By Flight: Many of the visitors to the Grand Canyon take a flight to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) or to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX). It takes 3-5 hours of driving from here to reach the Canyon, depending on which airport you arrive at and which part of the canyon you intend to visit.
By car: Incase you opt to travel by car, do keep yourself updated on announcements of road closures/ detours on the route you intend to take and the weather forecast during your travel time. North Rim route is generally snowed in during the winter months and is not accessible.
Tours: Most visits to the Grand Canyon are through tour agencies. Many hotels offer a selection of day tours via tour agencies to the canyon, which include a drop and pick from the hotel itself. And majority of these do include a visit to the Hoover dam as well, so if that's on your list, make sure you specify the same at the time of selection. You can book your tour online or directly with tour agencies around. There are a number of types of tours to choose from- the walking tour (most tourists opt for this), the helicopter tour (if a bird's eye view is what you are looking for), hiking (for the adventurous type) and jeep excursions, just to name a few.
Different viewing options:
Many of those visiting the canyon have this common question: Should we visit the North Rim or the South Rim, the West Rim or the East Rim?
Well, they are not comparable, really. Each of the rims offer spectacular views of the Canyon that are marvelous in their own right. Listed below are what each offers, to help you along your planning and decision. Do factor in your time of visit, duration of your stay, and travel convenience.
The SOUTH RIM sees the maximum number of visitors as it easily accessible to all. It is perfect for those looking for a day trip to the canyon. South Rim provides panoramic views of the Canyon that is ever so often seen in movies and pictures. There are scheduled activities here like helicopter tours, mule riding, biking and so on. Make sure you check and book these in advance. Other facilities like restrooms, restaurants and souvenir shops are available here, which makes it more attractive an option for a visit, especially for those traveling with children. The paved path of the South Rim has the Grand Canyon history timeline along the entire trail, giving detailed information of the Canyon, which enhances the experience- your personal tour guide, if you wish. There are options to hike too, but not as challenging as those that you will find at the North Rim. Easily accessible viewpoints along the South Rim make it simple for all visitors to enjoy this majestic marvel, all year round.
The NORTH RIM, being more remote than the south, has relatively fewer visitors, making the visit a more peaceful one. Hiking and driving to the view points is done from here. Most of those who visit here have their own transportation or travel by the "Trans Canyon Shuttle" from the South Rim. Do check the shuttle schedule, if you intend to employ it as your mode of travel. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park remains shut during the winter because of heavy snow from late October until May. It is fairly cool during the summer months too, given the high elevation. The enchanting views from the North rim are typically accessed by hiking along the trails, which can be lengthy and sometimes, less accessible. Reserve a campsite or lodge in advance when planning your visit here.
The WEST RIM provides a one of its kind experience to its visitors. West Rim is well-known for its glass bridge, the Skywalk- a structure that juts out into the canyon, providing an amazing walking-on-air experience. This land is privately owned by the Tribal Indian reservation of The Hualapai, so visiting here gives you a chance to meet and interact with them in their homeland. Traveling to the West Rim takes around 2 and a half hours from Las Vegas by car. There are helicopter, airplane and bus tours as well as horseback riding that can included as part of the package. Visitors can opt for a half day visit or add on activities and make it a full day visit to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. Overnight stay cabins are available too, with prior reservation.
The EAST RIM enjoys moderate and warm temperatures due to lower elevation than the other rims. This area does not attract as many visitors as does the South Rim and is considered as one of the peaceful rims of the Canyon. There are many attractions here like a view of the 'Horseshoe Bend', visits to the smaller canyons, boat tours and helicopter tours. When traveling from Las Vegas, the other rims are more easily accessible, unlike the East Rim.
There is also the inner canyon which comprises of everything below the rim and is seen mainly by hikers, mule riders, or those taking a river trip through the Canyon on the Colorado River . Ofcourse, this requires more than just a day trip to the Canyon, so bear this in mind while planning your visit there.
Whichever you decide to finally visit, the beauty of this natural wonder will not fail to enthrall you. Remember to check the weather conditions before visiting so you have the appropriate attire on and the necessary gear while hiking/rafting.
Our Grand Canyon experience:
We visited the Canyon through a day tour booked from our hotel during our stay at Las Vegas. We visited the South Rim (North Rim was closed during our time of visit, being the winter months). The temperature on the day of our visit was between 30 to 40 degrees F, although it wasn't snowing. The tour we booked also included a view of the Hoover dam on the way. Grand Canyon is nearly 5 hours away from Vegas by road and it was noon by the time we reached there. There were many visitors on the South Rim of the Canyon, who were enthusiastically posing for pictures despite the nip in the air. As we walked along the Trail of time, we learnt a lot about the geology of the Grand Canyon, that acted as a tour guide for those like us who chose to make our way on our own. The unique bird calls around and the tiny view of the trail of the river flowing deep below; the intricately carved canyon and the different hues the sun and shadows created on it as the day progressed, all added to the wonderful experience- truly, nature at its best.