It’s been a couple years since I visited Grand Canyon National Park and I’ve spoken to quite a few people lately who are planning a trip there soon, so I figured it was about time I shared some information on one of the wonders of the world.
First things first: the Grand Canyon facts
It’s more than 10 miles wide, 277 miles long and erosion over the years has cut in to the earth’s ground for more than a mile, revealing layers upon layers of different rock, and views for days! For more cool facts, read this.
How to visit
The Grand Canyon is easily accessible, making it a popular stop-off for people travelling to or from Las Vegas. It’s actually so accessible that people even fit it in as a day excursion during their trip to Vegas. If you’re thinking of visiting the park this way, be aware that it’s no mean feat. It’s around a 14-hour day since the drive from Vegas to the Canyon is around 4.5 hours, and most tours stop off at the Hoover Dam along the way, making it even longer.
This is great if you’re not set on spending more than a day seeing the Grand Canyon, but if you’re actually interested in seeing more of the park than the must-sees, I recommend hiring a car and going it alone. That’s what I did.
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The drive itself from Vegas to the Grand Canyon is easy, as are most road trips in the USA thanks to new roads and long distances, meaning the roads aren’t jam-packed with too many cars. I also recommend including a stop off at the Hoover Dam, built in the 30’s to hold back the Colorado River and generate power for the Southwest.
It takes around 1.5 hours to get to the Hoover Dam, which sits on the Nevada-Arizona border, from Las Vegas. Personally, I chose not to stay too long because you have to pay for parking ($10) and I had to get to my campsite before the sun went down because who wants to put up a tent in the dark with coyotes around. Am I right!?
All in all I spent around 30 mins there, took it all in, got my pictures and left. That was enough for me but if you’re an engineering buff, this is definitely a stop for you and you should spend the money and take the time to go to the museum and wander around.
TIP: Parking is $10 and tours are extra, but if you don’t mind walking a little, parking is free further up on the Arizona side of the Dam.
South Rim or North Rim?
There are two ‘rims’ of the Grand Canyon that you can visit. Most people head to the South Rim — which is based around the Grand Canyon Village — since it’s easier to access and the majority of tours go this end. If you have more time, want to avoid the crowds and want a better chance of getting a camping spot without any hassle, head to the North Rim. The North is also said to have better sunrises and sunsets since it sits 1,000ft higher, although from what I saw at the South Rim, it’s all pretty damn spectacular!
– Yavapai Point
– Lookout Studio
– Yaki Point
– Grandview Point
– The Abyss
– Moran Point
– Lipan Point
– Desert View Watchtower
– Hoki Point
– Maricopa Point
– Cape Royal and Bright Angel Point
– Point Imperial
– South Rim Trail (7 miles)
– Bright Angel Trail (6 miles)
– Ooh-Ahh Point via Kaibaba Trail (2 miles)
– Cape Royal Trail and Bright Angel Point Trail (1.5 miles)
– Coconino Overlook via the North Kaibab Trail (1.4 miles)
What about camping at the Grand Canyon?
I visited the National Park during the height of summer (July) and it was a last-minute trip so every campsite within the Park was almost fully booked. I was lucky enough to get an RV pitch for two nights which could also be used for my tiny 2-man tent and hired car. It cost me $18 for a pitch with a fire pit, picnic table, flushable toilets, a washing area and a block of showers ($4 for 8 minutes). Some of the showers seemed to work for me a couple times without putting money in (winning!), so be sure to turn it on to check before! Very affordable and a great experience.
There are plenty of campsites to choose from, both inside and just outside of the Park. I stayed at Mather Campground, inside the Park, which I thought had the perfect location in the village.
TIP: If you don’t handle hot weather very well, do not visit during this time. It’s rare that the temperature drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) during the summer months so be prepared with plenty of sunscreen, water and take cover in the shade when you can, — especially when exploring the Canyon itself. Its vast open space means it’s incredibly dry and there aren’t many places to escape the sun’s rays. It is the desert after all!
Other RV camping with hook-ups is available at nearby Trailer Village, or more camping is available at Desert View Campground, which is on a first-come-first-serve basis and costs $12pn. For hikers wanting to camp in the backcountry, you’ll need a permit. Other accommodation options include El Tovar Hotel ($$) and Yavapai Lodge ($$).
In the North Rim, North Rim Campground is the only campsite within the the Park and costs $18-25pn.
Other options include Grand Canyon Lodge ($$ – this is the only lodge located at the North Rim, so reservations must be made over a year in advance) and Hampton Inn Kanab ($$).
What else is there to do at Grand Canyon National Park?
– A lot of people choose to do a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon, giving amazing views of the Canyon itself, the Colorado River and Painted Desert.
– Take a ride on a mule into the Canyon Valley
– Visit the Native American arts and craft centre, Hopi House (South Rim)
– Grand Canyon Skywalk (North Rim)
– Havasu Falls (North Rim)
– Tusayan Ruins + Museum (North Rim)
– Painted Desert + Petrified Forest (East Rim national park, entry fee of $10)
If you’re thinking of visiting another National Park in the USA, I found this Q&A article with a guy who’s been to all of them! Worth checking out what he has to say.
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Have you been to the Grand Canyon? Share your experience below.