How to Plan a Grand Canyon Vacation
When your family put you in charge of planning your Grand Canyon vacation, all you could say was "Help!" This article will show you how to plan a trip to the Grand Canyon.
Decide how you will reach the Grand Canyon.Most visitors begin their Grand Canyon vacations from one of two metropolitan airports located within half a day’s drive of the park: McCarran International in Las Vegas (LAS) or Sky Harbor International in Phoenix (PHX). (Check out .) Those wanting to spend more time in the park and less on the road may wish to consider commuter flights from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona (FLG) or Page, Arizona (PGA). If you will drive to the area, estimated drive times to the South Rim from major Western cities are as follows:
- Phoenix, Arizona: 4.5 hours
- Las Vegas, Nevada: 5 hours
- Albuquerque, New Mexico: 7 hours
- Los Angeles, California: 8 hours
- Salt Lake City, Utah: 8 hours
- Denver, Colorado: 13 hours
Decide which part of the Grand Canyon to visit.
- If it is your first visit to Grand Canyon National Park and/or you are , you’ll most likely want to visit the South Rim for its relative abundance of hotels, services and activities. Grand Canyon South Rim is open year-round, making it the best choice for a wintertime visit. Note that you'll be at a high altitude, so you might want to read How to Prevent Altitude Sickness, just in case.
- Plan to experience sunrise, sunset, or both if possible. They are spectacular. If you plan to spend the night make your room reservations before you leave home. Rooms are limited. Camping is available but also limited.
- Plan to do some hiking down one of the trails into the canyon to fully appreciate the scale of the Canyon. It will take twice the time to hike out of the canyon that it will to hike down. A half hour walk down will take at least an hour back. An hour down can easily become a 4 hour ordeal with time used to enjoy the view. Dehydration is a common problem. Bring water with you even for short hikes. Share your water with those you see are suffering. You will become an instant hero.
- Grand Canyon North Rim, which is only open from mid-May through mid-October, is better suited to couples, hikers and those seeking a quieter, more low-key Grand Canyon experience. Visitor services at the North Rim are fewer in number and smaller in scale.
- If you have limited time for a Grand Canyon experience; if you want to experience going to the bottom of the Grand Canyon; or if your physician has advised you to avoid high altitudes, consider Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Grand Canyon West is open year-round.
Decide when to go to the Grand Canyon.Summer is the warmest, driest and busiest time of year at the Grand Canyon, particularly the South Rim. Late spring and early fall offer the best weather; late fall is slightly less crowded. Winter brings cooler temperatures and the possibility of snow, making it the quietest time of year in the park. Want to save money? Plan your visit for the winter months (November through February), when many Grand Canyon hotels offer sizable discounts.
Decide where you want to stay and book it(and make a contingency plan in case your first choice is sold out).There are 6 hotels inside the park at the South Rim, and one at the North Rim. Alternate lodging locations for Grand Canyon South Rim are: Tusayan (10 minutes away), Williams (1 hour away), Flagstaff (1.5 hours away) or Page/Lake Powell (2.5 hours away). For the North Rim, alternate lodging is available in Jacob Lake (1 hour away), Kanab, Utah (2 hours away), or Page/Lake Powell (2.5 hours away). There is no lodging within Grand Canyon West at the present time. The nearest lodging to Grand Canyon West is in Peach Springs, Arizona or Kingman, Arizona (1.5 hours away).
Plan some Grand Canyon tours or activities.Activities like Grand Canyon mule rides, Grand Canyon air tours, Colorado River rafting trips, hiking, train tours, 4x4 safari-jeep tours or ranger-guided activities can make your Grand Canyon vacation more memorable. Many tours and activities are not strenuous and appropriate for most ages (exceptions are mule rides, inner canyon hiking and white water rafting).
- The new Grand Canyon Skywalk is not a part of Grand Canyon National Park. It is located at Grand Canyon West, on Hualapai Indian Tribal Lands. The main access road into the complex is unpaved for a distance of about 15 miles (24 km). Though recently graded, it is still very bumpy and deeply rutted in some areas. Those driving rental cars are strongly discouraged from taking vehicles down this road. Doing so could void your insurance policy. See .
Think about other places you might visitif you have the time.If your total vacation is longer than 3 days, you probably won’t want to spend the entire time at the Grand Canyon. Other areas you might consider visiting include, but are not limited to: Hoover Dam, Sedona, Lake Powell, Monument Valley, Paria Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon.
Make reservations – for everything.Arrange all the elements of your vacation in advance, airline tickets, rental car, hotels, tours, Las Vegas shows, dinner reservations (necessary at some places), all of it. Grand Canyon lodging tends to be booked 6 months to a year in advance during peak travel season (which is essentially from Spring Break through Thanksgiving). Demand is only slightly lower for campgrounds. Booking your hotel or campsite is the most important component of your Grand Canyon vacation planning process and will be the “linchpin” around which the rest of your plans will revolve.
- Booking by phone? Choose one with a "redial" button. Grand Canyon reservations centers tend to experience very high call volume during peak travel months. Don't be taken aback if you get a busy signal; keep trying.
- Cancellations do happen. If unable to reserve a seat on a mule ride or other activity, keep checking back, or ask about waiting lists when you arrive. At the same time, consider alternative activities.
Create a " dossier".Print your various confirmations and keep them in a notebook, envelope, or whatever works for you. Take this paperwork with you on vacation so you can refer to it quickly if needed. You can later use some of it for trips down memory lane: How to Start a Scrapbook.
Reconfirm your arrangements.About a week before your vacation, call your airline, rental car agency, hotel, tour company and make sure all is in order for your visit.
QuestionWhat time of the year is best for a visit?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerLate September through early October is an ideal time. Temperatures are cooling, crowds are thinning and in some higher-altitude areas such as Flagstaff, Grand Canyon North Rim, the White Mountains and Sedona, the fall foliage is breathtaking!Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do on a one day visit to the park?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWhite water rafting is a great activity as well when you only have one day to explore the canyon.Thanks!
QuestionHow much does it cost to visit the Grand Canyon?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can go to the Grand Canyon quite cheaply. Just visiting the canyon is free, like all national parks. If you want an experience, such as mule riding or river rafting, it will cost more. IThanks!
I am interested in the grand canyon, I want to see grand canyon walk, horseshoe bend and havasu falls. How do I find a tour guide for all three? Are these places in close range of each other?
If I want to do river rafting what would be the closest city for me to stay from the best place to do river rafting?
Can dogs come into the grand canyon?
What is the weather like in March?
Is there a train ride through or around the Grand Canyon?
- Be aware that the Southwest is probably drier than you are used to. Be ready to carry water and drink it. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen year-round. Contact lens wearers should pack a spare pair of glasses in case the climate makes your lenses uncomfortable. Pack plenty of your favorite hair conditioner, moisturizer and lip balm.
- Purchase or bring flashlights or headlamps. Artificial lighting is deliberately kept to a minimum in national parks, making nights extremely dark. Some Grand Canyon hotels are situated in wooded areas.
- Plan to dress casually and comfortably. The attitude toward attire in the southwest is generally relaxed, and even the more upscale restaurants will usually have a very relaxed dress code. Wear comfortable shoes for walking.
- Realize that long drives are a fact of life in the American Southwest. Example: Flagstaff, the nearest city to Grand Canyon South Rim, is a 90 minute drive from the park.
- Remember to pack a first aid kit just in case of any injuries.
- To find Grand Canyon South Rim on MapQuest, Yahoo!, Google Maps, etc., enter "Grand Canyon AZ," Zip Code "86023" or airport code "GCN."
- Although they can be prohibitively expensive, you may wish to consider bringing a satellite phone if hiking, especially without a guide.
- Some activities such as Grand Canyon mule rides, white water rafting and hiking have some physical requirements and limitations that are strictly enforced. Know what these are before you commit.
- Do a “reality check” on all roads you intend to travel, even if you've mapped your trip on line. Many area roads remain unpaved and are occasionally rendered impassable by flash floods, dust storms, etc. When in doubt, check it out.
- You can't hike the Colorado River and back in a day. This is extremely strenuous and dangerous. If you cannot secure overnight lodging or a campground in the inner canyon, take a day hike, or consider other ways of getting to the bottom of the canyon, such as a tour to Grand Canyon West.
Sources and Citations
- - Grand Canyon National Park information, including maps, weather, geology information and travel tips
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Video: Best Ways to Visit Grand Canyon in 4 Hours or Less.
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