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A guide to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim

A guide to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim

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Out of all the National Parks we visited, the Grand Canyon National Park had to be the one I’d heard the most about. I mean, who hasn’t heard of the Grand Canyon?! What I hadn’t realised is that there are different parts of the Grand Canyon you can visit. It makes sense since the canyon itself is so huge, but it’s not something I’d considered before.

We ended up visiting the Grand Canyon’s South Rim which gave us incredible views and tends to be easier to access than the Grand Canyon north rim.

If you’re planning to visit the Grand Canyon south rim then check out this Grand Canyon, Arizona guide below.

Want to visit the Grand Canyon? Check out this ultimate guide to the Grand Canyon South Rim including the best Grand Canyon hikes, and where to practice your Grand Canyon photography! #grandcanyon #arizonatravel #usatravel #nationalparks

About the Grand Canyon National Park

grand canyon area map

Ready for a few Grand Canyon facts? The Grand Canyon is a very popular US National Park. It& sees around 5.5 million visitors each year. and 90% of these go to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim which the rest going to the North Rim. You may have heard there’s a ‘West Rim’ and whilst this is true in a sense, the West Rim isn’t actually part of the National Park but is owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon (Grand Canyon Village) is open throughout the year. The North Rim is closed over winter. Despite the North Rim being just 10 miles/16km across the canyon from the South Rim, it’s about a 220 mile/354km drive between the South Rim and North Rim!

How long is the Grand Canyon? The Grand Canyon is 1 mile deep, up to 18 miles wide and 277 river miles (446km) long! Safe to say, it’s HUGE!

Where is the Grand Canyon National Park’s, South Rim?

The Grand Canyon South Rim is 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona. The whole of the Grand Canyon’s location is within the state of Arizona and about 81 miles away from Flagstaff, Arizona.

Weather at the Grand Canyon South Rim

Grand Canyon South Rim weather varies a lot depending on the time of year. Weather in the Grand Canyon South Rim typically ranges from -7°C to the mid-teens from January – April and can reach the 30s in summer.

Whilst that doesn’t sound exceptionally hot or cold you must bear in mind that the weather at the top of the rim is likely to be different to the weather below the rim. If you’re hiking down into the Grand Canyon it’s likely to be very hot and very dry you’ll need sun protection and plenty of water.

Best time to visit the Grand Canyon

There’s never a bad time to visit the Grand Canyon, each season brings something different to the experience. We visited in April when the weather was warm but not too warm, and it was still busy but hadn’t reached the peak visitor time. I’d recommend visiting in Spring & late fall for a similar experience.

Grand Canyon Map

Here’s a map of the main viewpoints and attractions at the Grand Canyon South Rim.

grand canyon south rim map

Click to see full size

How to get to the Grand Canyon South Rim

There are several different means of getting to the Grand Canyon South Rim. You can fly to the nearby airports, take a Greyhound Bus, the train, or drive.

Flying to the Grand Canyon

The nearest airports to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim are in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Las Vegas.

I’d recommend booking your flights through Skyscanner as they make it super easy to compare flight deals.

Getting the bus to the Grand Canyon

If you’re travelling America by bus then you can take a Greyhound bus to Flagstaff, Arizona and from here there’s a shuttle to Grand Canyon Village right outside of the South Rim entrance.

Getting the train to the Grand Canyon South Rim

There are Amtrak train services to Flagstaff which connect with a bus to the Grand Canyon.

Driving to the Grand Canyon

Here are some basic driving directions from popular nearby destinations.

Directions from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon South Rim

It’s 278 miles/447km from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. To get there you take Highway 93 to Kingman, AZ then the I-40 east to Williams and finally Highway 64 to the South Rim.

Getting from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon

Flagstaff is about 80 miles/130km from the Grand Canyon South Rim. You take the I-40 west to Williams then Highway 64 to the Soth Rim.

Permits, passes & fees

guide to the grand canyon national park arizona

Here are some of the following permits, passes and fees you may need to pay during your Grand Canyon trip.

Entrance fees to the Grand Canyon

Entrance fees to the Grand Canyon National Park cost $35 per car, this lasts for 7 days and includes both the North Rim and South Rim.

If you’re entering by foot, bike or shuttle bus then the entrance fee is $20 per person.

You can now buy your Grand Canyon National Park pass online, or at the visitors’ centres to the following towns: Williams, Flagstaff and the Tusayan National Geographic Visitor Centre (IMAX Theatre).

If you’re visiting a few US National Parks over the course of a year then you’ll be better off buying the “America is Beautiful National Parks Pass” from REI for $80.

Fees for camping in the Grand Canyon South Rim

There are three Grand Canyon South Rim camping areas. There’s Mather Campground, Trailer Village and Desert View Campground. The first two are within Grand Canyon Village and Desert View is 25 miles to the east.

  • Mather Campground: Reservations recommended, no RV hookups, $18 per site, per night.
  • Trailer Village: Has RV hookups, book here. Not owned by the National Parks Service (NPS) so has a few more amenities.
  • Desert View Campground: First come, first served (no reservations), $12 per site, per night, no electric hookups. Camp spots usually full by 12 pm. Closed in winter.

Backcountry Permits for the Grand Canyon

If you plan on camping anywhere in the park that isn’t either the South Rim or North Rim developed campgrounds then you will need a backcountry permit. You will also need a backcountry permit for pack rafting too.

Backcountry permits cost $10 per permit plus $8 per person, per night camped below the rim and $8 per group per night camped above the rim.

To apply for a backcountry permit, and for more information, you need to put in a request which you can do here.

Top 5 things to do at the Grand Canyon

guide to the grand canyon national park arizona

Here are some of the best things to do at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

  1. Take a hike on the South Kaibab Trail down into the canyon
  2. Climb to the top of the Desert View Watchtower
  3. Watch the sunset at Hopi Point
  4. See the view from Yaki Point
  5. Take a mule ride

Want more ideas for what to do at the Grand Canyon South Rim? Check out this post. 

Grand Canyon South Rim hikes

best hikes in grand canyon national park

Looking to do a hike in the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim? Here are some of the best hikes for your Grand Canyon vacation

Read this for more day hikes at the Grand Canyon South Rim

What’s nearby

There are plenty of things to do near the Grand Canyon. This part of the US is full of beautiful sights! Here are a few of my top recommendations.

Where to stay near the Grand Canyon South Rim

guide to the grand canyon national park arizona

The good thing about the Grand Canyon being such a popular tourist attraction is that there are a lot of places to stay both within the National Park perimeter or just outside too.

Grand Canyon South Rim hotels

  • Yavapai Lodge: One of the best lodges at the Grand Canyon South Rim, just across the road from the Grand Canyon National Park Headquarters and very close to the Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor Center
  • El Tovar Hotel: Includes coffee shop/café & a bar/lounge onsite
  • Bright Angel Lodge: Gets 4.2/5, one of the highest rated hotels within the park
  • Kachina Lodge: Great reviews & a free shuttle for a 25-mile radius
  • Maswik Lodge: Onsite restaurant and complimentary shuttle
  • Thunderbird Lodge: Has great views and in a fab location

Hotels by Grand Canyon South Rim (outside the park)

These Tusayan hotels near the Grand Canyon South Rim are all highly recommended on Booking.com.

Other hotels near the Grand Canyon

Camping at the Grand Canyon

If the campsites inside the Grand Canyon National Park are full then there are plenty of other RV park and campgrounds just outside the Grand Canyon South Rim.

  • Ten-X Campground: Just 4 miles south of the Grand Canyon South Rim entrance. Standard, non-electric sites are $10 per site, per night. Suitable for RV and tents.
  • Grand Canyon Camper Village: In Tusayan, there’s the Grand Canyon Camper Village which is privately owned. RV sites with hookups available.

Free camping near the Grand Canyon

There’s plenty of free camping near the Grand Canyon. Check out this post to see how to find free camping in the USA.

Other things to know

  • The Grand Canyon South Rim is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
  • There’s a free shuttle bus connecting the Grand Canyon South Rim visitor centre, parking lots, lodges, and campgrounds with canyon overlooks.
  • Parking gets super busy in the Grand Canyon during summer, weekends and holidays arrive early or take a shuttle bus from your Grand Canyon lodging instead
  • Always remember to LEAVE NO TRACE
  • If you’re hiking take your 10 essentials with you
  • Pets are allowed on the South Rim on trails above the rim. They must always be on a leash.

More nearby National Parks post

Planning on visiting more National Parks in the US? Take a look at these guides.