Hello and welcome to the Grand Canyon National Park Forum!
To get started on your research, feel free to use the forum search box - located on top of the forum - to find similar questions already posted on the discussion board (you can sort search results by either relevance or date).
Also, it is helpful peruse the TA “Inside” Guide for great tips and general information: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g143028-s1/Grand-Cany…
Finally, when asking a new question, please help our experts and members to answer your question by including which part of the Grand Canyon you need help with, and when you are traveling.
Are you going to the North Rim, or the South Rim, or Phantom Ranch? Or maybe you aren’t coming to the National Park, you’re just going to Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai tribal lands?
The Grand Canyon is WAY BIGGER then it looks like on a map. We're talking about great distances (it's about a 215 mile drive between the north and south rims), with wide changes in elevation. All together it means that the climate, driving directions, what’s nearby, etc. is completely different depending on what part of the Canyon you are talking about, and when.
Here are some basics to get you started:
The entire Grand Canyon (National Park areas or not) is located in northern Arizona.
The National Park Service (NPS) website is at www.nps.gov/grca
North Rim: elevation*: approx 8,000’; closest towns Fredonia AZ, Kanab UT; closed mid-Oct thru mid-May (exact dates vary) due to extreme winter weather conditions (heavy snowfall). Inside of the National Park. Accessible by private vehicle. No airport, train, or scheduled bus service. Coconino county.
South Rim: elevation*: approx 7,000’; closest town: Williams AZ; closest city: Flagstaff AZ; open year round. South rim includes scenic drives called East Rim (Desert View) Drive and West Rim (Hermit’s Rest) Drive. Inside of the National Park. Accessible by private vehicle, and also has an airport (no major airlines) located just south of the park entrance (in Tusayan), train service, no scheduled bus service but currently has a shuttle (http://arizonashuttle.com/) from Phoenix and Flagstaff. Coconino county.
Phantom Ranch: elevation: approx 2,000’; located at the bottom of the canyon between the north and south rims. Inside of the National Park. Accessible on foot, by mule, or by river. Coconino county.
Grand Canyon West (often confused with the South Rim’s “West Rim Drive”): approx 4,700’ elevation; nearest city: Kingman AZ. This is outside the boundary and jurisdiction of the NPS and is administered by the Hualapai Indian Tribe. Permits may be needed to access some areas by private vehicle, also accessible by tour companies based in Las Vegas, and by river. Mohave county.
* Visitors with respiratory or heart problems may experience difficulties. All walking at this elevation can be strenuous.
Other helpful websites:
Sun/moon rise/set times, etc.: visit the Astronomical Applications Dept of the US Naval Observatory at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/ and go to “data services”.
Hiker information, tips, etc.: As well as visiting the NPS site above, visit www.hitthetrail.com by a former Grand Canyon park ranger and field guide. This site is recommended by many GC experts.
Grand Canyon Association and Field Institute offers books, maps, etc about the park, and their institute offers guided hikes and courses at GCNP: www.grandcanyon.org (/fieldinstitute)
Grand Canyon West & The Skywalk - An Unbiased View
Many visitors wishing to view and tour the Grand Canyon are confused by information about an attraction called Grand Canyon West, sometimes referred to as the West Rim*. It is not in Grand Canyon National Park.
East of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, on the southern side of the Colorado River is the Hualapai Nation Reservation. Their private enterprise is called Grand Canyon West. Grand Canyon West's Eagle Point is where the Grand Canyon Skywalk is located. The Skywalk has been completed and rolled out over the side canyon. It opened March 28, 2007. TheSkywalk is not 4000' above the Colorado River as has been advertised. It is at an elevation about 3000' higher than the river and is on a side canyon.
For anyone contemplating a visit to Grand Canyon West, GrandCanyon.com has a very fair, comprehensive and unbiased video about Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk on their web site (scroll down on their web site). While the page does contain some brief mention of their own tour services, it is primarily a very good overview of what GCW is and what to expect. See:
Grand Canyon West is about 3 hours driving time from Las Vegas, 6 hours from Phoenix and 5 hours from GCNP South Rim. In comparison, GCNP South Rim is about 5 hours from Las Vegas and 4 hours from Phoenix.
*(From Local Expert gcmaven) Grand Canyon West is often incorrectly called the "West Rim". The actual West Rim is a 7 mile section of Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) located on the South Rim between the Grand Canyon Village's Historic District, and Hermit's Rest (the westernmost viewpoint at GCNP South Rim). The real West Rim is also called the West Rim Drive and/or Hermit Road.
(a big thank you to gcmaven and bobbear43 for putting together this information)