It’s ideal to stay at one of the lodges in Grand Canyon Village , all within walking distance of the rim and linked by the park’s free shuttle system . If you’re visiting the South Rim during high season, make reservations several months in advance, whether you plan to stay in a hotel or in a tent.
Plan to spend $100-200 per night for a hotel room during your Grand Canyon stay, although rates go down as the distance from the canyon increases. If you stay inside the park, you’ll sacrifice some amenities (like swimming pools and Internet hookups), but you’ll avoid the hassle of commuting—namely, long lines at the entrance station and the search for parking.
If you’re traveling with the family pet, or if you prefer resort-style accommodations, you’ll find plenty of choices in the town of Tusayan, two miles south of the main entrance station. You can also find relatively inexpensive accommodations here. During summer months, it’s possible to leave your car behind at your Tusayan hotel and take one of the free shuttles to the park.
Whether it’s a budget necessity or a recreation preference, camping is a fine choice. Campgrounds in the area range from rustic forest camps to RV parks with full amenities. The three campgrounds inside the park fall in the middle of that range.
Wherever you’re camping, arrive early. Even if you have reservations, it’s a good idea to browse the available sites. During summer, you’ll appreciate a site offering afternoon shade. Keep in mind that the convenience of being closer to roads or camper services may mean sacrificing quiet.
Price doesn’t always correspond with quality of experience. Two of the most pleasant campgrounds near Grand Canyon, the park’s Desert View and the forest service’s Ten-X, are among the most reasonable options. More money might translate to more amenities, but you could find yourself next to noisy Grand Canyon Airport or a busy highway.
“You’re not just close—you’re there,” is the mantra of Xanterra Parks & Resorts, and it’s absolutely true. If you want to immerse yourself in the national park experience, a stay inside is a must. Xanterra (928/638-2631 for same-day reservations, 888/297-2757, www.grandcanyonlodges.com ) operates six hotels at the park’s South Rim , including historic El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge, for a total of 907 rooms.
In 1968, Xanterra (then known as Amfac) acquired the Fred Harvey Company, continuing to manage and operate the South Rim’s lodges and many of its gift shops. If you happen to be a history or architecture buff, you’ll appreciate how each lodge speaks to a different era of Grand Canyon travel.
Make reservations early; lodges are often completely booked from late spring to early autumn. In winter, some lodges may close for a few weeks, so even though there are fewer visitors, there are also fewer rooms available. Xanterra regularly renovates its lodges, and you can ask if recently refurbished rooms are available. Most lodges have some accessible guest rooms. Note that all lodges are nonsmoking, and pets aren’t allowed. Promotional discounts are often available during the winter months, the canyon’s off-season.
El Tovar is the “log palace” built in 1905 by the Santa Fe Railway to lure well-heeled tourists to Grand Canyon. It is still the most elegantly appointed lodging at Grand Canyon, and its 78 guest rooms have been refurbished to satisfy contemporary tastes.
With luxury suites, room service, a concierge desk, an elegant dining room, and morning coffee on the mezzanine, you might feel like you’re in a major city...until you look out your window for views of the canyon or forest, or see mule deer browsing the lawn.
Standard guest rooms with one double bed start at $178 ($209 queen), deluxe rooms are $273 with two queens or one king. Extra persons are $14 each. Suites ($335-426) have a bedroom and a sitting room and may include a porch or balcony.
Mary Colter designed Bright Angel Lodge and cabins in 1935 to look like a pioneer settlement of log, clapboard, and pueblo-style cabins. The lodge is central to rim activities, most notably the Bright Angel Trail , which begins just a few steps away. It also has a family restaurant, a steak house, a coffeehouse and bar, and a soda fountain. Accommodations range from simple “hiker rooms” with shared bath ($81) to private cabins ($113-178).
The Bright Angel cabins perched along the rim are some of the nicest lodging options at the canyon. All guest rooms have phones, but only the cabins have TVs. Four of the rim cabins have their own fireplaces. Suites ($178-340) include the historic log cabin on the rim that once belonged to sheriff and Rough Rider Buckey O’Neill.
Kachina and Thunderbird Lodges are perched on the canyon rim between El Tovar and Bright Angel. Built as part of the Department of the Interior’s Mission 66 plan for modernizing national park facilities, these lodges were slated for demolition to open up rim views and restore a more historic feel to the village. Several factors, from politics to funding, have kept park administration from proceeding with the demolition, and in the meantime, these two rim-side lodges have begun to show a certain historic appeal.
Recent renovations have highlighted their midcentury style, sort of a Jetsons-meets-Western feel. Guest rooms ($173-184) at both of these small lodges (49 and 55 units) have two queen beds or one king, with the higher price for canyon-view rooms. Other amenities include an in-room coffeemaker and refrigerator, a telephone, and a TV. If you’re staying at the Kachina, you’ll check in at El Tovar. Thunderbird guests check in at Bright Angel Lodge.
Maswik Lodge is tucked into the forest about 0.25 miles from the canyon’s edge. The lodge’s north section is a few years newer than the south section, and Maswik North guest rooms have more amenities, including air-conditioning. All of Maswik’s 278 guest rooms, including the cabins (summer only, $92), have private baths, phones, and TVs. Maswik North guest rooms ($173) also have in-room coffee and refrigerators and a choice of two queen beds or one king. Maswik South rooms ($92), usually a little smaller, have two queen beds. The lodge’s main building includes a cafeteria, a sports pub, and a gift shop, with a transportation desk in the lobby.
With 358 guest rooms in its two wings, Yavapai Lodge is the South Rim’s largest in-park motel. It’s also the farthest from the rim, at 0.5 miles, although it is conveniently close to Market Plaza and campground services, making it a good choice for families. All guest rooms have TVs and phones, and most have two queen beds (Yavapai West, $114; Yavapai East, $163), but some Yavapai East guest rooms have one king bed. Note that Yavapai West doesn’t have air-conditioning, although ceiling fans are usually adequate for South Rim summers. Yavapai East guest rooms have air-conditioning as well as in-room refrigerators and coffeemakers.
Mather Campground (877/444-6777, www.recreation.gov ) accepts reservations up to six months in advance. Although it’s the park’s largest campground, with more than 300 sites, Mather is usually fully booked during busy summer months. Often, however, campers leave early and spaces open up. There’s no waiting list—check in person for last-minute availability.
Mather campground is located in Grand Canyon Village near Market Plaza, 0.5 miles from the rim. Sites ($18) accommodate tents and RVs up to 30 feet and have grills, picnic tables, and paved parking but no hookups. You can have up to two vehicles, three tents, and six people per site. Group sites ($50) are available for groups up to 50 people with a maximum of three vehicles. Discounts are given to Golden Age and Golden Access pass holders. Mid-November-February, fees are lower and reservations aren’t accepted. The Campground Services building has coin-operated showers and laundry.
Trailer Village (888/297-2757 or 928/638-2631 for same-day reservations, www.grandcanyonlodges.com ), 0.5 miles from the rim in Grand Canyon Village, has 84 paved RV sites with full hookups ($35 for 2 people) for vehicles up to 50 feet long. Sites have picnic tables, grills, and cable TV hookup. Showers and laundry are available at the Camper Services building, and a dump station is located next to Mather Campground.
Desert View Campground (May-mid-Oct.), 26 miles east of Grand Canyon Village near the park’s East Entrance Station, has 50 first-come, first-served campsites. During the busy summertime, the campground usually fills by afternoon. Each site ($12) has a grill but no water. Two faucets are available in the campground, and there are restroom buildings nearby with sinks and flush toilets but no showers. The campground closes for winter in mid-October.