This morning on TripAdvisor the “$64,000 question” had to do with congestion in Grand Canyon Park Village at the South Rim. This poster, who was planning on making a Grand Canyon day trip from Flagstaff, had obviously heard and perhaps experienced first-hand some of the horror stories of years past, like hour+ waits at the entrance gate and making multiple circles around the Village Loop drive in order to find a parking space.
I’m pleased to report that several recent developments have ameliorated that particular problem quite nicely. Check out this video from the Grand Canyon National Park Service to see what they’ve done. The biggest and best development was the construction of a very large parking lot adjacent to the Canyon View Information Plaza. If memory serves, it has roughly 900 spaces, and serves as a “hub” for the Grand Canyon Village Shuttle system. So find a space to park there, hop on the shuttles, and voila! You have an easy (and free!) way to get around to the different Grand Canyon hotels, restaurants, gift shops and other visitor services. Those with more time can take the shuttle all the way out to the West Rim Interchange near Bright Angel Trailhead and transfer to the Hermit’s Rest Shuttle, where more awesome Grand Canyon views await.
Another change made in recent years was the addition of several pre-paid entrance lanes at the South and East entrances to Grand Canyon National Park. Those with America the Beautiful Federal Lands Access Passes or other prepaid park entrance fee tickets are welcome to use these lanes to expedite their entry to the park. But these are only to be utilized by America the Beautiful Pass holders or those who have prepaid the Grand Canyon Park entrance fees elsewhere! Those who have not paid their fees and attempt to enter the park via these prepaid lanes will be required to go to the back of the “regular” line.
Some more suggestions to avoid the congestion that is still invariably present at Grand Canyon South Rim during the summer months:
- Time your visit to avoid the peak visitation hours between 10 am and 3 PM. That’s when the day-trippers from Las Vegas and Phoenix start to arrive, and that’s when parking can be more difficult to find
- If making a Grand Canyon day trip from Flagstaff, take the “long way in.” As TripAdvisor contributor “MikePinTucson” suggests:
Admission no problem at all if you use the east entrance. We have never encountered more than 2 or 3 cars ahead of us at that entrance.Drive along the east rim drive, stopping at all or most of the viewpoints (do not miss Desert View). Parking can be a problem right around the rim lodges. But if you park nearYavapai Lodge, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Then you can take the free shuttle to the Village area and the Hermit’s Rest road.
- Then take the “short way” out: via Highway 64 to I-40 and Williams, or the more scenic Highway 180 which can be accessed at Valle Arizona. Here’s a map of what that total drive would look like:
The typical Grand Canyon Day Trip from Flagstaff entails a 90-minute drive each way via the most direct route. Using the above route, expect to add at least another 90 minutes onto your drive time; and don’t be surprised if it takes a little longer. The Grand Canyon East Rim is one of the most beautiful drives in Northern Arizona, so don’t be surprised to find yourself stopping at one of the over half a dozen named viewpoints along the Grand Canyon Rim. But you’re on vacation, so hopefully you’re in no hurry!