The Grand Canyon isn't Northern Arizona's only wonder. The surrounding area on the Colorado Plateau ranks among the world's most stunning places. It's a sparsely populated landscape of 12,000-foot-high volcanoes and 3,000-foot-deep red-rock canyons -- linked by the planet's largest ponderosa pine forest. Lonely highways lace the countryside, inviting exploration. During your travels, you can track California condors or watch elk wander the forests. You can walk the same paths and stand in rooms used for centuries by America's indigenous peoples, then learn about the cultures of their modern descendants. You can chat with cowboys in Williams or venture to Flagstaff's cultural attractions, including the Lowell Observatory and the Museum of Northern Arizona. The many diversions won't detract from your trip to the canyon; they'll simply enhance your appreciation of the entire area.
1 mile south of Grand Canyon National Park; 60 miles north of Williams; 80 miles NE of Flagstaff; 340 miles north of Tucson
More a tourist outpost than a town, Tusayan's short stretch of modest hotels, restaurants, and shops extends no more than a half-mile on both sides of the highway. There are no houses, and most Tusayan residents live in company-provided apartments or trailers behind the town's businesses. Employers pay dearly to lure workers here (many increasingly from outside the U.S., particularly during high season), and to convince suppliers to lug their goods 60 miles off the interstate. So Tusayan is neither cheap nor particularly memorable, with gas, hotel rooms, and food that cost about 20% more than they would in other gateway towns. However, Tusayan's location next to the Grand Canyon's South Rim makes it the best option for folks who don't have a lodging reservation inside the park and wish to stay closer than Flagstaff or Williams.
Getting There -- By Car -- If you drive, make sure to fill your gas tank before setting out for Tusayan and the Grand Canyon; there's only one service station between Tusayan and Flagstaff, the nearest major city, which is almost 80 miles away. From Flagstaff, it's possible to take U.S. 180 and U.S. 64 directly to Tusayan.
By Plane -- Grand Canyon National Park Airport in Tusayan is served by two airlines flying out of Las Vegas: Scenic Airlines (tel. 800/634-6801 or 702/638-3300; www.scenic.com), which charges $229 each way, and Vision Air (tel. 702/261-3850; www.visionholidays.com), which charges $199 each way.
Outside of these options, you'll have to fly into Phoenix, Las Vegas, or Flagstaff and then arrange ground transportation to Tusayan and the national park.
Getting Around -- By Car -- The nearest available rental cars are in Flagstaff. There's one gas station in Tusayan and another at Desert View inside the park's east entrance (though this station is seasonal). Be forewarned that gas at these stations costs about 50¢ more per gallon than in Flagstaff, downtown Williams (away from I-40), or Cameron, so make sure to top off in those places if you can.
By Taxi -- Xanterra offers 24-hour taxi service to and from the airport, trail heads, and other park destinations (tel. 928/638-2631).
Supermarket -- Tusayan General Store is 1 mile south of the park entrance on Highway 180/64 (tel. 928/638-2854). There's also a post office and ATM here. It's open daily 7am to 10pm in summer, and 8am to 9pm during the slower times of the year. Or, try the larger Canyon Village Marketplace in the park's business district.
Moderate Hotels -- A midpriced chain hotel in Tusayan is Red Feather Lodge (tel. 800/538-2345 or 928/638-2414), on Highway 64, 1 mile south of the park. Next door is a Holiday Inn Express (tel. 888/473-2269 or 928/638-3000). Rates typically range from $90 to $150 for double occupancy.
54 miles north of Flagstaff on U.S. 89; 30 min. from Desert View and the park's eastern entrance
One of the few authentic trading posts that remain in the Southwest, Cameron is a convenient place to stay if you plan on entering from and exploring the eastern end of the Grand Canyon or visiting destinations in the Navajo Nation.
What to See & Do -- The Cameron Trading Post, 1 mile north of the crossroads town of Cameron (where Hwy. 64 to Grand Canyon Village branches off U.S. 89 on the Navajo Reservation; tel. 877/221-0690 or 928/679-2231), merits a stop. Native Americans still sell and trade crafts, livestock, wool, and other goods for merchandise and groceries in the mercantile section of the trading post. When here, be sure to visit the original stone trading post (there's also a small general store attached that sells groceries and sundries). Built in the 1910s, this historic building now houses a Collector's Gallery of museum-quality Native American artifacts, including clothing and jewelry. Even if you don't have $10,000 or $15,000 to drop on an old rug or basket, you can still look around. The main trading post is a more modern building and is Northern Arizona's largest trading post. If you shop here, you will probably pay a little more than you should. You may be able to negotiate up to a 20% discount, especially if you're staying at the motel, but the prices remain high. I prefer taking my chances at the open-air stands scattered along highways 64 and 89, where you can sometimes chat with the artists or their families.
Towns & Outposts Near the North Rim
The area surrounding the Grand Canyon north of the Colorado River is one of the most sparsely populated -- and scenic -- in the continental U.S. Highway 89A crosses the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon's northeastern tip -- just 5 miles downstream of Lees Ferry, where most canyon river trips begin. Continuing west from the bridge on Highway 89A, you'll pass three lonely lodges -- Marble Canyon Lodge, Lees Ferry Lodge, and Cliff Dwellers Lodge -- each separated by a few miles, at the base of the aptly named Vermilion Cliffs.
This eerie desert landscape, featuring balancing rocks and other striking landforms, gives way to forest when you begin the 4,800-foot vertical climb from the Marble Platform to the Kaibab Plateau. Because the area surrounding the park's North Rim is largely national forest, you may have to travel some distance if you fail to find a room inside the park. The closest lodging to the park's northern entrance is at Kaibab Lodge, 18 miles north of the North Rim on Highway 67 , and at Jacob Lake Inn, 44 miles north of the North Rim . If those two lodges are full, you may have to travel as far north as Fredonia, Arizona, or Kanab, Utah, to find a room.
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.