The Grand Canyon is one of the epic beauty bucket list items on the United States’ West Coast. This is a perfect stop on a road trip itinerary driving through national parks, or driving the Route 66 road, the Grand Canyon is gem in Page, Arizona. The Grand Canyon is one of the seven wonders of the world because of its scenic overlooks and breathtaking beauty! The Grand Canyon is a mile-deep geologic wonder with lots of hikes, mule rides & rafting through the Colorado River running through the canyon. There is adventure to be had camping, hiking or backpacking in this natural beauty! This national park has 6.2 million visitors annually and very few of those who choose to venture into the canyon for adventure (less than 2%)! This is one of the amazing parts of hiking in the Grand Canyon is that the trails are a far cry from crowded and you quickly escape the people to get alone in nature and see maybe a few on the trail. The Grand Canyon just turned 100 years old in 2019-2020! This is a great way to celebrate this natural wonders birthday, by going on an adventure.
How to get to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
The South Rim is the most popular part of the Grand Canyon to visit and has the most tourists annually. It has an airport, train service, and is a 90-minute drive from Flagstaff, Arizona. It is a 4.5-hour drive to the South Rim from Las Vegas or an 8 hour drive coming from Los Angeles, CA on I-40E. Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim (open all year) is 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona (via route 64 from Interstate 40) and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff (via route 180).
Besides driving to the Grand Canyon there are three other transportation options available for getting to this beautiful national park:
There are airports and airlines flying into Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Las Vegas. There are very limited flights available into Grand Canyon Airport (7 miles south of the park) from Las Vegas and other connections.
Greyhound has bus service to Flagstaff, Arizona.
There is a daily scheduled shuttle service between Phoenix and Flagstaff, and between Flagstaff and Grand Canyon Village is a service by Arizona Shuttle (800-563-1980)
One Day Tours has a shuttle service between Las Vegas, Nevada and the South Rim (Grand Canyon Village) Please text (702) 703-4426
On demand shuttle service between Flagstaff/Sedona/Williams and Grand Canyon National Park and between North and South Rims is provided by Grand Canyon Shuttle Service (888) 215-3105. Call for prices and schedules.
The Trans-Canyon Shuttle (928-638-2820) goes between the North and South rims of the park once each day, in each direction, between May 15th and October 15, with a limited schedule between October 16 and October 31. The travel time is about 4 1/2 hours each way.
Amtrak provides a train to Flagstaff with connecting bus service to the canyon. Grand Canyon Railway offers trains from Williams (for additional information call: 1-800-THE-TRAIN).
How to get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
The North Rim is located on the Utah side of the Grand Canyon and the entrance station is 30 miles south of Jacob Lake on Highway 67. The North Rim village may only be reached by road. There won’t be nearly as many tourists here, but it arguably doesn’t have as great of a view.
When to Visit the Grand Canyon
The South Rim is the most visited and crowded of the two portions of the park throughout the year, including spring break, summer, and holiday times during fall and winter. The South Rim of the park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The South Rim includes Grand Canyon Village and Desert View. All services are open year-round. Reservations are strongly recommended during spring, summer and fall. Some facilities close during winter months. The North Rim (Full Service) Season: May 15th through October 15th of each year. Depending on which portion of the park you want to see and visit this may effect what time of year you travel. Fall is when I went on my trip with very few visitors in this low season and the trail was empty to ourselves! The fall colors in the canyon with bright yellow leaves and trees and lots of changing foliage was beautiful.
Grand Canyon Weather & Road Conditions
It is always a good idea to check the national parks updates on weather and park conditions before your trip. I showed up in November and the weather looked clear and fine maybe in the 40’s at night. I packed layers and it ended up snowing in the middle of the night! Always be prepared with extra gear no matter what the weather says.
- Call 928-638-7496 for recorded information about current park road conditions and closures.
- See the national park site here for updated road closures, current weather conditions or other park closures and notifications.
Grand Canyon National Park Fees
I use my America the Beautiful annual pass that is $80 a year to enter all the national parks as many times as you want! When you enter the park you can show this pass to get in free.
Admission to the Grand Canyon is for 7 days including the north and south rim. Permits can be bought online or in person. Cash and credit card are accepted. The entrance fees depending on vehicle or amount of people are shown below:
Grand Canyon National Park Vehicle Permit – $35 (U.S. Dollars)
Admits one single, private, non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers. Organized groups are not eligible for the vehicle permit.
Grand Canyon National Park Motorcycle Permit – $30 (U.S. Dollars)
Admits one single, private, non-commercial motorcycle and its passenger(s).
Grand Canyon National Park Individual Permit – $20/person (U.S. Dollars)
Admits one individual when entering by foot, bicycle, park shuttle bus, Grand Canyon Railway and private rafting trip. Individuals 15 years old and younger are admitted free of charge.
Grand Canyon Park Transportation
The Grand Canyon can be crowded and have limited parking lots and parking for visitors. The park has a free shuttle bus service similar to many national parks that travels throughout different key points everyday. This is a great option especially when visiting the canyon in the summer and peak season time.
South Rim Shuttle Bus Routes: Summer 2019
| – Hiker Express Shuttle This is a unqiue morning bus to Souh Kaibab Trailhead for avid hikers who want to start early. The bus leaves from Bright Angel Lodge bus stop on the hour; second stop at Backcountry Information Center; third stop at Grand Canyon Visitor Center; last stop at South Kaibab Trailhead. |
Bus leaves Bright Angel Lodge at:
7 am, 8 am, 9 am in March
6 am, 7 am, 8 am in April
5 am, 6 am, 7 am in May
4 am, 5 am, 6 am in June, July, August
5 am, 6 am, 7 am in September
6 am, 7 am, 8 am in October
7 am, 8 am, 9 am in November
8 am, 9 am in December, January, February
The 4 free south rim bus routes:
1. Village (Blue) Route – In Service all year: Connects the Visitor Center with lodges, campground, and other facilities.
2. Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route – In Service all year: If you have limited time, this is the fastest way get from the Visitor Center to exceptional canyon views.
3. Hermit Road (Red) Route
In Service: March 1, 2019, through November 30, 2019
Outstanding scenic views along an historic road. Hermit Road is closed to private vehicles during the busy season. Hermit Road will be open to private vehicles between December 1, 2019, and February 28, 2020.
4. Tusayan Route (Purple) Park & Ride –
In Service March 1, 2019, through mid-September, 2019
If you are planning a visit during the South Rim’s busy season (March 1, through mid-September, 2019) lines are long at the entrance station and parking is difficult to find on the South Rim. You can park in the gateway community of Tusayan, buy your pass online, or in Tusayan, then ride this free shuttle into the park.
Grand Canyon Tips
- Grand Canyon Maps here:
- South Rim Pocket Map and Services Guide
North Rim Pocket Map and Services Guide
- Hike into the canyon because all the people are at the lookouts and view points very few actually hike into the canyon!
- Pack lots of water and a water purifying system to fill up again from the Colorado River.
- Ditch the spendy and touristy restaurants and pack your own food to save money
- Visit during off season for beautiful alone time in this epic canyon
- Start your hiking early to avoid the crowds of people and intense heat
- You can hire a mule to help you pack overnight camping gear down or experience the canyon another way besides hiking
- There are many things to do besides hiking in the Grand Canyon (see below) Don’t be discouraged if you are not a hiker!
- Around 12 people a year die in the Grand Canyon falling because of trying to take epic cliff photos. Be careful! Do not become a statistic!
Best Hiking Trails in the Grand Canyon
Hiking is my favorite thing to do in the Grand Canyon. This beauty has one of a kind hiking with a sky view between gorgeous rock canyon walls. My personal favorite trail is Bright Angel Trail. I did day hiking into the canyon and camped at the rim because the permits to camp overnight in the canyon can be difficult to achieve. Bright Angel is a great trail that takes you to the Colorado river and that is a good spot to safely turn around for a day hike. Otherwise you can hike through to the other rim as well in a day! I have listed my top favorite hiking trails in the canyon.
Bright Angel Hiking Trail (steep/hard)
This is one of the park’s premier hikes that has water resources, is well maintained and has campgrounds and cabins you can stay at along the way inside the canyon. The trail is along a natural break in the cliffs that was formed by the Bright Angel Fault hence the trail name. This trail has more plant and animal life because of sticking to the back area of the canyon for the first several miles. The park warns people not to hike to the river and back in a day hike for safety reasons. I am an avid hiker and if you are physically fit and hike often it is possible to do this as a day hike of 12 miles and return before it gets dark just plan accordingly.
The Grand Canyon National Park Service Site has made this amazing table below of the trail and mileage as well as elevation so you can safely plan your hike.
Rim to Rim Hike in the Grand Canyon (steep/hard)
The rim to rim hike is referring to crossing the whole canyon from North Rim to South Rim on a 24 mile journey that takes on average two days with an overnight stay in the canyon via the North Kaibab Trail (elevation 8,241 ft – 14.3 miles – mostly a descent) and the Bright Angel Trail (mostly an ascent – 9.6 miles – elevation 6,860 ft). This hikes features Redwall limsetone and amazing views of Bright Angel Canyon and passes through every ecosystem to be found between Canada and Mexico. There are Roaring springs and Ribbon falls along the hike. This is a grand epic adventure to tackle hiking the Grand Canyon from one side to the other.
The National Park Service put together a layout of the different parts of the trail to safely plan our your route and trip itinerary (shown below):
North Kaibab trailhead (8241 ft / 2512 m) to Supai Tunnel (6800 ft / 2073 m): 1.7 m
Supai Tunnel (6800 ft / 2073 m) to Roaring Springs (5220 ft / 1591 m): 3 m
Roaring Springs (5220 ft / 1591 m) to Manzanita Rest Area (4600 ft / 1402 m): .7m
Manzanita Rest Area (4600 ft / 1402 m) to Cottonwood Campground (4080 ft / 1244 m): 1.4m
North Kaibab trailhead (8241 ft / 2512 m) to Cottonwood Campground (4080 ft / 1244 m): 6.8m
Cottonwood Campground (4080 ft / 1244 m) to Ribbon Falls (3720 ft / 1134 m): 1.6m
Cottonwood Campground (4080 ft / 1244 m) to Bright Angel Campground (2480 ft / 756 m): 7.2m
North Kaibab trailhead (8241 ft / 2512 m) to Bright Angel Campground (2480 ft / 756 m): 14 mi
Kaibab Trail (steep/hard)
The trailhead is near Yaki Point. This is the only trail at Grand Canyon National Park that has a true ridge-line descent. This trial has the most exposure to the vastness of the canyon, however this means almost no shade and there are no water resources on this trail. During winter, the sun exposure on the trail keeps it free of ice and snow. This trail is the quickest way to the bottom of the canyon. This trial features the Ooh Ah lookout point of the canyon that features sweeping views! This hike is made of limestone cliffs, switchbacks and amazing canyon views.
Rim (7260 ft / 2213 m) to Cedar Ridge (6120 ft / 1865 m): 1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Cedar Ridge (6120 ft / 1865 m) to Skeleton Point (5220 ft / 1591 m): 1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Skeleton Point (5220 ft / 1591 m) to the Tipoff (4000 ft / 1219 m): 1.4 mi (2.3 km)
Tipoff (4000 ft / 1219 m) to Bright Angel Campground (2480 ft / 756 m): 2.6 mi (4.2 km)
Rim (7260 ft / 2213 m) to Bright Angel Campground (2480 ft / 756 m): 7.0 mi (11.3 km)
South Rim Trail (flat/easy)
This is a rim hiking trial that is flat and easy that features many viewpoint overlooks of the canyon. This trial goes from the village area to Hermit’s Rest. This is a great and easy day hike that anyone can do and is safe. There is a list of day hikes the National Park Service has compiled for visitors with ratings of difficulty level to find other easier or shorter hikes.
Things to do besides Hiking
All air tours are based outside of Grand Canyon National Park Service. There are airplane and helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon offered daily. For a list of air tour operators with links to their websites, view Arizona Department of Transportation’s listing here. A helicopter tour of the canyon is 1 hour and costs $299 per person.
Ride a Mule
Mule trips are offered at the South Rim year round and May 151th-October 15th at the North Rim. This is a fun way to see the Grand Canyon and have a unique experience besides hiking. The mule rids into the canyon for a day trip are quite the adventure! Kids need to be at least 9 years old and with parents.
For South Rim: Visit Xanterra’s website for more details and to book a trip. Or call (303) 297-2757 or toll free (888) 297-2757.♦ South Rim Mule rides may be booked 15 months in advance and fill up early. Plan ahead!
For North Rim: Visit Grand Canyon Trail Rides’ website at www.canyonrides.com/grand-canyon-mule-ride for information or to book a trip, or call (435) 679-8665.
♦ North Rim mule trips do not go to the Colorado River.
♦ One-hour rides along the rim and ½ day rim or inner canyon trips are available on a daily basis.
♦ Register in the lobby of the Grand Canyon Lodge (on the North Rim) at the Canyon Trail Rides Desk, open 7am-5pm daily.
Raft on the Colorado River
There are 1-18 day river trips in the Grand Canyon led by different companies. Half-day and all-day trips on the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry are available from March 1, 2019 by Glen Canyon Rafting Hospitality, LLC. Trips begin at Page, Arizona, a drive of 140 miles from the South Rim. Glen Canyon Float Trip Experience Website. There are backcountry permits for non-commercial river trips in the canyon as well on the national park website.
Backpacking Overnight inside the Grand Canyon
There are three main campgrounds below the rim of the Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Campground (9.9 miles from rim) along that hiking trail, Indian Garden Campground (4.8 miles below rim), and Cottonwood Campground (6.8 miles below rim). To camp inside the canyon there is a backcountry permit required. I have the process and cost laid out below on how to camp inside the Grand Canyon.
How to Apply
1. Fill out the Backcountry Permit Request Form:
- Backcountry Permit Request Form (PDF file)
- What to include with your permit request:
- Trip leader’s name, address, and telephone number.
- Credit card number, expiration date, signature, date signed, and largest amount you authorize the National Park Service to charge.
- Number of people and/or stock in the group (see Private Stock).
- License plate numbers of any cars to be left at the trailhead.
- Proposed night-by-night itinerary showing use area codes and dates for each night
- Organization name if applicable (see Group Size and Commercial Use below).
- Alternative proposed itineraries.
2. Submit the permit request form:
- Fax request to the Backcountry Information Center, 928-638-2125.
NOTE: You can send a fax 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – HOWEVER the first day of every month we receive many faxes and the number may be busy.
- Mail request to Grand Canyon National Park, Permits Office, 1824 S. Thompson St., Suite 201, Flagstaff AZ, 86001
- Bring request to the Backcountry Information Center, located inside the park on both the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily, year round, for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time. The North Rim Backcountry Information Center (located in the administrative building) is open daily mid-May to mid-October for walk-in visitors from 8 am to noon and 1-5 pm Mountain Standard Time.
- Permit requests are not accepted by telephone or by email.
- Permit requests are responded to via U.S. Mail or email. Due to the volume of requests received, the park cannot confirm receipt of requests until they have been fully processed. Please allow at least three weeks for processing.
If you want to camp below the rim, you need to apply for a backcountry permit. Permits are 10 USD per person. Plus $8 per person or animal per night camped below the rim. Denied requests will not have any fee. The method of payment is a credit card for the permits. You need to state the maximum amount you authorize the Backcountry Information Center to charge so your longest trip plan can be considered. Permit holders will be responsible for paying park entrance fees upon arrival.
Phantom Ranch (stay at a Cabin in the Grand Canyon)
If you’re looking to sleep in the canyon at the bottom, you’ll need to apply for staying at Phantom Ranch, the only lodging in the canyon. As of 2019, there will a lottery system to decide who gets the limited camping. You need to book 1 year in advance for this. A 2-peson cabin is 155 USD per night.
For full details on how to enter the Phantom Ranch lodging lottery, or to see openings, contact Xanterra Parks and Resorts at 303-297-2757 or 888-297-2757 (http://www.grandcanyonlodges.com).
Grand Canyon South Rim Camping
Mather Campground (village)
On the South Rim, campground reservations can be made for NPS Mather Campground, found within the busy Grand Canyon Village (a historic district, lodges, shuttle buses, visitor center, train etc.) The campground has good access but is also in a wooded area away from the noise and people of the hotels and village area. This is where I stayed on my Grand Canyon trip and really enjoyed the quiet forest area that the campground is in.
Reservations for Mather Campground can be made through the National Recreation Reservation Service. Call 1-877-444-6777Online: https://www.recreation.gov/ (Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance)
- During the winter months of December, January, and February, the campground office is closed and online reservations are not available. Registration is first come first serve using the self-pay machine at the campground office.
- Campground fees are $18 per site per night. A maximum of 2 vehicles, 6 people, 3 tents are allowed per site.
Desert View Campground (remote outside park)
In a less developed area, the NPS Desert View Campground is at the east entrance to the park (25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village)
- First-come, first-served only. No reservations are accepted.
- There are NO RV hook-ups at Desert View
- The campground usually fills by 12 noon each day.
- Campsites at the Desert View Campground are $12.00 for each space for each night.
- Credit cards only no cash for paying for camp sites!!!
Desert View Campground is open for the 2019 season between Saturday, April 13, at 9 am.
and will close for the season on Sunday, October, 13, 2019 (last night to stay)
Grand Canyon North Rim Camping
North Rim Campground
North Rim is a beautiful wooded campground area for tent and RV camping. There is access to water, restrooms, as well as a laundry and shower facility. This is the only park campground at the North Rim yet there are many options found outside the park here.
(Dates of the 2019 season: May 15 – October 31, 2019)
- Campground fees: $18-$25 per site per night. A maximum of 2 vehicles*, 6 people, 3 tents are allowed per site.
- North Rim roads are closed to vehicles between December 1st and May 15th, and no visitor services are available. During the winter backpackers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers are allowed to use the North Rim Campground, but must have a backcountry use permit beforehand. Get a permit through the South Rim Backcountry Information Center (e-mail us or call 928-638-7875,) and at the Visitor Center at Pipe Spring National Monument located in Fredonia, Arizona.