Grand Canyon – Arizona, SW USA

Grand Canyon, USA, North Rim

The USA’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) seen from the North Rim’s Bright Angel Point.

Grand Canyon North Rim

The Bugcrew visited only the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. This was probably a mistake for although there were far fewer visitors than on the South Rim it was a hefty drive to get there and we believe the views and activity options were far more limited.

The canyon is certainly grand – the biggest canyon in the world of course – the view is awesome and the silence inspiring, but from the North Rim the initial reaction after the long drive is ‘Jeez, look at the size of that! ‘ followed by a rush to the short path along the (in this case north) rim.

However, after a wander around in the afternoon, followed by another walk early the next morning, when the scene was fundamentally the same even though the sun was pointing a different way, and it was impossible not to feel ‘Is that it then? ‘

Lodge and [public] overlook on the North Rim, Grand Canyon, USA

The Grand Canyon Lodge and (public) overlook on the North Rim.

Places to Stay on the North Rim

The only lodging within the National Park on the North Rim is the Grand Canyon Lodge. Ask for one of the cabins rather than motel rooms. Cabins sleep from three to six people.
The Grand Canyon Lodge Lodge is beautifully situated and apparently well managed. This and nearby campgrounds are in much demand so, as usual, book ahead!

The rim path is short but sweet and impressively – for a heavily litigious society – unfenced.

The Canyon runs east-west direction for 27 miles, and is mostly about 10 miles wide. Your experience there will be determined by which rim you visit; they’re just 24 miles apart as the crow flies but a distance of 200 miles by car.

Grand Canyon, trail running from Point Imperial, USA

A short and less-than-inspiring trail running from Point Imperial on the North Rim.

Full-on forest fires are incredibly destructive and much of the North Rim’s hinterland still looks like the Somme in 1917 even though the big fire was several years previously.

Grand Canyon South Rim

The South Rim is easier to reach from Phoenix or Las Vegasand much more crowded, but has far more amenities. It’s also open year-round while the North Rim is inaccessible from mid-October to mid-May.
When you make advance reservations – a must in summer and smart in winter – it’s worth staying inside the National Park (all in-park lodging is within eyeshot of, or within, the canyon). If you try to save a few bucks by staying on the strip just outside the park, you’ll kick yourself when you get there.

Places to stay on the South Rim

There are a variety of lodging options in-park on the South Rim, from the El Tovar, a grand hotel built in 1905 to the Bright Angel Lodge, a 1935 rustic, rim-side landmark (ask to stay in one of Bright Angel’s detached log cabins.

Indian Camping Ground, Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon, USA

Indian Camping Ground, Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon.

Indian Garden Campground is located in a beautiful tranquil area filled with cottonwood trees. A small creek passes through on its way to the Colorado River. To camp in this zone you must obtain a backcountry permit.

Indian Garden is 4. 8 miles below the South Rim and has a ranger station, emergency phone, year-round potable water, and toilets. Mule trains stop to rest on their way to Phantom Ranch. Day hike destinations from here include Plateau Point, with panoramic views of the Colorado River.

Every campsite at Indian Garden Campground has a picnic table, pack pole, and metal food storage can.
Plateau Point is 1. 5 miles (2. 4 km ) beyond Indian Garden. Getting here is a day hike that takes from 8-12 hours. The total round trip is 12. 2 miles ( 19. 6 km ) and the change in elevation is 3, 195 feet ( 974 m).

Popular Grand Canyon Activities


Hiking famous the Bright Angel trail on the Grand Canyon

Hiking famous the Bright Angel trail on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Photo by Hermann Luyken.

If you must cool your heels in the Colorado River, there are two ways down to the bottom of the canyon: by foot or by mule. Mule trips, like rafting, need to be booked at least a year ahead and include simple accommodation overnight at the bottom, for about $500 per person.
Hiking is the real deal but it’s a long way down on the Bright Angel or Kaibab Trail, and even longer back up. Fit people, beware. Unfit innocents, don’t do it, at least not all the way down. And preferably book at least one night at the cheap and basic Phantom Ranch, the only lodging option at the bottom of the canyon.

However, you don’t have to hike the entire way down to the River to enjoy the views.   A mile and  a half down the Bright Angel Trail to the first rest stop is awesome. Start just before dawn to beat the heat in summertime, when no one is on the trail and watch the sun rise over the canyon. The only way to do this is to make reservations in the park, wake up early and make your way to the rim. Be prepared, and don’t hike in flip flops!

Cliff Springs Trail, Grand Canyon, USA

Cliff Springs Trail, Grand Canyon.

The Cliff Springs Trail

This is an easy one mile round-trip walk taking about an hour.
The trail meanders down a forested ravine and ends where a chest-high boulder rests under a large overhang. The spring is on the cliff side of the boulder. President Roosevelt once camped here.
The Trail begins directly across the road from a small pullout on a curve a few hundred feet down the road from Cape Royal.

Cedar Ridge and hikers seen from Ooo Aah Point on the South Kaibab trail, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Cedar Ridge and hikers seen from Ooo Aah Point on the South Kaibab trail. Photo by OrangeSuedeSofa.

Mather Point Sightseeing, South Rim, Grand Canyon, USA

Mather Point Sightseeing, South Rim.


Of course you could take a white water ride through the canyon that would be wild, but you’d better book it way in advance. In fact the National Park Service permits only one private trip to leave Lee’s Ferry (the nearest launch point above the Grand Canyon) daily, and there is now a 13 year waiting list! Yes, you read it right, thirteen years!

Of course there are several pricey, mega tourist rafts a day that don’t have quite the same frisson of thrills, spills and a turbulent death by drowning.

Marble Canyon Navajo pedestrian bridge above Colorado River, Grand Canyon, USA

Marble Canyon Navajo pedestrian bridge 467 ft (142m) above the Colorado River. Photo by Michael Quinn.

Float into the Grand Canyon on a raft on the Colorado river. Most packages offer 280-mile, 15-18 day raft excursions of the canyon, but book a year in advance. All manner of combination trips are available . e. g. The outfitter OARS offers a seven-to-eight-day journey that combines hiking into the canyon from the South Rim with rafting on the Colorado and a helicopter flight out of the canyon with costs well over $3, 000 pp.

Hualapai Skywalk

Hualapai glass skywalk platform, Grand Canyon, USA

The Hualapai’s glass skywalk observation bridge. Photo by LasLovarga.

Then there’s a stroll onto the Hualapai Indian’s Glass Skywalk that projects 70ft (20m) out from the Canyon Rim so you feel you are walking on 4, 000 ft(1, 220m) of air. Opened in March 2007 visitors have to pay to enter the Hualapai Indian National Park as well as $25 to walk on the scary glass along with a maximum of 119 others.

Also see

Don’t miss the Desert View Watchtower at the canyon’s eastern edge, built by architect Mary Colter in 1932.
Colter based her design on Pueblo peoples’ lookout towers, and commissioned local artists to decorate the interior with murals and copies of ancient petroglyphs discovered in and around the park. It’s like climbing into a four-storey dream.

Buy something at Hopi House – Colter’s 1905 re-creation of a Hopi pueblo – and support local American Indian artists. Even if you don’t purchase jewellery, Navajo rugs, or an American Indian pot, this is the place to learn about local traditions. For instance, the Santa Clara pueblo has kept up an unbroken tradition of pottery-making since pre-Columbian times, while the Jemez tradition died out and has recently been reestablished – making Jemez pots a relative bargain.

When to go there

The Grand Canyon is a very busy, international attraction so it won’t be a solitary experience; four to five million people visit every year, most of them in summer, when it’s hot but especially hot if you’re hiking up and down. On average, the canyon in August reaches 28C (82F) along the South Rim and 39C (103F) at the bottom.

Best time to visit the Grand Canyon, especially if hiking

Winter: when there are fewer visitors, the air is clear but it’s still not too cold.

May/September: when it should be sunny and warm but neither unbearably hot nor unpleasantly crowded.

Some negative comments from dissatisfied visitors

“Went there from Vegas for a few hours… Nothing special. ”

“Seeing the canyon in person is about as good as seeing pictures of the canyon. It’s possible the pictures might be better since the photographer only releases the most interesting views of the park. ”

“I drove nine hours one-way to see it, but it felt like it was only worth a two-hour drive. So if you happen to be within two hours, it’s worth considering. Also, the trails are polluted with horse and mule faeces. I found myself on the canyon edge dangerously jumping and shifting around to avoid it. ”

“I have been lucky enough to remember the spectacular beauty from 30 years ago when it was not spoiled by tourist centers, souvenir shops and other spots of. . . civilisation. “

Getting there

Forget about driving to both North and South Rims unless you’re ready for 215 miles of slow roads between the two. Bottom line is, you’ve got to see the Grand Canyon but try to leave time to do something other than just looking over the edge.

A fine Grand Circle route could involve visiting the South Rim as the last stop before returning to Las Vegas, in addition to doing some activities – a hike down to the canyon base for a start.

The south rim is at Grand Canyon West, 55 miles from Peach Springs on Route 66 or 47 miles from Pierce Ferry Road off Route 93.

Las Vegas Nevada, 121 miles; Flagstaff, Arizona, 216 miles; Phoenix AZ, 253 miles; Scottsdale AZ 273 miles; Sedona AZ, 249 miles; Los Angeles via Hoover Dam, 375 miles.