A visit to the majestic Grand Canyon has long been a popular summer travel destination for families and outdoor adventurers, but a vacation to this popular national park doesn’t have to break the bank. Whether you’re venturing into the more rugged and quiet North or looking to take advantage of the amenities and biking trails in the South Rim, check out these budget-friendly tips for exploring the 17th U.S. National Park and one of the most iconic summer vacation spots in the country.
By Car: The most adventurous way to find yourself looking out over the vast Grand Canyon walls is to road trip. Pack up the car, load up the cooler and hit the road. Road tripping paired with camping will save you money on lodging and allow you to manage your food and beverage budget appropriately. Admission here for a vehicle with up to four passengers is $30 USD. If you plan to visit other National Parks within the next year, consider buying an annual pass for $80. The pass has an added benefit of placing you in shorter «passes only» entry lines.
By Air: If flying is your preferred method of travel, book a flight into the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport or Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. It’s still roughly a two- to five-hour drive to the canyon’s South Rim, which can be done in a rental car or if you’re looking to avoid driving completely, hop on the Flagstaff Shuttle and Charter where transportation from Flagstaff to the South Rim of the canyon is $189 for the first three people and an extra $45 per person for each additional passenger. Getting from Phoenix to the South Rim of the canyon is $450 for the first three people, and $45 per person for each additional passenger. A free shuttle service also operates within the South Rim, making it easy to travel within the park without renting a car. The shuttle circles through the lodging area, popular overlooks and visitor center. This air-plus-shuttle combo will save you money on gas, especially if it’s a long drive to the canyon from your home.
By Train: Train travel is an excellent way to the explore the West, and an even cooler way to arrive at the Grand Canyon. Amtrak offers service from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon National Park and a one-way ticket for a coach seat begins at $65 per person. The Grand Canyon Railway has been operating for more than one-hundred years and offers rides in their beautifully restored cars complete with service attendants on hand to share stories of the train’s history. A round-trip ride on this historic train starts at $65. First class cabins and a luxury parlor with food and beverage service are also available for rental.
LodgingThere isn’t a shortage of places to stay during your visit to the Grand Canyon. Whether you’re looking to rough it or more interested in plush accommodations while in the park, there are plenty of affordable lodging options to choose from -- but reserve early -- campsites and lodges book up quickly during the park’s peak season.
Camp: The most affordable way to stay in the Grand Canyon is to camp; the park has a handful of campgrounds available for tent and RV camping. Centrally located in the South Rim, near the Grand Canyon Village and within a short walk to stunning views overlooking the canyon, is the Mather Campground. Tent-only and RV campsites (non-electric) can be reserved for $18 per day during the peak season. The campground is also located in close proximity to showers and a general store. If camping is your designated form of lodging in the park, be sure to book your campsite in advance and purchase your camping supplies outside of the park to avoid paying higher prices.
Lodges: The Grand Canyon’s North Rim is home to a handful of excellent hiking trails and water adventures. The Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim is the only lodging offered in the area and features a handful of cabin rentals and motel rooms located close to the canyon’s rim. A giant main dining hall serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and the property operates a complimentary shuttle to the Kaibab trailhead twice a day. Rental rates being at $130 per night. Only ten percent of visitors make it to the park’s North Rim, which means this is the place you should head if you’re looking to hike and paddle in solitude. If you’re visiting the South Rim, book one of the many rooms at the Yavapi Lodge, which is centrally located and sprawls out amid the many biking and walking trails that weave throughout the South Rim. Nightly rates begin at $190. Save on bike rental fees by bringing your own bike or visit Bright Angel Bicycles and Cafe at Mather Point, located near the visitor center, where you can rent a road bike and helmet for $35 per half day.
There is much to see within a day’s drive of the Grand Canyon. Unless you're making a day trip from Las Vegas (it will be a very long day), try to combine your visit here with many other spectacular places in the region. Zion National Park in Utah is a relatively short, scenic drive from the North Rim and offers outstanding hiking opportunities. Page (90 miles NE of the South Rim) is a starting point for float trips on the Colorado River or vacations on Lake Powell. South of Flagstaff is the gorgeous city of Sedona, with its famous red rock landscapes that have inspired generations of artists. Yes, the Grand Canyon is one of those destinations that everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime and it’s a great adventure that doesn’t have to break the bank!