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Grand Canyon Vacation

Orientation for a Grand Canyon Vacation

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Grand Canyon Vacation

Grand Canyon Vacation View

© Betsy Malloy 2003
Five million years old, 277 miles long and 18 miles wide, the Colorado River's deep canyon covers 1,904 square miles. Five million people take a Grand Canyon vacation every year.

Allow at least two days for your Grand Canyon vacation. Remember, you might never return, and if you try to see it in a single day, you'll end up with blurs for memories instead of vivid Grand Canyon vacation images.

See It Now: Photo Tour

If you'd like more help planning your trip, try our free, six-part planner newsletter.

Saving Money on Your Grand Canyon Vacation

Use these tips to help reduce the cost of your Grand Canyon vacation:
  • With the exception of the cafeterias at Yavapai and Maswik Lodges, food can be quite expensive. Make easy breakfasts and lunches from items purchased at a grocery store in Flagstaff or Williams, where they are less expensive.

  • If you will visit more than one national park during your trip, and expect to spend more than $80 in entry fees, buy an unlimited National Park Pass.

  • Going camping for your Grand Canyon vacation is cheaper than staying in hotels. The least expensive camping for your Grand Canyon vacation is in the Kaibab National Forest, where camping is free (albeit lacking in amenities).

  • Take advantage of ranger-led hikes and interpretive programs at the park instead of paying a tour company.

The Lay of the Land

It helps if you understand the geography before you take your Grand Canyon vacation. The park follows the path of the Colorado River through northwest Arizona. There are two major entry points, one on each rim, north and south. The South Rim is the one people think of first when they think of a Grand Canyon vacation. It's more famous, easily accessible and crowded in summer. Heavy snow closes the North Rim in winter, but it's much less crowded any time it's open. I prefer this rim for a Grand Canyon vacation for its views and peacefulness.

Don't go looking for that new glass bridge (aka the Grand Canyon Skywalk) that you heard about on television at the South Rim or the North. It's on the so-called West Rim, most easily accessed from Las Vegas.

The canyon's extreme depth and size falsely give the impression that its rim is at sea level, with the river running far below. While the river is indeed far below - over 4,000 feet below the South Rim, in fact - it is nevertheless at 2,480 feet above sea level. The rims are both over a mile high, higher than Denver, Colorado, and the weather varies greatly from rim to river as well as rim to rim.

Elevations


South Rim Phantom Ranch North Rim
Elevation (feet) 6,950 2,480 8,400
Average Temperature 62 F
17 C
82 F
28 C
56 F
13 C
Average Rainfall 14 in
366 mm
9 in
239 mm
26 in
652 mm

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