top of page

The Ultimate Guide to Grand Canyon National Park!

2023, Arizona USA

Entering Arizona while enroute Grand Canyon
On the way to Grand Canyon

Amit and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary with an exciting road trip along the scenic west coast of the United States. This remarkable journey allowed us to explore captivating cities, awe-inspiring national parks, and magnanimous canyons.

The Grand Canyon had been on our travel wish list for quite some time, and during our extensive road trip across the USA, we simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to witness this marvel. But before delving into specifics, we invite you to subscribe for more updates and discover the highlights of our exhilarating 20-day road adventure in the USA.

The Grand Canyon stands as a testament to the indescribable beauty that exists in our world. Stretching approximately 450 kilometres in length and nearly 30 kilometres in width, this natural wonder leaves onlookers with a sense of wonder.

Words fail to capture how the sight envelops your soul as you look at the wavy patterns spread across the canyon's vast expanse. If you are looking for a serene and exhilarating escape, we recommend embarking on an adventure to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

In this guide, we aim to provide you with all the essential information about the Grand Canyon National Park, ensuring you can plan a remarkable getaway. So we are going to break this down into two parts:

To begin, let's address a few common questions that may come to mind.

When is the best time to visit Grand Canyon?

While summer (June to August) tends to be the busiest season at the Grand Canyon, we would say spring (March to early May) or autumn (September to November) are the best times to visit the Grand Canyon.

During our visit in early May, we were glad that crowds were scarce. The daytime temperatures were ideal as we hiked along the canyon rim, exploring various vista points.

Spring offers longer days, with ample time to explore the full expanse of the canyon, while autumn is more suitable to witness the sunsets due to shorter days (we waited an eternity for the sunset). However, if you are still confused, we encourage you to visit whenever you can, as the Grand Canyon will not disappoint you.

How to reach Grand Canyon?

There are several ways to get to the Grand Canyon National Park but in our opinion driving to the park is the best option as it is convenient and flexible. Alternatively, you could book a guided tour to the canyon including transportation if you are looking for a relaxed experience without the hassle of driving yourself.

Another option is to take the Grand Canyon Railway which departs from Williams, Arizona. It offers a spectacular journey and a unique experience. However, this is usually not the best option for tourists as the station is not near any major city and you’ll need to modify your travel plans to accommodate conveyance to the town of Williams.

Additionally, there is an airport as well close to Grand Canyon, however, we didn’t explore this option so consider it if it fits well with your plans.

Which rim has the best views?

In our opinion, every step along the rim of the Grand Canyon unveils magnificent views. However, understanding the geography of the canyon is essential when planning your visit. There are four primary areas around the Grand Canyon that are open to tourists, each offering its own unique experience:

Grand Canyon Map
Grand Canyon Map

1. The South Rim: As the main attraction within the National Park, the Grand Canyon South Rim welcomes the largest number of visitors. It features a wide range of activities and attractions, including scenic viewpoints, hiking trails, educational exhibits, and the historic Grand Canyon Village.

2. The East Rim: For those seeking a more secluded and tranquil encounter, the Grand Canyon East Rim provides an ideal option away from the bustling crowds of the South Rim. Although less visited, it is still easily accessible, offering a more intimate experience with the canyon.

3. The North Rim: Situated in a remote location, the Grand Canyon North Rim receives fewer visitors compared to the South and East Rims. It boasts a higher elevation and is typically around ten degrees cooler than the southern side, providing a unique climate and a quieter atmosphere. However, note that this part sees significant snowfall and timing is important if you plan to visit the North Rim.

4. Grand Canyon West: Located near Las Vegas, Grand Canyon West has gained popularity, primarily due to its proximity to Vegas and the presence of the famous Grand Canyon Skywalk. This glass-bottomed bridge offers a remarkable and one-of-a-kind experience, making it the second most visited spot within the Grand Canyon. If you are visiting Vegas, we recommend driving from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West.

Planning a trip to Las Vegas? Check out our 4-Day Las Vegas Itinerary.

Pro-tip: If you drive via Flagstaff, you can conveniently explore both the South and East Rims. Since the Grand Canyon is vast, visiting these two areas allows for optimal use of your time, as you can explore numerous viewpoints and exciting hiking trails.

What is the Grand Canyon Entrance fee?

The entrance fee to the Grand Canyon National Park is $35 per private vehicle, which covers everyone travelling in the vehicle (up to 15 passengers) and the pass is valid for 7 days. It means that you can enter and exit the park for 7 days with the same ticket. You can get the pass online as well (if you are renting a car, choose rental car else it asks for the vehicle registration number). We paid the fee at the entrance and found it to be equally convenient as there were no long queues.

Pro-tip: If you plan to visit multiple national parks in the States, consider buying a national park pass that allows entry to all national parks in the USA.

Where should you stay?

Due to the immense popularity of the Grand Canyon, getting accommodations nearby can be challenging. There is only a select number of lodges inside the park, which is a good thing as it helps preserve the natural beauty of the area. The famous ones like El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge are often booked more than a year in advance. As a result, the small town of Tusayan becomes the best choice for finding accommodation. During our visit, we stayed at the conveniently located Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn, which was just a short 10-minute drive from the South Rim. Your next best bet is Flagstaff which is a 1.5-hour drive.

What should you wear?

Well, it depends on when you plan to travel. Since Grand Canyon weather can change quickly, a good rule is to dress up in layers and wear comfortable clothes. Remember to carry a cap or a hat and keep reapplying sunscreen to protect from the sun as it can get extremely hot during noon. Also, we recommend wearing sturdy walking shoes as you’ll have to walk on uneven terrain.

Aditi @ Grand Canyon
Aditi @ Grand Canyon

Things to do at the Grand Canyon National Park

Finally, let’s talk about our experience at the Grand Canyon, our favourite vista points, and available activities within the park. Before starting our journey to the canyons, we were on a road trip along the captivating Pacific Coast Highway, starting from San Francisco. During our road trip, after spending a few delightful days in LA, we continued our adventure towards the Grand Canyon.

Given the distance between Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon, we departed early morning at 5 am, when the sun was still below the horizon. Our route took us through the scenic landscapes of the Californian hills and Arizona deserts, resulting in a full 9-hour drive to our hotel, the Best Western Grand Canyon. Upon checking in, we swiftly refreshed ourselves with a shower and prepared to immerse ourselves in the wonders of the Grand Canyon.

We made our way to the south-rim entrance by car and paid the entrance fee at the checkpoint. Upon arriving at the Grand Canyon Village, we found parking near Hopi House. There are two shuttle lines available at the south rim: the blue line and the red line. A pocket map, which is provided at the entrance, can also guide you during your visit (you can find a copy of the pocket map here).

Opting for the red line shuttle, we embarked towards Hermit's Rest. We got off at Hopi Point, known for its picturesque views of the canyon. From there, we embarked on a hike along the rim to our next stop, Mohave Point. Immersed in the mesmerising beauty of the Grand Canyon, we took numerous photographs and enjoyed the magnificent scenery. We then hopped back on the shuttle and got off at Monument Creek Vista. Starting from this point, we began a 5-kilometre hike to Hermits Rest, the westernmost vista point from the village. The trail offered captivating views and a moment of pure bliss as we settled down on a lonely rock at the rim's edge to rest.

Note: The red route is only open between March and November and is accessible through the shuttle only. Private vehicles were not allowed on this side of the trail when we visited.

After catching our breath and witnessing a beautiful sunset, we boarded the shuttle and returned to Hopi House in search of a place to eat. Unfortunately, all the restaurants required reservations, leaving us without any options.

As it was already dark, we decided to leave and return the next day to explore the remaining Vista points. Hungry and exhausted, we found solace at a local restaurant called "We Cook Pizza and Pasta."

After a long day, the fries and the pizza tasted heavenly. While options for vegans or vegetarians were limited, this place provided a satisfying meal to curb our hunger.

Pro-tip: Learn from our mistakes and try to make a reservation for dinner in advance if you plan to stay and watch the sunset.

We got back to the hotel and retired for the day.

The next day, we returned to the Grand Canyon Village and since we had a valid pass, we were able to use the leftmost lane at the entrance and saved ourselves some time. We decided to explore the other vista points by taking the eastern route.

It coincides with the blue shuttle route and is accessible to private vehicles. Driving our car, we had the freedom to visit various points, park for a while, and then proceed to the next one. After spending an hour exploring most of the south and east rim, we exited through the east side entrance and continued our journey to Antelope Canyons.

Check out our blog on the wonders of Lower/Upper Antelope Canyon (Coming Soon)

If you have limited time, we highly recommend visiting the red shuttle route as it offers the most picturesque vista points. Don't miss Hopi, Mohave, and Pima points. You can also catch enchanting views of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon.

In addition to driving along the scenic roads and hiking the breathtaking trails, there are other interesting activities to enjoy at the south rim:

  • Explore the various hiking trails on the south rim (details can be found in the pocket map).

  • Venture below the rim and hike the Bright Angel Trail.

  • Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the Grand Canyon with a helicopter tour.

  • Camp overnight in the National Park for a memorable wilderness experience.

  • Visit Yavapai Point and the geology museum to learn more about the canyon's formation and geology.


How was the Grand Canyon formed?

Another mind-boggling fact about the Grand Canyon is how it came to be. The Grand Canyon was formed through millions of years of geological processes, primarily by the erosive power of the Colorado River and its tributaries. The formation of the Grand Canyon was caused by a combination of uplift, erosion, and the cutting action of the Colorado River.

The uplift of the Colorado Plateau caused the land to rise and tilt, creating a slope for the Colorado River to flow across the region.

The layers of rock in the canyon walls reveal the geological history of the region, spanning millions of years. The oldest exposed rocks in the Grand Canyon date back nearly 2 billion years.

Additional Tips
  1. Make a note of the restrooms as these are available only at select points.

  2. Flying drones is prohibited inside the National Park.

  3. The national park is home to diverse wildlife and visitors are advised to maintain a safe distance. We did encounter wild lizards and a herd of deer while hiking.

  4. Be responsible and minimize your impact on the environment while you are there. Remember to pack up all your trash.

As our journey at the Grand Canyon came to an end, we couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence of this natural wonder. The breathtaking vistas, the awe-inspiring depths, and the unparalleled beauty of the canyon left an indelible mark on our hearts.

Standing on the rim, gazing into the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon, we realised that words and photographs could never fully capture its grandeur. It's a place that must be experienced firsthand, allowing immensity and serenity to envelop you.

If you ever get the chance, we wholeheartedly encourage you to embark on your journey to the Grand Canyon. Let it leave an imprint on your soul, just as it has on ours.

Until we meet again, Grand Canyon, may you continue to inspire awe and reverence in the hearts of all who visit you.

Happy Travels!


Like it?
Subscribe Now!
For exclusive updates

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page