Frequently Asked Questions
How big is it?
That depends on how you look at it. The park includes over a million acres of land - 1,218,375.54 acres / 493,077 hectares, to be exact, or 1,904 square miles / 4931 square kilometers.
No, although several dams bordering the park have a profound effect on Grand Canyon. At the upper end of the Canyon, 15 river miles / 24 km above Lees Ferry, is Lake Powell, formed by the waters behind Glen Canyon Dam. At the lower end of the canyon is Lake Mead, formed by the waters behind Hoover Dam. The controlled release of water from Glen Canyon Dam at the upstream end affects the water that flows through Grand Canyon. Waters from Lake Mead flood the lower 40 miles / 64 km of Grand Canyon when the lake is full. Hoover Dam was completed in 1936. Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963. (top of page)
That's a tricky question. Although rocks exposed in the walls of the canyon are geologically quite old, the Canyon itself is a fairly young feature. The oldest rocks at the canyon bottom are close to 2000 million years old. The Canyon itself - an erosional feature - has formed only in the past five or six million years. Geologically speaking, Grand Canyon is very young. (top of page)
No. Although the oldest rocks at Grand Canyon (2000 million years old) are fairly old by any standard, the oldest rocks in the world are closer to 4000 million years old. The oldest exposed rocks in North America, which are among the oldest rocks in the world, are in northern Canada. (top of page)
Grand Canyon is unmatched throughout the world in the incomparable vistas it offers to visitors on the rim. It is not the deepest canyon in the world (both the Barranca del Cobre in northern Mexico and Hell's Canyon in Idaho are deeper, just to name two), but the Grand Canyon is known throughout the world for its overwhelming size and its intricate and colorful landscape. Geologically it is significant because of the thick sequence of ancient rocks that are beautifully preserved and exposed in the walls of the canyon. These rock layers record much of the early geological history of the North American continent. Finally, it is one of the most spectacular examples of erosion in the world.
The SOUTH RIM allows you several options. Common driving routes are from Williams, Arizona (via State Route 64 from Interstate 40) or Flagstaff (via US Highway 180). View detailed driving information here. Commercial airlines serve Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Las Vegas. There is limited air service into Grand Canyon Airport from Las Vegas and elsewhere. Greyhound provides bus service to Flagstaff, and public bus transportation is available from Flagstaff to the South Rim. Amtrak provides rail service to Flagstaff with connecting bus service to the canyon. Grand Canyon Railway offers vintage train service from Williams.
The NORTH RIM does not have as many options. There is no public transportation to the North Rim other than several companies that provide van shuttle service from the South Rim and Flagstaff. More details here. You can drive your personal vehicle on US Highway 89A or State Route 389 to Jacob Lake, just south of the Utah border, and take Highway 67 to the North Rim. You can fly into Las Vegas and drive 263 miles one-way. Keep in mind that heavy snows close the road to the North Rim from late October to mid May of each year. (top of page)
Nearly five million people see Grand Canyon each year. Most of them see it from their car at overlooks along the South Rim (this includes Grand Canyon Village, Hermits Rest, and Desert View). The South Rim - 60 miles / 97 km north of Williams and 80 miles / 97 km northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona - is the most accessible part of the park and is open all year.
Expect heavy crowds during spring, summer, and fall months. You will find fewer crowds in the early spring or late fall. The South Rim is open year round, but heavy snows close the road to the North Rim from late October to mid May of each year. (top of page)
Pets must be physically restrained at all times. Leashed pets are allowed on the rim trails throughout the developed areas in the park but not below the rim. The only exception is certified service dogs. Persons wishing to take a service dog below the rim must check in first at the Backcountry Information Center. There is a kennel on the South Rim but not on the North Rim. (top of page)
Unlike hiking in mountainous terrain, Grand Canyon trails involve a downhill trip followed by a strenuous uphill climb. Hiking in the Grand Canyon is so demanding that even people in excellent condition often emerge sore and fatigued. Yet it has been hiked by small children, senior citizens, and people with physical disabilities.
The day hiker, out for just a few hours, and the overnight backpacker must be equally prepared for the lack of water, extreme heat and cold, and isolation characteristic of the Grand Canyon. There are few places where the comforts of hotels, campgrounds, shops and restaurants are found so close to such a harsh environment. Particularly in the summer, mental attitude and adequate water consumption are the two most important factors in the success of any hike into the Grand Canyon.
Backcountry rangers recommend that hikers make their first overnight trip into the inner canyon on the park's "Corridor" trails. The Corridor is the area including and immediately adjacent to the Bright Angel and North and South Kaibab trails. This area includes three campgrounds: Indian Garden, Bright Angel, and Cottonwood. (top of page)
Summer temperatures on the South Rim are relatively pleasant (50°s - 80°s F; 10°s to high 20°s C) but inner canyon temperatures are extreme. Daytime highs at the river, 5000 feet below the rim, often exceed 100° F (38° C). North Rim summer temperatures are cooler that those on the South Rim due to the increased elevation.
Winter conditions at the South Rim can be extreme: expect snow, icy roads, and possible road closures. Temperatures are low, and with the wind-chill factor can at times drop below 0° F (-18° C). Canyon views may be temporarily obscured during winter storms; in such cases, entrance fees are not refundable. The North Rim is closed in winter.
Spring and Fall weather is extremely unpredictable; be prepared for sudden changes in the weather during these seasons. (top of page)
Yes, entrance fees to the park is $25 per private vehicle, $12 pedestrian or cyclist; fees for commercial bus/tour van passengers vary. Admission is for 7 days and includes both rims; there are no refunds due to inclement weather. U. S. citizens aged 62 or older may obtain an America the Beautiful Senior Pass for a one-time fee of $10 and gain free admission. Persons holding a current National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (obtainable for $80 at any national park) are admitted free. Annual Grand Canyon passports, valid for the calendar year, are available for $50. U.S. citizens who have a permanent physical, mental or sensory impairment may apply in person for an America the Beautiful Access Pass, which provides the same privileges as the Senior Pass. (top of page)
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Mule rides from the South Rim are arranged through Grand Canyon National Park Lodges (303-297-2757) or visit http://www.grandcanyonlodges.com/mule-trips-716.html It is a 2-day round-trip to the Colorado River at the canyon bottom. Overnight riders stay and eat at Phantom Ranch. Mule trips may be booked 13 months in advance and fill up early. A waiting list is maintained for cancellations, but chances of obtaining reservations on the waiting list are slim. If you wish to make a trip into the canyon on mule, plan ahead! There are restrictions: mule riders must be over 4 feet 7 inches in height, weigh less than 200 lbs. (91K) and cannot be pregnant. Mule riders must be able to understand English. Please note that all pre-paid reservations must be claimed in person at the Bright Angel Lodge Transportation Desk ONE HOUR prior to departure. Unclaimed reservations are subject to resale.
Mule trips are available from the North Rim (one-day and half-day trips) but do not go all the way to the river. Call Grand Canyon Trail Rides for reservations, (435) 679-8665, or write to PO Box 128, Tropic, Utah, 84776, or visit them at http://www.canyonrides.com/grand_canyon_rides.html. (top of page)
Remember that the southwestern US is big and remote. Put a map of your home country next the distance you plan to cover in the USA to get an idea of what you are up against. Transportation takes time and is often expensive. Public transportation in northern Arizona is very limited, so find transportation and schedules before you leave, and expect to need some money to get around. Many prices are "plus tax", so add 7-8% to your budget. (top of page)
Gazing at the beautiful views of the canyon from the various vista points is the number one activity for many people. People of every age and condition can find activities to suit their desires, including the following: hiking, rafting trips, backpacking, mule trips or horseback rides, camping, scenic air tours. A wide variety of free interpretive programs are offered by NPS rangers. The Grand Canyon Field Institute offers educational tours and classes. Bicycling is allowed on park roads. (top of page)