The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Its massive size, vibrant layers of color and diverse wildlife draws five million visitors from around the world each year. Established in 1919, Grand Canyon National Park is America’s second most-visited national park.
Formed by the Colorado River, the Canyon is 277 river miles long, between four and 18 miles wide and one mile deep. The area covers over 1,900 square miles—more than the Hawaiian islands of Maui, Oahu and Kauai combined. Before visiting the Grand Canyon, take some time to explore the pages and links shared below. You will discover valuable tips to help you plan a truly unforgettable vacation.
Grand Canyon Features
The Grand Canyon has three main rims for guests to visit. The South Rim is the largest tourist area, but the North Rim and West Rim include features that can only be experienced in those zones. Note that the West Rim is not a part of the National Park and is operated by the Hualapai Native American Tribe.
Any Grand Canyon vacation is enhanced by visiting one of the National Park’s visitor’s centers and participating in one or more ranger-led talks. Park rangers provide Grand Canyon information that cannot be obtained any other way. The bigger South Rim includes several visitor center options, while the North Rim and West Rim have one center each.
The South Rim is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A hop-on-hop-off shuttle system makes it easy to navigate the rim’s attractions, including Grand Canyon Village. The South Rim includes multiple visitor centers, hiking trails and dining options.
During the summer months, it is the Grand Canyon’s most crowded area. If you visit between late March and May, you can witness the Kaibab Plateau blanketed with wildflowers. The same region is ablaze in gold each October when the aspens’ leaves turn yellow. If you plan to visit during the winter months, then your visibility may be limited. However, seeing the Grand Canyon dusted in snow is a truly beautiful experience.
The North Rim is a more remote area of Grand Canyon National Park. It is open from mid-May through mid-October each year. While it does not offer as large of a selection of tourist services as the South Rim, it is a favorite destination for those looking to escape the crowds. Cape Royal provides exceptional sunset views when the Canyon’s walls glow in warm shades of gold, orange, purple and pink. This quieter area of the park includes five rim trails and one visitor center.
The Grand Canyon Skywalk is perhaps the most popular attraction on the Canyon’s West Rim. This glass-bottomed, cantilevered bridge allows unparalleled views of the Canyon and is popular with thrill-seekers of all ages. The West Rim is open year-round, with extended hours in the late spring and summer. Other features of Grand Canyon West include Guano Point, Eagle Point and Hualapai Ranch.
Planning Your Grand Canyon Vacation
A trip to the Grand Canyon begins by figuring out the best way to travel from your home to the Arizona attraction. Taking the time to study this Grand Canyon visitor guide can help you maximize what, for many people, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Once you have decided how to get to Grand Canyon, Arizona, you will need to make reservations at a hotel or campsite. Then, it is time to narrow down which attractions you cannot miss. Be sure to look up each attraction’s operating hours, admission fees and any special passes that may be required to avoid unexpected issues upon arrival.
In addition to features within Grand Canyon National Park, there are other nearby attractions worth making time for. Check out the scenic Painted Desert that begins near the Canyon’s east end, and take a drive through the nearby Petrified Forest. Families with children and animal lovers of all ages enjoy observing and interacting with native animal life at the nearby Bearizona Wildlife Park.
Grand Canyon Tours
Visiting the Grand Canyon can be much more fun and educational if you sign up for a tour instead of creating your own agenda. Trained tour guides can maximize your Grand Canyon trip by including experiences you may not know about otherwise. Tours can also take you to destinations you cannot visit on your own.
Because of its proximity to Las Vegas, NV, there are many different types of tours that travel from Vegas to the natural landmark. Consider adding a day trip to the Grand Canyon to a Southwestern state’s vacation itinerary. If you are short on time, book a helicopter tour to see the vast landscape through a bird’s-eye view.
Another popular tour is offered on the Grand Canyon Railway. Originating in Williams, Arizona, the historic steam locomotive travels 65 miles across the desert before ending at the national park’s historic log cabin depot.
Other tours include viewing the Canyon from above via airplane, rafting along the Colorado River or exploring the park via bus, jeep or hummer. Tour packages can combine any of these options along with zip lining, skydiving, horseback riding and more. Guided day hiking trips are perhaps one of the best ways to experience the Canyon up close.
Lodging and Dining Near the Grand Canyon
Your Grand Canyon vacation can be as primitive or refined as you like. Numerous hotels are located around and within the National Park, with the largest concentration of choices near the South Rim. Many of these hotels offer luxurious accommodations, including on-site spas, room service and other amenities.
Lodges and ranch-style lodgings provide a more rustic experience, and some budget hotel chains are also represented in the area. Camping enthusiasts can find everything from simple tent campsites to full-on glamping in a huge canvas tent with real beds and bathrooms. History buffs may enjoy sleeping at one of the area’s authentic Native American tipi campsites.
Grand Canyon restaurants offer a wide range of foods to suit every palate. Southwestern and western-inspired cuisine are well-represented in the region, although other options abound, including sushi and vegan eateries. Several gourmet restaurants offer an elegant, sit-down dining experience, while cafeterias and delis appeal to the more casual tourist.