In the hot and dry deserts of Arizona lies one of America’s greatest treasures… The Grand Canyon.
There are very few things in life that don’t disappoint, and the Grand Canyon is one of them.
In this three-part feature series, you will find everything you need to know about taking a trip to the largest crack in the earth.
The first question to ask yourself is which part of the Grand Canyon would you like to see? There are 3 options: The South Rim, The West Rim, and the North Rim.
The South Rim is where 90% of tourists visit and where I recommend for your first trip to America’s Canyon, which will be our main focus in this article.
The West Rim, located outside of Grand Canyon National Park in the Hualapai Indian Reservation, is where the Skywalk is located. You can also see some pretty amazing waterfalls at Grand Canyon West if you are willing to hike 8 miles each way.
The North Rim sits at 8,000 feet above sea level (1,000 feet higher than the South Rim) and offers a different experience than the South Rim. Note, if you want to visit both the South and North Rims, it is a 3.5 hour drive from each rim.
First off, when to go
So you’ve decided to visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon first.
The next question is when should you go? Well, this is really up to you. The busy season is March to November, which is also when the Hermit Road shuttle is in service (more on that later).
In my opinion, the best time to go is during the busy season. Yes, it will be busy, but there is a reason for that. The weather is nice (remember, you are 7,000 feet above sea level) and the clear skies make for even more spectacular views.
Where to stay
Planning where to stay will take some preparation. You basically have two choices—you can stay at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, or stay in Williams or Flagstaff. Both options have their advantages.
Staying inside the park gives you easy access to the canyon and is easier for those planning to visit just the Grand Canyon. If you choose to stay at the lodge (or go camping), you will need to book your reservations well ahead of your trip. Prices range anywhere from $100 to over $500. If you plan on going in the summer, you will need to book your accommodations a year or more in advance.
My preferred option is to stay in Williams, which is a little over an hour away. You can also stay in Flagstaff, which is an additional 20-30 minutes away. However, you will find cheaper hotels and will be able to book them closer to your trip.
Exploring the South Rim
Before you can enjoy the wonderful sites of Grand Canyon National Park, you must pay the fee to get in. A car pass for 7 days is $35.
If your trip to the Grand Canyon will include other national parks in the general area, or you plan on visiting several national parks throughout the year, consider buying a U.S. Park Pass for $80.
Once you get in, you’ll want to stop at the visitor center. Parking used to be an issue, but they have expanded the available parking several times over the years.
Mather Point is close to the visitor center, so you can walk to your first view.
From Grand Canyon Village, you can choose to ride the shuttles or drive Desert View Drive on your own. From March to November, you cannot drive on Hermit Road and take the shuttle.
If you are going to take the shuttle on Hermit Road, get to the village early as parking can be very hard to find later in the day.
Depending on how long you are spending at the canyon, I would recommend at least one day for each road.
When taking Hermit Road, you’ll want to get to Hopi Point an hour before sunset as it offers the best view of the sunset.
If you have time, take a trip to the Little Colorado River Gorge, about an hour east of the visitor center outside of the park (and 30 minutes east of the east entrance).
The Gorge runs along Desert View Drive outside the park. The Gorge is smaller than the Grand Canyon, but shoots straight down to the Little Colorado River.
A Note on Hiking
If you are hiker, the Grand Canyon is the right place for you. For a complete list of hikes, check out the visitor center.
The easiest path is the Rim Trail which stretches 9 miles from Mather Point to Hermits Rest.
Also, if you want to hike down into the canyon, you will need to book your trip months in advance.
Stay tuned for the next feature in this series on the Grand Canyon!