Grand Canyon Trip Planner: a Travel Guide to the Arizona Natural Wonder

The Grand Canyon is an immense canyon carved by the Colorado River in northwestern Arizona, starting at Lees Ferry near Page. The dimensions of this incredible canyon are impressive. The canyon has a diameter 10 miles wide (16 km), is about a mile deep (1.6 km, maximum depth 1.8 km) and stretches for an impressive 277 miles (445 km). The erosion caused by the Colorado River has revealed layers of red rock that testify to a geologic history going back millions of years that has led to the creation of a unique natural wonder.

But do we actually mean when we talk about the Grand Canyon? What is the difference between Grand Canyon National Park and the rest of the Grand Canyon? How can we visit it while making sure we don’t miss its most majestic views?

Here is all the information you will need to organize a visit or tour to the Grand Canyon, with tips on trails, hiking, things to see, overnight stays, and more. Let’s discover America’s most famous natural masterpieces together.


Introduction to the Grand Canyon

Although it is a single natural formation, the Grand Canyon is subdivided into 3 main visitable areas:

  • The South Rim: This is the most popular area of the canyon and also one offering the most services for tourists. The Grand Canyon Village is located here.
  • The North Rim: This is suitable for those looking for a less touristy area of the Grand Canyon.
  • The West Rim: Known for the Skywalk, the famous transparent platform over the canyon.

The South Rim and North Rim fall under the Grand Canyon National Park, managed by the U.S. federal government (NPS, National Park Service). Remember that NPS offers the possibility of purchasing the useful national parks annual pass, aimed at helping those who want to visit more than one national park during their trip to save money. The West Rim, on the other hand, whose precise name is Grand Canyon West, is located within the Hualapai Reservation, who manage this area of the Grand Canyon.

Then there are other areas that are not as well known to tourists. They are more hidden which also makes them not so easy to reach. Here are some examples:

  • Toroweap Point, A splendid vantage point to be enjoyed in complete solitude
  • Havasu Falls, Incredibly scenic waterfalls within the Havasupai Indian Reservation
  • Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, another remote and pristine area

General information and tips for overnight stays

Although the park is immense, tourists often tend to devote no more than a day to it (you can read more on this subject in our guide on how to visit the Grand Canyon in a day), concentrating on the South Rim (visiting more than one area in the same day is impossible, given the distance that separates them). The most popular tourist activity is the helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon, an unforgettable experience to be had at least once in a lifetime.

As for overnight stays, you can choose to find a place to stay inside the park or in a neighboring town. Depending on which area of the Grand Canyon you decide to visit, there are strategic stops or towns where you can look for accommodations the night before or the night after. Here are the main ones and their respective distances from the Grand Canyon:

  • South Rim: The driving distance from Las Vegas is about 4 hours and 15 minutes (275 miles), while the closest are Flagstaff (1 hour and 15 minutes, 75 miles) and Williams (50 minutes, 53 miles), both charming places located on Route 66 (Arizona).
  • North Rim: The North Rim is about 2 hours and 20 minutes (81 miles) from Kanab in Utah and about 3 hours and 10 minutes (125 miles) from Page in Arizona, the latter being one of the most visited destinations during road trips since Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell are located near here.
  • West Rim: This is the area of the Grand Canyon closest to Las Vegas (about 2 hours and 10 minutes, 125 miles) so usually people start by visiting this side of the Grand Canyon if they are coming directly from Las Vegas. If you are coming from the south, a good alternative may be Kingman, another city located on Route 66.

For a more complete overview, with advice not only on other towns and areas but also on specific hotels, you can read our guide on where to stay overnight at the Grand Canyon.

Video and Photos of the Grand Canyon

One does not realize how huge the Grand Canyon is unless one sees it with one’s own eyes. But until then, we have to make do with some videos! Below is a high-quality video of the Grand Canyon.

Most-read articles about the Grand Canyon

Below are the most-read Grand Canyon articles on our site. We recommend starting with these when planning your own visit to the Grand Canyon.

What to See in One Day at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon: things to see in a day. Which rim is better?

You only have 24 hours to visit the most famous U.S. national park? Don’t worry, even though time is of the essence, you will still be able to enjoy some …
Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour From Las Vegas

Grand Canyon helicopter tour from Las Vegas: Are you ready to go?

Every year, crowds of tourists flock from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon to visit what has now become a symbol of the American West, a national park that has …
where to stay at the grand canyon

Where to Stay at the Grand Canyon? Tips for Choosing a Hotel

The Grand Canyon is America’s most famous national park; it is an immense deep gorge carved into the earth that takes your breath away. Crowds of tourists come every year …

The areas of the Grand Canyon

As we have seen, the Grand Canyon is divided into 3 major areas accessible to tourists. Below are 3 articles that will give you an idea of what to expect from each area and thus help you make your choice.

things to do at Grand Canyon South Rim

Grand Canyon South Rim: Best Viewpoints and Scenic Roads

The Grand Canyon is the most famous and photographed National Park in the United States and with over six million visitors each year is second only to the Great Smoky …
Grand Canyon West Rim what to do

Discover the West Rim: The Side of the Grand Canyon Closest to Las Vegas

The West Rim of the Grand Canyon, which has the fortune of being located near the city of Las Vegas and the unique attraction of the Skywalk, attracts more and …

Grand Canyon North Rim: Discover the Lesser-known Rim

Sometimes, those who visit the Grand Canyon on their road trip may be a little disappointed by the large crowds of tourists that crowd the edge of the canyon. The …

Prices and hours

Grand Canyon admission prices and times can change over time, so always refer to our articles devoted to each part of the rim, which contain updated information. We remind you again that the admission (or national parks pass) gives access to both the North Rim and the South Rim (in case you want to visit both), but not the West Rim, which requires a separate ticket and has different hours. Also keep in mind that the North Rim is subject to seasonal closure in the winter.

Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon

The climate of the South Rim and North Rim are quite similar. However, there is a considerable difference in the temperatures at the canyon rim and at the bottom, which is important to know for those who want to hike to the Colorado River. For more details on the climate, the best time of the year to visit the park, and prime times and spots to enjoy the sunrise and sunset we have these two articles below:

Best time of the year to visit grand canyon

What is the Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon? Temperatures and Climate

Whether you have already decided when to visit the Grand Canyon or are planning your itinerary, it may be helpful to read this guide to understand what kind of weather …
Grand Canyon sunset or sunrise

Sunrise and Sunset at the Grand Canyon: Best Places and Times to See Them

Sunrise and sunset, as you know, are the most romantic moments of the day. When the sun is low on the horizon, the landscape lights up with a thousand shades …

Getting Around the Grand Canyon

To get to the park’s scenic spots, in addition to renting a car, of course, and walking along the rim and inside the canyon, you can also take advantage of free shuttles, which will be useful to reach some parts of the park that are often not accessible by car. Let’s take a look at the routes of the Grand Canyon shuttles and see in which areas they are available.

Getting around the Grand Canyon: A Guide to the National Park’s Shuttles

If you’re planning a visit to the Grand Canyon, you’re probably wondering if there are any alternatives to driving your car (or rental car) in order to reach the main scenic spots. Because this is one of America’s most famous and most visited national parks, you will find many free shuttles that will allow you to organize a Grand Canyon itinerary …

Read more

How to Get to the Grand Canyon

Those visiting the Grand Canyon’s South Rim on a road trip will probably arrive in their rental car from Kingman, Page, Flagstaff or Monument Valley, or from the nearest major cities (from Las Vegas and Phoenix). If you are driving, you will not have much difficulty getting to Desert View Drive by following the GPS directions to one of the two park entrances for the South Rim (depending on where you are coming from). There is also a unique and rather scenic way to reach the South Rim, which is via a historic train departing from Williams.

The North Rim faces the South Rim but, because of the park’s geography, it takes a full 4 hours to reach it by car, so visiting both is a rare occurrence on road trips in the Southwest. In any case, visitors can easily get to the North Rim by car from either Kanab or Page.

As it was mentioned earlier, the West Rim is the side closest to Las Vegas, but at the same time it is a long way from both the South Rim and the North Rim. Until a few years ago getting there could be a bit problematic because of road conditions, but now the road to the West Rim is fully paved, making it much safer to visit this part of the canyon and the Skywalk.

Driving is not the only way to get to the Grand Canyon. There are several organized bus and helicopter trips from Las Vegas and Phoenix. Find more details in the section on Grand Canyon tours.

For more information on how to reach the various sides of the Grand Canyon, read the article below:

How to the Reach Grand Canyon: All the Recommended Itineraries

If you are planning a West Coast itinerary, it is very likely that you are thinking about how to include a stop at the Grand Canyon. By reading this article, you will be able to know how to get to Grand Canyon, and learn about the options you can choose from to find the best one for you. ContentsHow to …

Read more

Scenic Overlooks

The North Rim, West Rim and South Rim of the Grand Canyon each have their own scenic overlooks, all of which are breathtaking and certainly ideal for taking unforgettable photos. At the West Rim they are concentrated in a limited area, whereas at the South Rim and North Rim you will need to study the park’s map to locate the best ones. Some are within walking distance, others are accessible via shuttle, and then there are more found along the trails down to the Colorado River. To find out about all of them, read the following articles:

In addition to these viewpoints, there are some really incredible ones hidden here and there in the canyon. In addition to the vertiginous Skywalk, there are other overlooks that are not popular tourist destinations that are also harder to reach. We are talking about Toroweap Point and Havasu Falls, two sensational places that require quite a bit of time and energy to reach. Below are some tips on how to organize your visit.

seligman to grand canyon

Grand Canyon Skywalk, the Famous Glass Bridge Over the West Rim

Perhaps some of you may not know it, but among the many ways to visit the Grand Canyon there is one way that is very special and awe-inspiring, which allows …
Havasu Falls hike

Havasu Falls: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of the Grand Canyon

As you go around the Grand Canyon, images of the fascinating emerald waters of Havasu Falls stand out in all the postcards, photo books and calendars. Yet, it seems strange, …
Toroweap overlook Grand Canyon

Toroweap Point: A Fantastic Overlook on the Grand Canyon

Amongst the many visitors who flock to the Grand Canyon there are some who return home feeling disappointed. Perhaps they would have liked to get to the point where the …

Grand Canyon Guided Tours

As it was mentioned above, the Grand Canyon offers tourists countless organized tours to choose from. The most popular ones are helicopter tours, departing from Las Vegas to the West Rim, or from the South Rim itself.  The helicopter tours offer an overview of the most famous side of the Grand Canyon and allow you to experience the thrill of landing at the bottom of the canyon. As an alternative to the helicopter ride, there are airplane tours, but these offer a different viewpoint of the canyon being different modes of flight.

But it doesn’t end there! In addition to the classic and inexpensive bus tours from Las Vegas, there are also hiking tours, rafting and river trails, hummer tours, and combination tours with other parks in the Southwest.

Below are the ones we think are most interesting.

Grand Canyon Tour: The Best Guided Tours in the Park

Taking a tour of the Grand Canyon, one of the most famous and remarkable natural wonders of the American Southwest, is a must-see experience. The slow and patient shaping and painting by the Colorado River, with the skill of an artist, has given rise to a spectacular and boundless landscape that has now become a dream of all lovers of …

Read more

Which is the Best One-Day Bus Tour from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon?

If the more demanding long drives on road trips are not for you or you simply don’t have enough time to plan a fulfilling itinerary from Las Vegas to the …
Grand Canyon Flight Tours

Grand Canyon Helicopter vs Airplane Tour: how to choose?

Of the many ways to see the Grand Canyon, there are two in particular that are becoming increasingly popular, namely, helicopter tours and airplane tours. There are many who upon …
best Grand Canyon airplane tours

Grand Canyon Plane Rides: Flight Over the Immense Gorge of Arizona

One of the most fascinating and adventurous ways to visit the Grand Canyon is to take advantage of one of the many tours that will take you on a flight …
Grand Canyon train ride

Grand Canyon Railway: Train Ride from Williams, Arizona

In this article, we will tell you about our discovery of the most fascinating ways to journey to the Grand Canyon: on the train! Probably the Grand Canyon Railway Tour …

Grand Canyon by Helicopter: How Do I Choose a Tour?

If you love nature, great views and endless horizons, you know that the American National Parks are for you and you’ve probably already considered visiting the Grand Canyon, Arizona’s stunning …

The Most Beautiful Trails

For those who love to hike, the Grand Canyon offers trails of all types and levels of difficulty, from simple walks along the rim (Rim trail) to more arduous and challenging hikes between the canyon’s walls. Unlike the West Rim, which has short, scenic trails exclusively on the ridge, the South Rim and North Rim give the most experienced hikers the exciting opportunity to reach the bed of the Colorado River. Have you ever heard of the North and South Kaibab Trail? Of the Bright Angel Trail?

Click on the link below to find information about these difficult trails and other trails in the Grand Canyon.

Hiking in the Grand Canyon: A Guide to the Best Trails

What is so fascinating about the Grand Canyon? Perhaps because the immense chasm carved out by the waters of the Colorado River allows us to look down on the darkest depths of the earth from above, at a safe distance? Perhaps because, deep down, we are attracted and terrified by the power of nature? When our gaze rests on the …

Read more

Towns and Cities near the Grand Canyon

The closest town to Grand Canyon Village is Tusayan, which is quite small. Here are the towns and cities around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to choose from as a strategic base for visiting according to the next stops.

  • Williams: Located an hour south of the park, this city on Route 66 is useful for those coming from Las Vegas or California, or for those headed there after visiting the Grand Canyon.
  • Tuba City: not a beautiful town, but ideal for those who are traveling to (or from) Monument Valley or New Mexico. There would also be Cameron on that route, but it has nothing to offer in terms of lodging.
  • Page: for those coming from or headed toward the Antelope Canyon township and not intending to go through Monument Valley
  • Flagstaff: an alternative to Williams, Flagstaff is actually very useful for those going toward Sedona or are heading (or coming from) east on Route 66.

Near the North Rim, on the other hand, is Kanab, a fortunate Utah town rich in nearby beauty. Finally, mention must be made of Seligman, Peach Springs and Kingman as strategic places for visiting the West Rim.

Find more information about these towns and other lodging options at the link below:

Towns and cities where to find a hotel near the Grand Canyon

We have already mentioned it, but it is useful to reiterate in this paragraph that the two major cities of choice for approaching and reaching the Grand Canyon fairly comfortably by domestic or intercontinental flights are Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Nearby Natural Attractions

There is no shortage of natural attractions around the Grand Canyon. In fact, you can’t go wrong with any of them, so in this section we will limit ourselves to points of interest that are within a two-hour drive from Grand Canyon Village.

  • Little Colorado River Gorge: A miniature Grand Canyon generated by a tributary of the Colorado River, the Little Colorado River. The park at Little Colorado River Gorge is operated by the Navajo people.
  • Coal Mine Canyon: If you take a short detour on the way from Grand Canyon to Monument Valley, you can reach this incredible colorful canyon in a remote corner of the Hopi Reservation.
  • Sedona: This small city is rightfully included in this list because of the exceptional natural setting in which it is located. Rocks and red mounds crop up from the forests of the Coconino National Forest.
  • Grand Canyon Caverns: Visit these underground caves with a special history and some kitschy details located on Route 66.
  • Meteor Crater: Are you ready to visit a giant meteor crater in the desert along the road between Flagstaff and Winslow?
  • Grand Falls: If you have an adventurous spirit and a 4×4 vehicle, you can go to these waterfalls, which are also called Chocolate Falls because of the muddy color of the water.

Around the North Rim there are just as many places you should absolutely visit, especially near Kanab, not to mention Antelope Canyon and all the other attractions around Page (which, however, is more than two hours away).

Related Itineraries

Have you seen how many things there are to see in the area? If you are visiting the Grand Canyon on a road trip in the Southwest you might benefit from some pointers on how best to plan your itinerary. Here are some tried and true routes that you can easily apply to your trip.

grand-canyon to monument valley

From Monument Valley to Grand Canyon: Suggested Road Trip Itinerary

It is very common to go on a road trip from Grand Canyon to Monument Valley (or vice versa) while visiting the parks of the American West. The two parks in …
las vegas to grand canyon

How to Visit the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas by Car: Distance, Road Trip Itineraries and Tours Available

Beyond its stunning luxury hotels and all the cool things to do on the Las Vegas Strip that have made it a famous kitsch oasis in the hot Nevada desert, …
Where to Stay between the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles

Where to Stay between Grand Canyon and Los Angeles: Useful Tips and Intermediate Stops

From personal experience, I can say that a lot of the West Coast itineraries follow the route between the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles (in one direction or another). One …

San Diego to the Grand Canyon Road Trip: Distance, Stops, Itinerary and Where to Stay

On West Coast itineraries that include San Diego, you very likely travel the long distance between this charming city and the Grand Canyon. This trip is very strategic because it …

History and Geology of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is a couple of billion years old, and there is so much still left to discover about its history. Here is some information about human settlements in the Grand Canyon and its geology.

History of Grand Canyon settlements and exploration

The area around the Grand Canyon is thought to have been inhabited by humans starting more than 4,000 years ago, but fortunately some of the artifacts available to us allow us to more accurately date the settlements of natives that proliferated during the Basketmaker III Era, around 500 B.C. During the same period, the Cohonina people also lived in the eastern part of present-day Grand Canyon Village.

Around 800 AD, the Ancestral Pueblo began to use stone to build their settlements, of which we still find some traces within the park (Tusayan Pueblo, dated around 1185). These people lived inside the canyon during the colder months, while in summer they climbed the ridge to enjoy the cooler temperatures. The Ancestral Pueblo and Cohonina cultures remained in the Grand Canyon area until the 13th century, when a severe climate disaster occurred that forced them to migrate to other territories.

The Grand Canyon was uninhabited for most of the 14th century, until three new tribes settled there: the Paiute, the Cerbat (now Havasupai and Hualapai) and, later, the Navajo. These peoples have maintained some territories on the canyon ridge to this day (e.g., the West Rim is part of the Cerbat’s territory and the eastern area belongs to the Navajo).

In 1540, a small group of Spanish soldiers from Francisco Vazquez de Coronado’s army arrived in the area identifiable today as the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Instructed by Captain García López de Cárdenas, some soldiers attempted to descend to the river, but turned back, due to the difficulty of the hike. Years later, the North Rim was explored in 1776 by two Spanish clergymen along with some soldiers who were looking for a way to connect California to Santa Fe.

In 1848, thanks to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Grand Canyon area passed from Mexico to the United States. During the 19th century, numerous expeditions set out to discover the canyon. In 1858 Mormon missionary Jacob Hamblin discovered the area at Lees Ferry, where it was possible to navigate the Colorado River to the Grand Canyon (which would otherwise be an extremely complicated undertaking).

From 1869 until 1872, expeditions led by geographer and explorer John Wesley Powell took place. After initial failures, Powell succeeded in providing accurate descriptions and photographs of the nature of the Grand Canyon, cataloging rock formations, fauna, flora, and archaeological findings. Further evidence of the canyon’s geological history was brought to the attention of experts a few years later by geologist Clarence Dutton, who published his findings in a specialized volume.

In 1882, the construction of a railroad line connecting the canyon to Williams was completed. This was a major investment that allowed for this remote area to be much more accessible to tourists. The Fred Harvey Company also built numerous tourist reception facilities in the Grand Canyon, which meanwhile had received federal protection in 1893 as a forest preserve. The Grand Canyon later became a National Monument, and it was not until 1919 that Grand Canyon National Park was born, just three years after the creation of the National Park Service.

Geology of the Grand Canyon

How did the Grand Canyon form? What natural phenomena produced this natural wonder over the course of centuries? Observations of the phenomena that have occurred over the past 200 years have led to various theories about the formation of the Grand Canyon, but obviously we cannot exhaust such a complex question on a tourist site. In any case, we have gathered some news and information on the subject in the article below.

The History, Geological Formation and Mysteries of the Grand Canyon

When visiting natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon, the beauty is so great that it is impossible not to be amazed. In short, to enjoy the deep gorge of Arizona you don’t need to be a geologist or someone fascinated by the formation of the Earth, just open your eyes! However, it is also true that having some information …

Read more

Movies Filmed at the Grand Canyon

How could Hollywood filmmakers be indifferent to the scenic potential of the Grand Canyon? Of course not! There are many movie scenes shot near the famous canyon Arizona. We remember the hilarious road trip movie National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983); the Grand Canyon (1991), in which the scenery plays a decisive role; Transformers (2007), also filmed at the nearby Hoover Dam; Into the Wild (2007), the story of Christopher McCandless’ journey that also includes an adventurous stop in the canyon; the romantic comedy Fools Rush In (1997); the sci-fi thriller Next (2007) starring Nicolas Cage.

And how could we forget to mention the famous Thelma & Louise? Without giving spoilers, there is a crucial scene that according to the plot takes place at the Grand Canyon…. but we have already told you where that scene was actually filmed!

Deaths in the Grand Canyon

In some cases, the allure of the canyon has unfortunately been fatal. About 900 deaths have been reported in the Grand Canyon area, from the earliest reports in the 19th century to the present day. There are a wide variety of causes, ranging from airplane crashes (the famous one in 1956, which killed more than 100 people) to falls in the canyon, including suicides, murders, and drownings in Colorado during rafting trips.

Map of the Grand Canyon

In this interactive map you will find the locations of the main points of interest in the Grand Canyon.