Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim - Arizona

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 Page 1: How to Get There | Where to Stay | Camping
For South Rim Attractions, Go To Page 2
For New Canyon View Information Plaza, Go To Page 3

Grand Canyon of the Colorado

Having seen the Grand Canyon from three sides (South Rim, North Rim and at Lee's Ferry, the start of the canyon) one can only marvel at the strange geological occurrences that created this most impressive of America's wonders.

We know that the huge Colorado Plateau started to uplift a few million years ago, just as the Colorado River began to cut a channel through the earth on its way to the Sea of Cortez. The uplifting action served to keep the river on its course as it continued to grind through the rock, resulting in a gorge more than 200 miles long, with hundreds of side canyons and dozens of buttes rising from the valley floor. Eighteen miles wide in places, the canyon is America's most treasured natural destination -- a mecca for travelers from around the world.

More Recent History

Although Spanish explorers were the first non-Americans to see the Grand Canyon, it was virtually unknown until John Wesley Powell and his intrepid band of geographers explored the canyon by boat in 1869. Miners followed before the first tourists arrived, and the remains of mines are found below the rim. Teddy Roosevelt was instrumental in providing national monument status for the canyon in 1908, and the area received national park designation in 1919. Today, more than three million visitors tour the park (most on the South Rim) and most of those arrive during July and August.

Two thousand square miles of plateau and canyon now lie in the park. The geological features are of different ages -- inner gorges date back two billion years while buttes closer to the rims are merely 200 million years old. The canyon itself is a youngster, created only a few million years ago.

Doing both rims should take a week, with a day's drive (210 miles) between the two national park locations. This is -- for most -- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it behooves one to spend enough time in the park to truly catch the many wonders of the canyon, particularly if there are children involved. There are short and long hikes into the canyon available, as far as the river and Phantom Ranch, or part-way down to a mid-way shelf. Air tours of the canyon provide an easy way to see the full glory of the region. Raft trips -- starting from Lee's Ferry just south of the Glen Canyon Dam at Page, Arizona -- take as long as a week to float down the full length of the canyon. Any way you do it, this probably will be your most remembered vacation experience.

How to Get There

The most popular driving route to the South Rim leads to Grand Canyon Village via U.S. Highway 180. It is accessible from either Williams or Flagstaff, by driving north from Interstate 40. From Williams, drive north on Arizona Route 64 and then continue on Hwy. 180 through the village of Tusayan to the south gate to the park.

Our preferred route from Flagstaff is via Sunset Crater and the Wupatki National Monument (Indian ruins) to Cameron (via U.S. 89) and then west to the Desert View gate on Arizona Route 64.

The shorter drive from Flagstaff to the south gate is via U.S. Highway 180, which leads northwest from Interstate 40. This is a scenic drive through the San Francisco Mountains and the Kaibab National Forest.

It's also a thrill to take the scenic train trip from Williams to Grand Canyon Village. The train runs daily through the busy summer season and less frequently during winter months. Call 800-THE TRAIN (800-843-8724) for information on this revival of the long-time steam-train journey that captivated visitors as far back as the turn of the century. The train pulls into the South Rim village close to the El Tovar Hotel. Taking the train means that you don't have a car to drive along the rim to the various overlook locations. However, the park operates a bus shuttle along the South Rim and it's possible to enjoy an even more relaxed vacation if you don't feel compelled to dash all over the place in your car. During summer months, the Rim Drive is closed to cars.

And, once you have arrived at the South Rim, head for the new Canyon View Information Plaza, to orient yourself to the park, and begin your visit.


Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

Reserve a hotel in Arizona

To search hotels, cruises,
and vacation packages around the world,

go to the Hotel Guide

Inside the park, visitors will find several places to stay including campgrounds and an RV park.

El Tovar Hotel
The El Tovar is the historic lodge, built in 1905 and, since then, the prime place to stay within the park. Constructed of pine logs and fieldstone, this wonderfully atmospheric hotel offers rusticity with gentility, at prices in the high to deluxe range.

Nearby motel-type accommodations include the Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, Yavapai Lodge (open seasonally), Bright Angel Lodge, and Maswik Lodge. Moqui Lodge is closed during January
For information on all these park accommodations, write to Grand Canyon National Park Lodges, P.O. Box 699, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023. For advance reservations, call (303) 297-2757. For same-day reservations, call (520) 638-2631.
Phantom Ranch, on the canyon floor beyond the north side of the river, has overnight dormitory and cabin space. Advance reservations are necessary. Call (303) 297-2757, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (MST) or contact the Bright Angel Lodge Transportation desk while in the park. You should enquire about the availability of mule trips into the canyon. The Park Service has been considering ending the oong-time mule trips for environmental reasons.
There are motels in Tusayan, the community outside the south entrance to the national park. In addition, there are two respectable motels in Cameron, located east of the park at the junction of Highways 89 and 64.


Mather Campground is open year-round (no hookups).

Trailer Village, with hookups, is located next to Mather Campground( call 602-638-2401).

Desert View Campground (no hookups, self-reservation) is closed during the winter months.

A commercial campground with hookups is located 7 miles south of the village, outside the park in the town of Tusayan. A national forest campground is located just outside the south gate in the Kaibab National Forest. Call (602) 638-2443 for information.

For South Rim Attractions, Go To Page 2
For New Canyon View Information Plaza, Go To Page 3

Book Ahead!

We can't emphasize enough the need to plan your trip several months in advance to secure accommodations in Grand Canyon Village and Phantom Ranch. If you're contemplating a vacation here, you'll need to make your bookings about 6 months in advance for weekend and holiday stays. Because the South Rim is so busy during the summe, serious vacation planning should begin a year before your visit.

For general park information, call
(925) 638- 7888.

For South Rim Attractions, Go To Page 2
For New Canyon View Information Plaza, Go To Page 3

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