A vast and colorful chasm cutting through the high plateau of north-central Arizona was more than two billion years in the making. It’s called the Grand Canyon and is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Nearly five million people go there each year to peer into the immense gorge and find themselves humbled by the powerful forces of nature and its enormous creation. So your interest is piqued but exactly where is the Grand Canyon and how do you plan a trip there? Travel Maestro has your answers to those and other frequently asked questions about the Grand Canyon right here!
Where is the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon is part of the National Park System. The most popular and accessible viewpoints are from the South Rim, 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona. The lesser visited North Rim is 44 miles south of Jacob Lake, Arizona, a mere 10 miles directly across the canyon if you have wings, but a five-hour, 220-mile drive by car. The canyon walls loom along the churning Colorado River for 215 miles, stretching west to the Nevada border.
When is the best time to visit?
The South Rim is open 365 days a year. You can expect sizable crowds from spring through fall when the weather is nicest. Because of the high elevation, summer temperatures are quite pleasant, ranging from the 50s to mid-80s on the South Rim and slightly cooler on the North Rim. You’ll find fewer crowds in the early spring and late fall; however, the weather is quite unpredictable then. During winter, expect snow and icy spots on roads and trails on the South Rim. The road to the North Rim is inaccessible from late October to May due to heavy snow.
What lodging is available at the Grand Canyon?
There are five distinctive hotels and lodges inside the national park at the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. The El Tovar Hotel is an elegant, historic jewel perched right on the canyon rim. Each of the 78 rooms and 12 suites is unique, some with private balconies providing an incomparable view. Other accommodations include the rustic Bright Angel Lodge, the rim-side contemporary Kachina Lodge, the Maswik Lodge, nestled within a Ponderosa pine forest, and the Thunderbird Lodge in the center of the historic district. The only lodging below the canyon rim is Phantom Ranch, which sits at the bottom of Grand Canyon and can only be reached by mule, on foot, or by rafting the Colorado River.
Travel Maestro tip: Because of the volume of visitors to the Grand Canyon, these in-park accommodations book well in advance. If you plan to stay in one of them, you need to make reservations a year in advance. Yes, really, a year.
In addition to hotels, the South Rim offers a campground and RV park, restaurants, a grocery store, visitor centers, museums, gift shops, scenic overlooks, and trailheads. A free shuttle system runs Memorial Day through September, connecting all of the South Rim points of interest.
Seven miles south of Grand Canyon Village and outside the National Park, there are other hotels, restaurants, and services in the gateway community of Tusayan. The free shuttle runs to Tusayan during the summer, but passengers still have to pay park admission fees ($30 per private vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, $12 pedestrian or cyclist; free for various pass holders).
Where is the Grand Canyon Skywalk?
The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a horseshoe-shaped bridge with a glass floor and sides that projects about 70 feet from the canyon rim. Don’t even consider it if you have a problem with heights! The heart-pounding, yet wildly popular attraction is in Grand Canyon West on Hualapai tribal lands, outside the National Park. It is at the far western end of the canyon, about a five-hour drive from the South Rim or two hours and 15 minutes from Las Vegas.
Travel Maestro tip: You cannot purchase only a ticket to the Skywalk. You must buy a package that includes the fee to enter the reservation, the ticket to walk on the glass bridge, a meal at a canyon viewpoint and the shuttle to three viewpoints (currently $76.43 per person, subject to change). A package without the Skywalk ticket or the meal is also available (currently $49.92 per person, subject to change).
Whether you view the Grand Canyon from the north or south, from above or below, you’re sure to find it incredibly awe-inspiring and worth the trip to this remote corner of the Arizona. To plan your trip to the Grand Canyon or other national parks of the southwest, contact the vacation advisors at Covington Travel.