Grand Canyon Guide

Established: National Park since 1919
Quick Facts
Park size: 1,902 square miles
Canyon length: 190 miles
Canyon depth: 1 mile (average)
Number of trails: South Rim 5, North Rim 13
Dining: 15+ dining options inside the park
Lodging: Six options at South Rim, one at North Rim
Camping: Two areas at South Rim, one at North Rim
Skywalk: Located at the West Rim
Points of interest: Mather Point, Grand Canyon Village, Hermits Rest Route, Geology Museum, Grand Canyon Lodge, Kolb Studio, Tusayan Museum and Ruin, Desert View Watchtower

Grand Canyon Park
The Grand Canyon has been inspiring awe for countless generations. Today, this majestic escape is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. Every year, almost 5 million people visit what has been called one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Guests to Grand Canyon National Park will see almost two billion years of the earth’s geological history within its steep walls. According to most geologists, the Colorado River began carving the canyon at least 17 million years ago. This river erosion and formation continues today, as the Grand Canyon totals 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and an average of 1 mile deep. Since being established in 1919, Grand Canyon National Park has grown to cover 5,219 square miles, which includes a South Rim and North Rim on either side of the Colorado River. With dozens of hiking trails, various museums, park ranger presentations, campsites, helicopter tours and more, guests could easily spend several days at the park. However, Las Vegas is close enough to enjoy a long day trip to the canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park is located 280 miles west of Las Vegas in Northern Arizona. Depending on which rim you travel to, a day trip can last eight to twelve hours. While most of that time is spent driving, there are several great stopping points along the way, including the Hoover Dam, various gift shops and Route 66 in Williams, Arizona. For those who don’t want to drive themselves, there are tour options for day-long bus trips to the canyon. These tours usually feature knowledgeable guides, hotel pick up/drop off and lunch.

South Rim
Mather Point
Yavapai Point
Desert Watchtower
The South Rim receives most of the park's visitation. It is about four hours from Las Vegas. Upon entrance to the South Rim, guests will find the Grand Canyon Village, which is home to three information centers, several gift shops, a market, two lodges and lots of parking. Visitors can take advantage of the park’s bus system, which provides transportation across the South Rim. Some roads are off limits for personal vehicles. This includes the Hermits Rest Route, which offers several gorgeous views and is navigated by park shuttle buses.

One of the most popular spots to first view the canyon is at Mather Point. From this lookout, you can stroll along the Rim Trail. This paved pathway is great for those who wish to avoid strenuous hikes. Less than a mile from Mather Point, one will find the Yavapai Point and the Geology Museum. Here, guests can learn about the history of the Grand Canyon and catch periodic presentations by park rangers. Several companies offer tours to the South Rim from Las Vegas.

North Rim
The North Rim is located directly across from the South Rim on the other side of the river. Because the North Rim is about 1,000 feet higher in elevation, most guides claim the views are actually better from the south. For this reason, the South Rim is generally a better choice for first-time visitors. However, the North Rim does have a unique rustic charm and is much less crowded.

This remote charm is evident from the five-hour drive (North Rim does not have an airport) that goes through bumpy roads in Utah and Arizona. The North Rim appeals to many visitors do to the historic Grand Canyon Lodge and a larger variety of trails. Experienced hikers can hike down the canyon from the North Rim and come up the South Rim.

West Rim
Grand Canyon West (also referred to as the West Rim) is operated by the Hualapai Indian tribe on reservation land. You can self-drive to the West Rim from Las Vegas (takes about three hours) but your best option is probably booking a guided bus tour. For a more unique experience and birds-eye view of the canyon you can book one of the several available airplane and helicopter tours. This destination is closer to Las Vegas and offers food services, a Native American Flea Market and several other attractions. There are two main view points Eagle Point and Guano Point. The most notable attraction at Grand Canyon West is the Skywalk, a transparent horseshoe-shaped walkway bridge suspended over the canyon. Another unique feature of the west rim is that helicopters are allowed to land at the bottom of the canyon. Several companies offer tours to the West Rim from Las Vegas.

When to Visit
With nearly 5 million annual visitors, Grand Canyon National Park can get crowded during the spring, summer and autumn months. Thankfully, the park is big enough that you’ll rarely have to battle other guests for excellent views. To beat the crowd, visit in winter, early spring or late fall.

Since much of the park is over 7,000 feet in elevation, guests can expect a variety of climate conditions. The canyon can range from hot and dry in the summer to cold and snowy in the winter. Nights can get especially chilly, even on sunny days. The bottom of the canyon can be over 20 degrees warmer than at the top. Snow storms can sometimes close access roads, so remember to check weather conditions. The South Rim is open year round; however, the North Rim is only open from October 15th to May 15th of each year.

Lodging & Dining
The South Rim offers a variety of lodging options, from simple cabins to more luxurious rooms at the Bright Angel Lodge and El Tovar Hotel. In total, there are six lodges inside the park. Rooms tend to fill up fast, so visitors should book in advance. There are also several motels and an RV park located within an hour’s drive of the South Rim.

The South Rim has several dining options, which include two upscale restaurants, a bar, two cafeterias, a pizza pub and various snack bars. There is also a grocery store inside the Grand Canyon Village. Just outside the park in the community of Tusayan, there are additional dining options, including a McDonalds and Wendy’s.

Lodging and dining options are much more limited at the North Rim. The only hotel within the park is the historic Grand Canyon Lodge, which offers rooms May 15th through October 15th of each year. As far as dining options at the North Rim, there are four restaurants and one supply store.