Visiting Grand Canyon National Park
Fees, Seasons and ReservationsThe fee to enter Grand Canyon National Park is $25 per vehicle, or $12 for each individual arriving on foot, bike, motorcycle or in a non-commercial group. The fee is good for seven days and grants access to the north and south rims of the canyon. Although the average distance between the canyons is 10 miles as the crow flies, a trip from one rim to the other involves a five-hour, 215-mile drive.
The south rim is open all year, and is far more tourist-friendly than the north rim. The north rim is closed from mid-October to mid-May, since the road to it is usually blocked by snow. No visitor services, lodging or other facilities are available during that time. In-season lodging is available at the historic Grand Canyon Lodge, as well as the Kaibab Lodge and the Jacob Lake Inn, which are outside of the park. The Grand Canyon Village in the south rim is home to several historic and contemporary lodges, as well as visitor information centers, museums, two restaurants (at Bright Angel and El Tovar lodges) and other amenities. A convenient bus transit system connects all the major accommodations and amenities in the village. Visitors are encouraged to make lodging reservations in advance. They can also fill out activities reservation requests, and request lodging at Phantom Ranch, which is located on the canyon floor and accessible only by foot or by mule. Bear in mind that these forms are requests and do not guarantee the options selected. After forms are submitted, a representative will contact the requester by phone or e-mail. Developed campgrounds are available on the north and south rims. An additional fee of $18-25 per campsite applies. Be sure to check road conditions before you come.
Desert View DriveScenic drives are among the most popular activities that visitors to the Grand Canyon partake in. Located east of the Grand Canyon Village, the Desert View Drive follows Highway 64 for 26 miles along the south rim, stopping at Grandview, Moran, Lipan and Navajo Point overlooks before culminating at Desert View Point.
Upon reaching their destination, visitors will find an information center and a watchtower that rises 70 feet above the canyon rim. Constructed in 1932, the tower was designed by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter -- who also designed the Bright Angel Lodge and other important park structures -- and is meant to replicate the buildings of the ancient Pueblo people. Its interior features murals by the Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. The nearby Tusayan Ruin and Museum offers visitors a glimpse of ancestral Puebloan culture.
Hermit RoadCloser to the Grand Canyon Village, Hermit Road was built by the Santa Fe company and opened as a scenic drive in 1912 -- seven years before the Grand Canyon National Park was established. The eight-mile road boasts nine scenic overlooks, accessible by bike, foot and tour bus. Visitors can hop on and off busses between stops to explore the rim, or hike the road's entire length. Be advised that while this and other south rim roads are open all year, icy conditions can close them suddenly during winter months.
Toroweap/Tuweep Area OverlookNamed for a Paiute term meaning "dry and barren land," the Grand Canyon's Toroweap Area is perserved by the National Parks Service to reflect its natural condition. Opportunities for photography abound at the area's sweeping overlooks, and there are several difficult trails for hikers in search of a challenge. Compounding the steep grades and lack of shade are a sparsity of visitor services. Even access -- via country roads -- can be trying, but the views of the Colorado River, Lava Flow Rapids and the sheer, 3,000-foot drop to the canyon floor are well worth toughing it out. "Tuweep" is a name for the place used by early white settlers. It is thought to be derived from a longer Paiute word for "long valley."
Ranger Programs, Museums and Visitor CentersThe Grand Canyon might look empty, but it's actually overflowing -- with history! Joking aside, there is a lot to learn about the park's natural and cultural history, and ranger-led programs are a great way to get informed. In addition to various guided educational hikes and tours, rangers ofter host talks at the park's shrine of the ages. Travelers can also visit the canyon's Pioneer Cemetery, where many important figures of the park's past are interred. Various museums and visitor centers on the south rim also offer historical perspective. Stop by the Yavapai Museum to learn about the canyon's geology, or visit the restored studio museum of the Kolb brothers, the Grand Canyon's pioneering photographers and film makers.