PERMITS AND PASSES
Whether you want to explore the Grand Canyon National Park for a day or camp in the canyon, you have to pay an entrance fee. In addition to that, every overnight stay in the canyon requires a permit. How much does it cost? Where can I buy my permit? How long is it valid for? We answer all your questions and throw in a couple extra tips and goodies.
The Grand Canyon is situated in one of the United States national parks. All those wishing to enter need to purchase a day pass which can be bought in advance. There are many types of passes to cater for every type of visitor:
America the beautiful Annual Pass - this gives you access to over 2000 recreation areas throughout the States. The proceeds from which are used to improve facilities and enhance the experience.
America the Beautiful Lifetime Senior Pass - if you are over 62 and a US citizen or permanent resident
Annual senior pass
An access pass - if you have been medically determined to have a permanent disability. This pass is free except for a small handling charge.
Military pass - for current military personnel and their dependants. This will allow free access to federally operated recreation sites across the country for the pass holder, car and accompanying passengers or the pass holder and up to 3 adults. For more details see
Sherpa Sam says...
Submit early -- apply for your permit way in advance, obviously the earlier the better and the more likely it will be that you are successful.
Consider flexibility – be willing to adjust your date range and choice of campsite to suit availability.
Caution – be realistic about your abilities and fitness. 10 miles on paper may not seem too much but the terrain and the temperature may make this feel a lot further.
Name: Day passes
Location: you can buy your passes and permits online on Recreation.gov, in various locations in and around Flagstaff such as Williams Visitor Center, Valle AZ, National Geographic Visitor Center (IMAX theater), Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce, and more. For a full list click here. You can also purchase your pass upon arrival at the NPS entrance stations: South Rim, North Rim and Desert View.
Price: between US$20 and US$35 for standard passes.
Duration: entrance fees to the Grand Canyon National Park is for 7 days (North and South Rim)
Opening hours: the South Rim entrance is open 24h/day.
Why is it for you: all visitors must buy a pass to enter the Grand Canyon National Park, whether they're on foot, bicycle, park shuttle or private transportation.
Note: access to the Grand Canyon National Park is free of charge 5 days a year. For more information check www.nps.gov
Warning: access to some entrances of the park may be restricted or closed due to Covid-19 or extreme weather conditions. For up-to-date information check www.nps.gov
OVERNIGHT STAYS IN THE GRAND CANYON
If you intend to camp in the Grand Canyon, you will need a backcountry permit from the Grand Canyon National Park which is available for up to 4 months in advance of your trip. Select your preferred route, calculate your daily distances (miles/km) and your preferred nightly campsite. Have alternatives in mind if your desired permit is not available. You will need to reference the ‘use area’ for your requested camping location each night. Each area has a 3 letter or digit reference and these can be found on the National Park’s map.
Warning! – the Park receives over 30,000 requests for these permits every year but only issues around 13,000 so get planning early!
There are two ways to get a backcountry permit:
Complete the backcountry request form and mail or email it to the backcountry office if you have 4 months to spare
Visit the backcountry office and get a permit in person if it is 1-3 months before your intended trip.
CORRIDOR USE AREA, DESIGNATED SITES AND AT-LARGE CAMPING
These terms are often referred to within the park.
Corridor Use Area — This is made up of three trails (Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, North Kaibab Trail) and three campgrounds (Indian Garden Campground, Bright Angel Campground, and Cottonwood Campground). These have the usual facilities, like toilets, drinking water and ranger stations. They are the most used in the park, and are the most difficult places to get permits to camp overnight.
Designated Sites — These use areas are more remote but still well-traveled. They have pit toilets and marked campsites.
At-Large Camping — Some use areas have "at-large camping." These have no campsites or facilities. You choose where you camp, within the boundaries of the zone. Remember to use the ‘leave no trace behind’ principles.
WHAT IF I'M NOT A PLANNER, I JUST LIKE TO DO THINGS SPONTANEOUSLY?
If you are not a planner or have a spare weekend you could always:
1. Turn up at the Backcountry Office. Cancellations do happen. Occasionally, permits are still available. It's always worth checking with the backcountry office.
2. Get on the waiting list
The park reserves a small number of walk-in permits for the corridor campgrounds (Indian Garden, Bright Angel, and Cottonwood). These are issued daily to people who show up at the office and can be for one or two consecutive nights but can only be purchased the day prior to starting your hike. You get a number for the wait list and on returning next day at 8.00 am the ranger issues permits until they are all gone.