Grand Canyon National Park
Perhaps the most iconic in America’s slew of federal recreation areas, Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park draws millions of visitors each year -- more than six million in 2017, to be exact, making it the second-most-visited park that year, bested only by Great Smoky Mountains. The park covers over 1.2 million acres and encompasses a large part of its massive namesake canyon, a gorge carved over millennia by the Colorado River. Whether to simply peer curiously over the edge of the rim or to take on a multi-day backpacking adventure down into the canyon, travelers of all stripes flock to this quintessentially American destination each summer -- though the landmark’s South Rim is open all year round.
The Grand Canyon sees a wide range of weather events, thanks to its situation in the high desert of northern Arizona. With elevations ranging from 2000 feet to 8000, visitors can expect mild summers temperatures, with daytime averages in the 80s (except in certain parts of the park, which heat to over 100 F). Visitors in fall and spring will be treated to slightly cooler temperatures, ranging from 40 F to 70 F. The park does see snow during winter, and depending on conditions, certain roadways and trails may be closed. Always check the latest park conditions before setting out for your journey, which you can do by clicking here or dialing 928-638-7496.
Although situated in a relatively remote section of northern Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park is served by a variety of gateway towns as well as larger cities. The small village of Tusayan is only seven miles from the South Rim, and Flagstaff is just an hour and a half south of the park entrance. Other towns in the area include Page, Williams, Kingsman, and Sedona -- which is well known in its own right for ample hiking and outdoor opportunities.
Popular activities at Grand Canyon National Park include hiking, backpacking, bicycling, and taking raft trips along the Colorado River. The park also hosts a wide array of ranger-led activities, including guided hikes, wildlife talks, and geological lectures. Check the park’s full calendar of events by clicking here.
Where To Stay
There are four frontcountry campgrounds located on Grand Canyon National Park property, all of which have some accessibility for RVs -- though specific facilities, campground fees, and maximum length requirements vary.
Grand Canyon National Park Public Campgrounds
Grand Canyon National Park Campgrounds
Hit the Trails
As beautiful as the Grand Canyon is from its well-developed scenic vistas and overlooks, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to get more familiar with this geological wonder on foot. That said, desert hiking must be taken very seriously -- according to the National Park Service, more than 250 people are rescued from the canyon each and every year.
While taking one of the many trails down into the canyon can be rewarding, keep in mind that you’ll be facing the most difficult portion of your hike -- the climb back up -- after you’ve already been at it for a while. Even when daytime temperatures are mild, the desert sun is powerful, and many of the trails provide little in the way of natural shelter. Always bring ample food, water, and sun protection, and do not attempt challenging trails during the hottest months of the summer. For more tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable Grand Canyon hiking experience, click here -- and click here for a full list of day hikes from both the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park North Rim Hikes
Bright Angel Point
Distance: 0.5 miles
Terrain: This paved trail begins at the North Rim Visitor Center, where self-guiding nature tour pamphlets are available to help orient you to the landscape.
Terrain: This is a difficult and steep trail down into the canyon, but it can be broken down into a number of rewarding day hikes. Take a short walk to Coconino Overlook (1.5 miles round trip) or a lengthy and strenuous trek all the way down to Roaring Springs, an 8.4-mile adventure that’ll take you all day. Pack plenty of food and water!
Distance: 4 miles
Terrain: An easy, mostly flat walk with beautiful North Rim canyon views.
Grand Canyon National Park South Rim Hikes
Distance: Up to 12 miles round trip
Terrain: This trail down into the canyon is steep, but does provide some shade along the way, as well as stunning canyon viewing opportunities even on short ventures. Bright Angel Trail can also be taken on as a backpacking adventure; backcountry camping is available at its terminus at Bright Angel Campground. Water is available but prone to seasonal pipeline breaks; check at the Visitor Center before leaving.
Distance: Up to 6.5 miles round trip
Terrain: This is a very steep and unmaintained trail for experienced desert hikers only -- but if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded by some of the most spectacular views in the park.
Distance: 5.5 miles
Terrain: If you’re like most of the Grand Canyon’s visitors, this is the trail you’ll be sure not to miss, offering iconic views from Mather Point, Monument Creek Vista, and Yavapai Point Observation Station. The trail is serviced by a shuttle, and large portions are paved and wheelchair accessible. For full details on the Rim Trail, click here.
What to Do
Thanks to its status as one of the most-visited national parks on earth, the Grand Canyon area is filled with tons of dining, drinking, and cultural opportunities for those moments when you need to get out of the Arizona sun for a while. The bustling on-site community of Grand Canyon Village offers just about everything you could want, but even more options wait just an hour away in either direction.
Here’s what to eat, see, and do in the Grand Canyon National Park area.
Trust us on this one: all that canyon hiking works up an appetite! Here are the best spots to grab a bite, both on park property and off.
Type: Steak & BBQ
Location: Grand Canyon Village (Inside Bright Angel Lodge)
Location: Grand Canyon Village (Inside the El Tovar Hotel)
Location: Inside the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim
It’s a fact of life: When you’re traveling, you’re going to find yourself in need of things. Whether those things are touristy T-shirts for mom or a new pair of hiking boots to take to the trails with gusto, you can find them in the greater Grand Canyon area.
As much fun as hiking the Grand Canyon is, for many adventurers, biking it is even better. Didn’t bring your own set of wheels? No worries -- this place has got you covered with affordable and reliable rentals. (And there’s even a coffee shop inside to get you amped up for the journey.)
Location: Grand Canyon Village
Books, bumper stickers, helpful guidance -- and, of course, that National Parks Passport stamp you’ve been waiting for.
Location: North and South Rim Visitors Centers
You’re at the Grand Canyon, so you might as well take full advantage of this world-class outdoor recreational site. Whether that means hiking, climbing, or rafting, this outdoor outfitter’s got you covered on the gear front. Plus, you can feel great about your purchase: they donate 1% of sales proceeds to local conservation efforts.
Looking for the mall experience, but with a little bit of elevation? This string of Flagstaff shops and restaurants is the hot place to be on a Friday evening.
Located right in the thick of Grand Canyon Village, this curio and gift shop is run out of a renovated historic home.
Location: Grand Canyon Village
Yes, you can learn a lot just by gazing at the canyon itself… but these cultural and educational opportunities can give you even more context and appreciation.
This unique 1932 structure was designed by architect Mary Colter, and offers 360-degree views to those who climb its 85 steps.
Location: Desert View (25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village)
Located along the Rim Trail in a historic family home and photography studio, you won’t want to miss the local art on display at Kolb.
Location: Grand Canyon Village
If a rainy day has you stuck down in Flagstaff, take the opportunity to learn more about this unique part of the country by visiting this eclectic museum, which celebrates (and educates on) the region’s history.
Explore the well-preserved remains of a small Ancestral Puebloan village by walking the area’s easy 0.1 mile trail. Seasonal ranger-led tours are also available.
Location: 3 miles west of Desert View Watchtower
Located inside an overlook you won’t want to skip anyway, this mini museum gives visitors a better perspective on what, exactly, they’re seeing when they look into the depths of the Grand Canyon -- and how it came to be that way.
Location: Yavapai Point overlook, in between Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Village (on the South Rim)
Make no mistake about it, the Grand Canyon is a sight for the ages. But the southwestern states have so much more to offer!
Need even more canyon-filled adventure in your life? Just an hour and a half north of the park, find this relatively hidden gem -- with more canyon views and fewer tourists. (And a chance to cool off in the massive Lake Powell.)
Located in the town of Page, this authentic Native American cultural exhibit is a great add-on for North Rim campers. Learn about Navajo history through traditional storytelling, weaving presentations, and a dance performance.
Utah and Other Area National Parks
Between five and eight hours from the Grand Canyon lie dozens of federal recreation areas managed by the National Park Service, not least of which are Utah’s five stunning national parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. See graceful sandstone arches and steep striated cliffs or take the iconic wading walk in Zion Canyon’s Narrows. There’s a lot to do in the southwest -- which is why some travelers refer to it as the Grand Circle!
How to Get There
Depending on which direction you’re coming from, the Grand Canyon is relatively easy to access -- the South Rim is located only 90 minutes from I-40. The North Rim is more remote and difficult to access, and subject to seasonal closures, which is why it accounts for only 10% of the park’s visitorship. To learn more about the exact driving directions you’ll need to reach the park, click here.
Although the park is remote, it is in relatively close proximity to a number of large airports, including Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas. There is also some limited air service to the small Grand Canyon Airport from select hubs and carriers.
Whether you fly in and rent or drive from your hometown, traveling in an RV offers you unparalleled park access and comfort. If you don’t have a motorhome or travel trailer of your own, browse the RV rental listings available in your area.
Once you arrive at the Grand Canyon, you can take advantage of the park’s extensive series of free shuttle busses, which make moving within the park itself simple. Depending on when you visit, you may be required to park outside of the gates and shuttle in due to lack of available parking.
Entering the Park
The fees to enter Grand Canyon National Park help support the National Park Service and the maintenance of this unique landscape. Each of the fees below is valid for seven consecutive days of park entry.
Private Vehicle : $35
Private, non-commercial vehicles (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants.
Motorcycle : $30
One or two passengers on a private, non-commercial motorcycle.
Per Person : $20
One individual with no car (bicyclist, hiker, pedestrian). Youth 15 and under are admitted for free.
No matter how you get there, a visit to the Grand Canyon is truly an experience to remember -- and we can’t wait to share in your exciting journey with you! Tag us in your social media posts or send details and photos to us directly at [email protected]. We may just feature your travel tales on our own blog or social media channels.