Having the right Grand Canyon information is necessary to get the most out of your Southwestern excursion. Knowing something about the massive natural formation’s history makes it easier to determine which attractions you want to visit the most. Because getting to the Grand Canyon can be an adventure in itself, take time to explore the travel method that fits your schedule and interests.
Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park requires paying a small admission fee. Be sure to check the latest Grand Canyon visitor guide or visitor center for current information about fees and hours of operation. Certain Grand Canyon tours and adventures require you to make reservations and purchase special permits in advance. Review the following sections to learn more about Arizona’s most popular destination.
History of the Grand Canyon
The first people known to live in the Grand Canyon area were the Ancestral Puebloans. Through the ages, other distinct cultures appeared, including the ancestors of the Hualapai, Havasupai, Hopi and Yuman people inhabiting the region today. Many modern tribes still consider the Canyon their homeland.
Europeans did not appear in the lands surrounding the Grand Canyon until the 16th century. Spanish explorers, Mormon missionaries and the U.S. military all played a role in the Canyon’s evolving story over the next few centuries. Various explorers and miners came to the region throughout the 1800s.
The Santa Fe Railroad began bringing visitors to the Canyon’s South Rim in 1901. Two years later, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt visited for the first time. In 1906, President Roosevelt established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve, which became Grand Canyon National Park in 1919.
Getting to the Grand Canyon
If you want a rim to rim Grand Canyon experience, you must decide which rim to visit first before determining the best way to arrive. The South Rim, North Rim and West Rim all have their own best ways to get there. Note that if you are traveling from Las Vegas, the West Rim is the closest part of the canyon, even though it is not officially part of the National Park.
If you are traveling from Phoenix, then the South Rim is the nearest Grand Canyon location. It is easy to reach by car and takes about four hours to get there. For a more adventuresome arrival, consider traveling to Williams or another smaller town near the Canyon first. Then continue to your destination by tour bus, airplane, helicopter or train.
Operating Hours and Fees
Grand Canyon information on operating hours and fees will vary by location. The South Rim is by far the more developed and frequently visited portion of the Canyon. The South Entrance station is open year-round, 24 hours a day, including holidays.
The North Rim is fully open from mid-May to mid-October each year. It is open for day use only during the off season in October and November. The North Rim is totally closed during the winter months, generally from the beginning of December to the middle of May.
The Grand Canyon entrance fee allows visitors access to both the South and North Rims for up to seven days. Visitors may purchase an individual permit, a vehicle permit or a motorcycle permit. On certain holidays, the National Park waives entrance fees.
Park entrance permits can be purchased online through the National Park’s website. You may also pay the entrance fee at any park entrance gate upon arrival. In addition, entrance passes are sold at many gas stations, resorts and other locations outside of the park.
Permits and Reservations
The Grand Canyon entrance fee allows access to many of the park’s features, but some activities require reservations and separate activity permits. Many Grand Canyon tours require reservations and payment up front. Additionally, hotels, ranches and other lodging are best reserved in advance.
Some types of camping require a special permit. The Grand Canyon backcountry permit allows visitors to camp below the Canyon’s rim, and is required for anyone sleeping overnight outside of the designated campgrounds. Note that thousands of campers send in backcountry permit applications and only about half are approved each year. Day hiking or day horseback riding excursions are exempt from the permit requirement.
A Grand Canyon permit is also required for certain recreational activities. If you sign up for a tour, the permit price may be included in your tour fees. Although, some self-guided river raft trip permits are issued to the public through a weighed lottery process. Keep in mind that most rafting excursions are reserved a year or two in advance.
If you wish to visit the Skywalk on the West Rim, then you must pay an entrance fee to go into the Hualapai Reservation. You must also purchase a ticket or tour package to walk along the famous glass-bottomed bridge. It is one of the area’s most popular attractions as it provides views 70 feet from the Canyon’s rim and 4,000 feet above its floor.
Grand Canyon Park Statistics
A formation as impressive as the Grand Canyon naturally generates some interesting statistics. Whether researching the Canyon’s history, ecology, geology or people, certain facts may take you by surprise. Here are a few fascinating facts about Arizona’s natural wonder.
- The oldest human artifacts found within the park are nearly 12,000 years old. There has been continuous occupation of the park since the Paleoindian period.
- Grand Canyon wildlife includes 373 species of birds, 91 species of mammals and 8,480 known species of invertebrates.
- At least six endangered species call the National Park home. These include the California condor, humpback chub, razorback sucker, Kanab ambersnail, Ridgway’s rail and the Southwestern willow flycatcher.
- The average rim to rim Grand Canyon width is 10 miles.
- There are 126 miles of maintained trails and 358 miles of established trails within the park.
- Since its establishment in 1974, the park’s shuttle system has provided over 165,740,177 rides.