The world famous landscape that is the Grand Canyon has long attracted visitors to this awe-inspiring, one-mile deep chasm sliced into the rocky landscape. The unique geology, the vast expanse and the unusual surroundings create a place unlike anywhere else on Earth.
To get the ultimate experience of the Grand Canyon, arrive for sunrise and watch as the rocks change color and the landscape is illuminated. Get to know more about the canyon’s ancient history and learn about the ecology at the visitor’s center. If you feel brave enough, set off on a hike of the canyon itself; or you can splash the cash and take a helicopter ride over the vast chasm and gaze in amazement as the sun sets, the landscape changes once again, and the stars take their place in the inky black of the night sky.
Map of the Best Places to Stay at the Grand Canyon
Located in northwestern Arizona, you can find your hotel, rustic lodge or family restaurant right on the edge of the canyon itself, or choose to stay deep within the forested expanses or among the communities of the locals with their restaurants and entertainment options. The experience of visiting the Grand Canyon is waiting for you; you only need to decide how you’ll see it, so we’ve put together a guide of the best areas to stay at the Grand Canyon to help you out.
Staying within the South Rim of the Grand Canyon means easy access to some of the best experiences the area can offer – think longer hikes in one of the most iconic areas of America or the chance to wake up early to watch the sunrise. The South Rim is the most visited rim, and its popularity with tourists means that there are a selection of hotels to choose from that cater to guest’s needs; with the canyon right on your doorstep. Getting up for the sunrise over the canyon won’t seem like so much of a chore if all you have to do is wake up and walk outside your front door.
Most hotels in the South Rim can facilitate tours and special trips like a helicopter ride, and can offer a depth of information about the canyon. Staying inside the park itself is popular; many people want to make the most of their time in the Grand Canyon, so make sure you book well in advance. There are some reasonably priced good but basic rooms available at a handful of lodges, but do expect to pay more to stay inside the rim itself. Alternatively, you could brave it out in the open at one of the park’s campsites.
The North Rim of the canyon is open from May until October and is a much more remote part of the park compared to the South Rim. Travelling to other areas of the canyon from the North Rim can take up the good part of a day, so staying in the North Rim for a more than a few nights makes up for the long journey time. The North Rim is much less visited than other areas of the canyon, so if you want to seek out peace and quiet among the natural landscape – plus the chance to experience a rustic way of life – then this is the area to base yourself.
There is only one lodge that offers accommodation inside the national park boundaries of the North Rim; therefore, booking a year in advanced is advised. Stay amid the solitude and remoteness in this historic lodge; choose from cabins and lodgings nestled among ancient trees around the canyon edge, and after the day’s hike you can dine in the lodge’s restaurants with magnificent views of the night sky.
If you want to fuse your trip to the Grand Canyon with a mix of eating, drinking, and a spot of shopping, then you should stay in the town of Tusayan. Located outside the national park boundaries, Tusayan is surrounded by the natural beauty of the landscape and is dedicated to the visitors to the South Rim. Entertainment here is endless, with options to visit the National Geographic Visitor Center and even the IMAX theater.
There is a wide choice of budget accommodation in the town; you can choose from modern motels and family-friendly hotels that have all the amenities you will need. To get into the park, simply hop on the free shuttle bus that ferries visitors around.
Named ‘the gateway to the Grand Canyon,’ the town of Flagstaff is set amongst the beautiful natural alpine landscape. Stay in lodges surrounded by mountains and spend your days hiking and exploring nature and evenings enjoying the company of the friendly locals in the town’s restaurants and bars. Flagstaff boasts many micro-breweries and outdoor adventure parties that can add to your trip to see the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon itself is an hour’s drive away and you can take the free shuttle bus from town.
Life in Flagstaff is all about the outdoors, and accommodation is thankfully budget-friendly. Don’t expect 5-star hotels here; it’s more centered around wooden lodges tucked deep in the woods, mid-range hotels, or locally run bed and breakfasts.
The old town of Williams sits just outside of the national park on an old part of Route 66. The frontier town has a Wild West history to match, and is a fun place to stay in order to learn more about the area and make the most of a trip to the canyon. There are plenty of chances for spending time adventuring in the rugged and vast landscape around the town; fishing trips and hiking are popular.
From Williams, you can take the old Grand Canyon Railway that dates back to 1901 and departs daily at 9:30 a.m. Accommodation is made up of budget-friendly motels, where you’ll be welcomed with a friendly atmosphere and a variety of classic American dining options.
Located in the middle of a group of national parks across the border in Utah, Kanab is fantastic for those who want to experience the iconic natural wonders that the region has to offer. Close to the lesser visited North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the small town boasts a sweeping scenic panorama across the landscape and access to well-trodden hiking routes through the area.
If you prefer to see the quieter part of the canyon on a day trip, a stay in Kanab offers the chance to stay in a log cabin and hotels away from the crowds that are attracted to the South Rim. In town, there’s the chance to take trips to nearby lakes and rivers, plus a selection of dining options serving international cuisine. For the perfect mix of nature and accessibility, drive 80 miles to the North Ridge visitor’s center, spend your night camping under the stars, watch the sun rise and then return the next day to the comfort of your hotel in Kanab.
South of the Grand Canyon, midway between Williams and the South Rim, is the quiet and charming town of Valle. Lesser known and much less costly than Williams, hotels here are considerably cheaper and come in the form of mid-priced inns and hotels; accommodating the overflow of tourists who flock to this area during the summer months to visit the canyon. There is plenty of accommodation to choose from along the main route into the national park, and a selection of eating options from Mexican to bakeries, both at hotel restaurants and in the town.
Valle is also home to an airplane museum, which is an interesting place to drop in and learn more about past American history. To get to the Grand Canyon from Valle, simply jump on the coach that runs through the town from Williams. You can also drive yourself to the park for chilled-out sunset viewing or for special sunrises across the iconic canyon.