Estimated Attendance at the South Rim
Which Rim to visit
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, and you’ll need to define the main area for your visit. Most tourists choose one of the three rims: the South Rim, the North Rim or the West Rim. You’ll be able to discover the surroundings and the neighbouring sites, the Scenic views and vista’s. For those who want to see different Rims during the same visit - you should be coming for at least a couple of days: there is a rim-to-rim shuttle but it takes about 4,5 hours one way and should be booked in advance. Otherwise, you can drive (212 miles) or even hike, but consider spending about 2-5 days hiking from the North Rim to the South one.
This area is the most visited one, with an incredible number of tourists during peak periods (in summer). On the other hand, it’s also the most convenient one to get to, and the one with the biggest number of facilities. The scenery from the South Rim will give the “classic” Grand Canyon pictures. The site is open every day of the year.
Best time to visit: early spring or late fall (excluding holiday periods and long weekends) is the best period with mild weather and moderate crowds.
Worst time to visit: summer months, especially July-August, bring overbearing heat and hundreds of thousands of tourists. You’ll have to wait everywhere, (buses, village facilities, dining), pay the highest rates, as well as wander among flocks of tourists without any privacy.
Tips: It’s highly recommended that you book accommodation long in advance, as sometimes there are no options left already, half a year before your intended visit. Prefer the East Entrance to enter the park, it’s less used and has shorter waiting times.
This area is getting more and more popular, but it’s still about ten times less crowded than the South Rim. As the accommodation capacities are limited, the place never gets overcrowded even in peak season. The visitation area is smaller compared to the South Rim. The North Rim has only three viewpoints (vs 12 on the South Rim), but the scenery is different and being 10 degrees cooler than the South rim, this area supports plant and animal life that the drier South Rim cannot. The season is rather short, from mid-May to mid-October, with the Rim closing on the first day of snowfall.
Best time to visit: second or third week of September - for the fall colours on the trees, that you won’t see at the South Rim; summer months - less crowds and heat.
Worst time to visit: early spring or late fall, when there’s a risk of snowfall.
Tips: As the area is getting more popular, it’s recommended to book you place well in advance.
This area is not officially a part of Grand Canyon National Park. Located on the Hualapai land, it is considered by many visitors as a “tourist trap” where you have to pay much higher fees and taxes compared to other rims. The famous “Skywalk” (the glass bridge 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon floor) is a good example, where despite the high admission fee you are not authorized to take your own photos, but can purchase a photo of you taken by a staff member. It has a limited number of facilities and viewpoints and could be the choice for a visitor staying in Las Vegas who wants to see the Grand Canyon but doesn’t have enough time to go to the South Rim and prefers a day or a half-day tour.
Viewpoint at the South Rim - photo credits to Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Planning your visit
Think of spending at least one night in the park (South or North Rim), as the most beautiful views will be at sunset and sunrise.
Prefer coming mid-week or at the beginning of the week: not surprisingly, weekends are the busiest at the Grand Canyon. Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be the least busy days, followed by Wednesdays. Keep it in mind if you’re not on a tight schedule: it may be easier to find accommodation and avoid crowds.
Plan your trip well: check the official trip planner to have an idea of sites and viewpoints that are of interest to you. Don’t forget to pass by the visitors center to get the area maps and shuttle schedules!
Avoid peak hours: though it’s advised to spend at least two days in the park, a huge number of tourists come for a day tour. The tourist buses arrive mostly at 10-11 am and the busiest hours last until 3-4 pm. Starting your day earlier or staying later will help you to beat the crowds. On the West Rim a swell of visitors can be seen each day between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. On the South Rim it gets much calmer after 4-5 pm.
Book up everything, up to one year in advance: it’s strongly recommended to book accommodation as soon as you know the dates of your visit, especially for the South Rim camps and hotels. It’s very likely that the rooms be fully booked for Thanksgiving week in June. The North Rim accommodation also sees very high demands during summer months, due to limited capacity.
Prefer the Rim adapted to your needs: in case you come with young children or persons with disabilities, the South Rim is better adapted, easily accessible and offers more facilities. It’s also usually advised for those who come for their first visit, thanks to its “classic” landscapes.
The best time of the year to visit the Grand Canyon
The busiest time of year is from Memorial Day (end of May) to Labor Day (beginning of September), which is also the hottest time of year, especially down in the Canyon. July is the peak month, though crowds in August are almost the same. While planning a summer trip, give preference to the beginning of June, when there are not yet big crowds.
Crowds thin out in late August, when kids are getting ready to go back to school, and many European travelers return home. Late September, as well as the month of October, are great options for visiting the Canyon without crowds and while the weather is still mild.
December (before Christmas), January, and February are the slowest times of the year. Think of checking the weather forecast. The North Rim is closed during winter, but the South Rim is open and can offer its cheapest rates during these months.
Avoid public holidays, long weekends and school holidays, the Grand Canyon is a very popular destination for the Spring Break.
Photo credits to Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
South Rim and North Rim
- Admission to the park is $25 per private vehicle; $12 per pedestrian, motorcyclist or bicyclist.
- The pass can be used for seven days and includes both rims.
- Every year the National Park Service offers entrance fee free days.
The West Rim is not inside the Grand Canyon National Park. It is owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe; the Hualapai collect fees for entrance to the West Rim. At the very least, each person is required to purchase the Legacy Package, priced at $44.05 (including all taxes and fees) per person. Consider spending at least $79.00 to purchase the cheapest package including Skywalk.
Photo credits to Felix Morgner via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)