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Top 10 Tips for Visiting Grand Canyon - Plan Like a Park Ranger

a crowd of sightseers behind railings at a scenic overlook. Distant peaks within a vast canyon are being illuminated by golden sunset light.
Many visitors get their first view of Grand Canyon by taking a short 5 minute walk (.3 miles/.48 km) from the Visitor Center Plaza to nearby Mather Point. Depending upon how many people are at the overlook when you arrive, you may or may not feel comfortable entering the area if it is crowded. NPS/photo

Have you ever thought: How would a park ranger visit this place? They must have awesome insider knowledge. Well, now's your opportunity to "Plan like a Park Ranger".

With a busy summer season upon us, we want everyone to have a positive park experience. Advanced trip planning can ensure that your only surprises are pleasant ones. In that spirit, here is our Top 10 List for how to get the most out of your visit.

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Review our Park Operations Webpage for current information and hours of operation. Updated daily.

Information about:

The NPS App is the new official app for the National Park Service with tools to explore Grand Canyon and more than 400 national parks nationwide. Find interactive maps, tours of park places, on-the-ground accessibility information, and much more to plan your national park adventures before and during your trip. Details >
Park campgrounds and lodging fill months in advance. Check availability and make reservations before you arrive.

Lodging

Campgrounds

Camping in the park is only allowed in designated sites within designated campgrounds. Camping is not permitted along roadsides, at overlooks, pullouts, trailheads or other parking areas.

Backcountry camping overnight inside Grand Canyon requires a backcountry permit. Details >
Currently, Grand Canyon National Park does not require reservations or timed entry.

The South Rim Entrance Station experiences long lines and visitors can expect to wait in line for up to two hours to enter the park between 9 am - 5 pm.

To reduce wait times at the South Rim Entrance station, buy your park pass online at Your Pass Now, or from these businesses in the gateway community of Tusayan: the IMAX Theater, Tusayan Chamber of Commerce Office, Canyon Plaza Resort, Red Feather Lodge, and Westwind Air Service (located in the Grand Canyon Airport Terminal).

At the Entrance Stations, credit and debit cards, digital passes, and America the Beautiful passes are accepted for entry. Cash is not being accepted at this time. More about passes and entrance fees >

Visitors traveling to the area from Highway 89 can enter the park through the East Entrance at Desert View for shorter wait times.
Observe posted speed limits and use pullouts to watch wildlife, take pictures, and to let other cars pass.
  • Make sure nothing is hanging beneath your vehicle and dragging on the pavement.
  • Park on pavement. Don’t park off road in grass or other vegetation, as the heat from a vehicle’s undercarriage can start a fire.
  • Parking lots around the Visitor Center Plaza often fill by mid-day. Here's how to find additional nearby parking. Details >
  • Visiting for the day in an RV, or pulling a trailer? There are three parking lots with large pull-through spaces. Details >
  • Passenger capacity is limited to 31 people per bus, masks or face coverings are required when boarding and on the bus. This is a federal mandate that applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on all public transit. Passengers must enter and exit through the rear door only.
  • The Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route, with service from the Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal to South Kaibab Trailhead, Yaki Point, Mather Point and Yavapai Geology Museum is in operation from 5 am until one hour after sunset.
  • The Village (Blue) Route connects the Visitor Center Plaza with lodges, campgrounds, the Backcountry Information Center, and Market Plaza (market, bank, and post office).
  • The Hermits Road (Red) Route, begins on the west side of the Village Historic District and tours scenic Hermit Road. It operates from 5 am until one hour after sunset. Hermit Road is closed to all private vehicles between March 1, and November 30.
  • The early morning Hikers' Express Bus makes 3 stops in Grand Canyon Village then travels to the South Kaibab Trailhead:
    • September - 5, 6 and 7 am
    • October 6, 7 and 8 am
  • The Tusayan (Purple) Route will NOT BE IN OPERATION, during 2021.
Below the canyon rim, the hot desert environment is hard on pets. Dogs and other pets are not allowed on inner canyon trails, even when carried.

Inner canyon trails are narrow and well-travelled. Pets can be unpredictable on a trail. Hikers, runners or wildlife can spook them, and cause an accident.

On the South Rim
  • Leashed pets are allowed on trails above the rim, in Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Village, and throughout developed areas. The South Rim Kennel remains closed until further notice.
On the North Rim
  • Leashed pets are only allowed on the bridle trail (greenway) that connects the North Kaibab Trail, and the portion of the Arizona Trail north to the park entrance station. There is no Kennel on the North Rim.
More about bringing you pet to Grand Canyon >
People have been injured by squirrels, bison, deer and elk.

Never approach elk, they are wild animals and weigh as much as a small car. Females will kick with their front legs to defend their babies - and that kick can crush a human skull.

Bites on the hand from overly aggressive squirrels are the most common wildlife injury experienced by visitors. Their sharp teeth crack nuts — and cut fingers. Bite injuries often require stitches. Please protect yourself and don't feed or water squirrels.

Grand Canyon Wildlife Viewing and Safety Tips >
If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the South Rim or the North Rim, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center.
  • You fill in and submit an application. You can submit your application up to 4 months in advance.
  • Your chances of getting a permit are greater if you have some wiggle room to adjust date range and location of campsites.
  • It is possible to just show up at the Backcountry Information Center and get on a waiting list for any last minute permits that could become available due to cancellations. Details >
The bottom of Grand Canyon at Phantom Ranch is 2460 feet (750 m) above sea level.

That's about 4800 feet (1500 m) lower than the South Rim and about 5000 feet (1800 m) lower than the North Rim. Because of the difference in elevation, the rims are 25 degrees cooler than the toasty inner canyon.

Plan you outing so you are not hiking during midday when it is extremely HOT (between 10 am and 4 pm). Summer temperatures inside the canyon can reach 115 °F (46° C)

Hiking Smart in the Summer Heat >

Things to Bring:
  • Water & Electrolytes
  • Food & Salty Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Water Spray Bottle
  • Loose, Protective Clothing
  • and a Wide-brimmed Hat.
  • Stay on designated trails and walkways and always keep a safe distance of at least six feet (2 m) from the edge of the canyon rim.
  • In areas where there is a railing or fence, do not climb over the barrier.
  • Know where the edge is. Watch foot placement and look for trip hazards.
  • Never throw rocks, coins, trash, or anything else over the edge.
  • Don’t visit the park if you are sick.
  • Masks are required for non-vaccinated or partially vaccinated people.
  • Masks are required on all park shuttle buses. This is a federal mandate that applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on all public transit.
  • Best to maintain at least six feet (2 m) of social distancing in any crowded situation.

When you arrive, park rangers have set up information tables:

  • South Rim - Village: outside Grand Canyon Visitor Center: 8 am to 5 pm daily.
  • South Rim - Desert View: outside on the north end of the paking lot at the Orientation Plaza: 9 am to 5 pm daily.
  • North Rim: outside, between the Visitor Center building and Roaring Springs Canyon Overlook: 10 am to 3 pm daily.