The Grand Canyon is one of the most jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring sights I have ever seen. If you haven’t yet had a chance to visit Grand Canyon National Park, you should definitely add it to your travel bucketlist! Keep reading for my guide for planning a trip to the Grand Canyon.
PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 0-1
The first step in planning a trip to the Grand Canyon is to figure out which rim you will be visiting. This guide is for the South Rim area of the Grand Canyon. The South Rim is the more popular side of the Grand Canyon, featuring amazing, expansive views, and is open year-round. It is the most accessible and offers a wide range of hiking trails for any skill-level. The North Rim, on the other hand, sees about 1/10th as many visitors as the South Rim and is much more remote. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only open from mid-May to mid-October.
Getting To the South Rim of the Grand Canyon:
The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is about 5 hours from Phoenix or Las Vegas- you can easily make this into a Grand Canyon road trip if you are coming from either of these cities, or even from Los Angeles (about 9 hours). If you do not live in these areas, I recommend flying into either Las Vegas or Phoenix airports and renting a car for a Grand Canyon road trip!
You’ll need a park pass for entrance into the Grand Canyon, which costs $35 per car and is good for 7 days. Instead of risking having to wait in line at the park entrance to purchase, you can either buy online beforehand, or at a handful of gas stations in Valle, AZ on your way in.
Where to Stay in Grand Canyon National Park:
The next step in planning a trip to the Grand Canyon is deciding your lodging preferences. See below for the options:
Option 1: Camping
Camping is a great, affordable way to fully experience the Grand Canyon. Campsites tend to book up far in advance, so be sure to plan ahead. However, I only planned my trip one month in advance and was able to stalk the recreation.govwebsite to snag two campsites that someone had cancelled. We stayed at Mather Campground, which was great! They have nice bathrooms with running water, and clean campsites that are centrally located. It’s only $18/night.
Option 2: Lodging at Grand Canyon National Park
Option 3: Hotels in the area surrounding Grand Canyon National ParkAnother option is to stay at a hotel in the area nearby Grand Canyon National Park, such as Tusayan, Valle, Red Lake, or Williams, AZ. See below for the latest deals:
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Hiking Trails- South Rim Grand Canyon National Park
If you’re planning a trip to the Grand Canyon for only a weekend, I would prioritize the following two hiking trails during your time there:
Day 1: South Kaibab Trail- This trail ranges from 2-6 miles round-trip depending on how far you want to go. South Kaibab Trail offers some of the best views in Grand Canyon National Park for a relatively short hike. The trailhead begins just south of Yaki Point. The only way to get to the trailhead is by the free shuttle bus, which you can hop on from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, along with a few other locations.
As you start hiking down, the first stop you will come to is at "Ooh-Aah Point" about 1 mile in. This scenic viewpoint offers a stunning view, and is great for pictures! If you don’t want a strenuous hike, you can turn back around after this point for a 2 mile round-trip hike.
If you’re an avid hiker and want to keep going, the next stopping point you’ll come to is Cedar Ridge, about a half-mile past Ooh-Aah point. There are restrooms here, but not water (make sure you bring enough water!!). This is a good stopping point for most day-hikers, but if you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can keep going to 1.5 miles past Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point, making it a 6 mile roundtrip hike. At Skeleton Point you will see the first view of the river at the base of the Grand Canyon. The hike back up is steep and there’s no shade- make sure you have enough water!
After you’ve made it back up to the top, check out the rim trail for an easy, flat walking trail around the edge of the rim with great views!
Day 2: Bright Angel Trail
This trail is longer/more difficult than South Kaibab Trail, but it is worth the hike! Bright Angel Trail can be up to 12 miles roundtrip, but you can turn back at any time to make it shorter hike. Make sure you get an early start in the morning if you are planning to go the 9-12 miles round-trip route!
The first rest area (with bathrooms and water) is about 1.5 miles in. On the way to this point, you’ll encounter two naturally-made rock tunnels. After the first tunnel is where the switchbacks begin. The 1.5 mile rest-stop is a good point to turn back if you are a beginner hiker, or if you got a late start. We even saw a deer while on this part of the trail!
If you keep going, you’ll encounter the next rest area at 3 miles in, which is a good spot to turn back if you are an intermediate hiker (don’t underestimate how much harder/longer the hike back up will take you! It’s steep).
If you keep going to 4.5 miles, you’ll reach Indian Garden down towards the bottom, making for a 9 mile round-trip hike. This is where we turned around, and the hike back up was pretty difficult. Definitely make sure you have enough water and stay hydrated! Indian Garden is a nice area with picnic tables and a small river, which feels great to relax and put your feet in before you start your steep hike back up! At this point, you will have descended 3,000 feet into the Grand Canyon. Pretty cool!
It is advised not to go past Indian Garden as a day hike if you are hiking in the Summer. If you do decide to keep going, you will reach Plateau Point at 6 miles in, making for a 12 mile roundtrip hike. You can see views of the Colorado River from here. There’s a campground at Indian Garden- it would be more feasible to make it to Plateau Point if you were staying the night down there! However, you have to obtain a backcountry permit which requires planning your trip a few months in advance.
Other Tips for Planning a Trip to the Grand Canyon:
The Grand Canyon Village Market is only .2 miles from Mather Campground and has groceries, firewood, and other general items you might need.
If you are looking to eat out, there are a few lodge restaurants right around that area. We ate at the Yavapai Lodge Restaurant one of the nights. It was mediocre, but we were just happy to have a quick meal after a day of hiking!
2. Drink Lots of Water!
I know I already mentioned this, but the Grand Canyon can get super hot and dry, meaning you are even more susceptible to dehydration. Make sure you’re prepared for your hikes with plenty of water and snacks.
3. Pack Layers (especially if you’re camping):
I was there at the end of May, and while it was super hot in the daytime (about 80 degrees F), the temp would drop to about 40 degrees F at night. Make sure you have warm clothes for when the sun goes down!
4. Get up Early
Wake up early to start your hike so that you can have enough time to finish the hike, avoid the crowds, and not be at the hardest part of the hike during the hottest part of the day.
Packing for Your Weekend Trip to Grand Canyon National Park:
A few of my favorite things that I had for this trip:
GoPro– To take epic group pictures
Ahnu SugarpineHiking Boots
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