Grand Canyon National Park Travel Tips
Located not far from the northwestern border of Arizona, the Grand Canyon, one of the grandest sights known to humankind, is carved deep in the rock.
In fact, the Grand Canyon is carved so deep into the surrounding rock that you could build four Empire State Buildings on top of each other and still not reach the top! It’s almost impossible to fully comprehend how large this geological wonder actually is.
But for this reason alone, Grand Canyon National Park attracts more than six million visitors per year. It is the second most popular national park, only rivaled in total visitor count by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
RV adventurers come from all around the country to camp and witness this incredible sight. With dozens of RV campgrounds nearby, visiting the Grand Canyon is made to be affordable and enjoyable.
Imagine seeing two billions years of Earth’s geological work exposed for you to see. At the Grand Canyon, you’ll find swirls of pink granite, layers of red limestone, jagged blocks of sandstone, and more!
At the very bottom of the canyon, the rushing Colorado River flows out toward the Pacific Ocean. Although some of its aspects are debated by geologists, some studies suggest that this ancient canyon has been carved by the Colorado River for five to six million years.
Grand Canyon National Park has a variety of activities which cater to its guests. There is a 35-mile driving tour along the South Rim leading to multiple lookout points. There are also walking tours available on the South Rim.
For the most adventurous, there are also multiple hiking trails that go all the way down to the Colorado River. Keep in mind that these hikes are extremely demanding, and that they should really only be attempted by the most experienced hikers.
From the North Rim, it’s possible to rent a mule to venture several thousand feet down into the canyon. There are also provide canyon flyovers provided by helicopters and small airplanes out of Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Grand Canyon National Airport.
We’ve put together this all-inclusive guide for RV enthusiasts and adventure-takers.
Read on to learn more about visiting this incredible national park!
The History of the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon was officially recognized as a national park on February 26th, 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson. Although, the stunning landmark was well known to early American settlers for over thirty years prior.
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt, one of the biggest proponents for the conservation of natural landmarks stated: “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled through-out the wide world… Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”
Fortunately, due to the work of Wilson, Roosevelt, and other senators, the Grand Canyon today is nearly identical to the when it was first established as a national park over a hundred years ago.
Prior to European settlement, the canyon was inhabited by Native Americans who used the various caves and gorges to build villages. For thousands of years, Ancestral Puebloan people resided within the canyon walls.
In addition to the Ancestral Puebloans, other indigenous groups called the Grand Canyon home, such as the Yuman, Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, and Southern Paiute people.
Although the Grand Canyon has a long and complex geological history, it’s incredible to learn that its impressive transformation dates back two billion years!
If you do decide to visit the park, learning about the rock formations, as well as the various layers in the canyon walls will truly enrich your visit beyond what most get to experience.
The story itself is in the rocks. It’s up to you to decide how much you want to see!
Getting to the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park is open year-round. RV campers come from all around the country just to visit this national park at various times of the year.
However, what some may not know is that there are effectively two different parks within this area. The North Rim and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon differ in scenery, climate, and vegetation because of their differences in elevation.
Although the North Rim and the South Rim are only separated by an average distance of 10 miles, it takes five hours to drive the 220 miles of road separating the North Rim Village and the South Rim Village.
Knowing this, it can take some additional planning and effort to visit both sides of the canyon. The South Rim, however, is by far the most popular.
From Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park is due east. It is about a four-and-a-half-hour drive following US-93 S to I-40 E. Once you enter Williams, AZ, head north on AZ-64 to reach the South Rim Village.
If, instead, you wish to visit the North Rim and you’re coming from the west, the time length is about the same. First, you’ll want to follow I-15 N to UT-59 S. Eventually that will turn into AZ-389 E and US-89A S. From there, get on AZ-67 S and it’s practically a straight shot to the North Rim Village.
Keep in mind that the North Rim is more remote and has a shorter season. Lodging, restaurants and shops are usually only open from May 15th through October 15th each year.
Grocery Stores and Food Shopping at Grand Canyon
If you’re looking for groceries, fortunately there is a supermarket located within the national park itself at the South Rim Village. The great news is that the prices aren’t marked up and they remain competitive with the rest of the markets in northern Arizona. In addition to a full selection of fresh produce and your standard meals, they have a free water filling station, a decent selection of hiking gear, and fun tourist memorabilia.
Other options for groceries can also be found in Williams, Ash Fork, and Kingman. Las Vegas is a good option if you’re looking for some of the more well-known big box stores.
The nearest gas stations can be found in the Community of Tusayan, 7 miles south of the South Rim Village. However, please note that Tusayan is incredibly expensive because of its remoteness.
Other options for gas near the South Rim include the town of Kingman, Seligman, Williams, or Flagstaff.
From the North Rim, the North Rim Service Station inside the park has gasoline and diesel fuel with a 24-hour pump. However, this can be rather expensive, so it’s advised to top off before entering the national park.
RV Camping near the Grand Canyon
Camping around Grand Canyon National Park comes with many options.
On the South Rim, there are two great choices within the park itself. The first, and most popular campground, is Trailer Village. It accommodates RVs up to 40 feet, takes reservations, and is the only location on the South Rim with full hookups. There are 89 sites available.
Trailer Village is not the most scenic campground, and the sites aren’t very large, but it only takes about fifteen minutes to walk to the South Rim, which is a huge plus!
If you’re willing to trade access to full hookups, however, Mather Campground is another great option. The sites are more spread out, there is more tree-coverage, and it is an overwhelmingly peaceful campground. There are 317 sites available and the maximum RV length is 30 feet.
As an alternative to staying directly within the national park, the Kaibab National Forest offers several locations to pull off for “boondocking,” AKA dry camping. Some possible locations include Forest Road 302, Forest Road 688, and Forest Road 306.
Camping along Forest Road 302 is the closest to the park’s entrance, but each of these locations are free of charge and provide the natural smell of a pine forest. There is also the Ten X Campground, which is only $10 a night and provides a bit more establishment than camping on the side of a forest road.
For those seeking a bit more remoteness away from the crowds, camping on the North Rim can yield even more incredible panoramas. You’ll have a bit more breathing room, different kinds of vistas overlooking the canyon, and a deep sense of adventure.
The North Rim Campground is your basic dry campground, but it does have accommodations for laundry, flushable toilets, and showers. There are 90 sites available and the maximum RV length is 30 feet.
The best road for boondocking on the North Rim is Forest Road 611. However, for any of these dirt roads, it’s always advisable to scout the road before driving down it with your rig.
There is also a great alternative for RV camping outside of the national park at a privately owned RV campground. The Grand Canyon Camper Village has sites available for reservation, with a max rig length of 40 feet and full hookups. They also have a general store, propane refills, and free WiFi!
Attractions at the Grand Canyon
There are several fantastic must-see attractions at Grand Canyon National Park.
The South Rim will have most of your civilized resources, including restaurants, bars, hotels, and general stores. However, it’s definitely recommended to check out some of the other museums and shops within the park.
The Yavapai Geology Museum, Verkamp’s Visitor Center, Kolb Studio, and the Hopi House all offer a more in-depth look into the history of the Grand Canyon. The hotels are also well-worth stopping in for their historical architecture. There is even a fully operational train station within the park that is more than a couple of decades old.
If you enjoy hiking, you’ll be happy to find that there are great trails available without having to go down into the canyon. The most popular is the Rim Trail, which is great for day hikes. The trail runs along the rim the entire time, starting at the South Kaibab Trailhead and ending at Hermits Rest.
If you do intend on hiking down into the canyon, ensuring that you are adequately prepared, the South Kaibab trail and the Bright Angel trail are the most popular South Rim hikes. There are day hikes available to notable lookout points along these trails, but keep in mind that it is always easier to hike down than it is to hike back up.
On the North Rim side, there are also several trails, including mule rides, bicycle paths, and a scenic driving route.
Also, you may have heard mention of the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This site is at the far western end of the national park, about 250 miles away from the South Rim Village. It’s well-worth stopping if you’re coming down US-93, but is otherwise remote in relation to the rest of the park.
Grand Canyon: An Ancient National Park
The sheer magnitude of the Grand Canyon makes it nearly impossible to experience the whole thing. Even the extensive history of the region is best observed over the course of a few days, or with multiple visits.
Instead of purchasing the $35 seven-day pass, consider purchasing a Grand Canyon Annual Pass for $70, the America the Beautiful Annual Pass for $80, or the Lifetime National Park Senior Pass for $80.
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most well-known sites in the entire world, giving good reason to why millions of people visit each year.
Some would even say that you haven’t fully lived until you’ve seen a Grand Canyon sunset with your very own eyes. The skies become emblazoned with pink and orange hues, and the evening air thrives with an ancient magic.
Words alone cannot convey the immensity and majesty of the Grand Canyon. That’s why we recommend planning for an extended stay.
Your life will be forever changed when you take the time to connect with the true artistry of the Grand Canyon.
We truly hope that your RV adventure brings you to this stunning national landmark.
Looking for other National Parks to visit? Check out our National Park Checklist