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Current Search Destination:Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
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Overview
Overview
Essentials
Attractions
Restaurants
Insider Information
Recreation
Places in the Vicinity
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Introduction
Writers can be forgiven for going overboard when describing a mile-deep, 277-mile-long gash in the earth with some of the planet's oldest rocks on display like a big, beautiful geologic layer cake. Awe-inspiring. Amazing. Breathtaking. The list of clichés goes on. Some 5 million people a year step up to the edge of this natural wonder, and when they first lay eyes on it, even those with a Rhodes Scholar's vocabulary can only muster words like “wow” and “awesome.” This is as it should be. This ain't no fairytale European castle. The Grand Canyon is Mother Nature showing you she's boss.
Joe Belanger / 123RF.com
Established in 1919, the national park has two main visitor areas: Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim and Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim. They offer quite different experiences. A majority of visitors opt for the South Rim, which is closer to big cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. It's also where you'll find the widest variety of tourist facilities (lodging, dining and shopping) and guided tour outfitters. As for the canyon views, the iconic vistas from the South Rim are most often what you see in calendars and coffee table books. All of this adds up to big crowds in peak summer season.
Erik Harrison / Shutterstock.com
If you're after a somewhat quieter visit and are game for a longer drive, the North Rim is your place. At 8,200 feet, the elevation here is about 1,000 feet higher than its southern counterpart. Summer temps are a bit cooler and heavy snow closes the North Rim access road in winter. There's only one hotel, a campground and a sprinkling of places to eat. But the canyon views are no less impressive. No matter which rim you choose, be sure to seek out a solitary spot where you can escape the hubbub and quietly soak in one of nature's masterpieces.

In Depth
The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is so magnificent, so humbling, you'll never forget the sensation you feel at first sight. And yes, if you visit in summer, the South Rim is so crowded you'll be griping about the crush of tourists for years to come. But this 277-mile-long canyon, sculpted by the mighty Colorado, is without question America's number one natural wonder.
Viewing aerial IMAX footage simply can't compare to finding a solitary spot somewhere, anywhere, in this mile-deep gorge, and silently watching a raven glide on the breeze above a vast panorama of pyramidal buttes, lonely mesas, rust-colored cliffs and shadowy side canyons.
Of course, not everyone who visits the canyon is compelled to wax poetic like a talking head in a Ken Burns documentary. In the early 19th century, James Ohio Pattie, the first American to lay eyes on the immense chasm, called it “horrid.” Following an 1857 Army expedition, Lt. Joseph Ives deemed it a “profitless locality.” If he could only witness the 5 million visitors a year who fill the hotels, ride the mules to Phantom Ranch, light up the gift shop cash registers and buzz over the canyon on helicopter tours.
As the hawk flies, it's 10 miles from the South Rim Village to the North Rim lodge. To grasp the canyon's geologic scope, a bit of textbook-speak is necessary. Eons of time are on display in the layer-cake-like strata of the canyon walls. Though scientists estimate the canyon is relatively young (6 million years old), the rock layers at the bottom, near the Colorado River, date back some 2 billion years. Put in perspective, the 270-million-year-old Permian Period layer (formed just prior to the age of the dinosaurs) is what you're standing on at the rim. No wonder they call the canyon “grand.”

General Information
North Rim visitor services and facilities are open mid-May to late October; heavy snow closes the road to the North Rim during the winter (November 1 to mid-May). For road conditions and weather information phone (928) 638-7888.
South Rim visitor services and facilities are open all year. During the winter South Rim trails into the canyon are open; however, they can be dangerously icy from November through April. Trail conditions should be verified at the Backcountry Information Center or at Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Hikers are advised not to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day. If you attempt to do so, you may find yourself stranded overnight, or at the very least, exhausted. Since nights are cool even in summer, pack warm clothing. However, be prepared for high daytime summer temperatures within the canyon. The area also is subject to monsoon weather with dangerous lightning in July and August.
Maps, trail descriptions, lists of ranger-led activities, seasonal information and shuttle schedules are available at all entrance stations as well as at visitor centers and local hotels.
Backpacking anywhere in the park or camping below the canyon rim requires a permit from the Backcountry Information Center, Permits Office, 1824 S. Thompson St., Suite 201, Flagstaff, AZ 86001. Permit requests and backcountry camping reservations are accepted by mail, fax or in person up to 4 months in advance. A limited number of last minute walk-up permits are available at the South Rim and/or North Rim Backcountry Information Center for Corridor Campgrounds (Indian Garden, Bright Angel and Cottonwood campgrounds). These permits are issued in person only, are for one or two consecutive nights and cannot be purchased more than one day prior to the start of a hike. For more information phone (928) 638-7875, Mon.-Fri. 8-noon and 1-5 or fax (928) 638-2125.
Four campgrounds are inside the park, and there are several located outside the park and in the adjacent national forests. There is only one RV campground within the park with full hook-ups, which is in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Desert View Campground, on the South Rim of the park and 25 miles to the east of Grand Canyon Village, is first-come, first-served only. No reservations are accepted. The campground is open seasonally, May through mid-October. Reservations for National Park Service-operated campgrounds on the North and South rims can be made up to 6 months in advance by phoning (877) 444-6777 or TTY (877) 833-6777.
Trans-Canyon Shuttle provides one-way and round-trip van transportation between the canyon's two rims. From mid-May to mid-October the 4.5-hour shuttle ride departs the North Rim at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. and the South Rim at 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. From mid-October through October 31, the shuttle departs the South Rim at 8 a.m. and from the North Rim at 2 p.m. The fare is $90 for a one-way ride. Shuttle service also is available from the South Rim to Marble Canyon. Reservations are required; phone (928) 638-2820 for information and reservations.
Flagstaff Shuttle, Charter and Tours offers transportation to and from the park and its environs from Sedona, Flagstaff and Phoenix. From Flagstaff to the South Rim, the fare is $189 for up to three people ($45 each additional person); $595 from Phoenix to the South Rim for up to three ($45 each additional person; and $450 for up to three ($45 each additional person) to the North Rim from Flagstaff or the South Rim. Fare for children ages 0-16 is half off with a paying adult. Fare does not include admission to Grand Canyon National Park. Prices may vary; phone (888) 215-3105 for information and reservations.
Buses departing from Yavapai Lodge, Maswik Lodge and Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins take visitors on a variety of sightseeing tours. The 2-hour Hermits Rest Tour is $36; free (ages 0-16 with paying adult). The 3.75-hour Desert View Tour is $65; free (ages 0-16 with paying adult). The 90-minute Sunrise and Sunset tours each are $27.50; free (ages 0-16 with paying adult). A Combination Tour ($80) and a Railway Express Tour ($65); $37 (ages 0-16) also are available.
For bus tour information and advance reservations, contact Xanterra Parks & Resorts at (888) 297-2757. For same-day reservations, phone (928) 638-2631.
Flightseeing tours are offered from the South Rim and from several nearby cities, including Page, Phoenix, Sedona, Williams and Las Vegas, Nev.
Another way to glimpse the Grand Canyon from overlooks is on a four-wheel-drive tour. These back-road sightseeing trips through the Kaibab National Forest are led by guides well-versed in the ecology of the canyon, its history, wildlife and legends. Contact Grand Canyon Jeep Tours & Safaris at (928) 638-5337 or (800) 320-5337.

ADMISSION
ADMISSION to the park, valid for both rims for up to 7 days, is $30 (per private vehicle); $25 (per person arriving by motorcycle); $15 (per person arriving by other means); free (military with ID).

PETS
PETS are permitted in the park only if they are leashed, crated or otherwise physically restrained at all times. Pets are excluded entirely from backcountry areas, are not allowed below the rim and are not permitted on shuttle buses. Kennels are available; reservations are recommended. Restrictions do not apply to service animals. Phone (928) 638-0534.

ADDRESS
ADDRESS inquiries to the Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023; phone (928) 638-7888. Information also is available from the Grand Canyon South Rim Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 3007, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023; phone (844) 638-2901
GEM Description
They just don't come any grander than this immense, awe-inspiring chasm; spectacular vistas and overlooks along the canyon's rim are accessible by automobile and on foot.
Tony Hisgett / flickr

Essentials
Appreciate the humbling splendor of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World as you walk or bike the Grand Canyon Greenway, a system of paved multiuse trails that encourage nonmotorized travel along the South rim. Bicycle rentals are available on the South Rim May through October.
For a bird's-eye view, fly over the grandest of all canyons on an aerial tour. Helicopter and airplane flights take off from Grand Canyon National Park Airport, located near Tusayan. Scenic flights also are available from other nearby locales, such as Sedona and Las Vegas.
Gaze out vintage train windows and get lost in the same inspirational landscapes President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Clark Gable and Bill Gates rolled past while traveling from Williams to Grand Canyon National Park via the Grand Canyon Railway .
Remember muscles you forgot existed rafting some of the Colorado River's more than 100 major rapids. Take a breather floating along slower sections of the 300-foot-wide waterway before tackling Granite and Horn Creek's roaring white waters on a professionally guided raft trip. Note that raft trips through the canyon take a week or longer.
Drink plenty of water hiking along Bright Angel Trail , South Kaibab Trail and North Kaibab Trail . You can lose 1 to 2 quarts of water per hour just by sweating, making dehydration a common and dangerous Grand Canyon problem.
Cruise oak and juniper-lined Desert View Drive past Grandview and Moran points to Tusayan Ruin and Museum , which features Ancestral Puebloan cultural exhibits and an 800-year-old excavated pueblo.
Hoof it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and settle into one of 11 comfy cabins at rustic Phantom Ranch , the only lodging available below the rim. Xanterra Parks & Resorts' South Rim Mule Trips offer an alternative means of transport.
Reannon Muth / flickr
Traverse Havasu Canyon astride a steed, flanked by red sandstone cliffs and brilliant blue-green creeks and waterfalls. The Havasupai, the “people of the blue-green waters,” have been residents since about 1300.
Navigate the 215 road miles separating the South and North rims, taking in erosion's vivid composition, the Painted Desert , along the way. During the 4.5-hour journey, American elk and white-tailed deer frequent roadside pastures lining Kaibab National Forest .
Help your little ones connect with nature as they earn certificates, badges and patches in one of the park's Junior Ranger programs. Park publications include a full roundup of educational programs for kids, as well as shuttle schedules, maps, hike descriptions, facility hours and loads of other useful information. They are free at entrance stations, hotels and visitor centers.

Attractions
In a national park with dozens of attractions and points of interest, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
Most attractions and facilities are located at the Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim, including the Grand Canyon Village, Yaki Point and Rim Trail. (For more information, see Recreation.) You'll find brochures, maps, books and helpful park rangers at the South Rim's trio of visitor centers. At Mather Point is the state-of-the-art Grand Canyon Visitor Center. The historic Verkamp's Visitor Center is in Grand Canyon Village. The small Desert View Visitor Center is at the east end of the South Rim, fronting the Desert View Watchtower parking lot. All three have nicely done exhibits about the canyon.
Outside the park in the gateway town of Tusayan, the National Geographic Visitor Center Grand Canyon isn't an official NPS facility, but the staff is knowledgeable, the historic exhibits are high quality and you can buy park admission passes here. The big draw is the on-site IMAX Theater. Its 34-minute “Grand Canyon IMAX Movie” dazzles the eye with dizzying aerial footage, impressive river rafting shots and the requisite time-lapse-photographed clouds rushing over the canyon, all while imparting a quick history lesson.
Clinging to the South Rim in Grand Canyon Village, the wooden two-and-a-half-story Kolb Studio is just as remarkable as the paintings displayed in its excellent art gallery. There's a gift shop and a cozy canyon-view porch here as well, but the main attraction is the building itself. Constructed before the canyon's national park designation, it once served as a home and photography studio to the first men to film a Colorado River expedition; there's a small display of antique camera gear just off the gift shop.
If you're in the market for more mind-blowing views and are interested in how the canyon was formed, head for the Yavapai Geology Museum. Perched on the rim between Mather Point and Grand Canyon Village, the museum is in a squat pueblo-style structure built of limestone and pine in 1928. The excellent exhibits (3-D models and wonderful photographs) were all redone in 2007, and the bookstore here is top notch.
When you imagine Ancestral Puebloan ruins, in your mind's eye you may picture the impressive cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. As long as that's not what you're expecting, you won't be disappointed by the Tusayan Ruin and Museum. Here, the low, unreconstructed pueblo walls don't soar any higher than your waist. But make no mistake, this is an important ancestral Puebloan site that dates back some 800 years. At the entrance you'll find a small but interesting museum, plus a bookstore.
Weathered stones and salvaged logs make up the Desert View Watchtower , built around a steel frame in 1932 to evoke prehistoric towers. From the highest viewpoint on the South Rim (7,438 feet), take in gorgeous vistas of the canyon, the surrounding piñon and juniper woodlands and the Painted Desert beyond. A snake altar greets visitors on the first floor, while murals and replica pictographs appear throughout the four-story edifice.
With virtually no shade, the 7-mile South Kaibab Trail is a steep, taxing journey lasting about 4 to 6 hours one-way. However, the well-maintained path descends more than 4,780 feet, offering excellent views of the canyon's sedimentary rock layers, including Kaibab limestone, Coconino sandstone and Hermit shale. Vault toilets are located at 1.5 miles and 4.5 miles along the trail. There is no water along the way. Do not attempt to hike to the Colorado River and back in one day.
Grand Canyon Railway once supplied all water to the Grand Canyon, also transporting tourists lured by President Theodore Roosevelt's adulation of this natural wonder. You can still ride the rails 65 miles to the rim aboard restored steam engines (on special occasions) and vintage diesel trains, with gun-slinging lawmen and masked desperadoes resurrecting the Wild West. Sure, the jaded among us will declare the mock train robbery a bit hokey. But for rail fans, families and those who relish the past, the ride from Williams to the rim is a must, earning it the AAA GEM attraction designation.
Passing through cottonwood trees and such landforms as Tonto Platform, Bright Angel Trail starts just west of Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins, descending 3,080 feet to Plateau Point and 4,440 feet to the Colorado River. If motels and lodges are too rich for your blood, pitch a tent at either the Indian Garden or Bright Angel campground. Backcountry permits are necessary to camp at either campground. Keep an eye peeled for wildlife on the steep, well-defined trail that's been traversed by both the Havasupai and 19th-century prospectors. (For more information, see Recreation.)
The 9-mile trail also leads to one of architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter's many regional works, Phantom Ranch. Separate dormitories for men and women, rustic cabins and a canteen are reached only by foot, mule or raft. Completed in 1922, the ranch remains highly popular, with several months advance reservations necessary.
You've no doubt seen photos of an intensely blue-green waterfall located somewhere in the Grand Canyon. That ‘somewhere’ is Havasu Canyon, which is not in the national park, but rather on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. Reaching this AAA GEM attraction is no cake walk. From the village of Supai (a 4-hour drive from Grand Canyon Village), it's a steep 8-mile journey down to the canyon and falls. The trail can be covered on foot or horseback. Or, if you've got the cash, aching feet and saddle sores can be avoided entirely by taking a helicopter ride down, and out.
Also outside the park's boundaries, at the far west end of the canyon near Kingman, is the Grand Canyon Skywalk. In 2007, staunch environmentalists howled in protest when the Hualapai Indian tribe built this horseshoe-shaped, glass-floored “sky bridge” on their reservation land. Extending 70 feet from the canyon rim, the Skywalk is suspended 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. The view's a thrill. And this is unquestionably a unique engineering feat. But check out any online travel review site, and you'll read plenty of gripes.
So what's the story? First, it's a long drive to the Skywalk, and 16.4 miles of the journey are on a dirt road (almost always suitable for passenger cars). Figure on at least 4.5 hours if traveling from the Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim, and budget for a solid 3-hour drive from Las Vegas. Second, it's expensive. To stroll on the Skywalk, you must first buy admission to Grand Canyon West, the Hualapai tribe's recreation area. The fee includes bus transportation to a faux Indian village, a mock cowboy town, the impressive Guano Point overlook and the Skywalk (an extra charge). Finally, no cameras are permitted on the Skywalk; you will be searched.
Less developed than its southern counterpart, the Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim is on average 1,000 feet higher than the south, making temperatures about 5 to 10 degrees cooler. Winter snow closes the entrance road, but cross-country skiers can still access its secluded pine forests and dramatic plateau perches (for more information, see Recreation). Soaring 8,803 feet into cloud-streaked skies, the park's highest viewpoint, Point Imperial, presents vast views of the canyon, the Painted Desert and the Navajo Indian Reservation upland. If you're here to hike, the North Kaibab Trail descends into the canyon and will no doubt keep your camera shutter clicking.
With portions of its 1.5 million acres bordering both the North and South rims, Kaibab National Forest is part of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the United States. Black bear, Abert squirrels and porcupines meander through Engelmann and blue spruce woodlands. Birdwatchers benefit from the forest's natural landscapes, with nuthatches, bluebirds and Steller's jays commonplace.
Reaching the North Rim's remote Tuweep Area (also known as Toroweap) involves a long drive (4 to 6 hours round trip from Fredonia) down a desolate dirt road. Most of the track can be tackled in a required high-clearance two-wheel-drive vehicle, but the last several miles before the canyon rim require four-wheel-drive. Awaiting you at the rim is the famous Toroweap Overlook. Peering carefully over the edge (no guardrails here), you'll see a dramatic, 3,000-foot vertical drop to the Colorado River below. In this narrower section of the canyon, it's only 1 mile from rim to rim, and the view is a knockout. Note: Do not attempt to visit Toroweap on a lark. Be prepared with a suitable vehicle, set aside the better part of a day and talk to a park ranger first about road conditions. If you plan to camp, be aware that a permit is required in advance.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton designated more than 1 million primitive acres north of Grand Canyon National Park as Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Spanning four ecological regions, the monument contains Dellenbaugh and Hurricane faults; Whitmore Canyon and Shivwits Plateau; and exposed purple, pink and white shale at Hells Hole. Kaibab squirrels, desert tortoises and wild turkeys roam the volcanically shaped land that humans have inhabited for more than 11,000 years. Note: There are no paved roads or services within the monument.
In the mid-1960s, the Colorado River was dammed at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, flooding Glen Canyon to create Lake Powell. Nowadays, houseboats cruise, speedboats roar and Jet Skis buzz where canyon wrens once flew. The area also is the main starting point for Grand Canyon raft trips down the Colorado River. At the Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center, visitors 467 feet above the waterway cross an 834-foot-long pedestrian bridge for views of North Rim's Marble Canyon. (For more information, see Recreation.)
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.

Restaurants
Our favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
Though most dining establishments are on the South Rim, from Big Macs in the South Rim gateway town of Tusayan to filet mignon and million dollar views at the dining room in Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge , there's something for every budget inside, and just outside, the park. As you dig in, remember to keep your culinary expectations in the AAA Two Diamond to Three Diamond range. While there's good-to-excellent food to be had, there are also a few restaurants (we won't name names) that know your options are somewhat limited and put forth a halfhearted effort to please the palate.
In Tusayan, The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon features Canyon Star, a Southwestern eatery roping in diners with such dishes as buffalo burgers, mushroom enchiladas, ribs and steaks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered, and Native American dancers and cowboy singers liven up the evening meal service. The adjacent saloon conveys the spirit of the West with exposed timber, stone and ironwork décor; barstools made out of saddles; and toe-tapping country music. Sports fans can catch that must-see game on the saloon's big screen TVs; this is the only place on the South Rim that carries NFL Sunday Ticket.
At the Coronado Room in the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn, discerning diners weary of eating straight from the skillet are pampered with escargot and elk steak. The Continental and Southwestern menu also features chicken, beef and seafood plates, along with an extensive wine list. An elegant, yet casual atmosphere, complemented by an attentive staff, affords the perfect setting for unwinding.
You'll find the classic El Tovar Hotel Dining Room inside the South Rim's grandest lodge, a rambling stone and pine affair that's Swiss chateau meets log cabin. The huge dining room—decked out with white linen-draped tables, stone fireplaces and colorful murals of Navajo and Apache Indians—is an elegant spot for a rim-side supper. However, do note there are precious few tables with a canyon view; window table requests are accepted but not guaranteed. Dinner menu standouts range from veal Marsala to grilled lamb chops with apricot chutney. Sound pricey? It is. Budget diners can opt for breakfast (the Southwest quesadilla in a red pepper cream sauce is superb) or lunch (Navajo fry bread tacos are a solid bet), when tabs are cheaper and the crowds thinner.
Architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter integrated Native American designs into such projects as Hopi House, the Desert View Watchtower and Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins. The last site is a hub of activity at the Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim. Outside the lodge, near the rim, is an old-fashioned ice cream fountain that also sells prepackaged sandwiches to-go. Inside, java hounds will find a gourmet coffee house (open seasonally) serving cappuccino, espresso, organic coffee and some tasty pastries. After a day on the hot dusty trail, there's nothing like cooling off with an ice-cold beer. Duck into the Bright Angel Bar, quaff a brew, check out the bar's historic murals and, if your timing's right, tap your toe to live country or folk music. Next door is the casual and affordable Bright Angel Restaurant. Big with families, Bright Angel throws a few creative dishes (roasted pork loin topped with warm cinnamon apples) into the usual mix of coffee shop fare (omelets, sandwiches, pasta).
The Arizona Room at Bright Angel Lodge is known for impressive views of the canyon and creative Southwestern flavors. But get there early; long wait times are common and seating is first-come, first-served only. Both lunch and dinner are available, with menu items ranging from simple sandwiches to chili-crusted, pan-seared salmon and honey-chipotle baby back ribs. To satisfy sugar cravings, try the fudge lava cake, or share a slice of blackberry peach streusel pie.
The cafeteria at Maswik Lodge is similar to a food court, dishing up everything from pasta and sandwiches to Mexican favorites at fast-food restaurant prices. Surrounded by piñon and juniper forests, a seasonal café at Yavapai Lodge also is an inexpensive stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The dining hall features various stations, including a fresh salad bar. If you're itchin' to get out and do some canyon exploring, Yavapai also makes box lunches to go.
You can also grab deli sandwiches, snacks and drinks at the Desert View Marketplace, the snack bar at Hermits Rest and in Grand Canyon Village Market Plaza at the General Store's deli. Just outside the park in Tusayan, the popular We Cook Pizza & Pasta serves good calzones, microbrews, pasta, pizza and sandwiches, while an adjoining ice cream shop scoops up cool treats.
At the bottom of the canyon, the canteen at Phantom Ranch nourishes hikers venturing to the canyon floor with hiker's stew as well as vegetarian and steak dishes. Reservations are required, and there are specific seating times for breakfast and dinner. Also offered are sack lunches, snacks and supplies.
For picturesque views of the Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim, stop at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge. Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood designed the 1937 structure, which showcases limestone walls and timbered ceilings. Settle in to the lodge's dining room, feast your eyes on the fantastic view and tuck into margarita-blackened salmon, or maybe a big juicy cut of prime rib. Buffet spreads are laid out for both breakfast and lunch; a la carte menus are also available for those with an aversion to steam table scrambled eggs.
If you're on a budget but still want to eat well, the lodge's Deli in the Pines is the place to go for breakfast burritos, pizza, picnic lunches and snacks. Coffee snobs will want to sniff out the gourmet java and fresh-baked pastries at the Roughrider Saloon's coffee shop.
Also serving North Rim visitors is Jacob Lake Inn, built in 1923 amid the towering pines of adjacent Kaibab National Forest. The inn's bakery and restaurant fills bellies with such wholesome fare as freshly prepared French toast and whole wheat pancakes. Heralded as one of the nation's best hamburgers, the loaded Grand Bull Sandwich is served on grilled bread and piled high with mushrooms, grilled onions, cheese, bacon, tomato slices and green chilies. For dessert, sample a warm chocolate-parfait, lemon-zucchini or German chocolate cookie.
See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.
Todd Petrie / flickr

Grand Canyon Hiking Tips
In Grand Canyon National Park, sweeping red cliffs, forested plateaus and rare fauna make hiking a must for nature lovers. Sculpted by millions of years of geological activity and erosion, the raw marvel enticed prehistoric man and, later, 19th-century western explorers, into its chiseled depths. Today, more than 5 million trailblazers annually find solace and adventure in the biologically diverse region, embracing its jaw-dropping landscapes via more than 400 miles of park trails.
Arizona hiking poses certain health risks; each year more than 250 visitors are rescued due to their unpreparedness for the Grand Canyon's rough terrain and extreme weather conditions. In the words of one park ranger: “There are only two kinds of hikers in the inner canyon in high summer—fools and rangers. And one's there only because of the other.” Nearly 6,000 feet below the rim, hikers roast in the dry valley bed, with summer temperatures often exceeding 105 F.
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While the inner gorge presents its own unique challenges, heat exhaustion and heatstroke can occur anywhere. A top priority on any hiker's list is staying hydrated; drinking water and eating salty snacks replaces vital electrolytes the body sweats out. Good scheduling also averts illness and fatigue; avoid oppressive afternoon temperatures by staying off trails between 10 and 4 and, accordingly, don't walk uphill in direct sunlight.
Loose, neutral-colored and lightweight clothes work for some; others prefer to limit sun exposure by layering with synthetic fibers that dry quickly, keeping moisture at bay. Experienced hikers skip cotton articles, particularly when choosing socks. Dodge painful foot problems and prolong the outdoor experience by wearing cushioning wool socks over a thinner polypropylene or nylon pair—along with comfortable, broken-in hiking boots. Layering is especially important during colder winter months.
Whether the agenda calls for a short hike or an overnight backpacking trip, knowing what to bring is essential. While a first-aid kit and good map (USGS topos are a must for backcountry hikes) are key, lugging a cooler to the canyon floor is not a good idea. Balance your load by centering heavier gear close to your back, with similar items grouped into color-coded stuff sacks. Plastic containers keep animals away from food and prevent crushed provisions. Keep the basics handy; don't spend the whole trip searching for your sunglasses or camera.
Make room for sunscreen, extra food and a compass (a handheld GPS unit is great, but reception is unreliable in the inner canyon and batteries don't last forever), but remember that anything brought in needs to be carried out. In addition to preserving the locale, be courteous to others by giving uphill hikers the right of way and by talking on cellphones only in emergencies. Always travel in groups, setting the pace according to the party's slowest member. As naturalist John Muir put it, “People ought to saunter…not hike!” Take in the beautiful sandstone canyons and rumbling waterfalls along North Kaibab Trail, remembering to enjoy one of Mother Nature's grandest gifts.

General Information
North Rim visitor services and facilities are open mid-May to late October; heavy snow closes the road to the North Rim during the winter (November 1 to mid-May). For road conditions and weather information phone (928) 638-7888.
South Rim visitor services and facilities are open all year. During the winter South Rim trails into the canyon are open; however, they can be dangerously icy from November through April. Trail conditions should be verified at the Backcountry Information Center or at Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Hikers are advised not to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day. If you attempt to do so, you may find yourself stranded overnight, or at the very least, exhausted. Since nights are cool even in summer, pack warm clothing. However, be prepared for high daytime summer temperatures within the canyon. The area also is subject to monsoon weather with dangerous lightning in July and August.
Maps, trail descriptions, lists of ranger-led activities, seasonal information and shuttle schedules are available at all entrance stations as well as at visitor centers and local hotels.
Backpacking anywhere in the park or camping below the canyon rim requires a permit from the Backcountry Information Center, Permits Office, 1824 S. Thompson St., Suite 201, Flagstaff, AZ 86001. Permit requests and backcountry camping reservations are accepted by mail, fax or in person up to 4 months in advance. A limited number of last minute walk-up permits are available at the South Rim and/or North Rim Backcountry Information Center for Corridor Campgrounds (Indian Garden, Bright Angel and Cottonwood campgrounds). These permits are issued in person only, are for one or two consecutive nights and cannot be purchased more than one day prior to the start of a hike. For more information phone (928) 638-7875, Mon.-Fri. 8-noon and 1-5 or fax (928) 638-2125.
Four campgrounds are inside the park, and there are several located outside the park and in the adjacent national forests. There is only one RV campground within the park with full hook-ups, which is in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Desert View Campground, on the South Rim of the park and 25 miles to the east of Grand Canyon Village, is first-come, first-served only. No reservations are accepted. The campground is open seasonally, May through mid-October. Reservations for National Park Service-operated campgrounds on the North and South rims can be made up to 6 months in advance by phoning (877) 444-6777 or TTY (877) 833-6777.
Trans-Canyon Shuttle provides one-way and round-trip van transportation between the canyon's two rims. From mid-May to mid-October the 4.5-hour shuttle ride departs the North Rim at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. and the South Rim at 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. From mid-October through October 31, the shuttle departs the South Rim at 8 a.m. and from the North Rim at 2 p.m. The fare is $90 for a one-way ride. Shuttle service also is available from the South Rim to Marble Canyon. Reservations are required; phone (928) 638-2820 for information and reservations.
Flagstaff Shuttle, Charter and Tours offers transportation to and from the park and its environs from Sedona, Flagstaff and Phoenix. From Flagstaff to the South Rim, the fare is $189 for up to three people ($45 each additional person); $595 from Phoenix to the South Rim for up to three ($45 each additional person; and $450 for up to three ($45 each additional person) to the North Rim from Flagstaff or the South Rim. Fare for children ages 0-16 is half off with a paying adult. Fare does not include admission to Grand Canyon National Park. Prices may vary; phone (888) 215-3105 for information and reservations.
Buses departing from Yavapai Lodge, Maswik Lodge and Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins take visitors on a variety of sightseeing tours. The 2-hour Hermits Rest Tour is $36; free (ages 0-16 with paying adult). The 3.75-hour Desert View Tour is $65; free (ages 0-16 with paying adult). The 90-minute Sunrise and Sunset tours each are $27.50; free (ages 0-16 with paying adult). A Combination Tour ($80) and a Railway Express Tour ($65); $37 (ages 0-16) also are available.
For bus tour information and advance reservations, contact Xanterra Parks & Resorts at (888) 297-2757. For same-day reservations, phone (928) 638-2631.
Flightseeing tours are offered from the South Rim and from several nearby cities, including Page, Phoenix, Sedona, Williams and Las Vegas, Nev.
Another way to glimpse the Grand Canyon from overlooks is on a four-wheel-drive tour. These back-road sightseeing trips through the Kaibab National Forest are led by guides well-versed in the ecology of the canyon, its history, wildlife and legends. Contact Grand Canyon Jeep Tours & Safaris at (928) 638-5337 or (800) 320-5337.

ADMISSION
ADMISSION to the park, valid for both rims for up to 7 days, is $30 (per private vehicle); $25 (per person arriving by motorcycle); $15 (per person arriving by other means); free (military with ID).

PETS
PETS are permitted in the park only if they are leashed, crated or otherwise physically restrained at all times. Pets are excluded entirely from backcountry areas, are not allowed below the rim and are not permitted on shuttle buses. Kennels are available; reservations are recommended. Restrictions do not apply to service animals. Phone (928) 638-0534.

ADDRESS
ADDRESS inquiries to the Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023; phone (928) 638-7888. Information also is available from the Grand Canyon South Rim Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 3007, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023; phone (844) 638-2901
Grand Canyon National Park / flickr

Recreation
Biking, backpacking, fishing, hiking—whatever your interest, make sure you experience these recreational highlights, as chosen by AAA editors.
Though prohibited in wilderness areas and on most trails, bicycles are allowed on the Grand Canyon Greenway, a set of paved, multiuse paths along the South Rim, designed to reduce vehicular traffic.
There are two sections of the Greenway trail at the South Rim. One stretch connects Grand Canyon Village with the trailhead of the South Kaibab Trail, while the other can be found at the west end of Hermit Road, linking the historic Hermits Rest building with the Monument Creek Vista overlook; to get to the Greenway, ride on the road east from Hermits Rest about .5 miles. A ribbon of Greenway ties the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to the South Rim gateway town of Tusayan. At the North Rim, cyclists use the dirt Bridal Path from Bright Angel Point to the trailhead of the North Kaibab Trail.
Both paved and unpaved park roads also are accessible to bicyclists, though the shoulders are narrow and car traffic can be heavy around Grand Canyon Village. Pedal from the village along Hermit Road, an 8-mile route closed to private vehicles and highlighted by the outstanding canyon views from Hopi Point and The Abyss, an abrupt 3,000-foot drop to the Tonto Platform. The road ends at Hermits Rest, a historic stone building designed by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, where you can use the restroom, grab a snack and hit the gift shop. Bikes are available for rent inside the park at Bright Angel Bicycles, located at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. All the free park shuttle buses are equipped with bike racks; use of the racks is free.
Visitors often negotiate the rocky terrain of North Kaibab Trail on half-day North Rim Mule Rides. South Rim Mule Trips head to Phantom Ranch along Bright Angel Trail, for overnight ventures and from Grand Canyon Village for the 3-hour Canyon Vistas ride along the rim.
The mostly flat Rim Trail, which winds along the canyon rim for 13 miles between South Kaibab Trail and Hermits Rest, is the South Rim's easiest walk; two paved sections of the trail are designated Grand Canyon Greenway paths and are accessible to bicycles and wheelchairs. Hiking the entire trail (one-way) will take at least half a day. Most people choose instead to hike a few short sections of the trail by accessing the Rim Trail from several of the park's free shuttle bus stops.
Of course, one can admire the canyon from viewpoints for only so long before they feel the need to descend. To experience the South Rim's most popular route into the canyon, sling on your backpack for the Bright Angel Trail. The path begins at the west end of Grand Canyon Village and runs 4.5 steep miles to Indian Garden, where you can kick back in the shade of a cottonwood and feast on your bagged lunch. There's a ranger station at this point, and it's the farthest you'll want to travel during a summer day-hike.
With the park containing more than 20 trails, give your feet a rest and hop aboard an all-terrain vehicle for fun, off-road adventures around Kaibab National Forest . Several companies lead guided ATV tours.
Closed to automobiles and snowmobiles in the winter, the North Rim's serene wilderness is accessible only via cross-country skis or snowshoes. Visitors can swish or crunch over the 4 to 10 feet of snow typically concealing the park's northern meadows and access roads November to mid-May. Backcountry permits are required if you plan to camp in the area; however, book early, as the demand for overnight Grand Canyon access far exceeds availability.
Alan & Sandy Carey / Getty Images
Squinting through binoculars, visitors to Grand Canyon National Park can catch sight of some 355 bird species, including osprey which were successfully re-introduced into the park after a long absence. Bald eagles and endangered California condors nest in the Colorado River corridor, while inner canyon cliffs house at least 100 pairs of peregrine falcons. The park's conifer forests offer asylum to otherwise threatened goshawks and spotted owls.
Fishermen often pull in 10-pound wild rainbow trout while fly-fishing the Colorado River's cold tailwaters. Because the best spots change from hour to hour, anglers should arrange for a guide and use sinking lines to reel in the most fish. Casting a line in the park requires an Arizona state fishing license, available at Canyon Village Market Plaza in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Regulations and licenses also are available online from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Paddle stretches of the 1,450-mile Colorado River, or get sprayed riding in a motorized raft. One demanding rapid is named after an archaic slang word for “knockout blow.” In addition to unrivaled thrills, white-water rafting lets Grand Canyon visitors explore about 2 billion years of geologic history amid picturesque limestone and sandstone walls still scoured by turquoise waters. Rafting trips can be arranged at Page, Lees Ferry or in the park. Trips range from 1 day to 3 weeks. Make reservations early, as even big commercial outfitters need to obtain permits from the National Park Service.
Kayak the country's second largest man-made lake, Lake Powell, which stretches from Page, Arizona, to Hite, Utah. Slip into twisting canyons while navigating the lake's warm waters, taking in stark red spires, ridges and buttes at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Fishing, swimming and mountain biking can also be enjoyed at the park, which is northeast of the Grand Canyon.
Mount up on a relaxing journey beneath rolling lavender clouds by arranging an evening horse expedition. Several stables offer tours of the area. At sunset, roast a marshmallow on the campfire as shadows overtake the crimson gorge that Roosevelt declared “a natural wonder absolutely unparalleled in the world.”
Listen to howling coyotes as you settle into your sleeping bag at first-come, first-served Desert View . Reservations are accepted at Grand Canyon Village's Mather campground, which offers tent and RV camping (no hookups). Just next door, Grand Canyon Trailer Village Inc features RV sites with hookups. Ponderosa pines blanket North Rim Campground, with canyon views available from some of its 84 tent-camping sites. North Rim also allows RV camping, though there are no hookups.
After spending a relaxing evening in the backcountry, rock climbers enjoy scaling Brahma and Zoroaster temples. In the 1800s, an American geologist first began naming these landforms after such world gods as Shiva, the Hindu destroyer; Buddha, the “Awakened One”; and Wotan, a Scandinavian deity. Climbers employ minimum-impact techniques—climbing without the use of power tools to install bolts or other hardware—to safeguard the Grand Canyon's extremely fragile rock formations.
Grand Canyon National Park interpretive programs cover such topics as geology, wildlife and cultural history through ranger-led hikes and lectures. You can discover remnants of 270-million-year-old marine creatures, including brachiopods and sponges, as you walk along a 0.5-mile exposed fossil bed, or perhaps listen to a ranger discuss the reintroduction of the California condor to northern Arizona. Park publications have a full schedule of interpretive programs.
If you're short on time or prefer a recording to actual human contact (you know who you are), use your cellphone to dial up an on-demand audio tour using the Park Ranger Audio Tour system. Along the South Rim, between Yaki Point and Hermits Rest, there are several tour stops (watch for the “Park Ranger Audio Tour” signs). Phone (928) 225-2907, punch in the tour stop number, and you'll hear a 2-minute, ranger-narrated talk on subjects ranging from geology to the history of Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins. There are a few tour stops sprinkled along the North Rim as well. The best news is the service is free, though your usual cell charges do apply. The bad news? Cell coverage in the park is spotty.
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