«Grand Canyon Vacation Guidebook How to Get the Most Out of Your Grand Canyon Vacation Thank you for choosing Grand Canyon.com as your Southwestern ...»
Grand Canyon Vacation Guidebook
How to Get the Most Out of Your Grand Canyon Vacation
Thank you for choosing Grand Canyon.com as your Southwestern vacation
specialist! You’ve chosen a truly extraordinary place for your next vacation, and
our mission is to help you get the most of your trip. Having lived and worked in
the Grand Canyon area for over 20 years, our staff has made a few observations
and picked up some “insider tips” that can help save you time, money and
hassle - sometimes all three at once!
If you’ve gotten most of your Grand Canyon vacation planned by now - booked your flights, reserved your rental car, secured hotel rooms, mapped your itinerary, etc. – then take your left hand, put it on your right shoulder, and pat yourself on the back! You can skip to Travel Tip #9!
For those who‘ve just now decided on the Grand Canyon as their next travel destination, we hope you’ll find this guide helpful in coordinating a trip you’ll be smiling about for years to come! We’ll help you put it all together from beginning to end, to the Grand Canyon and beyond, plus - we’ll show you how to do it all online. So set aside a few minutes of quiet time at your home computer (or go get your laptop), grab a map or road atlas, a pen and/or a highlighter, maybe a beverage, and….
Let’s get YOU to the Grand Canyon!
-1Travel Tip 1 – How Do I Find Grand Canyon on a Map?
The Grand Canyon Park is located in Northern Arizona. It is made up of several distinct areas: Grand Canyon National Park South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, the Havasupai Indian Tribal Park, and Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Finding these areas on a GPS or online mapping site can be difficult as direct mail service is not yet available to these areas. What’s more, popular sites such as MapQuest or Google may inadvertently give inaccurate information. At GrandCanyon.com, we’ve
found that mapping these areas is best done as follows:
Grand Canyon South Rim: use the locator code for Grand Canyon National Park Airport, “GCN.” The park is 5 miles due North of the Airport.
Grand Canyon North Rim: use “Jacob Lake, Arizona” as your reference point. The park is 50 miles due South of Jacob Lake.
Grand Canyon West: use “Meadview, Arizona” as your reference point, Grand Canyon West is 15 miles East of Meadview.
Havasupai: Not applicable - there is no road access to this area. It is also closed due to flooding and not scheduled to reopen until Summer 2009.
GrandCanyon.com’s Grand Canyon Map Page Insider tip: DO NOT RELY 100% ON YOUR GPS OR OTHER AUTOMATED
NAVIGATIONAL AIDS WHEN DRIVING IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY. Arearoad information remains incomplete, and you may inadvertently be routed onto unpaved roads, which can be impassable in inclement weather or to vehicles without 4-Wheel drive.
Most rental car insurance policies WILL NOT cover damage sustained by taking vehicles off-road!
Travel Tip 2 – Which Grand Canyon Park Should I Visit?
The Grand Canyon park area can be experienced in many different ways from several different sides. Which side you visit depends on several factors, such as the time of year you’re traveling, who you’re traveling with, how much time you have to spend, and what kinds of activities you would like to take part in on your Grand Canyon vacation. Depending on these factors, too, you may even be able to experience more than one Grand Canyon park.
Grand Canyon National Park South Rim is open year-round and considered by many to be the “true Grand Canyon.” Here you’ll find the vast, expansive views most often seen in magazines and on TV. From the South Rim, you can view the Grand Canyon from close to two dozen vantage points, each with their own unique attributes, some of which you can see the Colorado River from. Approximately 5 hours’ drive from Las Vegas or Phoenix, the South Rim is the most easily accessible from most major Western cities and therefore is the most heavily visited. At 7,000’ above sea level, the South Rim has four distinct seasons of weather from warm, dry summers to cold, snowy winters.
-2Grand Canyon South Rim is most frequently chosen by first-time visitors to the area not only for its beautiful views, but for its abundance of visitor services and family-oriented activities.
There are 6 hotels inside the park, and 5 outside the park in the community of Tusayan.
Restaurants, gift shops, visitor information and Grand Canyon tours are most plentiful at Grand Canyon South Rim. Popular gateway communities are Williams, Flagstaff and PageLake Powell. Grand Canyon South Rim is also recommended for those traveling with young children, as there is more for them to do – and more that they can do - at the South Rim than at the North Rim or West Rim. Hotel reservations for this area should be made 6 to 9 months in advance during peak travel season.
The only in-park lodge at the North Rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge, has a couple hundred cabins and some motel rooms. Out-of-park lodging is also limited, with two small facilities situated within an hour of the park. The next nearest lodging is about 90 minutes from the park in Kanab, Utah. Grand Canyon North Rim is best visited outdoors-minded people seeking a quiet getaway, especially those who’ve already been to the South Rim. Visitors traveling in the fall, particularly late September, should seriously consider at least a brief visit to the North Rim to experience the spectacular fall colors of the Kaibab National Forest.
Because of its high altitude, Grand Canyon North Rim is not recommended for those with cardiac or respiratory ailments. It is also not recommended for families traveling with younger children, especially those who have a high requirement for sensory stimulation.
Grand Canyon West is open year-round. It is a Tribal Park owned and operated by the Hualapai Indian Nation that
garnered sudden international fame with its star attraction:
the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Grand Canyon West is most easily accessible from Las Vegas by car (3 hours - however, the main access road to the complex is presently unpaved for 15 miles) or by package tour. Grand Canyon West has two primary viewpoints, from which the depth of the Grand Canyon is very pronounced and the Colorado River more easily visible. At 4,000’ above sea level, Grand Canyon West is a true desert landscape.
-3Grand Canyon West is very pleasant in early spring and late fall, and bearable in wintertime.
Late spring and summer at Grand Canyon West are extremely hot, with daytime highs of 120° F, dust storms and high winds frequently reported.
The Hualapai Tribe also operates the Grand Canyon’s only 1-Day White Water Rafting Expedition from the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs, Arizona. Inner Canyon Jeep Tours, which take visitors to the bottom of the Grand Canyon down the Diamond Bar Road on the Hualapai Indian Reservation, are available from Williams or Grand Canyon South Rim.
Havasu Canyon: Also located West of Grand Canyon National Park and the home of the Havasupai Indians, Havasu Canyon is a true oasis in the desert. Its prize asset is three world-famous bluegreen waterfalls: Navajo Falls, Mooney Falls and Havasu Falls.
Getting there is not easy: it is only accessible by foot, horseback or helicopter. There is no road access whatsoever. Entrance to the canyon for riders and hikers is via a 12-mile trail whose starting point is at Hualapai Hilltop, located 68 miles Northeast of Peach Springs. Helicopter airlifts are also available from the Hilltop on a first-come first-served basis.
Visitor facilities include a small hotel, campground, general store and post office. The falls are located along a 3-mile trail from Supai Village. For more information on reservations for lodging, camping, saddle and pack horses, or helicopter transport, visit www.havasupaitribe.com, or ask about Papillon Helicopters’ exclusive Havasupai Heli-Hike Day Tour from Grand Canyon National Park Airport. Havasu Canyon is best visited by those who have planned ahead, and are healthy enough to make the 12 mile trek into and out of the Grand Canyon by foot or horseback. Those who arrange helicopter transport to Supai Village must still remember it is a 3-mile walk - each way – via a hot, dusty trail to the waterfalls. Havasu Canyon is not recommended for families traveling with young children or anyone in questionable health.
-4ADVISORY: Havasu Canyon and the infrastructure of Supai Village was heavily damaged by a flash flood in August of 2008. It is closed to visitors at press time (January 2009) and is not expected to reopen until Summer of 2009. For updates, revisit the tribe’s website.
Travel Tip 3 – What’s the Best Time of Year to Go?
The four seasons are very distinct at the Grand Canyon, and not just in terms of weather.
When you choose to travel will depend largely on who you’re traveling with. Most families, for example, will invariably visit the Grand Canyon in the spring and summer, when school is out. If you’re traveling with your spouse, a group of adults or perhaps solo, you’ll no doubt have more flexibility.
For those able to pick and choose when to visit the Grand Canyon, our favorite times of year are late spring and early fall. By late spring, we mean late April to early May. At this time of year, Grand Canyon weather is typically very sunny and pleasant, with daytime highs at the South Rim ranging from 65° to 75°F. Breezy afternoons are the norm (as they are yearround), and wintry weather has been known to resurface at that time of year, but in general, the spring break crowds have subsided slightly and have yet to return to peak of summer levels. Grand Canyon North Rim is not open until mid-May, therefore you would be limited to visiting either Grand Canyon South Rim or Grand Canyon West in the springtime.
At GrandCanyon.com, our favorite time of year is early fall (mid-September to early October). Grand Canyon weather is about as close to perfect as it gets with daytime highs also in the 65-75° range. Late September is prone to occasional afternoon thunderstorms, but in general, sunny, breezy days predominate. The crowds also tend to thin out in the fall as schoolchildren get back into their regular routines. As mentioned in Travel Tip #2, Grand Canyon South Rim and Grand Canyon West are open year-round, so fall is a good time to visit both of these areas as well.
Insider tip: early autumn is prime time for a visit to the Grand Canyon’s prettier, cooler and quieter side – the North Rim. At 8,000’, Grand Canyon North Rim supports plant and animal life that the drier South Rim cannot. In addition to Ponderosa pine trees, the Kaibab National Forest on the North Rim has oaks, birches, aspens and even some trees in the maple family. In about midSeptember, the forest breaks out in a dazzling array of autumn color that has to be seen to be believed (photo above right). The North Rim is in recovery from a major forest fire that took place in 2006, so there is a large burn area about 25 miles North of the park. Access to that area may be limited to facilitate revegetation and clean-up efforts.
-5Summertime is the Grand Canyon’s warmest and most crowded time of the year. If you’re not traveling with children and don’t have your heart set on having access to lots of services, activities, etc., here again, consider a visit to Grand Canyon’s North Rim. If you are traveling with children, however, the South Rim will be your best bet as it has more of a variety of hotels, activities and tours that are kid-friendly. At 4,000’ in altitude, Grand Canyon West is more typical of a desert landscape, meaning treeless and HOT. If extreme heat bothers you, Grand Canyon West is best avoided in the summertime.
In wintertime, the Grand Canyon almost becomes a different world. The time period from November through February is unquestionably the quietest time of year at the park, with only 15% of its annual visitation occurring then. Since Grand Canyon North Rim closes from mid-October to mid-May, you would want to choose between Grand Canyon West and Grand Canyon South Rim for a wintertime visit. Winter, as you can imagine, is very cold, with average daytime highs ranging from 35-50°F.
Grand Canyon West will be slightly warmer. Nights are even chillier, typically getting down to the teens and even below zero on occasion. And of course, snow is a contingency one always has to plan for. But, if you’re seeking peace and solitude, and a photo opportunity like no other, winter is a wonderful time to visit the Grand Canyon. Most of the popular Grand Canyon tours are still operating, including those that go to the bottom.
Insider tip: Save money by scheduling your trip between November 1st and March 1st, when Grand Canyon hotels discount season can mean anywhere from $10 to $40 a night savings!
Travel Tip 4 - How Do I Get to the Grand Canyon?
Most visitors begin their Grand Canyon vacations from one of several metropolitan airports
within a day’s drive of the park. In order of popularity, they are:
1.Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS), 280 miles from the South Rim, average drive time 5 hours; 310 miles from the North Rim, average drive time 5.5 hours 2. Phoenix, Arizona (PHX), 240 miles from the South Rim, average drive time 4.5 hours; 375 miles from the North Rim, average drive time 6.5 hours 3. Los Angeles (LAX), 500 miles from the South Rim, average drive time 7.5 hours;
570 miles from the North Rim, average drive time 9 hours;
4.Albuquerque, New Mexico (ABQ), 400 miles from the South Rim, average drive time 7 hours;
490 miles from the North Rim, average drive time 8.5 hours;
5. Denver (DEN), 710 miles from the South Rim, average drive time 12 hours;
670 miles from the North Rim, average drive time 11.5 hours; or 6.Salt Lake City, Utah (SLC), 410 miles from the North Rim, average drive time 7 hours
-6Commuter flights are also offered into several municipal airports closer to the park:
Flagstaff, Arizona (FLG) – connect from Phoenix or Los Angeles, 85 miles from the South Rim, average drive time 1.5 hours;
230 miles from the North Rim, average drive time 5 hours.