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. Learn more about Grand Canyon Geology. (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 Grand Canyon is known throughout the world for its overwhelming size and its intricate and colorful landscape.
The SOUTH RIM
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. Learn more about bringing your pet to Grand Canyon. (top of page)
Unlike hiking in mountainous terrain, Grand Canyon trails involve a downhill trip followed by a strenuous uphill climb. Hiking in 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 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 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: Havasupai Gardens, 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. More about South Rim Winter Visits.
Spring and Fall weather is extremely unpredictable; be prepared for sudden changes in the weather during these seasons. Current weather forecast and information about Grand Canyon climate. (top of page)
Yes, entrance fees to the park is $35 per private vehicle, $30 per motorcycle, $20 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 $80 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 $70. 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)
Visit our Trip Planning Publications Page and download the most current Park Trip Planner (pdf newsletter available in 8 languages).
To purchase publications about Grand Canyon, visit the Grand Canyon Conservancy Online Store: https://shop.grandcanyon.org/ Or write: Grand Canyon Conservancy, P.O. Box 399, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023; (928) 638-2481. (top of page)
Mule rides from the South Rim are arranged through Grand Canyon National Park Lodges (303-297-2757) or visit http://www.grandcanyonlodges.com/things-to-do/mule-trips/
Between May 15 and October 15, 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-mule-ride/ (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. Grand Canyon trip planning information may be downloaded in 8 lanaguages. (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, guided tours and stargazing. A wide variety of free interpretive programs are offered by NPS rangers. The Grand Canyon Association Field Institute offers educational tours and classes. Bicycling is allowed on park roads. (top of page)
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 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).
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 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)
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 the North Rim Campground (a short season May 15 through October 31). Advanced Reservations are now required for camping at Desert View Campground on the South Rim (the campground season is usually mid-May to mid-October). These 3 NPS campgrounds do not have hook-ups.
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.
Because winter weather occurs earlier at the North Rim, it has a short season. Lodging, restaurants and shops are usualy open May 15 through October 15, 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 - unless excessive snow prevents roads from opening. (top of page)
Last updated: September 28, 2023