Grand Canyon National Park

Practicalities
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Visitor Centers

The Main Visitor Center and Headquarters are located on the South Rim at the east end of Grand Canyon Village, six miles from the South Entrance Station. The building is open all year.

Orientation and park information are available at the Desert View Information Center, located at the park's east entrance. Open only as staff allows.

Other visitor/contact stations open year-round with exhibits, ranger staff, and/or bookstore operations include Tusayan Museum, Yavapai Observation Station, and North Rim Visitor Center (the latter is open only during the summer months).

Location

The Grand Canyon lies entirely within the state of Arizona. Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim is located 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona (via Route 64 from Interstate 40), and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff (via Route 180). The North Rim is over 200 miles away from the South Rim by car; alternately, you can reach the North Rim by flying into Las Vegas and driving from there (263 miles, one-way).

Getting There

BY PLANE, BUS, OR TRAIN: Commercial airlines serve Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Las Vegas. There is limited air service into Grand Canyon Airport (just south of the park) from Las Vegas and elsewhere. Greyhound provides bus service to Flagstaff. Amtrak provides rail service to Flagstaff with connecting bus service to the canyon. Grand Canyon Railway (800-THE-TRAIN) offers train service from Williams.

BY CAR: Remember Grand Canyon National Park is in a remote part of the country. Bring an extra set of car keys—it could be a long wait for a locksmith. Film is available at both rims, but the closest camera repair is in Flagstaff, Williams, or Page. There is an automobile mechanic on the South Rim, but you may wait days for parts.

Distances are deceiving in this part of the country. It may look like you can visit three parks in one day, but the reality is often different. Keep your gas tank full—the next gas station may be quite some distance down the road. It's a good idea to carry water in your car, particularly during summer months.

Commercial airlines serve Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Las Vegas. To get to the North Rim from the town of Jacob Lake, drive 30 miles south on Highway 67; the canyon rim is an additional 14 miles south.

Weather permitting, the North Rim is open for day use only in the fall following the close of facilities in late October. During this time there are no services or overnight facilities available inside the park on the North Rim. The road from Jacob Lake to the North Rim (Highway 67) is subject to closure with little or no notice during this time and will remain closed until mid-May.

Visitation & Transportation

The Grand Canyon is in crisis. It has become the second most visited national park in the system. More than 5 million people visit each year, stressing a system built to accomodate less than 500,000. Most of the overcrowding happens at the South Rim in the Grand Canyon Village area. On some summer days, more than 6,000 people arrive. Some of the major overlooks can seem more like Times Square on New Years Eve than a place to commune with nature.

To reduce congestion, the park's administration has selected a transportation system using a combination of light rail and alternative fuel buses. All day-use visitors to the South Rim will park their cars in the gateway community of Tusayan and board a light rail car for the six-mile ride to the Mather Point Transit Center. From Mather Point, light rail will provide transit service to Maswik Transportation Center and back to Tusayan. Light rail trains will serve this route year-round, with a train scheduled to depart about every five minutes during the peak season. The Park Services says that the Mather Point facility will be able to accomodate more than 4,000 people per hour.

A fleet of alternative fuel buses will work with the light rail system to transport visitors in those areas of the Grand Canyon Village that are not served by the light rail system, including West Rim areas, Yavapai Observation Station, Yaki Point and the South Kaibab trail head. The buses, which will probably be powered by electricity or natural gas, will offer a clean and quiet alternative to conventional fueled buses. Buses will also run year-round at regular intervals, in most cases every 20 minutes or less, depending on the season.

For those of us who would rather walk or bicycle, a Greenway System will follow the rim east and west from Mather Point. This promises to be a real treat. The trail will range from 14' wide and paved to 6' and unpaved. The eventual plan calls for 100 miles of trails along both the South and North Rims, connecting most of the major rim attractions to the Arizona Trail.

Tour-bus parking at Mather Point will be eliminated. Tour bus passengers will also change over to the light rail system in Tusayan in order to visit Mather Point and all points to the west. Buses will use the Maswik Transportation Center for pick-up and drop-off.

Visitors with overnight lodging, camping, or recreational vehicle reservations will drive to a designated parking area. Once they've parked, they will use the park's transit system for all other trips within the park.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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