No, you don’t have to reserve a year in advance
Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim
on September 7, 2017
“You’d be surprised to find rooms are still available six months out, and even as the window closes there will always be cancellations.”
Although Grand Canyon is one of the most arid places in America, it’s also a wellspring of rumors and myths. With six million visitors to the park each year, misconceptions based on superficial stops have a way of becoming accepted as facts.
But Bruce Brossman, the director of sales and marketing for the Grand Canyon National Park Lodges, knows better. Having lived at the national park for nine years (and having worked there far longer), he’s seen and heard almost everything. Here, he sets the record straight about the top five myths about the canyon.
1. There’s not much to do
In my repeated trips to Grand Canyon, I’ve never had a moment when I was bored. So maybe the “not much to do” misconception stems from that Hollywood image of the family that walks to the rim, shoots a few photos, and then piles back into the station wagon.
How does Brossman feel about the park’s so-called lack of activities?
“Well, if hiking along or — even better — hiking into the canyon isn’t enough,” he begins, “then you can watch America’s most incredible sunrises and sunsets. You can look into the night sky at a fantastic array of stars. You can ride a mule along the rim or into the canyon and shop in historic buildings that date back to 1905.
“And if that’s not enough,” he continues, “Then jump on a bus and take a tour to the farthest reaches of the South Rim, rent a bike and ride through the village or to an overlook for a picnic, or visit a museum. And if even that’s not enough, look into a rafting trip on the Colorado River, take a helicopter tour across the canyon, or dine around the South Rim at venues including the historic El Tovar. Go there and start your morning with one of the best breakfasts in Arizona or end the day with an elegant dinner — all right at the rim.”
2. It’s too hot
OK, I’ll give folks some latitude on this one. I’ve been to Grand Canyon during the height of summer and it’s pretty darn hot. Then again, at the height of summer it’s pretty darn hot everywhere, which leads Brossman to add this qualifier.
“When they’re standing at the rim, not everyone realizes they’re at an altitude of 7,000 feet. So while there certainly can be warmer days in the summer, often the summer heat of the afternoon is broken by thunderstorms that bring dramatic temperature changes. And when the sun sets, that heat dissipates rather quickly, which is why you’ll often see visitors strolling along the Rim Trail in the hour or so before the sun goes down. It’s cooler, calmer, and the perfect time to find a nice quiet spot to watch the sunset.”
“But if you think that may be too much, just plan your visit for autumn, winter, or spring. It’s gorgeous in any season.”
3. Hiking is too hard
Here’s another one I was guilty of accepting, simply because I rarely exercise and my blood type is gravy. What I learned on my last visit, however, is that there are plenty of people in hiking shoes and carrying hiking poles enjoying an easy hike along the Rim Trail. The wide and level path offers scenic views every step of the way in the seven miles between the Historic Village and Hermit’s Rest to the west, and the two miles to the Visitor Center to the east.
And the canyon trails offer even more options, especially since they don’t have to be done in their entirety. Brossman points out, quite rightly, that the Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails are well maintained and easy to follow. With proper planning, food, water, and appropriate clothing and footwear, almost anyone can enjoy a hike into the canyon. Importantly, you don’t have to go the distance, which disproves the “hiking is hard” myth. Trekking just a few hundred yards along either trail will give you a wonderful new perspective of the canyon — without wearing you out.
4. It’s too crowded
OK, here’s one that really doesn’t make any sense. Grand Canyon is big. Really big. It’s one mile deep, up to 18 miles across and, by river course, 277 miles long. There’s plenty of room!
This myth stems from the popularity of the South Rim, where the Historic Village of stores, hotels, restaurants, gift shops, trailheads, and shuttle bus lines all come together. That said, I’ve learned that you can head to the South Rim closer to sunset and you’ll find the crowds have decreased substantially. Also, since canyon overlooks along the South Rim are legion, it’s likely one or more offers plenty of elbow room. So if you’re surrounded by too many sightseers, just take a short walk along the rim (careful, there are no guardrails) and you’ll always — always — find a quiet sanctuary where spectacular views are yours and yours alone.
5. You have to reserve a year in advance
Because of their natural beauty and accessibility, our national parks increase in popularity every year. And since Grand Canyon is high on many people’s bucket list, conventional wisdom says you have to book a year ahead to guarantee an overnight stay.
But Brossman offers this advice: “I’d agree that if you can plan far ahead, reserving a year in advance is a good idea — especially for the popular South Rim lodges and Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor,” he explains. “That said, you’d be surprised to find rooms are still available six months out, and even as the window closes there will always be cancellations.”
He adds one more inside tip.
“Don’t delay your vacation assuming there’ll be no rooms. Definitely check availability by going to grandcanyonlodges.com. Even if there’s nothing online, that doesn’t mean you have to put off your visit. I’ve seen guests arrive without a reservation and find other guests freed up a room by checking out early. It happens.”
How to Explore
Grand Canyon National Park Lodges provides the premier in-park accommodations, managing six distinctly different lodges. From the historic El Tovar hotel, long considered the crown jewel of national park hotels, to Phantom Ranch, the only lodging on the floor of the canyon, you’ll find accommodations to help you get the most out of your visit. For more information and reservations, visit grandcanyonlodges.com or call 888-297-2757.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.