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Grand Canyon

When it comes to the Grand Canyon, there are statistics, and there are sensations. While the former are impressive—the canyon measures in at an average width of 10 mi, length of 277 mi, and depth of a mile—they don’t truly prepare you for that first impression. Seeing the canyon for the first time is an astounding experience—one that’s hard to wrap your head around. In fact, it’s more than an experience, it’s an emotion, one that is only just beginning to be captured with the superlative “Grand.”

Nearly 5 million visitors come to the park each year. They can access the canyon via two main points: the South Rim and the North Rim. The width from the North Rim to the South Rim varies from 600 feet to 18 mi, but traveling between rims by road requires a 215-mi drive. Hiking arduous trails from rim to rim is a steep and strenuous trek of at least 21 mi, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll travel through five of North America’s seven life zones. (To do this any other way, you’d have to travel from the Mexican desert to the Canadian woods.) In total, 630 mi of trails traverse the canyon, 51 of those miles maintained. West of Grand Canyon National Park, the tribal lands of the Hualapai and the Havasupai lie on the West Rim of the canyon.

Grand Canyon Reviews

Inside the park, you can find everything from cafeteria food to casual café fare to elegant evening specials. There’s a coffeehouse with organic joe. Reservations are accepted (and recommended) only at El Tovar Dining Room; they can be made up to six months in advance with El Tovar room reservations, 30 days in advance without. The dress code is casual across the board, but El Tovar is your best option if you’re looking to dress up a bit and thumb through an extensive wine list. On the North Rim there is one restaurant, a cafeteria, and the Grand Cookout experience. Drinking water and restrooms are not available at most picnic spots. Options outside the park, in Tusayan and Williams to the south and Jacob Lake to the north, range from fast food to nice sit-down restaurants. Near the park, even the priciest places allow casual dress. On the Hualapai and Havasupai reservations in Havasu Canyon and on the West Rim, dining is limited.

Grand Canyon Reviews

The park’s accommodations include three “historic rustic” facilities and four motel-style lodges. Of the 922 rooms, cabins, and suites, only 203, all at the Grand Canyon Lodge, are at the North Rim. Outside El Tovar Hotel, the canyon’s architectural crown jewel, frills are hard to find. Rooms are basic but comfortable, and most guests would agree that the best in-room amenity is a view of the canyon. Though rates vary widely, most rooms fall in the $125 to $175 range.

Reservations are a must, especially during the busy summer season. If you want to get your first choice (especially Bright Angel Lodge or El Tovar), make reservations as far in advance as possible; they’re taken up to 13 months ahead. You might find a last-minute cancellation, but you shouldn’t count on it. Although lodging at the South Rim will keep you close to the action, the frenetic activity and crowded facilities are off-putting to some. With short notice, the best time to find a room on the South Rim is during winter. And though the North Rim is less crowded than the South Rim, lodging (remember that rooms are limited) is available only from mid-May through mid-October.

Outside the park, Tusayan’s hotels offer a convenient location but no bargains, while Williams can provide price breaks on food and lodging, as well as a respite from the crowds. Extra amenities (e.g., swimming pools and Internet access) are also more abundant. Reservations are always a good idea. Lodging options are even more limited on the West Rim.

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