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FAQs

For those of you considering undertaking a Grand Canyon hike there must be all kinds of questions running through your mind from how to prepare before your trip to what to take and what not to take with you.

From his experience, Sherpa Sam has provided a FAQ sheet which is by no means exhaustive but will be a great aid to your planning and packing. 

Have a look at our Frequently Asked Questions below to find your answer!

Frequently asked questions

Weather

What is the best time of the year to visit the Grand Canyon?


From March through to May and September through to November when daytime
temperatures are cooler and there are less crowds. If visiting during the summer, the park's
peak season, be prepared for tourists en masse and very limited accommodation availability.
If you want to go to the North Rim, it’s best to avoid winter because the North Rim closes from October 16th until May 15th as it goes on its winter schedule. After October 15, the North Rim is open for day use only until December 1 or the weather conditions close Highway 67. During the open season, the entrance station is open 24 hours per day; however the Visitor Center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.




What is the temperature in the Grand Canyon?


The temperature at the Grand Canyon varies between the months and seasons of the year.
On any given day, the canyon itself will be a different temperature to the rim.
South Rim
At the South Rim summer temperatures are relatively pleasant (50s-80s F; low teens to high
20s C).
North Rim
The increased elevation at the North Rim means that summer temperatures are cooler than
at the South Rim.
Bottom of the canyon
At Phantom Ranch in the inner canyon, average temperature ranges from 55 ºF to 82 ºF.
However, Inner canyon temperatures can be extreme; at the river (5000 feet below the rim), day time highs can often exceed 100 F.





Accommodation

Where should I stay in and around the Canyon including Flagstaff?





Can I camp on top/at the bottom of the Canyon?


You can camp at the Bright Angel Campsite and at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. Find more information on camping and what to pack on our 2 pages on sleeping in the heart of the canyon: North Rim and South Rim.




What are the amenities that I can expect on the North and South rims?


There's lots of options, amenities and services available on both the North and South rims. For more information on this, please check out our Amenities page.




Are there any hotels in the area?


El Tovar Hotel, Yavapai Lodge, and Maswik Lodge are some of the most popular hotels for travellers looking to stay near Grand Canyon South Rim. See the full list: Hotels near Grand Canyon South Rim.





General FAQs

Are there any animals in the Grand Canyon?


Of course! Mountain lions, California condors, Grand Canyon rattlesnakes, Big Horn sheep... you name it! Check out our Wildlife page for a full and detailed list of the wildlife that you might see in the Grand Canyon.




What is the history and geology of the Grand Canyon?


The history and geology of the Grand Canyon are fascinating. Read more about the geology of the Grand Canyon on our Geology page.




Is the Grand Canyon handicap accessible?


Yes! Since the Grand Canyon National Park was opened and considering many facilities are historic, the National Park Service has gone to great lengths to ensure that the site is accessible to all. Visit our page on handicap accessibility here.




Are pets accepted in and around the Grand Canyon?


On the South Rim, leashed pets are allowed on trails above the rim, Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Village, and throughout developed areas. Pets are not permitted below the rim but can be boarded at the South Rim Kennel.




What is the Grand Canyon Railway?


The Grand Canyon Railway is a 64-mile (103-kilometer) heritage railroad which carries passengers between Williams, Arizona, and the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. It was built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and was completed on September 17, 1901. For more information on the Grand Canyon Railway, have a look at our Grand Canyon Railway page.




Can I ride on a mule down the Grand Canyon and back out?


Of course you can, and it's a really fun and exciting way of discovering the Grand Canyon. Check out our Mule Rides page for more info on how, when and where to do it.




Will I see native American/indigenous people?


The Havasupai tribe has been living in and around the Grand Canyon's South Rim for the past 800 years. They have left their subtle mark on the area by creating walking paths, which have now become hiking trails. The two most prevalent tribes that reside on reservations at the Grand Canyon today are the Havasupai and the Hualapai.




How do I apply for an overnight permit?


Excellent question! Check out our Permits and Passes page to find out how much they cost, how long they're valid for, where you can buy them and other very useful info.




How much will it cost for a park pass and what does it include?


Day passes range between US$20 and US$35 for standard passes. There are many types of passes to cater for every type of visitor. For more information, check out our Permits and Passes page.




How many people can I travel with?


The backcountry office has permits for groups of 1-6 and 7-11. They will additional people on to these permits up to the maximum stated if there are campsites that can accommodate the extras but there are no guarantees.




Do cell phones work in the Canyon or along the rim?


Probably not. Cell phone service throughout much of Northern Arizona is difficult to maintain. It is nearly impossible to get and keep a signal at Grand Canyon. There are pockets of coverage - Verizon has the best overall coverage, especially for hikers looking to do the Rim to Rim hike.




Where can I find an ATM? Are cards accepted everywhere in and around the Grand Canyon National Park?


There are 78 Cash Machines / ATMs in or near Grand Canyon, Arizona AZ. See this article for more information or have a look at our Amenities page.




How to visit the Grand Canyon?


It depends on what you want to do while there. Some visitors want to just do a day car trip, stop, walk or take the free National Park Shuttle bus along the South Rim of the canyon while having a leisurely lunch and hike out to see the canyon at a few shuttle stops. Others want to make it an extended trip with hikes and overnighting. As a minimum Sherpa Sam says spend at least one night there and even trek down the Bright Angel Trail for a mile or two. One thing that you can do is search for the Grand Canyon Conservancy. They are in partnership with the park. They offer classes, and other activities that you can do at the Canyon. Most visitors visit the South Rim their first time because it has more ranger and park activities, and is not restricted to the time of year like the North Rim. The North Rim is closed when the weather gets bad. Both are beautiful in their own ways. Visiting the West Rim is not part of the Park but operated by the Native Americans. These activities have additional fees to visit. There are many activities to do including those that require a Handicap Permit and allow you to drive to the various lookouts along the South Rim. From the more adventurous thrill-seekers out there, you can hike down to the river on the Bright Angel trail or the South Kaibab trail back to the South Rim and even between the North & South Rims taking 2–3–4-days. Others will take a guided geological tour while whitewater rafting the Grand Canyon which can take 3 days to 10 days. The answer also depends on each person's physical stamina and abilities. Sherpa Sam says spend at least a full day at least at the South Rim.




How much time do you need at the Grand Canyon?


"We just came back from there" sayd Gerry Paulus, a Sherpa member "and spent two days at the Grand Canyon. It wasn't enough to do everything we wanted but we wanted to take a hike down the river and that's a long one. Otherwise, to take in the views, take a bike ride and short hikes, two days should be enough. I can't really see anything done in one day because it's huge, it’s grandiose, it's insane!"




What are the biggest mistakes that people make when visiting the Grand Canyon?


  • Failing to plan your visit to the park
  • Not realizing how far it is from Las Vegas
  • Wearing the wrong shoes when hiking
  • Not bringing/drinking enough water
  • Not reserving lodging ahead of time
  • Not following the rules for mules




What are some good places to go within 2 hours of the Grand Canyon?





I'm planning a 4/5-day trip to the Grand Canyon, how would I spend my time?





Do astronauts train at the Grand Canyon?


Yes. Every United States astronaut that has set foot on the moon trained in Flagstaff and at the Grand Canyon.




How many people visit the Grand Canyon each year?


The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. Nearly 6 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year, making it the second most popular national park after the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.




How old is the Grand Canyon?


No one really knows how old it is. Many scientists believe that the Colorado River began carving what we now know as the Grand Canyon, but there have been other respected studies that show the formation started much earlier than this with multiple canyons coming together. However, some estimates suggest the Grand Canyon is 5-6 million years old, however, the canyon itself is made up of rock layers that are millions and, in some cases, billions of years old, with each layer representing a different geological time period. If you’re interested in the geology of the Grand Canyon have a look at our Geology page.




Have any dinosaur bones been found in the Grand Canyon?


Believe it or not, no dinosaur bones have ever been found in the Grand Canyon. This is because the Canyon walls are much older than the dinosaurs and the canyon formed after their existence. It is also believed that at the time of the dinosaurs, the Canyon was totally submerged under water in a shallow sea. If you're interested in the geology of the Grand Canyon, have a look at our Geology page.




How long and wide is the Grand Canyon?


The Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and over a mile (1.83 km) (6000 feet) deep in places. However, there are 550 miles of canyon trails when all the ups and downs are included. The park, established in 1919, has a land area encompassing 1,217,403acres.




What is the biggest cause of death in the Grand Canyon?


Surprisingly the no 1 cause of death in the canyon is not through falling, it is a heart attack.





Transport

How can I visit the Grand Canyon from Phoenix or Las Vegas?


Most Grand Canyon visitors fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport because it is the closest major international airport to the South Rim, the most visited part of the National Park; just over 3.5 hours' drive (231 miles). The drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon South Rim can be scenic (there is more than one way to do it), however it's only about 45 miles shorter than driving from Las Vegas (and a rather bigger place to get out of). Direct flights from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas range from 35 to 70 minutes. Airplane tours from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon range from 4 to 9-1/2 hours depending on your selected tour destinations.




What highways should I use if coming from Las Vegas or Phoenix?


Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim) is located 60 miles north of Interstate 40 at Williams via Arizona Highway 64, and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff via U.S. Highway 180 (not recommended for winter travel), or only a few miles more from Flagstaff by taking I-40 west to the junction with Arizona highway 64 North. A third route from Flagstaff takes you north on U.S. Highway 89 (past Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments), then west on Arizona Highway 64 to the east entrance of the park's South Rim at Desert View. GCNP is 230 miles (4 hours) from Phoenix and 280 miles (5-5.5 hours) from Las Vegas.

Only ten miles from rim to rim as the crow flies, the North Rim is 215 miles (about 4 1/2 hours) from the South Rim by car. The north rim is 44 miles south of Jacob Lake, AZ, via Highway 67. Visitor services and facilities inside the national park on the North Rim are only open from mid-May through mid-October. Highway 67 is closed just south of Jacob Lake from the first snow in October/November until the middle of May, it does not reopen early if the road is passable before this time. There is no public transportation to the North Rim.




Where can I park near the entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park?


Parking is available in lots throughout Grand Canyon Village. Please avoid parking along the roadside except where signs or lines on the road indicate that it is permissible. RVs and vehicles with trailers should only park in designated areas. Large vehicles should NOT pull across multiple regular parking spaces. Parking at the South Rim Visitors’ Center:

  • Lot 1 is the closest to Mather Point and Grand Canyon views
  • Lot 1 has Pull-through Spaces for RVs and Vehicles with Trailers
  • Lot 2 is closer to the Visitor Center/ Market Plaza. No RV spaces
  • Lot 3 often acts as the overflow lot is a short walk to the Visitor Center/ Plaza
  • Lot 4 is close to the Bicycle Rental/ Café, Bookstore and Visitor Center/ Plaza
See the nps website for maps and more information.





Activities

I want to ride the rapids down the Colorado River, how do I do that?


Whitewater rafting down the Colorado river is a thrilling and spectacular way to discover the Grand Canyon and can be done in a motorized or oar-powered raft. Check out our whitewater rafting page to find out exactly how, where and when to do it.




What can I see near or in and around the Grand Canyon National Park?


There's many sensational activities to be done in and around the Grand Canyon National Park such as IMAX, Ice Caves, Meteor Crater, Sunset Crater, Indian Ruins, Lowell Observatory, Military Museum, Hoover Dam, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Petrified Forest and Painted Desert to name but a few. Have a look at our Activity page.




Can I fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter?


Of course! Seeing the Grand Canyon from up high offers such breathtaking views! A page on this will be posted on our website soon.





Food & Beverages

Do you have any personal recommendations for hotels, restaurants, other places to visit?


Sure, lots ot recommendations! For places to grab a bit in and around Flagstaff, check this page out.




Where can I have a drink in a typical bar around the Grand Canyon?


Try El Tovar, Wagon Wheels Saloon, Saguaro Sports Bar, Bright Angel Lounge, the Arizona Room, Yavapai Tavern, Big E Steakhouse and Saloon.




Where can I grab a bite in and around Flagstaff?


In Flagstaff you'll find all the major chain restaurants including Mc Donalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s as well as some dinner places such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Applebees but we recommend going local for a more authentic and savory experience. Treat yourself to a well-deserved meal after a long day exploring the Canyon at Beaver Street Brewery, Oreganos, the Habit Burger Grill, Sizzler Steak House, Between the Buns.





Recent updates

What Covid-19 precautions is the Grand Canyon National Park taking?


GCNP is following guidance from the White House, the CDC, and state and local public health authorities. The park is open, but masks are recommended to be worn inside all public buildings and when within 6 feet of other visitors. Guests will not be permitted to enter if they are sick or if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive during the last 14 days. For more information, visit the NPS Public Health page. Updated 17 September 2020




Are there wildfires at the Grand Canyon?


The Grand Canyon National Park began Stage 2 fire restrictions for the South Rim on May 25th, 2020. This will be effective until further notice. Due to heightened fire danger, all fires, including campfires, warming fires, and charcoal barbecues will be prohibited on the South Rim of the park. This includes all campgrounds and residential areas. Outdoor smoking is also prohibited on the grounds. For more information, click here. Updated 17 September 2020





Hikes & Gears

How should I prepare beforehand?


Whether you are an experienced hiker or a beginner hiker, the Grand Canyon presents many real challenges such as the unforgiving heat, the lack of shade, the enormous elevation change, the very steep and strenuous trails. Fortunately, Sherpa Sam tells us how to prepare physically and mentally for the adventure! Check out our How to prepare for the grand canyon page.




My backpack is quite heavy, what can I comfortably and safely leave out?


Have a look at our Ultimate Grand Canyon Packing Guide page to find out what to pack and what to safely leave behind.




What should I take with me?


Have a look at our Ultimate Grand Canyon Packing Guide page to find out what to pack and what to safely leave behind.




What if I run out of water while hiking?


Fortunately some popular hikes like the Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab trail offer clean water stations along the way. Some are available seasonally (from April to October), some are available year-round. Check out our Where to find water in the Grand Canyon page for more info on where to find water for each hike Alternatively, it is always a good idea to carry a water-purifier or water tablets in case you run into a waterfall or the Colorado River.




How long does it take to hike the Grand Canyon Rim to Colorado River, Rim to Rim?


The Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden (9.3 miles/14.9 km return) is one of the most popular day-hikes for you to begin your adventures in the Grand Canyon and starts from the top of the South Rim to Indian Garden over 4.5 miles / 7.2 km. If you plan on an overnight hike, from Indian Garden you can continue 3.5 miles / 5.6 Km down to the Colorado river and either stay at the Bright Angel campground or Phantom Ranch. For more information on the Rim to Colorado River hike, check out our Bright Angel trail page and our overnight page.




What will I see along the Rim and can I simply walk along the Rim?


The Rim Trail extends from the village area to Hermits Rest. Begin from any viewpoint in the Village or along Hermit Road. The Rim Trail offers excellent walking for quiet views of the inner canyon and for visitors who desire an easy hike. You won't find any water West of Bright Angel Lodge.




What are the most famous lookout points along the rim?


The Grand Canyon's best scenic viewpoints: Mather Point, South Rim. Redwall Bridge, North Rim. Hopi Point, South Rim Trail. Plateau Point, Bright Angel Trail. Shoshone Point, South Rim. ... Desert View. Angel's Window, North Rim. Black Bridge or Silver Bridge view from the River. Ooh Ah Point, South Kaibab Trail. Toroweap/Tuweep Overlook. For more information, have a look here.




What hikes and activities can I do with children?


10 best things to do with kids in the Grand Canyon

  • Become a Junior Ranger
  • Bike the Rim
  • Hike Bright Angel Trail
  • Join Summer Ranger Programs
  • Ride the Train
  • Get a Feel for Geology
  • Walk to Shoshone Point
  • Party with the Stars
  • Go with a guide
  • Take a river trip
For more information, have a look here.




How much water and food should I bring?


For any hike below the rim make sure you have plenty of water along with a backup plan in case of an emergency, such as a water-purifier or water tablets in case you run into a waterfall or the Colorado River. Fortunately some popular hikes like the Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab trail offer clean water stations along the way. Some are available seasonally (from April to October), some are available year-round. Check out our Where to find water in the Grand Canyon page for more info on where to find water for each hike





Grand Canyon Sherpa

Sherpa Sam

Tempe, Arizona 85284

info@grandcanyonsherpa.com

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© 2020 Grand Canyon Sherpa 

Photography courtesy of Burt Williams