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.

But most people measure the canyon in river miles, along the course of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon. By that standard, Grand Canyon is 277 miles / 446 km long. It begins at Lees Ferry (mile 0) and ends at the Grand Wash Cliffs (mile 277 / km 446). The Colorado River is longer, of course: 1450 miles / 2333 km long from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Gulf of California in Mexico.

Grand Canyon is only one of many beautiful canyons which the river has carved. Others include Cataract Canyon and Glen Canyon - the latter now beneath the waters of Lake Powell.

Many people agree, however, that Grand Canyon is the most spectacular. There's simply no other place in the world that looks quite like it. Width and depth of the Canyon vary from place to place.

At the South Rim, near Grand Canyon Village, it's a vertical mile (about 5,000 feet / 1524 m) from rim to river (7 miles / 11.3 km by trail, if you're walking). At its deepest, it is 6000 vertical feet / 1829 m from rim to river. The width of the canyon at Grand Canyon Village is 10 miles / 16 km (rim to rim), though in places it is as much as 18 miles / 29 km wide.

Here's another way to look at size: a trip to the bottom of the Canyon and back (on foot or by mule) is a two-day journey. Rim-to-rim hikers generally take three days one way to get from the North Rim to the South Rim. A trip through Grand Canyon by raft can take two weeks or longer, and experienced backpackers have spent weeks in the more remote areas of the Canyon. More Grand Canyon statistics... (top of page)


Are there dams in Grand Canyon?

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)


How old is the Canyon?

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. Learn more about Grand Canyon Geology. (top of page)


Are the oldest rocks in the world exposed at Grand Canyon?

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)


When and why did Grand Canyon become a National Park?

Grand Canyonis 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.

Although first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later as a National Monument, Grand Canyon did not achieve National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. Today Grand Canyon National Park receives close to five million visitors each year - a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 which the park received in 1919. Grand Canyon became a national park in order to give it the best protection we as a nation have to offer. The mission of the National Park Service, here and elsewhere, is to preserve the park and all of its features, including the processes that created them, and to provide for the enjoyment of the park by visitors in a way that will leave the canyon unspoiled for future generations. Read the administrative history of the park. (top of page)


How do I get to the Grand Canyon?

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)


How does one see the Canyon?

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.

A much smaller number of people see the Canyon from the North Rim, which lies just 10 miles / 16 km (as the condor flies) directly across the Canyon from the South Rim. The North Rim rises a thousand feet higher than the South Rim, and is much less accessible. Heavy snows close the road to the North Rim from late October to mid May of each year. Even in good weather it's harder to get to: it's 220 miles / 354 km by car from the South Rim, or 21 miles / 34 km by foot across the Canyon by way of the North and South Kaibab Trails.

The inner canyon includes everything below the rim and is seen mainly by hikers, mule riders, or river runners. There are many opportunities here for adventurous and hardy persons who want to backpack, ride a mule to Phantom Ranch, or take a river trip through the Canyon on the Colorado River (which can take anywhere from a few days to three weeks - there are no one-day river trips through Grand Canyon). How do people get across the canyon? If you're walking, the South Kaibab Trail crosses the Colorado River on a narrow foot bridge 70 feet / 21 m above the water. There is only one way to cross by automobile, and that is via Navajo Bridge, just a few miles downstream from Lees Ferry, where the Canyon is still only 400 feet / 122 m wide. (top of page)


When is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon?

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)


Can I bring my dog along with me if I hike into the canyon?

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. Learn more about bringing your pet to Grand Canyon. (top of page)


Do I have to make reservations for lodging at the Grand Canyon?

Yes, lodging in Grand Canyon National Park becomes completely booked well in advance. Be sure to make reservations as far ahead as possible. (top of page)


How hard is it to hike into the Grand Canyon?

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. Learn more...

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)


Do I need a permit to hike into the Grand Canyon?

Permits are not required for day hikes below the rim, but you must obtain a backcountry permit if you plan on camping overnight. (top of page)


What is the weather like at the Grand Canyon?

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. Learn more about Grand Canyon weather. (top of page)


Does it cost anything to enter Grand Canyon National Park?

Yes, entrance fees to the park is $30 per private vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, $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)


What is the best way to get more information on visiting the Grand Canyon?

Visit our Trip Planning Publications Page and download the most current Park Trip Planner (pdf newsletter available in 8 languages).

To purchase publications about the Grand Canyon contact the Grand Canyon Association at; P.O. Box 399, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023; (928) 638-2481. (top of page)


How do I take a mule ride to the inner canyon?

Mule rides from the South Rim are arranged through Grand Canyon National Park Lodges (303-297-2757) or visit

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 (top of page)


What advice/travel tips do you have for international/overseas visitors?

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)


What kinds of activities are available at Grand Canyon National Park?

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, guided tours and stargazing. 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)


What are the different areas of Grand Canyon?

North Rim

The North Rim has lodging, restaurants and shops that are open May 15 through October 15 each year. A worthwhile trip for those who enjoy the road less traveled, the North Rim, or "other side" of the Grand Canyon is visited by only 10% of all Grand Canyon visitors. The North Rim is over 8000 feet/2438 m. in elevation. There is one lodge, the Grand Canyon Lodge and one campground operated by the NPS.

The hike across the canyon from South Rim to North Rim is 21 miles (34 km). However, driving from the South Rim to the North Rim by automobile requires a five-hour drive of 220 miles (354 km).

South Rim

Most people visit Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim. The South Rim is located 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona (via route 64 from Interstate 40) and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff (via route 180). The South Rim of Grand Canyon averages 7000 feet/2134 m above sea level.

This area includes Grand Canyon Village with a campground, an RV park with full hook-ups, several lodges, restaurants, a grocery store, visitor centers, museums, gift shops, backcountry information center, and shuttle system. Tusayan, the gateway community to the south entrance also has many services, including lodging, food and more.

The South Rim is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All visitor services (camping, lodging, and food) are available year round. The least crowded time is November through February. However, winter weather is a major consideration when planning a trip during these months.

Desert View

Desert View is a small settlement on the South Rim located 25 miles/ 41 km east of Grand Canyon Village, and near the eastern edge of Grand Canyon. Arizona Highway 64, also known as Desert View Drive, is a scenic road that connects Desert view with Grand Canyon Village. For visitors coming into the park via the East Entrance, a stop at Desert View provides the first views of Grand Canyon.

Attractions include views of the Colorado River and canyon geology, the historic Watchtower designed by Mary Colter, the nearby Tusayan Museum highlighting the story of American Indians of the region. Facilities include visitor contact station and bookstore in the watchtower, restrooms, seasonal campground (mid-April through mid-October), service station, gift shops, and general store. Lodging is not available at Desert View.

Grand Canyon West and Skywalk

Grand Canyon West is run by the Hualapai Tribe and is at the far western end of Grand Canyon - about 250 miles (400 km) by road, a five hour drive, from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. A variety of visitor services are offered, including the Skywalk. Food service is limited, usually as part of a package tour. (top of page)


Where can I camp in Grand Canyon National Park?

There are several developed campgrounds in Grand Canyon National Park. Advanced reservations can be made for Mather Campground on the South Rim (open all year), and North Rim Campground (a short season May 15 through October 31). Camping at Desert View Campground is on a first-come, first-serve basis (the campground season usually ends mid-October).

There is only one RV campground within the park with full hook-ups. It is located in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Trailer Village is a concessioner operated RV park with full hook-ups.

For more information on reservations and locations, click here.

If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the North Rim or the South Rim, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center. (top of page)


When does the North Rim close?

Because winter weather occurs earlier at the North Rim, it has a short season. Lodging, restaurants and shops are open May 15 through Oct. 15, 2016 each year. Even though it is not possible to drive vehicles to the North Rim during the winter, hikers, snowshoers and cross country skiers are able to enter the North Rim of the park through the winter months, provided backcountry permits have been obtained. Personal snowmobiles are not permitted inside the park. The North Rim reopens on May 15 of every year. (top of page)

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023


(928) 638-7888
This is the main phone number for general park questions.

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