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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Fast Facts
Natural Wonder
Historic Interest
Pack & Saddle
Horseback Riding
Places to Visit
Things to Do
Points of Interest Nearby
Family Travel Tips

Grand Canyon


Photo by National Park Service

Grand Canyon National Park, a World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is a top family travel destination and a must see, at least once. And it offers something for everyone. Take a day trip to the South Rim or Grand Canyon West and take in the beauty and magnitude of the Grand Canyon. Spend a week or more and explore. Take a train, plane or helicopter tour. Hike, raft, or take a mule ride along the canyon floor. Enjoy the view from above on the recently inaugurated glass-bottom Skywalk. Experience the backcountry on the Grand Canyon North Rim. And if you're traveling with older teens ready to test their survival skills, make the journey to Toroweap, also known as Tuweep, and enjoy the best views from the rim. A Grand Canyon vacation can be as brief or as adventuresome as you desire.

Stretching 277 miles (446 km) and spanning up to 18 miles (29 km) across, there is no other canyon in the United States, or elsewhere, that is quite so large. But the Grand Canyon's significance goes beyond its size. Here, one can fully appreciate the power of erosion over 2 billion years and take note as the area's history unfolds. Rocky gorges plunging one mile (1.6 km) to the canyon floor. Cliffs and pinnacles aptly named after mythical heroes, Wotan's Throne, Brahma Temple, Isis Temple and Cheops Pyramid. Multiple layers of strata each belonging to a different time and, in many ways, a different place. Ruins and artifacts left by Pueblo communities and desert cultures that once inhabited or passed through the Grand Canyon.

Toroweap and the North and South Rims lie within the Grand Canyon National Park. Grand Canyon West is located in the Hualapai Indian Reservation and is not managed by the park. Once off the beaten path, the West Rim is quickly becoming a hotspot. In summer, the crowds at the South Rim and can be unbearable but nothing that a short hike from the major overlooks and shopping strips can't fix. The remoteness of the North Rim substantially limits the throng and ensures that a trip here is all about nature and the great outdoors. And Toroweap, due its rugged nature, is almost empty at any time of the year.
Getting There
A family trip to Grand Canyon means time in the car. The train trip from Williams to the South Rim provides a diversion for young kids and is a great option for day visitors and families intent on exploring the Grand Canyon on foot. The only way to get to the Toroweap and the North and West Rims is the automobile. Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Flagstaff are convenient departure points for the West and South Rims. The North Rim is best accessed from points north, Las Vegas, Nevada and Page, Arizona, and can easily be combined with a trip to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks as well as Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell. Toroweap is a long way from just about everywhere.
Getting Around
A free shuttle bus operates four South Rim routes. The North Rim hiker shuttle makes the run from the Grand Canyon Lodge to the North Kaibab trailhead twice each morning (early!). A nominal fee is charged. Trans Canyon Shuttle provides a daily rim-to-rim shuttle service, roughly 4.5 hours, for a fee from mid-May to mid-October. At Toroweap, hiking is the only way to get around. Air tours - helicopter and small plane - depart from the Grand Canyon National Airport in Tusayan, 6 miles south of the entrance to the South Rim. Mule rides are offered on both the North and South Rims. The minimum age varies on North Rim trips. Day and overnight South Rim mule rides have a maximum weight (200 lbs or 91 kg fully dressed) and minimum height (4 feet 7 inches or 140 cm) requirement as well as variety of the other restrictions (fluent in English, good physical condition, no fear of heights or large animals, and pregnant women are not allowed).
When to Travel
Aside from the North Rim, which is best visited in summer, the best time of year to visit the Grand Canyon depends on your interests. Hiking in the canyon is best in spring (March/April) and fall (October/November) whereas summer (June-September) is the best time to hike on the rim. In summer, the daytime temperature along the Colorado River can reach 120º F (50° Celsius)! Expect snow on the South Rim in winter and on the North Rim throughout most of the year. Be prepared for sudden changes in the weather at anytime.
Health & Safety
All points on the North Rim sit at least 8000 feet (2438 m) above sea level. Give your body a chance to acclimate to the elevation before you set out on a serious hike. Visitors with respiratory or heart problems may experience difficulties. Keep a close eye on the kids at all times, even in areas with guardrails.
Hours & Seasons
The South Rim, Toroweap and Grand Canyon West are open year-round. North Rim facilities and visitor services are open from mid-May to mid-October only. Weather permitting; the North Rim is open for day use only from mid-October to mid-May. Opening hours for of the West Rim Entrance and Skywalk are seasonal.
Admission & Fees
Entrance to the North and South Rim areas of the park is charged per vehicle unless you are traveling on foot, bike or motorcycle in which case the fee is per person. Commercial vehicles are charged on capacity. Entrance to Toroweap is free of charge. The West Rim is priced like an attraction and the cost of the entrance fee is based on the activity package you choose. Of note, admission to the Skywalk is not included in all packages and in some cases cannot be added even with an additional fee.
Things to Keep in Mind
The magnitude of this gaping crevice is difficult for many children to comprehend.
Travel Trivia
Magellanic penguins breed in:
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