Grand Canyon National Park distributes a free trip planner that should answer most of your questions. To get a copy and find out more information, call tel. 928/638-7888, or visit the park's website at www.nps.gov/grca.
Access & Entry Points
The park has three gated entrances -- two on the South Rim and one on the North Rim. The one that's most convenient from Flagstaff, Williams, and Phoenix is the park's South Entrance Gate, 1 mile north of Tusayan on Highway 64. Traffic occasionally backs up here during peak hours in high season (May-Sept). Many travelers from Flagstaff, as well as those from points east, prefer entering the South Rim area through its East Entrance Gate, near Desert View, 29 miles west of Cameron on Highway 64. From Flagstaff, the drive to the East Entrance is about 8 miles longer than to the South Entrance. There are seldom lines here.
The gate to the North Rim (210 highway miles away from the South Rim) isn't convenient to anywhere, except perhaps the small store, motel, and gas station at Jacob Lake, which is 30 miles north on Highway 67. The North Rim itself is 14 miles south of the gate. The closest real town is Fredonia, 71 miles north on Highway 89A. Visitors can also access parts of the park via Forest Service dirt roads.
Grand Canyon Visitor Center -- The Grand Canyon Visitor Center, near Mather Point, has become the first stop for many visitors to the South Rim. The whole complex has the streamlined appearance of a modern mass-transit hub and continues to expand. Various kiosks provide basic information about tours, trails, overlooks, cycling, weather, ranger-guided programs, and other topics. The four large parking lots surrounding the visitor center accommodate up to 875 vehicles. Free shuttles connect the Information Plaza with Grand Canyon Village and the Kaibab Trail.
The Grand Canyon Visitor Center sits inside a long, glass-faced building. Here you'll find displays about the canyon, trip planning tools to help you decide how to spend your time in the park, and a ranger-staffed information desk. At one end of the visitor center is the Science on a Sphere enclosure presenting "The Canyon World," a short introduction to 1.8 billion years of canyon history projected on the outside of a 6-foot diameter sphere. From the other end of the visitor center you can enter the new theater, which shows the inspiring park film Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder. It's free and plays every 20 minutes. Adjacent to the visitor center are restrooms and Books and More, the large bookstore run by the Grand Canyon Association. The plaza outside the visitor center is a good place to learn about canyon flora -- it's also a great place for kids to climb and explore. They can read a poem about the Grand Canyon, search the rocks for engravings of Grand Canyon birds, fossils, and animal tracks, and even pet the full-size granite sculpture of a mountain lion. The Grand Canyon Visitor Center is open daily 8am to 6pm in summer, and 8am to 5pm during the rest of the year.
Yavapai Geology Museum -- Located a half-mile west of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on Yavapai Point, this historic station has an observation room from which you can identify many of the central canyon's monuments. Rangers frequently lead interpretive programs here, and exhibits explain the region's geology, including how the canyon was formed. It's open daily from 8am to 8pm in summer, and from 8am to 6pm the rest of the year.
Desert View Visitor Center -- At this small visitor center 26 miles east of Grand Canyon Village, you can buy books from the Grand Canyon Association and get information about the canyon from park rangers. It's just inside the park's East Entrance, 29 miles west of Cameron on Highway 64. It's open daily from 9am to 6pm in summer, and daily from 9am to 5pm the rest of the year.
Tusayan Ruin and Museum -- This museum, 3 miles west of Desert View, has an information desk staffed by rangers, plus displays about the area's indigenous people including pottery, arrowheads, jewelry, and figurines. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm (closed Tues-Wed in winter).
Kolb Studio -- On the rim at the west end of Grand Canyon Village, Kolb Studio houses a small bookstore and an art gallery with free exhibits. It's open daily from 8am to 7pm in summer, and daily 8am to 6pm the rest of the year.
Verkamp's Visitor Center -- The park's newest visitor center lies within the century-old Verkamp's Curios building. It features displays depicting the canyon's history as well as a bookstore. It's open daily 8am to 8pm in summer, and 8am to 6pm the rest of the year.
North Rim Visitor Center -- This visitor center near Grand Canyon Lodge has a ranger desk with maps, trail information including water availability and weather conditions, and schedules for ranger programs, as well as a Grand Canyon Association bookstore. It's open daily 8am to 6pm from mid-May to mid-October, and after that from 9am to 4pm until the first snow closes the road.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.