Grand Canyon National Park
Guide

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Introduction

With sights that are awe-inspiring for both newcomers and repeat visitors, the Grand Canyon is sure to captivate. “Beautiful” doesn’t even begin to describe this landscape.

Grand Canyon National Park is aptly named for it scenic treasures, carved over millions of years by the Colorado River. A barrier, one mile deep, bisects the park and creates the line dividing the North and South Rim. It’s nature’s playground and an adventure-fueled setting with activities that all members of the family can enjoy.

Come here to get acquainted with the flora and fauna of an arid landscape, challenge yourself with an overnight hike, river raft through the mighty Colorado, or simply spend some time taking in the magnificent views. There is so much to do, so much to explore, and with two canyon sides, you’ll have an almost endless list of recreational opportunities. Travel around both the North and South Rim by vehicle or on foot - the choice is yours. This is your Arizona experience and you won’t want to end your trip without indulging in such natural brilliance.

Camping is one of the best ways to really get immersed in your Arizona surroundings. When you stay in an RV, you take charge of both how you stay and how you go. Here, you’ll find areas to park your RV on both sides of the canyon, including plenty of spots that are a little off the beaten path. No matter what kind of rig gets you there, you’ll be sure to find your perfect piece of the park.

Experience Arizona and the Grand Canyon National Park as it should be experienced. Find the activities that suit your speed and fall into the natural rhythm here. No matter the month, no matter the season… you’ll drive back home with plenty to talk about.

Park Alerts (2)

[Caution] Waterline replacement project will occur on the North Rim throughout 2019

Expect delays, detours, closures, and parking modifications. Affected areas include the North Rim Campground loop, Bridle Path, and the area from Grand Canyon Lodge to 0.3 miles

[Caution] Entering the Grand Canyon Backcountry this month? It's hot down inside the canyon. [+ Info]

When hiking below the rim, a method to treat water must always be part of your gear - as water availability may change while you are hiking. Best to hike before 10 am or after 4 pm to avoid the heat of day. Summer hiking tips:

RV Rentals in Grand Canyon National Park

Transportation in Grand Canyon National Park

Driving

As the most traversed side of the park, the South Rim and featured facilities are open year-round to due to moderate temperatures and more forgiving winter climate. Many come to visit the Grand Canyon’s South Rim between April and September, so you can expect crowds and some decent vehicle congestion. You’ll easily navigate to the South Rim by picking up Arizona’s chunk of I-40 West to Highway 64. Then simply take Highway 64 North, directly to The Canyon’s South Rim.

On the North Rim, it’s like a whole other world. A far less frequented side, the North Rim is open from mid-May until mid-October, but becomes inaccessible in the winter months due to weather conditions. You’ll find substantially smaller crowds here, though it is still a very popular destination. Major routes will easily wind you here, with a heavier travel time on Highway 89 North to Highway 89 Alt. From Highway 89 Alt West, hop onto Highway 67 South for a direct route to the North Rim.

Though the distance between The Grand Canyon’s North and South Rims measures roughly 21 miles across, the driving distance is substantially different. The more than 200-mile trip around means about four to five hours’ drive time between Northern and Southern Rims. From North to South: Pick up Highway 67 North to Highway 89 Alt East, then to Highway 89 South. This will bring you to Highway 64, where you then follow West to the East Entrance on the South Rim, known as Desert View. Get ready for some spectacular views and a worthwhile drive. Though long, guests who bring their four wheels all the way around will experience the full extent of this geological wonder.

Parking

Parking at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim is fairly straightforward and you will likely meet a fairly thin crowd. The South Rim, however, is a different story. You will want to arrive as early as possible in order to secure a good spot. The Grand Canyon, like many other famed National Parks, gets quite busy - and fast. It is recommended to arrive by 9 o’clock in the morning, if not sooner. Arriving early will ensure you can find a parking spot that’s close by the Visitor Center and the Rim Trail. There are designated lots here for RVs, as well as restrictions; do not park in lots 2, 3 and 4 or A, B and C.

When you can’t make it early or find that everyone else had the same idea - fear not! There are additional ways to get into the park. It’s important to note that parking can get tricky for RVs over 22 feet or for vehicles with trailers.

Public Transport

If you want to bypass the wait at the gate, ride the free Tusayan Route shuttle bus. Shuttles run every 20 minutes, though you must provide a valid park pass in order to board. If you only have a few hours, park your RV near the IMAX Theater, RP’s Stage Stop, or the Park & Ride lot and let the shuttle do the work.

There are three other shuttles that run back and forth to the South Rim. An on-demand shuttle service between the North and South Rims is provided by Grand Canyon Shuttle Service, as well as limited services from Trans Canyon Shuttle.

For visitors who are feeling adventurous, there are several other unique options to get the best view of that Grand Canyon. Skip the roads altogether and capture views of The Canyon by helicopter or train.

Campgrounds and parking in Grand Canyon National Park

Campsites in Grand Canyon National Park

Reservations camping

Seligman / Route 66 KOA

The Seligman/Route 66 KOA is ideal for big rigs. All sites are designed for pull-throughs and able to accommodate rigs up to 73 feet. Situated along the longest remaining stretch of historic Route 66, guests can stop at the famous Delgadillo’s Snow Cap for a malted milkshake and enjoy a treat that 1950s vacationers enjoyed, too! Quick day trips might include Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon National Park, Laughlin and Las Vegas. Back at the campground, enjoy high-desert and cool summer evenings, soak in the stars from the brilliant night skies, and relax by the campfire. The seasonal pool is open from late May through September. Clean bathrooms, hot showers, and full laundry facilities will help guests feel right at home.

North Rim Campground

Open only from May to October, this campground offers fully accessible campsites, restrooms, a dump station, and coin laundry. There are no hookups advertised for RVs, however, you will find a water refill station. Pets are also allowed to stay with you here at the North Rim. While not as heavily visited as the South Rim, it’s still advised to get your reservations in early. The camping season is short, so, sites fill up rather readily.

South Rim, Mather Campground

This popular campground is open year-round and offers both tent and RV camping. Limitations are few, however, there is a 30-foot maximum length advised for trailers and campers. There are no hookups advertised for your stay at the NPS campground, though, you will find that the campsites are easily accessible and full-service bathrooms are also provided. Bring all members of the family -- even those with four legs and fur -- leashed pets are welcome at Mather Campground. Reservations for this campground are strongly recommended from March throughout November, as the grounds usually fill up quickly. During winter camping months, registrations become first come first serve using the self-pay machine in the campground office.

Trailer Village

Trailer Village is an RV Park with full hookups available. It lies adjacent to Mather Campground and offers paved sites to situate your RV. This location allows for RVs up to 50 feet in length. Reserving your spot is easily done online and you can modify your reservation with a simple call to the Village -- you may even be able to book same-day. Pets are also allowed at Trailer Village, so you don’t have to leave Fido out of all the fun!

First-come first-served

Desert View Campground

This campground is open seasonally, from April to mid-October, and offers no reservations. There is a 30-foot maximum length for vehicles, which includes a combined length of truck and trailer (if you’re hauling your rig). Since there are no reservations, you’ll want to be sure you get into these sites early, as the grounds fill up quickly. There are about 50 campsites available, and all able to accommodate fairly large RVs and travel trailers. There is a week-long (seven-day) camping limit and pets are always welcome to join you. You’ll find that the sites are quaint and somewhat backcountry. There are grills for fires and cooking, picnic tables, community water faucets, and flushing toilets. The nearest showers will be found at Mather Campground, as there’s no hot water here.

Alternate camping

Off Park Camping

Visitors experience many varied forms of luxuries while taking on the Grand Canyon National Park. The diverse landscape and breathtaking vistas are always worth more than one trip. Those fortunate to have found their way here are rewarded in so many ways, including several options of how to stay and get the most out of an Arizona jewel.

Cupping both the North and South Rim, several other campgrounds offer a place of rest for weary wheels. It's best for guests to be mindful when traveling in the cooler seasons of late Fall and into early Spring, as many campgrounds along the North Rim will not be open for parking. This is another reason the South Rim tends to take on the most visitors.

A final option for the more adventurous is dispersed camping. This camping style can be exercised at either end of the Canyon, but campers must acquire a permit before setting off. There is a very basic set of rules for this camping style, and many headstrong enough to take on this test of wills remark on the at-oneness inspired in the arid brush.

Seasonal activities in Grand Canyon National Park

Spring

Visit the Tusayan Ruins

These ruins are the remaining relics of an 800-year old Pueblo Indian site. While small, this interpretive exhibit is considered by the NPS (National Park Service) to be a major archaeological site in Arizona. The site is comprised of a U-shaped pueblo that features storage rooms, a living space, and a kiva; a humble representation of daily life back then.

Biking

Springtime is perfect for a picturesque bike ride along the South Rim. It’s one of the best places for cycling, with views that are hard to beat. If you didn’t bring your bike, you’re covered. Bicycle rentals and guided bike tours are available, starting mid-March.

Grand Canyon Field Institute Learning Adventure

The Field Institute offers an experience to aid visitors in viewing the Grand Canyon like never before. Classes held by the Grand Canyon Association include guided hiking trips and educational tours. Expert ecologists, archaeologists, historians, and more will teach you all about the Grand Canyon’s geological starts, as well as its cultural and natural history.

Walk The Trail Of Time

The cool, refreshing spring months are a perfect time to walk along the timeline trail. It’s an interpretive walking tour that focuses on the Grand Canyon’s wondrous vistas and towering rocks. A guide will lead you along a journey filled with information on the canyon’s start. Follow along and explore what time has shaped between the rock layers.

Backcountry Camping

Sometimes you want to get real close to nature. What better way than with an overnight camping trip? All overnight backcountry camping below the rim will require a permit from the Backcountry Office. You’ll want to apply well in advance (about 4 months) to ensure your permit is accepted. For first-timers, a few nights at either Bright Angel or Indian Garden Campground is usually recommended. With backcountry camping, you can really take your time to learn all the Canyon’s ins and outs.

Summer

Canyon Trail Rides

When guests reach the Lodge lobby, they have the opportunity to register for Canyon Trail Rides. Most of the rides last for about one hour and traverse along a portion of the Northern Rim. Guests can also choose to take a half-day ride along the rim or even a trip down into the Grand Canyon. Registration is easy, in person or by calling in to the Lobby.

Railway Express Tour

Escape some summer heat with a Railway Express Tour. It starts with a morning departure from the Grand Canyon to Williams Train Depot, where you will be awakened with a good old-fashioned Arizona gunfight. Board the train again for a trip back to the Canyon while entertainers keep you company along the hour-long journey. It’s truly a taste of the Wild West.

Grand Canyon Star Party

Summer nights are perfect for park residents and visitors to witness the vast wonders of the night’s sky. Both the North and South Rim provide such splendor. The dark skies above the Grand Canyon are ideal for casual stargazers and experienced astronomers alike. Come explore the Canyon’s depths by day and its vast skies by night.

Grand Canyon Rafting Tour

World-class whitewater rafting awaits with guided Grand Canyon rafting tours. The Colorado River flows for 278 miles through one of the most spectacular canyons on the earth and provides an ideal setting. Every bend and turn of the river offers an even more beautiful view -- it’s an adventure of a lifetime.

Maverick Helicopter Tour

With so many ways to witness the Grand Canyon, you’re not going to want to miss out on this one. Touring the South Rim in a Maverick Helicopter is one of the most thrilling ways to take in The Canyon’s views. The state-of-the-art helicopters offer premier comfort, outstanding visibility, and an exceptional experience.

Fall

Wildlife Viewing

While driving around the park's varied landscape, visitors of the park are likely to spot to all sorts of "usual suspects" in the area. Wildlife is highly prevalent among this state park and you're more than likely to spot one of the Grand Canyon's most distinguishable residents - elk. All wildlife should be respected and never approached, so as to uphold safety on both ends. Bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, hog-nosed skunks, ringtails, and more are on the list to be discovered here at the Canyon. Bring those binoculars!

Visit the Tusayan Ruins

The ruins are the remains of a small Ancestral Puebloan village. Located about 3 miles west of Desert view, this site was once home to a thriving community that created artifacts, such as arrowheads and pottery. The Tusayan Museum has exhibits that bring the Pueblo people back to life. This area is open from 9am until 5pm and admission is free.

North Rim Day Hike

Hiking is one of the most popular recreations enjoyed at Grand Canyon National Park. Taking a beautiful fall hike along the North Rim is a perfect way to spend your day. The scenery is breathtaking. In a place filled with such wonder, you are sure to find inner peace and solitude. Discover so much more around you and within. The North Rim holds its own unique beauty that you are sure to capture along the trails.

South Rim Mule Trips

For a departure from your normal mode of transport, try this fun way to enter the Canyon. Though you can ride into the Canyon with the mules any time of year, mule trips are a popular excursion so you will want to plan ahead. If you love animals or activities that are a little on the unusual side -- or both -- you’re sure to love this one.

Photography

There are so many hot spots here, you’re guaranteed not to run out of things to take pictures of. The Grand Canyon is beyond beautiful. Capturing it just right can be tricky, though both amateur and professional photographers flock here year after year to get the shot. When it comes to photographing the Canyon, lighting is everything. The long shadows of the fall season are perfect for bringing out depth, texture, and color.

Winter

Yavapai Observation Station

The Yavapai Museum of Geology is located just one mile from Market Plaza and is yet another destination that features awe-inspiring, spectacular views of the Canyon. The natural formations of this purposeful location are on display here as a perfect addition to the interpretive exhibit. The setting tells a tale alongside powerful images of other pieces of the Grand Canyon, 3-D models, and other exhibits that complete the complex geologic story of this part of Arizona.

Shop Historic Hopi House

Hopi House is a National Historic Landmark that has offered authentic Native American arts and crafts since it opened its doors over 100 years ago. This destination features retail shopping alongside museum-quality artifacts. A vast selection of Native arts and crafts are available to buy so you can bring home a bit of Arizona’s history. Come any time of year.

Visit Lookout Studio

Lookout Studio is a gift shop and lookout point that is perched on the very edge of the South Rim. This spot offers spectacular views this place offers while blending very naturally with its settings. Here, you will find books related to the Grand Canyon as well as photography, fossil specimens, rocks, and other traditional souvenirs. The Studio is open all year long.

Visit Desert View Point

Here, you can climb to the very top of a 70-foot watchtower. This stone pillar offers panoramic views that extend for hundreds of miles (on a clear day), even as far as the Painted Desert. The historic tower is a replica of those that were found on the Colorado Plateau.

Tour Scenic Hermit Road

During the winter months, Hermit Road is open to all vehicles. That means you can easily take your RV along a scenic drive that offers some of the best views of the Grand Canyon. Just off of Hopi Point, you’ll encounter the roar of the Colorado River. Everything just feels different here.

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