what visitors imagine when they think of the Grand Canyon. The South Rim is home to Grand Canyon Village which offers the most traveler services within the park including accommodations, restaurants, laundry and shower facilities. It is also home to the park's headquarters and is open year-round. One can’t miss spot here is Mather Point, one of the most picturesque vistas in the entire park.
The West Rim is best known as the location of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bottom bridge 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon floor. Overnight accommodations are available at the Hualapai Ranch at the Rim or the Hualapai Lodge, both of which are located a little over an hour from the West Rim. The West Rim is also the most accessible Grand Canyon destination when visiting from Las Vegas.
The North Rim is a far less traveled area of Grand Canyon National Park than the South Rim. It is a quiet, peaceful location to experience the Grand Canyon's splendor in relative isolation since it a 5-hour drive from Las Vegas by way of southern Utah. The North Rim is usually open from mid-May to October and provides tourists with a campsite, basic store, and camper facilities. The North Rim is also home to the historic Grand Canyon Lodge, which is also opened seasonally.
Grand Canyon Attractions
Desert View Drive
The Desert View Drive follows the Grand Canyon's South Rim, offering numerous magnificent panoramas, overlooks, and beautiful perspectives. The scenic drive begins about one mile east of Grand Canyon Village and finishes near the east entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park at Desert View. Allow three to four hours to complete the 23-mile journey to stop for photographs and amazing views. The Desert View Watchtower, a circular stone tower about 70 feet high, is one of the most popular destinations along the drive.
One can only see so far while gazing out at the Grand Canyon from the edge. Take to the skies and witness the stone gorge expand as far as the eye can see! Grand Canyon helicopter tours allow passengers to take breathtaking aerial photos of the striped rock formations below as well as the Colorado River and surrounding Kaibab Forest. Airplane tours also operate daily at the park, and offer equally-impressive photography opportunities.
The Grand Canyon National Park offers fantastic rafting opportunities ranging from daylong adventures to several-day expeditions. River rafting is perhaps the most high-demand activity at the canyon, with tour operators booking solid up to a year in advance. You can still experience the Grand Canyon from the Colorado River in just a day's time aboard a smooth water rafting trip or you can embark on an exhilarating white water rafting trip through the canyon walls.
Several hiking trails surround the edge of the South Rim, offering fantastic views of different angles of the canyon. Trail lengths vary in difficulty from light to expert and range in length from between quick, 2-mile hikes to half-mile, all-day excursions. No matter your skill level or time availability, Grand Canyon hiking is a possibility for every family.
Don't feel like hiking? Skip the trek and see magnificent views of the Grand Canyon on a South Rim tour aboard a converted Hummer vehicle! Each tour is customized by drivers to avoid the traffic and stop at the best lookout points with the least amount of other tourists. You can even privatize the entire Hummer for your group or choose to tour at sunset.
Grand Canyon Village
Lining the rim of the Grand Canyon National Park is a historic district known as the Grand Canyon Village. Here visitors will find several antique hotels and lodges, dozens of shops offering rustic Southwestern gifts, and two studios offering beautiful canyon vantage points as well as paintings, photography and literature. Additionally, several restaurants can be found in the village and hotels offering both casual and fine dining.
Many areas throughout the Grand Canyon National Park are available for camping, both in tents and recreational vehicles. It is important to note that some campsites are first-come/first-serve and some require reservations, often months in advance. Grand Canyon camping is also possible at the floor of the canyon near the bank of the Colorado River; however, the hike to reach the bottom is strenuous and only recommended for experienced hikers.
One of the oldest and most unique methods of touring the Grand Canyon is actually on the back of a mule! Guided mule tours operate daily and, despite being a high-demand activity requiring an advance reservation, it is a sightseeing opportunity unlike any other. These creatures have traversed the rugged canyon paths so many times, you don’t even need to steer them.
Opportunities to Learn
There are limitless scientific and historical aspects involving the Grand Canyon. Even to this day, new information surfaces that can potentially rewrite the entire story of this region. There are a great deal of programs available to visitors to help them learn and understand the fascinating details of the Grand Canyon. For example, “Ask A Ranger” events are scheduled throughout the year, as well as hikes, stargazing nights, and evenings around the campfire all hosted by knowledgeable park rangers.
Additionally, there are many informative charts, maps, and exhibits scattered throughout the canyon rim offering interesting facts to passersby. Don’t forget to wander the National Geographic Visitor Center for more fascinating exhibits, including a free 30-minute IMAX film equipped with sensory Surround Sound audio.
Free shuttle buses are the best way to get around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. No tickets are required to board since a portion of the entrance of entrance fee pays for this service. Buses typically arrive every 15-30 minutes and stops are clearly marked throughout the park. Shuttle buses can accommodate two or three bicycles, so they're useful if you want to pedal around the park. Service may be suspended during inclement weather.
The South Rim features some of the most breathtaking and recognizable sights of the Grand Canyon. Many of these fantastic landscapes can be seen from the paved sidewalk lining the canyon’s edge. However, it is important to note that in winter conditions, paved areas can become snowy or even icy, so extra caution is advised.
The nearby Grand Canyon Village contains several hotels, shops, and restaurants, all wheelchair accessible with the exception of the Kolb Studio. Bright Angel Lodge offers wheelchairs for rent, as well. Additionally, the IMAX theater offers ample wheelchair space. A large number of Grand Canyon South Rim tours are fully accessible, as well. Visit our equipment page to learn more about our aircraft accessibility.
Of all the fantastic activities available at the Grand Canyon National Park, the best way to start your day of exploring is at the National Geographic Visitor Center. Only here can guests virtually soar and dive through the canyon walls - with a breathtaking IMAX film! Learn more about this movie that can't be missed.