Several viewpoints and trailheads in the park have limited or no parking and must be reached using the park shuttle system. The National Park Service runs an extensive shuttle service on the South Rim with three interlocking routes. The service is free, and generally runs from before sunrise until after sunset, depending on the route. Service is more frequent from May through September and includes additional routes. In addition, during the summer the park service operates a shuttle from Tusayan into the park.
Horse and mule riders are required to follow a number of rules and restrictions while in the park, and must get a permit from the park service to keep animals in the park overnight.
From Mar-Nov the West Rim Drive is not accessible to most private vehicles (handicap vehicles may request a variance at the entry gate). The park service runs a shuttle during this time. The shuttles are frequent but long lines form during the busy summer months.
- Grand Canyon Village. Good views, the trailhead of the Bright Angel Trail, historic buildings, and massive crowds.
- Desert View. The historic Watchtower is a popular stop for many travelers and provides an excellent vantage point for viewing the canyon and Colorado River.
- Hermits Rest. Located at the West end of Hermit Road. This gift shop/snack bar was designed by Mary Colter (the same person responsible for the Watchtower at Desert View) so as to resemble a Hermit’s abode, and fit in harmoniously with the landscape. Constructed of a mix of stone and wood.
There are several other viewpoints along the road between Hermit’s Rest and Grand Canyon Village (West Rim) or Desert View and the village (East Rim).
Located only 10mi from the South Rim by air, the North Rim is a 215mi (346km), 5-hr drive from Grand Canyon Village. At 8,000ft (2,440m) the elevation of the North Rim is approximately 1,000ft (305m) higher than the South Rim, and as a result features more coniferous trees and cooler temperatures. The roads to the North Rim are open only during the summer (from approx 15 May to the first fall snow fall), while the in-park facilities usually close by 15 Oct, regardless of the weather. With far fewer visitors, this area can be a great place to enjoy the peace and majesty of the canyon. The main viewpoints are Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal (where the Colorado River can be seen), and Point Imperial (the highest viewpoint in the park).
Havasupai Indian Reservation
A popular destination in the canyon lies southwest of the park on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. Havasupai can be loosely translated as “People of the Blue-Green Water”. Entry into this remote portion of the canyon requires a $35 per person entry fee (plus an additional $17 per person/night to stay in the campground). Those venturing into Havasu Canyon are greeted by spectacular world class waterfalls. Although the Havasupai Reservation is somewhat impacted, the incredible canyon below the Supai Village is worth the visit. Access to Havasu Canyon is from Hualapai Hilltop north of Peach Springs. Visitors must park at Hualapai Hilltop and hike, ride, or fly to Supai near the waterfalls. It is an eight mile hike or horseback ride to Supai Village, and not typically a day hike. Helicopter transportation to and from the village is available on a first come basis four days a week. An extremely rustic lodge is the only public accommodation available in Supai. A large mile long campground is located two miles down canyon between Havasu and Mooney Falls. This campground can be extremely crowded in the summer months; advance reservations are strongly recommended.
Hualapai Indian Reservation (Grand Canyon West)
The Hualapai Reservation borders Lake Mead NRA to the West, and Grand Canyon National Park to the North and East. Tribal head quarters are located in the impoverished town of Peach Springs. The Grand Canyon Resort Corporation is a collection of tourist enterprises wholly owned by the tribe. Activities include motorized rafting trips on last few miles of white water in the canyon, and pontoon boat rides on the smooth waters of Lake Mead. In addition, Grand Canyon West (located in the remote Northwest corner of the reservation) is a collection of viewpoints overlooking the last few miles of Grand Canyon and the stagnant waters of the Colorado River as it flows into Lake Mead. The Hualapai have partnered with dozens of commercial tour operators from the Las Vegas area, and a tour package purchase (ranging from $29-109 per person) is required for entry to the Grand Canyon West area. Literally hundreds of helicopter flights ferry passengers from the “West Rim” to a multitude of landing zones near the lake shore.
At Eagle Point, the Grand Canyon Skywalk (a glass bottomed walkway extending over the rim) is now completed. Access to this part of the canyon is rather difficult, requiring a drive of approximately 10 miles on a dirt road (“Diamond Bar Road”)(pickup truck recommended, no sports cars) after the town of Dolan Springs, Arizona. Fees within this portion of the reservation are $29.95 per person for access to two viewpoints, while those wishing to visit viewpoints and walk on the Skywalk must purchase the “Legacy Gold” package for $83.95 per person (with taxes). Note that photographs may not be taken from the Skywalk but can be purchased for $30 per photograph, or $100 for all photographs taken(as of Oct 2011).
Hiking in the Grand Canyon is unlike anywhere else on Earth – trails range in difficulty from fifteen minute loops to multi-week treks, and all offer spectacular views. In addition, there are numerous unmaintained trails throughout the park for the more adventurous. For individuals who prefer guided hikes a variety of outfitters offer options. Note that while most canyon hikes entail significant elevation change, less-strenuous hiking options include nature walks along the rim trail which offer great views without requiring much exertion.
All hikers should take trail warnings very seriously. Temperatures in the canyon may vary by about 50-70 °F depending on elevation and time of day, and unlike most places, the most challenging portion of a hike in the Grand Canyon will always be the end, meaning that if you run out of water you will get heat stroke, and if you get too tired you will be unable to get back to the trailhead. Carry more water than you think you’ll need, and know your limits. It is far too easy to overextend yourself hiking in the canyon, and each year over 250 people require rescue due to underestimating the heat and difficulty. Also be aware that trails may be very icy during the winter – if you have crampons for your shoes or hiking poles you should bring them or consider purchasing them from a local shop.
- Bright Angel Trail. The park’s most popular trail is the Bright Angel trail which starts near the Bright Angel Lodge. This trail traverses a seemingly unending series of switchbacks down the canyon wall before leveling out somewhat around the oasis of Indian Gardens. During the summer months water is available at the 1.5 mi (2.4 km) resthouse, the 3 mi (4.8 km) resthouse and Indian Gardens (4.5 mi or 7.2 km). However, check to ensure that the water is functioning before departing; water main breaks are common. Most hikers will traverse only a portion of this trail, and the park recommends that day hikers never attempt to go further than Indian Gardens. Winter hikers should note that the top two miles of this trail are likely to be icy. Distances to waypoints (round-trip) are: Mile-and-a-half Resthouse (3.0 mi / 4.8 km with 1131 ft / 345 m elevation change), Three-mile Resthouse (6.0 mi / 9.6 km with 2112 ft / 644 m elevation change), Indian Garden (9.8 mi / 15.8 km with 3060 ft / 933 m elevation change), Colorado River (16.2 mi / 26.2 km with 4380 ft / 1337 m elevation change), Bright Angel Campground (19.2 mi / 31.0 km with 4380 ft / 1337 m elevation change).
- South Kaibab Trail. Slightly steeper than the Bright Angel trail, this trail starts from Yaki Point and follows a ridgeline into the canyon. Because the trail follows a ridge the views are spectacular and wide-open, but the amazing scenery comes at a cost: there is almost no shade to protect hikers from the sun, and the lack of natural water sources means that there is less plant and animal life. Hikers should be aware that there is no water available along this trail and prepare for brutal conditions – summer hikes can be particularly dangerous. Distances to waypoints (round-trip) are: Cedar Ridge (3.0 mi / 4.8 km with 1140 ft / 348 m of elevation change), Skeleton Point (6.0 mi / 9.6 km with 2040 ft / 622 m of elevation change), The Tipoff (8.8 mi / 14.2 km with 3260 ft / 994 m of elevation change), Bright Angel Campground (14 mi / 22.6 km with 4780 ft / 1457 m of elevation change).
- Hermit Trail. This is a steep, unmaintained, rocky trail that descends from the South Rim to the river, passing fossilized reptile tracks and abandoned camps from the early 1900s along the way. The trailhead is just beyond Hermit’s Rest and is accessible via shuttle bus. There is no water available along this trail, and shade is scarce during the summer. This trail also provides access to Dripping Springs and Santa Maria Spring. Distances to waypoints (round-trip) are: Dripping Springs Trail junction (3.2 mi / 5.1 km with 1400 ft / 427 m of elevation change), Hermit Camp (14.0 mi / 22.4 km with 3840 ft / 1171 m of elevation change), Colorado River (17 mi / 27.2 km with 4240 ft / 1293 m of elevation change).
- Grandview Trail. This is another steep, rough trail that descends from the South Rim to Horseshoe Mesa and Cottonwood Creek; it does not go to the Colorado River. The trailhead is at Grandview Point and leads down to Horseshoe Mesa where several mining relics including ore crushers and cabins are still present. The trail then continues on to Cottonwood Creek, which will be dry at most times of year. There is no water along this trail, so you must carry sufficient water with you. Distances to waypoints (round-trip) are: Coconino Saddle (2.2 mi / 3.5 km with 1165 ft / 355 m of elevation change), Horseshoe Mesa (6.0 mi / 9.6 km with 2500 ft / 762 m of elevation change), Cottonwood Creek (10.0 mi / 16.0 km with 3800 feet / 1158 m of elevation change).
- Grand Canyon Jeep Tours & Safaris,☎ (800) 320-5337. Grand Canyon Jeep Tours is the Original Outdoor Adventure Jeep Sightseeing Tour for Grand Canyon National Park, offering quality jeep tours in the Grand Canyon area since 1995. Tour options include off-road sightseeing, hiking, helicopter tours, airplane tours and more
- Pink Jeep Tours Grand Canyon,☎ (800) 873-3662. Pink Jeep Tours is a five-star rated sightseeing company in the Southwest with a 50 year history of creating memories of a lifetime. Pink Jeep Tours Grand Canyon offers a variety of guided tours. Some tours including hiking, helicopter and rafting. They also offer tours to the Grand Canyon from visitors originating in Sedona, AZ and Las Vegas, NV. All ages.
- All-Star Grand Canyon Tours,☎ (800) 940-0445. Daily 7am-8pm. All-Star Grand Canyon Tours is a five-star rated Grand Canyon Touring company. All-Star Grand Canyon Tours offers a variety of guided tours. Tours can be done on as a group or private tour, and include sight seeing, hiking, and backpacking. All ages.
- Four Season Guides,☎ (877) 272-5032. Daily 9am-4pm. Since 1999, Four Season Guides offers guided hiking tours, backpacking trips and kayaking adventures across the incredible landscapes of the American Southwest. Top ratings on Trip Advisor. All ages.
- Canyon Dave Tours, Inc.,☎ (877) 845-3283. Canyon Dave Tours has the 5-star 2013 and 2014 Certificates of Excellence from TripAdvisor. Offering daily tours and vacation packages to Grand Canyon and other southwest National Parks. All tours include pass-around Grand Canyon rock specimens and take-home educational materials. Full day tour includes lunch and a visit to the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Whitewater rafting expeditions depart daily during the summer months from Lee’s Ferry. Commercial trips range from 3-18 days and cover from 87-300 mi. Trips book up fast so be sure to book your trip about a year in advance or you will have to get lucky with cancellations. The most popular section of river for the “true” Grand Canyon river experience lies between Lee’s Ferry and Diamond Creek.
Private (non-commercial DIY) river permits are also available for river trips up to 30 days in length. The new Colorado River Management Plan has changed a 12-20 year wait list to a new weighted lottery.
- Arizona River Runners,☎ +1-800-477-7238. This company has been providing complete Grand Canyon whitewater rafting trips since 1970 and offer a wide variety of trips: 3-day Escape, 6, 7 and 8-day motorized adventures and 6, 8, 13-day oar powered trips. The company is serious about protecting the environment and provides all of the camping and rafting gear you will need for your river experience.
- Grand Canyon Whitewater,☎ +1-800-343-3121. This company offers guided, multi-day rafting tours ranging from 4,5,6,7,8 and 13-days on motorized or oar-powered rafts. No river rafting or camping experience necessary, guides and equipment are provided.
- Colorado River & Trail Expeditions,☎ +1 800-253-7328. Offers trips and tours specializing in rafting and hiking along the river corridor.
- Tour West Rafting(Grand Canyon Rafting Trips), ☎ +1 800-453-9107. Grand Canyon river rafting combines world-class whitewater with breathtaking scenery to make one truly unforgettable river experience. The canyon is filled not only with exhilarating whitewater rapids, but with side canyons and ancient Indian ruins accessible only by river.
- A.R.S.(Outdoor Adventure River Specialists), ☎ +1 800-346-6277. Grand Canyon river rafting combines world-class whitewater with breathtaking scenery to make one truly unforgettable river experience. The canyon is filled not only with exhilarating whitewater rapids, but with side canyons and ancient Indian ruins accessible only by river.
- Holiday Expeditions,☎ +1 800-624-6323. Offers a variety of different tours, from the beginner to the expert, of the Colorado River including most parts of the Grand Canyon.
- Hualapai River Runners.The only one day whitewater trip is available from the Hualapai Tribe in the far Western portion of the canyon (outside of the park boundary).
Airplane and helicopter tours are offered by providers outside of the south rim in Tusayan at the Grand Canyon Airport, and also from Las Vegas. Scenic flights are no longer allowed to fly below the rim within the national park. However, some helicopter flights land on the Havasupai and Hualapai Indian Reservations within Grand Canyon (outside of the park boundaries).
- Maverick Aviation Group,☎ +1 888-261-4414. This Las Vegas-based sightseeing and charter services company offers an array of tours to both the West and South Rims of the Grand Canyon through Maverick Helicopters, Maverick Airlines, and Mustang Helicopters.
- Serenity Helicopters,☎ +1 888-589-7701. A variety of Las Vegas – Grand Canyon helicopter tours and private charters.
- Ranger programs. Programs include interpretive talks, rim walks, movies, and museums. At the South Rim, special Junior Ranger programs are available for children in the summer. Check “The Guide”, a free publication distributed throughout the park for dates and times.
- Motorcoach toursare available year round at the South Rim. Tours are offered for the East Rim/Desert View, West Rim/Hermit’s Rest, and for Sunrise and Sunset. Smaller naturalist and geologist lead van tours originate from outside the park in Flagstaff, Williams and Tusayan.
- Mule rides. South Rim trips operate year round, and should be booked well in advance due to demand. Individuals can book by calling Xanterraat +1 888-297-2757 (+1 303 297-2757 from outside of the U.S.). Weight limits of 200 lb (90.7 kg), and other restrictions are strictly enforced.
- Star gazing. On your own (fantastic for meteor showers), or with the Grand Canyon Star Party every June at Yavapai Point.
- Bicyclingis only allowed on park roads. It is not allowed on rim trails or in the inner canyon. The best mountain biking can be found on the North Rim and just outside the park in the Kaibab National Forest.
- Educational CoursesThe Grand Canyon Field Institute offers short (1- to 5-day) courses at the canyon. Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff offers a Grand Canyon Semester for college credit.