Arizona is home to the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon, crazy desert wildlife, and very hot summers.
The Grand Canyon is a ~huge~ destination! We’re talking nearly 300 miles long and 18 miles across! That’s a whole lot to take in, and sometimes choosing the best viewpoint to fit your needs can be tricky. Here’s some info to help you choose between the North Rim, South Rim, Grand Canyon East, and Grand Canyon West.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of the Grand Canyon, the South Rim is probably the one you’ve seen. It’s typically the most popular with visitors — especially if you’re a first timer or traveling with kids. The South Rim is open year round, but our best advice is to plan your visit during the spring or fall. Skip the potentially overwhelming heat and cold of summer and winter and instead enjoy afternoon highs of 65-75 degrees. There’s nearly always a chance of snow possible, but rumor has it that the Grand Canyon is stunning when covered in a blanket of fresh white snow!
The South Rim is the most accessible from major cities and it has the most visitor services. People have been coming here to view the Grand Canyon since the 1850’s, so they’ve had a lot of practice! If you’re looking for a room with a view, you have your choice of 6 hotels inside the park. You’ll find these, as well as restaurants, museums, and gift shops, in what’s know as the Grand Canyon Village. With nearly two dozen viewpoints to choose from, the South Rim is sure to accommodate everyone!
Grand Canyon West
Grand Canyon West isn’t technically a part of Grand Canyon National Park. Actually, this chunk of the Grand Canyon consists of lands owned by the Hualapai Indian Tribe. The only real importance of this is that entrance fees here are separate from the National Park’s. The biggest allure of Grand Canyon West is the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a u-shaped piece of glass that juts 70 feet out over the Grand Canyon. Standing on this glass walkway, you can see clear down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon — it’s almost like you’re floating!
Since the installation of the Skywalk, Grand Canyon West has become the second most visited location in the Grand Canyon. If you head there for a visit this year, you’ll be one of over a million! This Grand Canyon view is the closest to Vegas, and is also near the famous Havasu Canyon and Falls, if you’re looking for even more to explore.
Grand Canyon East
Grand Canyon East is the home of a couple of hidden secrets that many tourists miss out on. First, it’s the home of Little Colorado River Tribal Park. Second, it’s where you can find iconic Horseshoe Bend. Horseshoe Bend is just 7 miles from the start of the Grand Canyon. Unlike the North and South Rims, from Horseshoe Bend you can have your picture taken with the Colorado River in the background. More and more visitors each year are learning about these hidden gems, so it likely won’t be long until Grand Canyon East is as bustling as the South Rim.
The difference between the South Rim and the North Rim is surprisingly great. The North Rim has another 1,000 feet of altitude, and therefore is normally considerably cooler than the South Rim — about 10 degrees! Unfortunately, because of snow, you can only visit the North Rim from May to October. When you do, though, you’ll see that this rim has a lot to offer! Comparatively less dry than the South Rim, the North Rim is able to sustain deciduous trees like Oak, Aspen, Maple, and Birch. Visit during the fall and you can expect a phenomenal show of multicolored leaves!
The North Rim only receives 1/10 of the visitors that the South Rim does, so you can generally expect it to be quieter and calmer. While you’ll have the calls of the canyon wrens and the Kaibab squirrels to yourself, keep in mind that visitor services are more limited here. You’ll find a giftshop and a restaurant, but only one in park lodge. There aren’t many commercial tours on this rim, but you will find some ranger-led programs, and plenty of hiking and sightseeing. Here, there are three viewpoints to discover, and while the South Rim dazzles with the depth of the Grand Canyon, the North Rim displays the immense width of it. This rim isn’t as easy to get to from the western cities like Vegas, but for the unique view, its certainly worth the trip!