Last updated: 01/11/2019
Are you planning a trip to the Grand Canyon? Considered one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. Located in the state of Arizona, the Canyon has been shaped for many years as the waters of the Colorado River flowed through the territory. It is estimated that about 2 billion years ago, sediments were being deposited at the site and the canyon was being created. We've created this guide to help you if you're planning a trip to the Grand Canyon! If you're looking to get to the Grand Canyon by car on Route 66, see tips here.
GRAND CANYON IN NUMBERS
- Length: 446 km
- Max width: 29 km
- Maximum depth: 1,857 meters
- Tourists: 5 million a year
THE 3 PARTS OF THE GRAND CANYON
If you are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, you need to understand that it is divided into 3 parts distinct: the west side (Grand Canyon West) and the north and south banks of the Colorado River (North Rim and South Rim).
Below is the map with the location of the 3 parts of the Grand Canyon:
PART 1 - GRAND CANYON WEST
The area called Grand Canyon West is owned by the Hualapai tribe of American Indians and is not part of the Grand Canyon National Park. It is in this area that the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Opened in 2007, it is a transparent glass platform that puts the visitor in a privileged position to admire the Grand Canyon below their feet. This region is the closest to the city of Las Vegas, in the state of Nevada, being just 200 km away and the Hoover Dam that we described. in this post.
Viewing locations at Grand Canyon West:
- Eagle Point: in this region are Native American Village, what allows for a walk through a typical American Indian village; O Grand Canyon Skywalk, one glass platform that is 1,200 meters high; a Amphitheater which features Native American performances; and Creations by Native Hands, an exhibition of handicrafts made by the Hualapai people.
- Hualapai Ranch: it is possible to experience the life of cowboys with wagon rides; learn to rope cattle; take horseback riding tours along the Grand Canyon; there are also cabins that allow you to stay overnight in the area.
- Guano Point: provides panoramic views of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.
to visit the grand canyon west, it's possible buy tickets from US$ 46.95* per person (Hualapai Legacy Package), which provide access to buses to the 3 observation points and on-site parking. However, an additional fee is required to visit the Skywalk, the glass platform, totaling at least one ticket worth US$ 71.38* per person (Legacy Gold Package). The price includes an on-site meal. And it's worth remembering that it's forbidden to take pictures during the visit to the Skywalk. When entering the platform, it is not allowed to take drinks, food, cameras or cell phones. According to those responsible, these are preventive actions to preserve the quality of the glass on the platform. Opening hours are daily from 7 am to 7 pm.
*values referring to Jun/2016
Helicopter tours from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon land in this area. See all information about this tour in this post. We highly recommend this tour, as the view that the helicopter tour provides cannot be obtained in any other way and is magnificent.
PARTS 2 AND 3 – GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK (SOUTH RIM and NORTH RIM)
Both the South Rim and North Rim belong to the Grand Canyon National Park which is administered by the US government. It is possible to reach the place through the airports of Las Vegas, in Nevada and from Flagstaff and Phoenix, both in Arizona. A tip is to consult the official website to have access to various information, maps and schedules sunrise and sunset to make the most of the day in the park. The best way to get more information and what to do in the South and North Rim is through from this link from the official website, in English.
About 90% of tourists visiting Grand Canyon National Park go to South Rim, than the south side of the Grand Canyon, where there is the best structure to visit the place, with restaurants, hotels and other services. There exists the Grand Canyon Village, with an excellent tourist structure, and also close by is the city of Tusayan, the closest to the Grand Canyon, which has a larger hotel chain, as well as several restaurants. The south side is open all year and there are free bus lines that take you to the main points of the park.
Driving distances to the Grand Canyon South Rim
- From Las Vegas: 460 km (4h30 min trip)
- From Flagstaff: 140 km (1h40 min trip)
- From Phoenix: 380 km (4h drive)
It is worth staying in the region, as the time spent on the road will be very long and the tour will be very tiring. If you want to stay inside the Grand Canyon Village, you must book the hotel 6 months in advance during high season, which is the summer period in the Northern Hemisphere.
On the south side, there is also a region called Desert View. There are several viewpoints of the Grand Canyon from many different angles.
All details on what to visit in the South Rim can be found in this special post with lots of tips!
The North Rim region is open to visitors from the 15th of May to the 15th of October of each year, being closed (hotel, restaurant and visitor center) during the winter in the northern hemisphere, it is already common to snow in the park during this period . Relative to the South Rim, this side of the Grand Canyon has very little infrastructure (hotel and restaurant), there are unpaved parts of the road and there are fewer observation points. It receives only 10% from visitors entering the Grand Canyon National Park area each year.
The region has a camping area and only one hotel, the Grand Canyon Logde at North Rim, which is adjacent to the North Rim Visitors Center, which is open daily from May to October from 8 am to 6 pm. For North Rim dining options, check out this link.
North Rim observation sites:
- Bright Angel Point: place that provides a classic view of the Grand Canyon and is also accessible for wheelchair users.
- Imperial Point: it is the highest point on the North Rim (2,683 meters high). Only one part is wheelchair accessible.
- Cape Royal: provides a panoramic view of the Canyon and is the best spot on the North Rim to enjoy sunrises and sunsets.
Driving distances to the Grand Canyon North Rim
- From Las Vegas: 425 km (3h30 min trip) – passing through the state of Utah
- From Flagstaff: 330 km (4h drive)
- From Phoenix: 565 km (6h drive)
One option is to stay in the city of Page, Arizona, which is 200 km from the North Rim and has other interesting attractions (Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon).
TICKET TO ACCESS THE PARK
Visitors to the South Rim and North Rim can purchase the ticket for US$ 30* per vehicle and it is valid to enter the park for 7 consecutive days. When you go through the entrance, you will receive a map and a newspaper of the park and you will need to have the ticket purchased. Therefore, see sales locations here.
* value referring to Jun/2016
If you are visiting more parks in the United States, it is worth buying the annual ticket which costs US$ 80 and is valid for one year, giving access to several American parks (we have given tips on how to purchase this ticket in this post).
BEST TIME TO VISIT
It is possible to visit the Grand Canyon all year round, however, it is necessary to remember that the North Rim is closed during the winter due to the snow and temperatures can reach 5ºC, causing discomfort. In addition, between the months of June and August, the high season and the high temperatures of the American summer, which reach over 40ºC, can cause an excess of tourists and discomfort to walk in strong sun. The autumn and spring periods, therefore, tend to be less crowded and warmer.
BEST WAY TO VISIT
There are several ways to visit the Grand Canyon, and probably the best way is to go by car. Inside the park there are several free buses that can be used to get from one point to another. The helicopter tour is highly recommended, but does not exclude the need to take the tour by land. In addition, an interesting option for those who have little time or do not want to drive is to participate in a tour or excursion. They usually leave Las Vegas.
TIPS FOR VISIT THE GRAND CANYON
- Many areas of the Grand Canyon have no fence or any protection separating visitors from the abyss. Therefore, it is essential to be careful with children and the elderly and avoid walking too close to the edge of the canyon, as some places can be slippery and very dangerous.
- Some people suffer from altitude-related problems, having difficulty breathing as the air becomes thinner. The Grand Canyon reaches an altitude of 2,438 meters above sea level and, therefore, those who suffer from altitude problems should prevent themselves by taking specific medicines.
- Always carry water and something to eat in your bag or backpack, as in most places there is no place to buy it.
- Use sunscreen year round and wear a cap or hat to protect yourself from the strong sun.
- Before entering the park, pass a gas station to fill the car's tank.
WHAT TO DO IN THE GRAND CANYON
The view of the Grand Canyon is incredible and, of course, the main activity is to stop at the observation points to enjoy the scenery and take pictures from various angles. In addition, there are several hiking trails with various levels of difficulty that even allow you to cross from the South Rim to the North Rim (in this case, the trail is 34 km). There are also horse or mule rides, boat rides on the Colorado River, helicopter rides, among other activities.
Read more: 10 things to do in the Grand Canyon
TOURS AND EXCURSIONS IN THE GRAND CANYON
There are many options for tours and excursions that are offered by specialized companies. To learn more about these options in detail, access this link or this link. Check out some of the tour options available at the Grand Canyon:
- Grand Canyon National Park – South Rim with Snack and Lunch
- Grand Canyon: Multi-Stop Tour from Las Vegas
- Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour with Landing
- Grand Canyon West: Bus Tour from Las Vegas
- Grand Canyon: Skywalk, Helicopter and Boat Options
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY IN THE GRAND CANYON
We wrote a special post with details on where to eat and stay at the Grand Canyon South Rim. In it, you will find detailed information to plan a nice trip to this amazing attraction.
Read more: Where to Stay and Eat at the Grand Canyon
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