Table of contents
- Why visit the Grand Canyon?
- How much does it cost to access the Grand Canyon?
- Map of the Grand Canyon
- How do I get to the Grand Canyon?
- Fly over the Grand Canyon by plane or helicopter?
- Grand Canyon helicopter tours from the South Rim
- VIP Skywalk Express
- Where to stay at the Grand Canyon?
- Tips before heading to the Grand Canyon
- When is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon?
If you are planning a road trip on the west coast of the United States, you must visit the Grand Canyon and discover its splendor, its nature and its landscapes as far as the eye can see.
The first time I went there, I was totally overwhelmed by the grandeur of this canyon, its colors and its depth. With my friends, we had decided to land in Los Angeles to visit Las Vegas, discover Route 66 and then the Grand Canyon. To help you prepare your visit to the Grand Canyon National Park, here are my tips.
Why visit the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular and famous natural sites in the United States with million of visitors per year, located in northern Arizona and just a few hours’ drive from Las Vegas. Every year, it attracts millions of visitors from all over the world, and for good reason. Here are just a few of the reasons why you should definitely visit the Grand Canyon.
First of all, the Grand Canyon is one of the world’s largest canyons, over 400 kilometers long and up to 1,800 meters deep. The panoramic view from the canyon’s rim is breathtaking, offering a spectacular landscape of multicolored rocks sculpted by the erosion of the Colorado River. Visitors can also choose to hike the canyon to discover the geological formations and natural landscapes.
Secondly, the Grand Canyon is a place of incredible natural diversity. Grand Canyon National Park is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, including California condors, coyotes, deer, foxes and many species of cactus. Visitors also have the chance to see unique geological formations such as hoodoos (fairy chimneys) and arches.
What’s more, the Grand Canyon is an important historic site for the region’s native cultures. Native American tribes such as the Havasupai, Hopi, Navajo and Paiute have lived in the Grand Canyon region for thousands of years. Grand Canyon National Park offers educational programs and exhibits for visitors to better understand the history and traditions of these communities.
Finally, the Grand Canyon offers numerous activities for visitors. In addition to hiking, visitors can raft the Colorado River, fish, camp, climb, mountain bike and stargaze.
How much does it cost to access the Grand Canyon?
Grand Canyon National Park is accessible every day of the week, on both the North and South Rims.
The prices listed below are current as of June 1, 2018, and no refunds will be given in the event of inclement weather.
- Entrance fee for one vehicle into Grand Canyon National Park – US$35 (U.S. dollars)
Price for a single private vehicle and all its passengers. This price is not valid for groups organized by bus.
- Grand Canyon National Park motorcycle entrance fee – US$30
Price for a single motorcycle and its passenger(s).
- Entrance fee for one person into Grand Canyon National Park – $20 / person (US dollars)
Additional fee for one person to enter Grand Canyon National Park by foot, bicycle, shuttle, train or private raft. Persons aged 15 and under qualify free of charge.
If you intend to visit the park at least 2 times, it would be more cost-effective to treat yourself to an annual pass:
- Grand Canyon National Park Annual Pass – $70
Unlimited visits to Grand Canyon National Park for one year. This pass includes the holder and their car companions.
- America the Beautiful Annual Pass – $80
This pass is valid for 12 months for all paying federal sites.
- Annual Military Pass – FREE
This pass is intended for serving military personnel and their dependents. Valid identification is required.
- Senior America the Beautiful Pass – $80
This is a lifetime pass to all federal recreation sites that normally charge fees to people over 62.
- America the Beautiful Access Pass – FREE
This is a lifetime pass to all federal recreation sites that normally charge a fee to U.S. residents with permanent disabilities.
- America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass – FREE
This is an annual pass to all federal recreation sites in exchange for 250 hours of accumulated work.
For more details, please visit the National Park website.
Map of the Grand Canyon
To help you see clearly, here is a Google Map of the Grand Canyon in its entirety:
How do I get to the Grand Canyon?
Grand Canyon National Park is located in northern Arizona, near the southern border of Utah and the southeastern tip of Nevada. There is no “specific address” for the Grand Canyon.
However, you may see businesses with a Grand Canyon address with zip code 86023. These businesses are usually located in Tusayan, Arizona, near the South Rim entrance.
If you’re using a GPS, Google Maps or Waze, you can enter the following latitude and longitude coordinates to find the South Rim entrance to Grand Canyon National Park l: 35.990372, -112.123353.
Once you know where you’re coming from, getting to the Grand is pretty straightforward. Given that the Grand Canyon is located in a very remote part of northern Arizona, it’s important to know that it will take you a long time to get there, but some roads are more convenient than others.
Of course, there are many ways to get there, wherever you start your trip, provided you have enough time and money. Here are our recommendations to help you do the best, cheapest and shortest.
If you’re visiting Las Vegas, you’ll probably want to look beyond the city and visit the Grand Canyon West.
The portion of the West Rim owned by the Hualapai tribe is still operated by that tribe, not the National Park Service.
Located just two and a half hours from Las Vegas, Grand Canyon West is home to the famous glass-bottomed Skywalk, a walkway that allows visitors to step 70 meters above the Grand Canyon and look down through their foot into the void.
This tour can be taken on its own (approx. 8 hours), as a guided tour (approx. 10 hours), or as a half-day trip by helicopter or plane from Las Vegas.
Because of the cost of the package and the tour options taken, the Grand Canyon West represents a significant budget compared to the South or North Rim, but the Grand Canyon West remains the quickest and most convenient option for visitors coming from Las Vegas.
For visitors coming from Phoenix, it makes more sense to visit the South Rim. This route is the most popular of all the Grand Canyons.
Five million people visit the south shore each year, compared with one million each on the west and north shores. The south shore is the nerve center of the national park, home to several motels, museums, hiking trails, viewpoints and pavilions.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is a 4-hour drive from Phoenix. Most people come by car and spend the day on the Rim Trail, taking breathtaking panoramic photos of the landscape.
A day trip from Phoenix, either on its own or on a guided tour, takes about 16 hours in total.
Although there are a few guided helicopter tours available from Phoenix to the South Rim, you’re likely to prefer the overland route or a combination of a trip to nearby towns like Williams or Tusayan, then finish the journey by train or helicopter to the South Rim.
Because of its very remote location and limited opening in summer and early fall, the North Rim is the least accessible of the three Grand Canyon regions, but it’s clearly worth the detour for those willing to make the effort to get there.
The lack of people on the trails, in the campsites, the quietness due to the absence of helicopters, airplanes and tour operators are as pleasant as the spectacular views from the North Rim.
The north is easily accessible from southern Utah towns such as St. George and Kanab, or northern Arizona towns such as Page and Jacob Lake.
Be prepared to drive yourself or take a guided rafting tour of the upper canyon that begins beyond the north shore of Lees Ferry.
In either case, plan to spend at least one night at the Grand Canyon Lodge, inside the park on the edge of a campground, or at a hotel within 150 km, from Jacob Lake to St. George to Page.
Fly over the Grand Canyon by plane or helicopter?
One of the most exciting ways to see the Grand Canyon from above is to take a helicopter tour.
Helicopter tours are allowed to fly about 1,000 feet lower than airplane tours, but due to the vastness of the Canyon, it’s hard to say which is better.
Helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon are available with different types of aircraft. One is the Bell helicopter, chosen for its large windows.
The Eco-Star helicopter is also chosen for its “silent technology”, offering a quiet tour. Helicopter tours are available in several languages, thanks to audio translations.
Grand Canyon helicopter tours from the South Rim
These are the helicopter tours that depart from the Grand Canyon National Park airport in Tusayan, Arizona, near the South Rim. It is located at the south end of Tusayan.
This helicopter tour is the least expensive at the Grand Canyon! Aboard your Bell Jet helicopter, you’ll fly over the Grand Canyon’s magnificent Dragon Corridor, where the heart of the Earth has been laid bare by the Colorado River. Enjoy the sheer size and complexity of the Grand Canyon in just a few minutes.
Flight time: 20-25 minutes
Grand Canyon helicopter tours from Las Vegas
If you’re staying in Las Vegas for vacation, business or an overnight stay, a great way to see the Grand Canyon is by helicopter with Maverick Helicopter.
The beauty of a helicopter ride from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon is the possibility of landing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This is made possible by the proximity of Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon West.
This is the Hualapai Tribal Park, a Native American tribe that developed part of the Grand Canyon. You’ll find that some tours allow you to reach the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Personally, I don’t recommend this, as it’s an expensive way to spend a few minutes in the air.
Grand Canyon helicopter tours from Las Vegas depart from Boulder City, with shuttles from most of the Strip’s major hotels.
There are a number of tours designed to accommodate visitors with different desires about how they want to see the Grand Canyon.
VIP Skywalk Express
Got more time? Discover more of the Grand Canyon! Enjoy all the attractions of the Golden Eagle, then continue to Grand Canyon West, where you’ll land right on the rim. Walk on the glass floor of the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This is the last helicopter tour from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.
Tour duration, hotel to hotel: ~ 6 hours
Where to stay at the Grand Canyon?
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open all year round, while the less-frequented North Rim is only open in summer, from mid-May to mid-October.
Book your accommodation well in advance, especially in summer, when the Grand Canyon is a popular destination for tourists, and prices can rise quickly. During my stay, a night for 4 in July cost us around 300 euros, which is not an insignificant sum. We should have booked much earlier…
There are several accommodation options in the park: campsites (not recommended in July and August), the four pavilions and the historic hotel.
Outside the park, you can also choose to park in Tusayan, about 10 minutes’ drive from the park entrance.
If you plan to visit during the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), the park service offers a free shuttle service from Tusayan. Please note that adults will still need to purchase a park entrance pass ($15/person, valid for 7 days), but visitors aged 15 and under are admitted free!
Tips before heading to the Grand Canyon
The dry desert air quickly dries out the skin. Plan to eat and stay well hydrated before and during your hike, and don’t forget your lip balm. Don’t worry if you forget something. There are gift stores in the park that sell such items.
There are several places at the Grand Canyon to fill your water bottles, so don’t worry!
Lunch and dinner are available on site. There are several restaurants located in the park pavilions, serving three meals a day, and snacks are available at the visitor center and campground grocery store. Clearly I don’t recommend this option, so pack your sandwiches as there’s nothing very good at the snacks.
When is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon?
Living in Las Vegas, the nicest periods in terms of temperatures are between April and June, then September and October. In July and August, it can get very hot, and that’s really not very pleasant, unless you like the heat.
From November to March, it can be very cold, and plane tickets to Las Vegas or Phoenix will be more affordable, but visiting the desert in the cold is a bit of a shame.