When visiting the Phoenix area it may be well worth your while to plan a short trip to the Grand Canyon. While camping, mule tours, air tours and back country hiking trips may be a part of some vacation plans, often people just want to drive up for a day or two, see the magnificence of the Grand Canyon, and then head back to the Phoenix area. This feature is intended for those of you planning a day trip to the Grand Canyon, or an overnight trip, to assist you in getting the most out of your short visit to the South Rim.
Tip: If you plan to go to the Grand Canyon for just the day, you can get in at least 4 or 5 hours before heading back home. This, of course, assumes you leave early and prepare for a long, tiring day. If you plan to go up and back in one day, make sure you have at least two drivers who can switch off in one or two hour intervals--four drivers would be even better!
Getting There From Phoenix
Barring any unusual traffic situations, it takes about 4 to 4-1/2 hours to get to the Grand Canyon from Central Phoenix. This assumes only one or two short stops along the way. Find the shortest route from where you are to I-17 North. Take I-17 North to I-40. Take I-40 west to Highway 64. Take Highway 64 north directly to the South Rim.
Getting Into The National Park
The entrance fee to Grand Canyon National Park is $25 per private vehicle, effective May 2006. This covers everyone in the car. Keep your receipt, since the permit you receive upon paying the fee is good for 7 days.
If you have a National Parks Golden Eagle (general annual pass), Golden Age (62 and older), Golden Access (blind and disabled) and Grand Canyon Park Passes you can get in at a reduced fee or at no charge, depending on the pass. If you fit the categories of either the Golden Age and Golden Access, get one on this trip. Even if you never use those passes again, you will save 50% or more on your entrance fee to the Grand Canyon National Park. Here are more details about fees and passes.
At The Entrance to Grand Canyon Village
When you pay your entrance fee or show your pass, you will be given:
a glossy brochure about the Grand Canyon
a Visitor's Guide that looks like a newspaper. This includes information about parking lots, bus routes and South Rim view points.
Tip: Read about the Grand Canyon's history, peoples and geology before you get there and save your time at the park for viewing the canyon from the various vantage points offered. Leave the receipt, glossy brochure and most of the newspaper in the car. Take the Shuttle Bus Route map with you.
Inside the Park
Once you are inside the park, you will have to decide if you will drive to various parking lots and walk to some of the rim view points, or if you will park in one place and take the shuttle bus. Or you might do a combination of the two! Your decision might be based upon how crowded the area is that day. In the case of a busy day, it might be best to find one central place to park (there are several parking lots) and use the park's free shuttles for your park visit. There are five parking lots.
Tip: People have a tendency to stop at the very first point at the Visitor Center to get that long-awaited view of the Grand Canyon. It is crowded and a bit of a walk from the parking lot at Mather Point to the Visitor Center and the actual view at the rim. If you are willing to skip the visitor center I found that parking at Lot D by the railroad tracks was close to two of the three shuttles and close to restaurants, restrooms and gift shops.
Tip: Use a parking lot that is a stop on a shuttle bus going in both directions so you don't have to walk far to get to your car on the return trip. See shuttle bus tip, on the next page.