Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the most popular national parks in the USA. The breathtaking natural monument guarantees unforgettable experiences for hikers, photographers, animal lovers, and also for the average United States vacationer.

Grand Canyon facts

Location: Arizona, USA
Length: 450 km
Depth: 1,800 m at the lowest point
Width: 29 km at the widest point

What is the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon is a gorge in the Colorado Plateau of the US state of Arizona, which surrounds the Colorado River for about 450 km. On both sides of the canyon are the famous nature reserves South Rim and North Rim.

On average, the slopes of the Grand Canyon are only 16 km apart by air. However, by car, it takes several hours to get from South to North. Today, the entire area around the Grand Canyon is a national park. The canyon is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

The history of the Grand Canyon

Nobody knows exactly how old the Grand Canyon is. The only certainty is that the Colorado River formed it. After it was assumed for a long time that the formation of the Grand Canyon began about 6 million years ago, new research results even pointed to a beginning 70 million years ago.

Tool findings suggest that the first people to live in the canyon 12,000 years ago were the Paleo-Indians. Then, 3,000 years ago, the "Desert Culture," a tribe of hunter-gatherers, is believed to have lived in the canyon.

The first Europeans accidentally discovered the Grand Canyon in 1540 but classified it as "worthless," leaving the Native Americans alone for another 200 years.

A first expedition to the Grand Canyon was led by US explorer John Wesley Powell in 1869. It was Powell who gave the Grand Canyon its present name. Before that, the canyon had mostly been called "Big Canyon" or "Great Canyon."

Tourists have been coming to the Grand Canyon regularly since the late 1880s. To prevent destruction, US President Theodore Roosevelt signed a law in 1906 declaring the entire area around the canyon a nature preserve. Shortly after, the canyon became a national monument.

In 1919, the designation as a national park was made by President Woodrow Wilson. In 1979, the canyon was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Today, the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited national parks in the USA, with nearly 6 million tourists. Only the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina is more popular. Five Native American tribes currently reside in Grand Canyon National Park: the Hopi, the Navajo, the Havasupai, the Paiute, and the Hualapai.

How to get to the Grand Canyon

You have to see it with your own eyes! A visit to the Grand Canyon is an absolute must if you are traveling in the western USA. This requires a longer drive, but it is without a doubt worth it.

For a visit to the Grand Canyon, you can choose between the South Rim and the North Rim, which are easily accessible from Las Vegas or Phoenix, for example. The closest town to the more popular South Rim is Flagstaff.

A drive from Monument Valley on the Utah border also makes sense if you happen to be on a national park tour of the US. The drive to the South Rim from there takes about three hours.

If you want to see both sides of the Grand Canyon and also explore the canyon itself, you should plan an extra day.

Visiting Grand Canyon: how to do it

Mule tours, daring hikes, whitewater rafting in the canyon, or a night under the spectacular starry sky - there really is a lot to experience at the Grand Canyon.

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Some tips to make your visit to the Grand Canyon a success:

  • If possible, don't come here in the summer, because it's very crowded.
  • Wear sturdy hiking boots.
  • When hiking and descending, always consider the way back.
  • Bring plenty of time and water.
  • In Tusayan, you can hop on a free shuttle that goes to Grand Canyon Village.

Guided Tours

Guided excursions to the Grand Canyon start in Sedona, Las Vegas, and also directly in Tusayan near the South Rim. On offer are jeep tours, guided hikes, or even full-day excursions with the park rangers.

Car, bike, and train

A car trip to the Grand Canyon is certainly the most convenient way, but if you want to travel in style, take the Grand Canyon Railway. It runs from the small town of Williams via five stations to the South Rim in about two hours. At the Grand Canyon, both bike rentals and shuttle buses will be waiting for you. The most beautiful hiking trails at the South Rim are Hermit, Bright Angel, South Kaibab, New Hance, and Tanner.

Descent into the canyon

Even if you have a mule with you on your way down, you should by no means underestimate the descent into the Grand Canyon. This unique experience is a multi-hour effort for which you need to have enough energy beforehand. However, the highly trained hiking mules will ease your way and keep you safe. If you want to stay overnight at Phantom Ranch down in the canyon, we recommend planning early because overnight stays in the canyon are in high demand. It's best to book a year in advance.

Helicopter and airplane

A 45-minute helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon is an unforgettable experience! For this, most tourists are very happy to pay between €200 and €300. This is also possible with a small airplane. You will see a little less, but you will only pay about €130.

Overnight camping at the Grand Canyon

Camping in the Grand Canyon requires a permit from the backcountry office. If you want to stay overnight with less bureaucracy, you can stay at the quaint El Tovar Hotel, for example, where no two rooms are alike. Thunderbird Lodge, Kachina Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, and Maswik Lodge are also highly recommended. You can choose between real hotel rooms and rustic cabins.

Get married at the Grand Canyon

Sensational: you can get married at the Grand Canyon! There are several outdoor venues and lodges at the South Rim for your ceremony. Start planning up to one year in advance with the ceremony team of the National Park Service. Note: For a wedding in the USA, you need a marriage license! You can get one at the Arizona courthouses, e.g., in Williams, Flagstaff, Fredonia, or Page.

The Grand Canyon in detail

The sights in the Grand Canyon National Park are not only the canyon itself. There are also various Native American monuments, ancient viewing platforms, flora and fauna, the lively Grand Canyon Village, and mysterious caves waiting for you.

South Rim and North Rim

Most of the tourist activities at the Grand Canyon take place at the South Rim. That's why you'll have more peace and quiet at the North Rim Visitor Center. Since a drive from the South Rim to the North Rim takes about five hours, you probably won't want to explore both rims in one day.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Along the South Rim, you'll find many pretty overlooks, picnic areas, and sacred sites such as Pima Point, the Rim Worship Site, Grandeur Point, Shoshone Point, Moran Point, Lipan Point, the Shrine of the Ages, and the Park Lodges. Grand Canyon Village, located on the South Rim, is also a good reason to visit the South Rim.

North Rim of the Grand Canyon

At nearly 2,700 meters, the North Rim is much higher than the South Rim and is only accessible to tourists seasonally due to sensitive water pipes. The cooler weather and tranquility of the North Rim make for total relaxation as you drive through the sparse forestation.

Visit the Cape Royal amphitheater, marvel at the majestic canyon from the Point Imperial overlook, or get comfortable on the porch of the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge and enjoy the sunset. During heavy snowfall, the road to the North Rim is closed from late October to mid-May.

Grand Canyon Village

The hamlet of Grand Canyon Village is located on the South Rim and consists almost entirely of US National Park Service employees. The community of 1,460 is the tourist hub of the Grand Canyon, with many hotels, stores, and services. The Market Village, for example, has grocery stores, a post office, an auto repair shop, and a bank.

The Skywalk of the Hualapai

Located on Hualapai tribal land (i.e., outside the national park area) at the western Grand Canyon, the Skywalk has been in place since 2007. The steel viewing platform with its glass floor reaches 22 meters over the abyss and is only recommended for visitors with a head for heights. The drive from the South Rim to the Hualapai Reservation takes about five hours.

The Colorado River

The green and lively Colorado River stretches for about 2,300 km across the western United States and is, so to speak, the lifeline of the Grand Canyon. The river is perfect for rafting and paddling but has few fish.

Hidden caves

There are an estimated 1,000 hidden caves in the Grand Canyon, of which only just over 300 have been recorded. Only one of these caves is open to the public: the Cave of the Domes.

To get to the cave, you'll need to hike five and a half miles down the Grandview Trail. You will need a guide because the entrance to the cave is hard to find.

Supai Village

In the middle of the Grand Canyon, there is a small village called Supai Village. The community is considered the most remote town in the continental United States. You'll only find more remote places in Alaska.

The hamlet within the Havasupai Reservation has about 208 residents and is the only place in the United States where mail is still delivered by mule. If you want to visit the Havasupai at its turquoise waterfalls, you either need a helicopter or have to make a long hike by mule.

Once you've made it to the little paradise between the red walls of the Grand Canyon, you can stay at the Havasupai Lodge or camp there with permission from the National Park Service.


If it's still too crowded for you, even at the quiet North Rim, you can experience the Grand Canyon all to yourself at the Tuweep (or Toroweap) overlook. The viewpoint at 915 m above the Colorado River offers you a stunning panorama of the entire North Rim.

But be careful: The drive to the Tuweep is difficult and requires some skill. You also have to expect spontaneous thunderstorms.

Hiking trails at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park is home to a bunch of world-famous hiking trails of varying difficulty levels. Check with a ranger for detailed information on what to expect before you head out on the Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, Rim Trail, Hermit Trail, or Grandview Trail.

Weather at the Grand Canyon

Temperatures in and around the Grand Canyon can vary widely. In extreme cases, you can experience a temperature difference of up to 25°C during a descent from the rim to the Colorado River.

On a summer hike, extreme heat is possible, so you should always get enough drinking water before your descent. On the other hand, if you're hiking the North Rim in the fall, you can already expect sub-zero temperatures.

Since severe weather, such as heavy rain and thunderstorms, are also not uncommon, you should always watch the weather forecast when descending and stay in close contact with the park rangers and guides.

Each year, an average of 250 people need to be rescued from the Grand Canyon. In the most common cases, the rescued hikers have not taken enough water, put on unsuitable shoes, or underestimated the trail's effort.

Animals at the Grand Canyon

Hundreds of different species of animals live around the Grand Canyon. The most common animal encounters are rock squirrels, ravens, crusty lizards, snakes, and bighorn sheep. The endangered condor and the legendary bald eagle also circle over the canyon. Otherwise, you may encounter bats, bison, elk, skunks, mountain lions, and ringtails.

Rock squirrels look cute but are among the most "dangerous" animals in the canyon. Many visitors are bitten when they try to feed them.

The best Grand Canyon photo spots

The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular photo destinations in the USA! To get a really good picture, position yourself wisely when the weather is good. Here are the best places to photograph the Grand Canyon:

  • Mather Point
  • Hopi Point
  • Yaki Point
  • Bright Angel Trail
  • Ooh Ahh Point

Grand Canyon fun facts

You probably haven't heard these exciting facts about The Grand Canyon:

  • At nearly 5,000 square feet, Grand Canyon National Park is larger than the entire US state of Rhode Island.
  • The Grand Canyon is one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World."
  • The fastest rim-to-rim run was accomplished in 1981 by Allan Cureton in three hours and seven minutes on the South Kaibab Trail and the North Kaibab Trail.
  • Grand Canyon has a proper address: 20 South Entrance Road, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023, and the mailing address is P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023.
  • If you leave your food unattended at the Grand Canyon, you will be robbed by ravens immediately.
  • The Phantom Ranch in the middle of the Grand Canyon is in such demand as a place to stay that there are monthly drawings for reservations.
  • On the border of the national park, the village of Tusayan is notorious for its bowling competitions at the Grand Canyon Squire Inn.

Do you feel like you still don't know enough about The Grand Canyon? Then you're sure to find all the answers to your questions in our FAQ:

How big is the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon National Park is 4,931 square meters in size. However, the canyon itself is often measured by its "river kilometers," which are 446 km. At its deepest point, the Grand Canyon is 1,829 m deep, and its width at its widest point is 29 km.

How do I get to the Grand Canyon?

A road trip to the Grand Canyon usually starts in the cities of Williams, Flagstaff, or Las Vegas. A few airlines serve the Grand Canyon Airport from Las Vegas or Antelope Canyon, but getting there by car or Grand Canyon Railway is cheaper and more common.

Can I drive across the Grand Canyon by car?

You can only cross the Grand Canyon by car in one place, and that is over the Navajo Bridge at the far north near Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

What is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon?

The biggest crowds at the Grand Canyon are here in the summer. If you want slightly smaller crowds, it's best to visit in the early days of spring or late fall. The South Rim is open year-round, but roads are closed from late October to mid-May at the North Rim.

How much does it cost to visit the Grand Canyon?

Grand Canyon National Park Admission is $35 per vehicle, $30 per motorcycle, and $20 per pedestrian and bicyclist. If you're coming by bus with a tour group, your price will depend on the tour operator.

More national parks in the USA

Would you like to read more about the breathtaking national parks of the United States? Then join us on an adventurous excursion to Monument Valley, the steaming geysers of Yellowstone National Park, or the mars landscapes of Zion National Park in Utah!

We look forward to our travels together!

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