Your Guide to Grand Canyon National Park

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

The Grand Canyon is the second most visited National Park in the US with just under 6 million annual visitors. It's a huge canyon (duh!) with layered bands of red rock revealing millions of years of geological history. It's definitely a must-see on anyone's USA Bucket List! Here's a guide to help you on your first trip:


Visiting

Entrance fee: $35 per car, valid for one week OR

Interagency Annual Pass: $80, valid for one year (unlimited access to all federal parks-I recommend this)

Visitor Center Hours: 9 am - 5 pm

Best Time of Year to Visit: March-May & September-November when temperatures are cooler and there are less crowds.


Camping

There are 2 campsites within the park:

Mather Campground: just 1.5 miles east of the Grand Canyon Village- an easy walk to get any necessities, including wifi. You can make reservations online here up to 6 months in advance, and it's $18 per night for tent camping.


Desert View Campground: just 25 miles east of the Grand Canyon Village, and only $12 per night for tent camping. But the spots are all first-come, first-serve- so get there early!


Things to Do

In all honesty, there's not a ton to actually do in the Grand Canyon compared to other National Parks. The first time I went I thought I needed 2 days to explore it, but after a couple hours we realized we pretty much saw it all and so we moved on to Zion National Park. But obviously just seeing the canyon itself is the main attraction!


Visitor Center & Mather Point Overlook

Once you enter from the South Entrance from Williams, Arizona you should head to the Visitor Center to get some basic information about the park: history, hiking information, lookout points, and more. From here you can walk directly to Mather Point Overlook in a matter of minutes, which will give you a great view of the canyon.


Rim Trail

The Rim Trail is a mostly paved walking path that follows the rim of the Grand Canyon for 13 miles. It runs from South Kaibab Trailhead, east of the Visitor Center, to Hermit's Rest, at the far west end of Hermit Road. It's a great, leisurely walk to see amazing views of the canyon.


Hermit Road

It's a 7 mile scenic drive along the canyon rim, with numerous viewpoints. If you're visiting between the beginning of December and the end of February, you can do this drive in your own vehicle. From March 1 to November 30 you must use the park shuttle buses, which operate every 10 to 15 minutes and stop at nine overlooks.


Unique Ways to see the Canyon

Helicopter/Airplane

You can get a unique bird's eye view of the canyon through a helicopter or airplane tour. A 25-minute helicopter ride for about $250 or a 40-minute airplane ride for $160. Check online here.

Image from maverickhelicopters.com ©

White Water Rafting

This is an intense day trip from Las Vegas for a total of 15.5 hours and a hefty price tag. But if you crave adventure, this may be exactly what you're looking for!

Image from oars.com ©

Train

There are daily train rides leaving Williams, Arizona and going through the canyon for a nice, relaxing journey filled with beautiful sights.

Image from grandcanyondestinations.©

Mule

You can do a 2-hour mule ride through the canyon for just over $150 per person, or a 5.5 hour ride combined with an overnight stay at a ranch for just over $690 per person.

Image from mygrandcanyonpark.com ©

Where to next?

Page, Arizona to see:

Horseshoe Bend

This amazing sight is only about an hour's drive north of the Grand Canyon! It's more of a pit-stop or photo-op, rather than an actual destination. But, if you're visiting the Grand Canyon you can't miss this gorgeous site!


Antelope Canyon

This is definitely a world famous spot I'm sure you've seen lots of photos of- it might even pop up as your background when you first get a phone or laptop.

Image from The Wandering Lens ©

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