Courtesy of National Park Service
South Rim. The South Rim gets most of the park's annual 4 million visitors, which means that in-park lodging should be booked in advance (888/297-2757 or grandcanyonlodges.com). Early spring and mid- to late autumn are ideal, while November through February are the least crowded months.North Rim. Less crowded and 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim's Grand Canyon Village, the North Rim offers a totally different experience. Facilities are open only from May 15 to mid-October because of heavy winter snow.Below the rim. Perspective shifts very quickly inside the canyon. While the immersion of a rim-to-rim hike or a rafting trip is ideal, you don't have to make a commitment that large to experience the inner canyon.
When you take a look at the great eroded buttes, monoliths, and temples that comprise Northern Arizona’s 277-mile-long canyon and how these formations’ contours and colors change with the light, you're bound to wonder how such a miracle came to be. The deep reds come as no surprise but when the rock begins to turn purple or blue you begin to realize that the postcard views we all grew up scarcely capture just how ever-changing and grand this canyon truly is.
Gaze down and you’ll notice that there’s something missing. From most points on the South Rim, you cannot even see all the way to the bottom of the canyon where the Colorado River runs. The canyon is a mile deep. And from rim to river, it encompasses 1.8 billion years of geology.
Maybe a Grand Canyon visit will inspire you to challenge some of North America’s fiercest whitewater on a multi-day rafting excursion. Or to take a backpack trip and go down into the depths and back up again on a trek from the South Rim to the North Rim. The fact is that a trip to the Grand Canyon isn’t a culmination. It’s only the beginning.
Getting there. Grand Canyon lies about 225 miles north of Phoenix, and 275 miles east of Las Vegas; nearest towns are Tusayan just south of the park, and Williams and Flagstaff, farther to the south and southeast. Note that the distance from the South Rim to the North requires a 200-mile drive (or a 22-mile hike).
When to go. Summers are the most popular time here--both North and South rims are open, and it’s peak season for Colorado River rafting. Weather is hot, especially within the canyon, and thunderstorms are common. Autumn is beautiful, with turning aspen and cool clear days. The North Rim generally closes in Mid-October, to reopen Mid-May. Winter on the South Rim is quieter, with a dusting of snow at the top of the canyon, and warmer temperatures within. Spring weather can be changeable, veering from snow and rain in March to warmer temperatures later in the season.
For more information, visit the National Park Service; nps.gov/grca, 928-638-7888.