As a year-round destination, experience the best of the Arizona desert at this iconic American destination. With a canyon that’s a mile deep, your eyes will see millions of years pass as they fall to the green ribbon at the bottom. Each layer of dusty-colored rock represents a different era and the Colorado River carved the canyon micron-by-micron over millions of years.
Hotels.com wanted me to share the top things to do near the Grand Canyon. The park features four major areas—the north rim, the south rim, the west rim and the east rim. Though not all areas are open year-round, like the North Rim since it receives significant snow from the fall until the spring.
Where to Stay near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers the most year-round services and attractions. Find the largest selection of lodging from spacious free-standing condos to the hotel brands travelers trust within a short drive of the South Rim.
Tusayan—Located right outside the south entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. This town is one-mile long though offers the most convenient lodging and dining outside of the Grand Canyon Village. Also Tusayan is a base for many commercial tours and flightseeing operations.
Williams—Located along Interstate 40, Williams is a larger community than Tusayan and it’s 53 miles south of the Grand Canyon South Rim Entrance. Additionally it’s the departure point for the Grand Canyon Railways.
Flagstaff—Located southeast of Grand Canyon National Park, this mountain destination offers easy access to the Grand Canyon along with the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and southern Utah. It’s 72 miles from the South Rim entrance.
Las Vegas—For air travelers, Las Vegas offers the most flights along with The Strip. It’s the closest city to the Grand Canyon SkyWalk on the western side of the Grand Canyon (not at the South Rim).
Top Attractions at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim
Grand Canyon National Park at a Glance
|Year Established: 1919|
|Located: Northern Arizona|
|Size: over 1.2 million acres|
|Top Features: Mather Point, Bright Angel Trail and the Historic Grand Canyon Village|
Top Sites at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim
- Walk along the Rim Trail for views of the Grand Canyon.
- See a sunset or sunrise at Mather Point or Yaki Point.
- Tour the Historic Grand Canyon Village, like the El Tovar Hotel along with Bright Angel Lodge.
- Shop for crafts at the Hopi House.
- Walk through Kolb Studio.
- Look over the Grand Canyon edge’s at the Lookout Studio.
- Find the Bright Angel Trailhead, it’s the trail that the mules use to get to Phantom Ranch, located at the bottom of the canyon.
While exploring the Grand Canyon, consider using its free shuttle. It’s color-coded and easy-to-use. Parking is limited at popular points on the South Rim and find the most parking at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
Spend as little or as much time as you want. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open 365-days a year, 24-hours a day. A 7-day private vehicle pass is $35 and you can purchase a digital pass at recreation.gov.
2020 Update: Due to continuing lockdowns in the Navajo Nation, the East Entrance of the Grand Canyon is closed until further notice. This includes the buildings at Desert View.
The Grand Canyon Visitor Center is closed as well. Restrooms remain open.
Things to Do in Tusayan Arizona
Find a resort town with a western flavor. Choose from activities and tours for everyone from family travelers to RVers to high-adventure types.
Grand Canyon IMAX
See the inner depths of the Grand Canyon on a 6-story screen in a 34-minute film. Learn about the Grand Canyon’s history along with the people who call it home.
Located at 450 State Route 64. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with showing every hour starting at (9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Adult admission (11+) is $13.59, kids admission (6 to 10) is $10.33 and kids 5 and under are free.
Grand Canyon National Geographic Visitor Center
Along with the IMAX theater, find an information desk with Grand Canyon tours and maps, along with souvenir shopping and restrooms.
Located at 450 State Route 64. Open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Free to enter.
Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours
One of the best ways to see the Grand Canyon is from above. If you’ve never flown on a helicopter then the Grand Canyon is an ideal location for this bucket list adventure. Papillon offers several different tours and aircraft, both fixed wing and helicopters. Aerial tours can also be combined with land tours.
Located at 3568 Airport Rd., at the Grand Canyon National Airport. Open daily with flights from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fares start at $140 per person.
Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines
For nearly 100 years, Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines has been flying over the canyon along with shuttling passengers to nearby destinations. Book a scenic flight and fly the length of the canyon. The Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines flies to-and-from Las Vegas, Nevada; Page, Arizona, and the West Rim airport.
Located at 3555 Airport Rd., at the Grand Canyon National Airport. Open daily with flights starting at 10 a.m. Fares start at $140 per person.
Grand Canyon Apache Stables
Take a one-hour or two-hour guided horseback ride through the Kaibab National Forest. Guided rides are available from mid-March to the first week of November. Riders must be 6-years-old and 48-inches tall. All riders must be under 230 pounds.
Located at 472 Moqui Dr. One-hour rides are $58.50 per person. Two-hour rides are $110.50.
Colorado River Rafting
Raft the river that carved the canyon with a raft trip down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. Find a trip that suits your group from one-day calm floats to multi-day trips with white water.
Find several concessionaires approved by the National Park Service.
Take a guided tour of the Grand Canyon, including the option for sunset and guided hiking tours.
Pink Adventure Tours is located at 450 State Route 64. Open year-round. Several tours available from $99 per person.
Grand Canyon Jeep Tours and Safaris is located at 313 State Route 64. Open from March 1 to end of November. Several tours available from $110 per person. Alternative fuel vehicles available.
From 16,000 feet, jump out over the Grand Canyon for the ultimate rush. Paragon Skydiving offers tandem jumps with seasoned sky divers.
Packages start at $299 per person. Open daily with seasonal hours and jumps depart on the hour. Located at 1542 Liberator Dr. at the Main Terminal of the Grand Canyon National Airport.
Where to Eat in Tusayan
Big E Steakhouse and Saloon
After exploring the Grand Canyon all day, enjoy a steak dinner. Afterwards head to the saloon for a full bar stocked with wine, local beer, spirits and coffee drinks.
Located at Bldg 395 State Route 64, Grand Canyon. Open daily from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
2020 Update: The NPS Tusayan Shuttle Route (Purple Route) to the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center is suspended until further notice.
Things to Do in Williams Arizona
With its convenient location on Interstate 40, road trippers might prefer Williams.
Grand Canyon Railway
This scenic railroad chugs out of its station daily, and service started in 1901. Passengers depart the Williams Depot bound for the log cabin depot at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. See the high desert along with the Kaibab National Forest on the 64-mile route.
The train departs daily from Williams at 9:30 a.m. and returns at 5:30 p.m. Ride in a restored vintage rail car in six different classes.
Pullman Class—Ride in a vintage 1923 rail car with bench seats and windows that open (no air-conditioning). And the seats flip so families can face each other. Round trip adult fare (16+) is $67 and round trip kids fare is $32 (2 to 15).
Coach Class—Enjoy air-conditioning in a 1950s-era rail car. Round trip adult fare (16+) is $82 and round trip kids fare is $51 (2 to 15).
First Class—With over-sized seats and complimentary snacks, first class offers streamliner cars with air conditioning. Round trip adult fare (16+) is $159 and round trip kids fare is $121 (2 to 15).
Observation Dome—out-of-service for 2020
Luxury Dome—Upstairs find a dome observation car outfitted like a parlor car. Downstairs find a lounge with a private bar. Complimentary sparkling wine departure cocktail included. Round trip adult fare (16+) is $226 and no one under 16 allowed.
Luxury Parlor—Ride in style with a luxuriously appointed rail car. Located at the end of the train, head out to the viewing platform to enjoy the desert scenery. Round trip adult fare (16+) is $226 and no one under 16 allowed.
Grand Canyon Railway offers multi-day packages with lodging at its depot location in Williams and inside Grand Canyon National Park. Also find a pet resort for your pets when you visit the Grand Canyon.
2020 Update: Observation car is out-of-service for 2020.
In 1926, this road was considered a super highway that originated in Chicago, Illinois, across the U.S. to Long Beach, California. In most areas, the original Route 66 got gobbled up by more modern roads though find Route 66 alive and well in Williams.
Bearizona Drive Thru Wildlife Park
Drive through 160 acres on a three-mile route in your own vehicle to see North American animals, like black and grizzly bears, mule deer, Rocky Mountain goats, American badgers, Alaskan tundra wolves. Also see American bison, bobcats, beavers, prairie dogs and pronghorn deer.
Located at 1500 Route 66. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adult admission (12+ ) is $25 and kids (4 to 12 ) are $15.
2020 Update—Bus Tour and Keeper Chats are temporarily unavailable.
Where to Eat in Williams
Pine Country Restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner menus featuring favorites like traditional breakfast items, sandwiches and burgers along with steak and pasta dishes. Though the dessert case is the first thing to see when you arrive. Find house-made pies, like key lime, several varieties of apple along with seasonal favorites.
Located at 107 N. Grand Canyon Blvd. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Things to do in Grand Canyon West
As the closest gateway town to Las Vegas, Grand Canyon West offers adventures tours along with the heart-dropping Sky Walk. While in Grand Canyon West learn about people who live around the Grand Canyon, like the Hualapai, Navajo, Hopi and Havasupai at Eagle Point. Explore the traditional village or see a weekend performance in the shaded outdoor amphitheater.
Then hop a shuttle to Guano Point to see the old tramway tower used in harvesting guano. Also find helicopter tours, river rafting and a zip line at Grand Canyon West.
General admission ( 4+) is $39 person. The Sky Walk requires an additional timed ticket and is $20.
On the western rim of the Grand Canyon, walk over its edge and see unparalleled views of the Colorado River. Step out a 10-foot wide, horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that extends 70 feet from the canyon wall.
Located at 808 Eagle Point Rd. in Peach Springs about 130 miles (209 km) from Las Vegas.
Colorado River Rafting
Float the Colorado with a one-day, two-day or five-day paddling trip that includes camping on the banks. From $300 per person and available from mid-March to the end of October.
See the western portion of the Grand Canyon then land at the bottom to hike. Additionally you can reserve a pontoon boat ride on the Colorado River.
Trips start at $199 per person. Located at 5001 Diamond Bar Rd., Peach Springs, helicopter tours depart from the Grand Canyon West Airport.
Grand Canyon Caverns
Explore the largest dry cavern in the U.S., 200-feet below the surface of the earth. Tours depart starting at 9:30 a.m.
Rumors persist this cave is haunted. The one-hour long Ghost Walk utilizes K2 meters to register paranormal activity. Departs nightly at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. depending on season.
Located at 115 mile marker on AZ-66 in Peach Springs, Arizona. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission (12+) starts at $21.95 and kids (6 to 12) are $10.95.
The Cabins at Grand Canyon Resort
Spend the night in an outfitted cabin with a bathroom and air conditioning. Rates start at $125 a night.
Located at 5001 Diamond Bar Rd. in Peach Springs.
2020 Update : Havasupai Lodge and Havasu Falls trips are unavailable until further notice.
Things to do in Flagstaff Arizona
Outdoor enthusiasts might want to use Flastaff as their Grand Canyon base. It offers several smaller National Park Service sites and it’s the first official Dark Sky city.
A mathematician opened the observatory in 1894 for solar system exploration. In 1930, the Lowell Observatory discovered Pluto.
The Lowell Observatory is a National Historic Landmark. It’s home to the 24-inch (61-cm) Clark Refracting Telescope and the 13-inch (33-cm) Pluto Discovery Telescope.
Located at 1400 W. Mars Hill Rd. Public tours are on hold though private tours with 10 people are available.
Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort
On the western slope of Mt. Humphreys, find an all-season mountain resort on the tallest point in Arizona. Arizona Snowbowl offers 777 skiable acres with 55 runs from green to black. Find six aerial lifts including a 6-person high speed lift along with two surface lifts.
Ski season runs from late November until the end of April. The scenic chair lift transports hikers and mountain bikers from the summer through October for fall color.
Located at 9300 North Snowbowl Rd. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lift tickets required and find lessons and equipment rental onsite.
Meteor Crater Natural Landmark
See where a meteor crashed into the earth 50,000 years ago. Considered to be one of the best preserved meteor impact craters in the world. It’s 3,900 feet (1,200 m) across and 560 feet (170 m) deep and includes an interpretive center and rim tours.
Located on Interstate 40 at Exit 233, Winslow. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission (12+) is $22 and kids (6 to 12) are $13.
Walnut Canyon National Monument
See how people lived in the area from AD 600 to 1400. Explore the cliff dwellings along Island Trail to see 25 cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people. They farmed corn, squash and beans below the cliff.
The area became a national monument in 1915. The Civilian Conservation Corps stabilized the site in the 1930s as a part of President Roosevelt’s Works Progress program that put young men to work in parks across the U.S.
Located on Interstate 40 at Exit 204, Flagstaff. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Adult admission (15+) is $15 and kids (15 and under) are free.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
The area around Flagstaff is volcanic, including Mt. Humphreys. See a cinder cone along with lava fields.
Located at 6082 Sunset Crater Rd., Flagstaff. A 7-day private vehicle pass is $25 for neighboring Sunset Crater and Wapatki national monuments.
Wupatki National Monument
Explore the ancient pueblos of the Wupatki that built multi-level structures 900 years ago, including the 104-room Wupatki Pueblo. Find several short hiking trails to explore partially preserved pueblos.
Located at 25137 N. Wupatki Ln., Flagstaff. Open sunrise to sunset. A 7-day private vehicle pass is $25 for neighboring Sunset Crater and Wapatki national monuments.
2020 Update: The Navajo Nation is closed for tourism until further notice. This included the Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
Explore a 200-acre property to see the native trees and plants of northern Arizona. With 750 different plant species, learn how plants adapt to the Colorado Plateau.
Located at 4001 S. Woody Mountain Rd. Open from mid-April until November 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adult admission (18+) is $10 and kids (4 to 17) are $7. Dog-friendly.
How to get to Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Located north of east-west Interstate 40, Grand Canyon is a frequent road trip stop. Head north on Arizona Route 64 from Williams, AZ, to get to the South Rim Entrance, open 24-hours a day.
Williams, AZ, offers Amtrak train service on the Southwest Chief line. Amtrak offers vacation packages including meals and tours of the South Rim.
Las Vegas offers the largest international airport (LAS) in the southwest. Also find dining, lodging and entertainment options on The Strip along with the surrounding city. Las Vegas is about 274 miles from the Grand Canyon’s South Entrance.
The eastern entrance at Desert View is closed until further notice. Visitors staying in Flagstaff will have to enter Grand Canyon National Park from the south entrance.
Weather at Grand Canyon’s South Rim
Winter: Highs 40sF (8 to 9C), Lows mid 20sF (-4 to -2C)
Spring: Highs mid 50s to mid 70sF (15 to 25C), Lows low 30s to mid 40sF (0 to 8C)
Summer: Highs mid 80sF (26 to 29C), Lows 50sF (11 to 15C)
Fall—Highs low 50s to mid 70sF (15 to 25C), Lows mid 40s to upper 20s (6 to -3C)
Average Rain and Snow averages about 1 inch per month.
Note on 2020 Travel
Since traveling in 2020 remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind as you explore. If you’re comfortable traveling, please travel responsibly and within local and state regulations since travel is at your own risk.
- Wear a face mask, as required in the area.
- Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently.
- Check official websites and a destination’s Facebook page before your trip and during your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures and status of local businesses.
- Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.
- Check to see if your attractions require online reservations before your trip. Popular attractions sell out.
This post was sponsored by Hotels.com.