No matter how many photos you’ve seen of the Grand Canyon, standing at the rim’s edge for the first time will take your breath away—especially if you’re there at sunset, as the fading light paints shades of rose, violet, and gold onto the ancient rocks. But planning a trip to the Grand Canyon requires more than just booking a hotel and packing your camera.
Planning a Trip to the Grand Canyon
When should you travel to avoid the heaviest crowds and the most intense heat? Should you visit the North Rim or the South Rim? Where’s the best place to stay? For answers to these questions and more, read the following tips for planning a trip to the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park is split into two sections: the South Rim and the North Rim, located more than four hours apart by car. Then there’s Grand Canyon West, located on the Hualapai Native American Reservation, four hours from the South Rim and nearly seven hours from the North Rim. If you’re planning a trip to the Grand Canyon and your time is limited, where should you go?
The South Rim is the most visited part of the Grand Canyon for a reason. It has more viewpoints than the North Rim, with more expansive views of the canyon’s depth, as well as a wider range of lodging options and other visitor services. It also has plenty of hiking trails and activities like river rafting and mule rides. If you’re looking for classic Grand Canyon views, this is the place to go.
Popular with hikers and photographers, the North Rim is the South Rim’s quieter, more heavily forested cousin. While the views may be less spectacular, many travelers prefer the North Rim for its undisturbed wildlife and pristine trails. See Hoofing It Down Grand Canyon’s North Rim to learn more.
The key draw at Grand Canyon West is the Skywalk, a glass bridge that extends 70 feet over the canyon for dizzying views on all sides—including right under your feet. (Worth noting: The Skywalk does not permit cameras or phones. Professional photos are available for sale.) This isn’t the best bet for avid hikers, as there are only two (relatively easy) trails here. Grand Canyon West is the closest part of the canyon to Las Vegas, making it a convenient, though long, day trip.
Note that because Grand Canyon West is located on Native American land, it requires a separate entry fee than the North and South Rims, which are administered by the National Park Service.