Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is a breathtaking natural landmark that draws millions of visitors every year. Surrounded by stunning landscapes and wildlife in the high desert of northern Arizona, this magnificent geographical destination offers a truly unique experience for the whole family.
1. Introduction to the Grand Canyon
If you’re considering a trip to the Grand Canyon, you may be looking for more information about the park. Depending on which area you want to visit and what time of year you plan to make your trip, here’s what you need to know.
When did the Grand Canyon become a National Park?
In the late 1860s, John Wesley Powell, who was a U.S. soldier and explorer, produced more information on the canyon’s geography. The first time the government intervened was in the late 1890s when the area was declared a national reserve by President Benjamin Harris. On February 26, 1919, Congress passed the act that made the landmass a national park. President Woodrow Wilson signed the official proclamation giving the status of the Grand Canyon National Park.
How was the Grand Canyon formed?
The Colorado River cut through layers of rock in the southwestern terrain over millions of years, forming a deep canyon. The canyon walls feature beautiful ribbons of rock that bring spectators from all over the world.
Grand Canyon location
The Grand Canyon is located in the northern region of the state of Arizona, northwest of Flagstaff. The canyon is more than 275 miles long from the North Rim to the South Rim, and 18 miles wide in some areas. Additionally, it ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet deep, making it one of the most massive canyons in the world.
The Grand Canyon location is in Arizona but comes very close to the borders of both Nevada and Utah. As many people are surprised to find out, you can drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon in just a few hours. If you’re wondering where the best Grand Canyon location is, it depends on where you’re coming from. If you do a quick internet search for “Grand Canyon from my location,” you should be able to determine how far you are from the attraction.
The Grand Canyon area
Where does the Grand Canyon start and where does it end?
The northeast end of the Grand Canyon starts around Lake Powell right at the Utah-Arizona border. The canyon then stretches west to Lake Mead, where it ends at the Arizona-Nevada border. If you look at a Grand Canyon map, you’ll see the Grand Canyon National Park itself includes over 1 million acres of land, and the main Grand Canyon Village area is located at the South Rim.
The area has been a hot spot for geologists and archeologists who have spent years studying the evolution of the world over time. The landscape is mesmerizing, containing some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world. The colorful mile-high walls reveal several layers of the Earth’s crust dating back billions of years. At its deepest point, the Grand Canyon plunges a mindblowing 6,000 feet into the Earth’s surface.
Grand Canyon fees and passes
Are you wondering how much it costs to go to the Grand Canyon? We can help! The standard entrance fee into the Grand Canyon National Park at the North Rim and South Rim is good for seven days. Grand Canyon entrance fees are as follows:
- Children 15 years old or younger are allowed to enter for free
- Visitors can access the park via foot, the Grand Canyon Railway, park shuttle bus, a private rafting trip, or by bicycle. Individual fee for people older than 15 years old is $20.
- Motorcycle passes are $30 (including the passenger)
- Individual vehicle passes (including all passengers up to 15 people) are $35
- Senior lifetime and annual passes are available for U.S. citizens and permanent residents 62 years old or older. The cost is $80 for a lifetime pass and $20 for an annual pass. Both passes provide access to more than 2,000 National Park and recreation areas.
If you’re wondering if it’s ever free to visit the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon services allow visitors to explore the park without entry fees or passes on some special days of the year. Every year, all social service park sites set aside five days when visitors would be exempted from having to pay entrance fees. They include Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week, the Great American Outdoors Act Day, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day. You can view the entrance fee-free days on the official National Park Service website.
The Grand Canyon West Rim is owned and operated by the Hualapai Indian Tribe and offers unique attractions, including the Skywalk, live native performances, scenic viewpoints, and cultural activities. The price of admission varies on the date selected to visit.
For the most economical way to see the Grand Canyon, visitors should consider booking a tour with a professional Grand Canyon tour company. This often includes transportation, a dedicated tour guide, a scheduled itinerary, and admission fees. You may even have other destinations included in your tour, such as Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, and tour fees should cover the Hoover Dam entrance fee.
Grand Canyon hours
The best times to visit the Grand Canyon are between March and May and between September and November. The primary reason is the favorable weather during this time where daytime temperatures are cool. On the other hand, not very many people crowd the destination during this time. The summer is the park’s peak season when it accommodates tens of thousands of visitors. The lodgings are always full during this time of the year as well. Tourists still trickle in during the winter season, depending on what part of the park they’re visiting.
The South Rim is open to visitors all year round — 24 hours a day, 365 days every year. The park recommends that visitors make reservations during the spring, summer, and fall when they are camping, but reservations are not needed for general admission. The North Rim, however, is closed during the winter season. It is open to visitors from the second week of May to the second week of October each year. The West Rim is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
2. Things to do at the Grand Canyon
There are plenty of activities for the whole family at the Grand Canyon. Depending on whether you’re looking for a thrilling adventure or a more relaxing excursion, here are some of the best things to see in the Grand Canyon:
Helicopter rides at the Grand Canyon
The best view you can get of the Grand Canyon is flying over the beautiful terrain in a helicopter. Your professional helicopter tour guide will point out exciting features of the canyon during the tour that you may not have seen otherwise. You may even get to see Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.
The Grand Canyon Skywalk
Located at the West Rim, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is a truly unique experience. The U-shape glass-floor bridge hovers 4,000 feet above the canyon floor, so you can look straight through the bottom of the bridge at the Grand Canyon below.
River rafting through the Grand Canyon
Rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is an exciting experience like no other. There are different tours that offer varying levels of difficulty, so make sure you are up for the challenge before signing up. Many rafting tours are offered at the South Rim.
If you’re feeling a little daring, you can do a one-day whitewater rafting tour at the West Rim. But if you’re feeling a little more mellow, you can also do a relaxing Grand Canyon pontoon cruise down the Colorado River.
At this historical lookout point, you’ll be able to see remnants of a guano mine and aerial tramway that crossed over the river with a span of 7,500 feet. You’ll get a stunning 360-degree view of the Canyon and can even dine at the Guano Point Cafe for an unforgettable experience.
This nostalgic area is fun for the whole family. This Wild West-staged town has saloons, restaurants, lodging, and cowboy entertainment. You can also find souvenir shops and stores that offer Native American jewelry and crafts.
Native American cultural performances
The Hualapai Nation, who own and operate the Grand Canyon West Rim, performs traditional dances and stage cultural ceremonies to educate and entertain visitors. It’s a great way to appreciate the local culture and understand the history of this region of the Grand Canyon.
Hiking at the Grand Canyon
There are several hiking trails throughout the Grand Canyon that offer stunning views of the landscape. Some hiking trails can be done in a matter of hours, while others require overnight camping gear to complete. If you’re looking for something to do during the day, some of the most popular hikes are the Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, and the Rim Trail.
Scenic drives at the Grand Canyon
If you prefer a more relaxed visit to the Grand Canyon, you can still see iconic views without having to hike long trails. The Desert View Drive is one of the most popular things to do in the Grand Canyon South Rim. It’s a 25-mile drive that starts from the Canyon View Information Plaza to the Watchtower at Desert View. There are plenty of lookout points along the way where you can stop and get great pictures with your family.
Activities for the kids at the Grand Canyon
There are so many things that kids of all ages will enjoy at the Grand Canyon. Some of these kid-friendly activities at the Grand Canyon include riding the Grand Canyon Railway, visiting the Yavapai Geology Museum, and participating in the Junior Ranger Program.
Camping at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon’s North Rim is a popular destination for camping. Although the North Rim is closed during the winter season, there are several campgrounds at the South Rim open throughout the rest of the year, including Mather Campground and Trailer Village. Just be sure to make your reservation well in advance!
Hiking at the North Rim
There are several hiking trails available at the North Rim, including Cape Royal Trail, Ken Patrick Trail, and the North Kaibab Trail. Be sure to check weather conditions and dress accordingly. The North Rim can have extreme temperatures depending on the time of year you visit.
Grand Canyon North Rim Visitor Center
You can find park information, maps, exhibits, ranger programs, a bookstore, and more at this location. It’s the perfect place to start when visiting the North Rim.
What is the closest city to the Grand Canyon?
Las Vegas is only a two-hour drive from the West Rim, while many cities in Arizona can be accessed from the South Rim, including Flagstaff and Phoenix. Tusayan, which also has a small public airport, is the closest town to the Grand Canyon Village. If you’re driving in from one of these cities, there may be things to do on the way to the Grand Canyon as well, so be sure to plan your trip to make the most of it!
3. Places to visit at the Grand Canyon
So you want to plan a trip to the Grand Canyon, but where exactly? The Grand Canyon National Park has over one million acres of land and stretches across northern Arizona from Utah to Nevada! To help you plan your trip, here are the most popular places to visit at the Grand Canyon:
Grand Canyon West Rim
The West Rim of the Grand Canyon is owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe, so you get a unique historical and cultural perspective from this Grand Canyon stop. In addition to the thrilling Grand Canyon Skywalk glass bridge, you also have the opportunity to explore Hualapai Ranch, multiple lookout points, and enjoy traditional native song and dance while on the reservation. You can also choose to take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon or a relaxing cruise down the Colorado River from this point.
Here’s a checklist of what to visit at the West Rim:
- Grand Canyon Skywalk Bridge
- Eagle Point
- Guano Point
- Hualapai Ranch
- Cultural Performances by the Hualapai Tribe
Grand Canyon South Rim
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most visited area of the Grand Canyon. There is so much to see and do for all members of your family. The South Rim Grand Canyon is open 24 hours a day, year-round, so you don’t have to worry about seasonal closures. South Rim Grand Canyon weather is generally warm, especially during the summer months, but it can also get cold in the winter.
South Rim Grand Canyon lodgings are the best you’ll find, so many people choose to stay here if they prefer comfortable accommodations over camping. However, there is South Rim Grand Canyon camping available if you’re feeling adventurous. The many things to do at the South Rim include visiting Grand Canyon Village, South Rim Grand Canyon hikes, bike riding, scenic tours, and more. Download a South Rim Grand Canyon map to get a better lay of the land before visiting.
Grand Canyon Village
The Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is arguably the most popular destination for many visitors. Grand Canyon Village things to do include visiting the Visitors Center, Bright Angel Lodge, Hopi House, Lookout Studio, Kolb Studio, the Grand Canyon Railway Depot, and so much more. From here, you can plan a hiking tour, horseback riding, mule trips, or enjoy Grand Canyon Village lodgings. Also, Grand Canyon Village hotels and Grand Canyon Village restaurants offer a unique way to enjoy the surroundings in comfort. Visit their website for upcoming events.
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail, along with the Bright Angel Trail campground, is one of the most popular hiking destinations at the Grand Canyon. Just take a look at Bright Angel Trail pictures and you’ll understand why! You get stunning views of the landscape and the canyon from all angles. If you choose to do the whole Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point, it can be challenging for some. Be sure you have plenty of water and supplies, the right hiking equipment, and are physically well enough to make the hike. Bright Angel Trail conditions can vary depending on the season, but it can be steep in some places. Do some research beforehand to know when the best Bright Angel Trail hiking times are and prepare accordingly.
Grand Canyon North Rim
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers some excellent sights and activities that you won’t get in any other area of the Grand Canyon. It is not as much of a tourist attraction as the South Rim, so you don’t have to deal with overwhelming crowds. In fact, only 10% of all Grand Canyon visitors choose the North Rim because it’s less developed.
Due to its higher elevation, North Rim Grand Canyon weather can be much cooler, resulting in having to shut down during the winter months. When it is open to visitors, North Rim Grand Canyon camping is a big draw for outdoor lovers. There is also North Rim Grand Canyon lodging if you prefer indoor accommodations, and North Rim Grand Canyon hikes when you’re ready to venture outside. North Rim Grand Canyon to Las Vegas is about a 4.5-hour drive. You can download the North Rim Grand Canyon map online to get a better idea of what it looks like.
4. Grand Canyon packages and tours
An excellent way to experience the Grand Canyon to the fullest is to book one of the multiple Grand Canyon 2024 tours or vacation packages. You will be able to see the best parts of the Grand Canyon, including the stunning views, museums, trails, wildlife, attractions, and more.
Depending on what kind of experience you want to have, there are Grand Canyon vacation packages for couples, Grand Canyon tour packages from Las Vegas, four-day Grand Canyon vacation packages, and so many other ways to make your vacation special. Here are some packages you should consider:
Grand Canyon West Rim bus tour
Enjoy a relaxing motorcoach tour from Las Vegas to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon complete with stops at the beautiful Eagle Point, Guano Point, Hualapai Ranch, and a Hoover Dam photo stop. We’ll even have you back in your Las Vegas hotel the very same day.
Grand Canyon West Rim tour with Skywalk tickets
Enjoy a round-trip motorcoach tour from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon West Rim, where you’ll experience the newest thrilling attraction, the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This glass bridge hovers 4,000 feet above the canyon floor for a view like no other. The tour also includes a photo op at the Hoover Dam.
Grand Canyon West Rim tour with helicopter, boat and Skywalk tickets
Experience the Grand Canyon West Rim by luxury tour bus, helicopter, and boat. There is no better way to take in the views. Tickets to the world-famous Grand Canyon Skywalk glass bridge and a Hoover Dam photo op are also included in this package.
Grand Canyon South Rim bus tour
Our full-day Grand Canyon South Rim bus tour features exciting views of the extinct volcano on Fortification Hill in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a stop at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center, and all the best views of the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon South Rim bus tour with IMAX tickets
Take a relaxing bus tour from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon South Rim, which includes a stop at the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center, tickets to the IMAX movie theater complex, and views from the widest and deepest points of the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon South Rim bus tour with helicopter ride
Experience one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. This Grand Canyon South Rim bus tour package includes a 25-minute helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, the best views of the South Rim, and a relaxing ride to and from Las Vegas on our luxury motor coach.
Grand Canyon South Rim tour with skydiving
See the Grand Canyon like never before with our thrilling skydiving tour from Las Vegas. Training with a professional tandem skydiving instructor is included in this package, so you don’t need any experience. We’ll even pick you up and drop you off at your Las Vegas hotel.
Grand Canyon South Rim tour with Hummer experience
Take a day trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim on a luxury bus tour from Las Vegas. Then, explore the Grand Canyon in style aboard a state-of-the-art Hummer. The Grand Canyon Hummer experience is one you’ll never forget.
5. When to visit the Grand Canyon
Visiting the Grand Canyon during different times of the year can give you a unique experience every time. So, when is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon? What is considered the peak season? When should you go to avoid the crowds? Here are a few Grand Canyon tour tips that may help you decide what time of year is best for you:
Best times to visit the Grand Canyon
A springtime visit to the Grand Canyon is generally considered to be one of the best times to experience the Grand Canyon. Temperatures are milder than the harsh summer or winter months, which makes for a more comfortable Grand Canyon visit. Spring is also the best time to visit the Grand Canyon Skywalk at the West Rim because it’s clear enough to see all the way to the bottom of the canyon. March through May usually provide these ideal conditions while also avoiding the biggest tourist crowds.
However, spring may not be the best time to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. There might be lingering snow from the colder winter months, so access to some roads could still be limited. Consider visiting the North Rim during the summer months for a more enjoyable experience in this part of the Grand Canyon. Because only 10% of visitors choose to visit the North Rim versus the South Rim, you most likely won’t have to deal with overwhelming crowds, even during the summer.
Another one of the best times to visit the Grand Canyon is in the fall. The Grand Canyon in September can be truly beautiful and for so many reasons. The crowds are limited, the temperatures are mild, and you can expect most hiking trails to be open because snowfall has not yet happened. The Grand Canyon in October can start to get a little cold but is manageable with the right clothing and equipment. If you plan on visiting the North Rim in the fall, check for weather conditions and plan accordingly.
Summer is definitely considered to be the peak season for the Grand Canyon, with tourist crowds reaching their highest numbers between June and August. If you decide to visit the Grand Canyon during the summer months, you can expect high temperatures, particularly at the South Rim and West Rim. High desert weather can also be volatile at times, so you may get caught in a sudden downpour of rain or a particularly windy day. However, daylight hours are longer during the summer, giving you and your family more time to explore everything the Grand Canyon has to offer.
Although the North Rim is closed during the winter and some consider it to be the worst time to visit the Grand Canyon, visiting the West or South Rim between December and February can be a unique experience. In fact, some people actually prefer to see the Grand Canyon covered in snow, even if the temperatures can be quite cold. Depending on winter storms, some trails and scenic routes may be closed or limited, so you should be prepared for possible setbacks to your plans. On the bright side, though, you may get discounted rates on Grand Canyon tours and lodging without having to deal with the crowds.
Weather in the Grand Canyon
Because the Grand Canyon is so massive, the weather can vary depending on where you plan to visit. Temperatures at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon are usually milder than the South or West Rims. However, in the winter, it’s actually so cold, and conditions can be quite dangerous, so the North Rim is closed to visitors during this time.
Grand Canyon weather in November through to February will be on the colder side with average daytime temperatures from 39 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. At higher elevations, it can get even colder, and you can expect to see large amounts of snow. Proper attire, equipment, and planning should be taken during the winter months at the Grand Canyon.
On the other end of the spectrum, summer weather at the Grand Canyon can swell to upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Grand Canyon weather at the South Rim is generally warmer than Grand Canyon weather at the North Rim, so make sure you dress accordingly depending on where you visit.
Also, bring plenty of water with you if you plan on hiking or doing other outdoor activities. Keep in mind that Phantom Ranch Grand Canyon weather can drop by a full 20 degrees Fahrenheit when compared to the top of the South Rim as well.
To check the weather at the Grand Canyon in real time, be sure to visit the National Park Service website before planning your visit, tour, or activities. You should always be ready to deal with extreme temperatures and prepare accordingly so that you and your family have a safe trip to the Grand Canyon.
Should I book a Grand Canyon tour in advance?
Yes, it is generally recommended to book a Grand Canyon tour in advance. The Grand Canyon is a popular tourist destination, and tours tend to fill up quickly, especially during peak travel seasons. By booking in advance, you can secure your preferred date and time for the tour and ensure availability. Additionally, booking early often gives you access to better deals or discounts on the tours.
Do you need a tour guide for the Grand Canyon?
While booking a Grand Canyon tour guide is not mandatory, having one can enhance your experience and provide valuable information about the area. A tour guide can offer insights into the geological features, history, and cultural significance of the Grand Canyon. They can also help you navigate various viewpoints and trails, ensuring you make the most of your visit.
Many visitors do prefer exploring independently and understand the Grand Canyon’s features and hiking safety precautions. If you choose to explore on your own, please remember to research in advance, be prepared with maps and necessary supplies, and follow all park guidelines to ensure a safe visit.
What is the best month to visit the Grand Canyon?
The best month to visit the Grand Canyon largely depends on personal preferences and what you hope to experience during your trip. Here is a breakdown of the seasons:
- Spring (March to May): This season offers mild temperatures, generally ranging from 50°F to 70°F (10°C – 20°C). It’s an excellent time for hiking and enjoying wildflowers, but keep in mind that it can be crowded during spring break.
- Summer (June to August): These are the peak tourist months at the Grand Canyon. Expect high temperatures ranging from 80°F to over 100°F (27°C – 38 °C) at lower elevations such as the South Rim. Crowds are expected, so be prepared for longer lines and limited parking.
- Fall (September to November): Autumn provides pleasant weather with cooler temperatures ranging from around 40°F to 70°F (4°C – 20 °C). The crowds start thinning out after summer, making it an ideal time for visits if you prefer fewer tourists.
- Winter (December to February): During winter, temperatures vary significantly depending on elevation. Snow is possible at higher elevations like the North Rim or Inner Canyon, while the South Rim experiences milder conditions with occasional snowfall. Winter months are the least crowded, but services and facilities at the North Rim are usually closed. Remember that roads can be icy or temporarily closed during winter storms.
What is a good amount of time to spend at the Grand Canyon?
The amount of time you spend at the Grand Canyon depends on your interests, available schedule, and what you want to experience during your visit. Here are some recommendations:
- Day trip: If you have limited time, a day trip can still provide a glimpse of the Grand Canyon’s beauty. You can explore the popular viewpoints along the rim, take short hikes, enjoy scenic drives, and check out the visitor centers.
- Overnight stay: Spending at least one night allows for more exploration and hiking opportunities. You can witness beautiful sunrises or sunsets over the canyon and join ranger programs or stargazing sessions after dark.
- Multiple days: If possible, spending multiple days is ideal to fully appreciate different areas of the park and engage in longer hikes. This allows for deeper exploration into lesser-known trails like those in North Rim or Inner Canyon areas.
If you want to explore several hiking trails or engage in activities beyond casual sightseeing, you should plan for at least two to three days. Additionally, allocate enough time by accounting for travel logistics within and around the park to maximize your desired experiences.
Is a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon worthwhile?
Taking a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon can be a worthwhile experience for many people. It offers a unique and breathtaking perspective of the canyon that you won’t get from ground level. Here are some factors to consider:
- Spectacular views: A helicopter tour provides an unparalleled opportunity to witness the vastness, depth, and scenic beauty of the Grand Canyon from above. You’ll get to see iconic landmarks like the Colorado River, towering cliffs, and intricate rock formations.
- Time-efficient: Helicopter tours allow you to cover a large area of the Grand Canyon in a relatively short period. This is particularly advantageous if you have time constraints or want to maximize your sightseeing.
- Exciting and unique experience: Flying over one of the world’s natural wonders is undoubtedly an extraordinary adventure that creates lasting memories. The thrill of flying in a helicopter can be exhilarating for many people and adds an extra element of excitement to your visit.
If you want to enjoy this unique experience, be sure to choose a Grand Canyon tour that includes a helicopter ride.
Grand Canyon tours from Las Vegas
By choosing to book a Grand Canyon tour from Las Vegas, you’ll have the advantage of an experienced tour guide, a well-planned itinerary, comfortable transportation, and a variety of ways to explore the Grand Canyon. If you’re considering a Grand Canyon tour and happen to be staying in Las Vegas, Gray Line Las Vegas offers multiple options, including:
- Grand Canyon South Rim bus tours from Las Vegas
- Grand Canyon South Rim bus tours with helicopter ride
- Grand Canyon West Rim bus tours from Las Vegas
- Grand Canyon West Rim bus tours with helicopter, boat and Skywalk tickets
- Grand Canyon West Rim bus tours with Skywalk tickets
- And more!
Our expert tour guides provide engaging narration throughout the tours as they point out all the best sights and attractions. We will pick you up directly from your Las Vegas hotel in our air-conditioned luxury motor coach, so you don’t have to worry about transportation.