Megan Elizabeth (Senior Wilderness Expert)
May 6, 2019
The Interliner's Guide to Grand Canyon National Park

If you're looking for a grand adventure, look no further than the Grand Canyon. This massive park covers an impressive 1,900 square miles of rugged desert terrain. According to the NPS website, the canyon measures 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and one mile deep. Grand, indeed! The year 2019 is the park's 100th anniversary as a National Park, so consider this destination a must-see!

Grand Canyon is ideal for solo hikers, seniors, families, first-timers, and outdoor experts. Okay, so this park is ideal for anyone, really. Many of the trails along the South Rim of the canyon are paved and accessible for strollers and wheelchairs, with plenty of backcountry opportunities for the more seasoned outdoor wanderers. 

When to Visit

Consider Grand Canyon another National Park that is most popular to visit during the summer months. To avoid the crowds but still have a shot at good weather, I recommend visiting in the months of March - May or in September and October. The North Rim of the Canyon is closed in the winter, but you can visit from May 15 - October 15. The South Rim of the Canyon is open year-round, even holidays. Note that some amenities and facilities along South Rim may be closed in the winter months, so always check the NPS website for up-to-date information about road, trail, bus, and facility operations when planning your trip.

Weather

Conditions in the desert are dry, which means that cooler temperatures feel colder and warmer temperatures feel much warmer. If you plan to do any camping, be prepared with plenty of layers for the evenings. 

Spring: chance of rain or snow, temperatures ranging from 35°F-60°F.

Summer: hot and dry, with temperatures ranging from 80°F-100+°F.

Fall: chance of rain or snow, temperatures ranging from 35°F-60°F.

Winter: chance of rain or snow, temperatures ranging from 20°F - 45°F.

Admission Fees

7-Day Permit by Car, $35.00

America the Beautiful Annual Pass, $80.00 Unlimited admission to America’s National Parks, valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. Rule of thumb: if you know you will visit three National Parks (or one NP three times) this year, just buy the annual pass to save some dough. 

2019 Fee-Free Days, FREE. Mark your calendars, because Grand Canyon National Park participates in fee-free days throughout the year. Fair warning: expect heavy traffic!

  • January 21 - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • April 20 - First Day of National Park Week
  • August 25 - NPS Anniversary
  • September 28 - National Public Lands Day
  • November 11 - Veterans Day

What to Pack

For a complete list of necessary gear for an outdoor adventure, check out my other blog about what to pack for an outdoor adventure. In addition to the items on that list, here are a few other suggested items to bring along on your trip: 

  • Camera. If your cellphone is your camera, make sure to bring a spare battery or a charging case. Cellular service within the park is limited, so I recommend putting your phone in Airplane Mode to conserve the battery for photographs. If you're bringing along a "real" camera, bring an extra battery and extra memory cards.
  • Binoculars. This isn’t a necessity, but you can get up-close-and-personal with the bottom of the canyon without having to make the mile-deep (and many miles!) trek. Look for Rangers and volunteers with telescopes along the rim of the canyon for insider-knowledge about what you can see in the distances below you. 
  • Water. Water. Water. Water. Okay, I talk all about hydration in the link to my packing blog, but I want to reiterate the importance of having lots of water for this park. The desert is high elevation and dry and warm, especially in the summer, so be prepared. 
  • Sunscreen and a hat. This is also talked about in the aforementioned link, but sun protection is way too important to forget. If you're traveling with an infant and you don't have a hat, you can use a light colored bandana to tie around the child's head. Hats and bandanas are available for purchase in the South Rim Visitor Center.

Local Outdoor Retailers

These outdoor retailers are in order of closest proximity to the South Rim Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. 

1. Canyon Village Market General Store

1 Mather Business, C St,

Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023

928-638-2262 x. 27

2. Juniper Creek Outdoors

419 N Grand Canyon Blvd

Williams, AZ 86046

928-635-4401

3. Babbitt's Backcountry Outfitters

12 E Aspen Ave,

Flagstaff, AZ 86001

928-774-4775

4. Mountain Sports Flagstaff

24 N San Francisco St.

Flagstaff, AZ 86001

928-226-2885

5. REI

323 S Windsor Ln.

Flagstaff, AZ 86001

928-213-1914

There is also an REI in Phoenix at the following address: 

12634 N Paradise Village Pkwy W.

Phoenix, AZ 85032

602-996-5400

6. Arizona Hiking Shack

3244 E Thomas Rd.

Phoenix, AZ 85018

602-944-7723

FLG - Flagstaff Pulliam Airport

  • 81 miles from South Rim
  • Airlines: American, United
  • Rental Cars: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National

PRC - Prescott Ernest A. Love Field

  • 129 miles from South Rim
  • Airlines: United
  • Rental Cars
    • On Terminal: Hertz
    • Off Terminal: Budget, Enterprise, Hertz

PHX - Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

  • 231 miles from South Rim
  • Airlines: Advanced Air, Air Canada, Alaska, American, Boutique Air, British Airways, Condor, Contour, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, United, Volaris, WestJet
  • Rental Cars, (o​ff terminal, free shuttle bus to Rental Car Center): Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, E-Z Rent-a-Car, Fox, Hertz, National, Payless, Silverware, Sixt, Thrifty

LAS - Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

  • 278 miles to South Rim; 121 miles to West Rim
  • Airlines: AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alaska, Allegiant, American, British Airways, Condor, Contour, Copa, Delta, Edelweiss, Eurowings, Flair, Frontier, Hainan, Hawaiian, Interjet, JetBlue, KLM, Korean, Norwegian, OAI, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, Swoop, Thomas Cook, United, Virgin Atlantic, Viva Aerobus, Volaris, WestJet
  • Rental Cars, (o​ff terminal, free shuttle bus to Rental Car Center): Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, E-Z Rent-a-Car, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless, Thrifty

Hotels/Motels

Have you downloaded the ID90 Travel app to save at least 20% on your hotel bookings? If this is your first time booking a hotel through the app, you can save an additional $10 off your first booking by signing up through that link. You like free money, right? Here are six hotels that are closest to the park and offer an ID90 Travel discount:

Grand Canyon Village - Approximately 15 minutes from South Rim:

  • Best Western Premier Grand Canyon
  • Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel
  • Holiday Inn Express

Williams, Arizona - Approximately 60 minutes from South Rim:

  • Best Western Plus
  • Comfort Inn
  • Days Inn
  • Howard Johnson
  • Quality Inn
  • Ramada
  • Super 8
  • Travelodge

Camping in (and near) the Park

1. Mather Campground. This campground is open year round and is located on the South Rim of the canyon in Grand Canyon Village. Reservations are strongly recommended in the peak season. You can book online or call 1-877-444-6777. 

2. Desert View Campground. This campground is located 25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village and is open seasonally, typically April through October. Note that these sites operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. No advance reservations can be made. To make sure you grab a spot before they fill up, I recommend getting the campground around 9 A.M.

3. North Rim Campground. This campground is located on the North Rim of the canyon and is open seasonally, typically May through October. Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-877-444-6777. 

4. If you're a more avid explorer, you can opt to backpack into the canyon for overnight camping by obtaining a Backcountry Permit

Art Exhibits.

Kolb Studio, located on the South Rim, was once the family home and photography studio of the famous Kolb Brothers. These guys were photography pioneers in the 1900's and their legacy still lives on strongly today. The Studio now holds historic artifacts (yes, their cameras are on display!) as well as some photographs they captured way back when.  

Biking the Canyon. 

Don't worry about packing your bike, you can rent one when you arrive from Bright Angel Bicycles. They offer bike rentals as well as guided tours along the canyon. Note that the shop closes in the winter months from January 9 - March 5. 

Hiking.

The Grand Canyon rests at an elevation of 7,000 feet, which means hiking will feel more strenuous to those folks who don't live in a mountain climate. Don't let that stop you from enjoying the beauty of this park! Take your time and listen to your body, bring more water than you think you'll need, and rest in the shade when you need a break.

If you don't hike often or you're worried you aren't physically capable of hiking in the park, think again. The South Rim Trail is mostly paved and flat, perfect for anyone who wants to see and experience the park. You can also hop on shuttle buses from Grand Canyon Village that will take you to a variety of different viewpoints along the trail so you don't have to hike the full length of the South Rim. 

If you're an avid outdoor explorer, definitely check out these day hikes on the South Rim: 

  • South Kaibab Trail - 6.3 miles one way. Hike into the canyon on this trail, and hike out on Bright Angel trail (add 7.3 miles). Strenuous due to distance and exposure. The NPS recommends hiking out on Bright Angel because of the availability of drinking water. 
  • Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa - 6 miles roundtrip. Strenuous due to steepness and exposure. 
  • Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point - 12 miles roundtrip. The good news is that facilities like restrooms and water are available approximately every 1.5 miles. This hike is strongly recommended because you can hike as near or far as you'd like and then turn around. The views won't disappoint, I assure you. 

Mule Trips.

For a unique spin on exploring the desert tundra of the Grand Canyon, definitely look into booking a mule trip. Xanterra offers a variety of tours that last anywhere from one hour to a full-day excursion, and they fill up quickly. Tours are available on the North Rim and South Rim, in addition to some National Forest Trails. Check the NPS website for current booking rates and availability. 

Whitewater/Smoothwater Trips.

Let's give a slow clap to the variety of water tours that are available here. Whether you want to book a half-day trip on the water or a 25-day excursion (yes, that's real, there's a 25-day float trip option), there's a trip for everyone and every skill level. Tours are available for both commercial and non-commercial trips, with plenty of local guiding companies ready to take you under their wings and above the waters. You can choose a nice, smooth float trip down the Colorado River, or explore the wild rapids that await you in the bottom of the canyon. For availability, pricing, and additional information about booking your trip, visit the NPS website.

Have you been to Grand Canyon National Park? We want to know! Drop a comment below to share about your experience!  

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