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Feb 22nd
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Home National & State Parks Grand Canyon Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim Improvements Offering Visitors Easier Access, More Parking for 2010

Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim Improvements Offering Visitors Easier Access, More Parking for 2010

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Roughly 277 river miles long, as much as 18 miles wide, and a mile deep to the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon stands out as one of the world's great natural wonders. It's a breathtaking sight that each year attracts nearly 5 million people from all around the globe.

Visitors can explore Grand Canyon National Park from either the South Rim or the North Rim, but it is the South Rim that attracts the majority of people because the access is much easier.

Most visitors travel along Interstate 40, going through either Williams or Flagstaff, Arizona to reach the South Rim. There is an airport, and rail service from Williams.

Another reason for its popularity is that the South Rim is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whereas the North Rim is open only from mid-May to about mid-October.

Because it is more easily accessible, the South Rim offers a variety of ways to see the Grand Canyon.

If you only have a couple of hours to spend at the park, there are opportunities for you to get a quick taste of the canyon's powerful and awe-inspiring landscape. If you have two or more days, there are a variety of programs including hiking and ranger-led activities.

If you plan to stay more than a day, there are extended trips, and camping and lodging facilities to meet every budget.

For South Rim campers, there's the Mather Campground (reservations strongly recommended), as well as the Desert View Campground 25 miles to the east (first-come, first-served), and for RVers there's the Trailer Village, operated by Xanterra Parks, which offers RV sites with hook-ups. Advance reservations may be made by calling (888) 297-2757; for same-day reservations call (928) 638-2631.

For lodging, there is a choice of accommodations provided by Xanterra Parks from seven distinctly different Grand Canyon lodging properties and experiences (including the famous El Tovar Hotel), all in the park.

Visit Xanterra's Web site at
www.grandcanyonlodges.com/Lodging-Overview-411.html for more information.

There also is lodging available outside the park in the gateway community of Tusayan, about seven miles to the south, and free shuttle service.

For most visitors, Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Mather Point, just a few miles north of the South Entrance and 26 miles (42 km) west of the East Entrance, are the first stops.

Available to visitors this year are 600 new parking spaces, 40 new commercial tour bus spaces, better access to the Visitor Center and re-alignment of the South entrance road.

There are several changes going on for 2010, and the improvements are designed to ease traffic congestions and make your visit easier and less stressful. Additional improvements currently underway include:

  • Completion of the shuttle bus staging area near the transit pavilion, to accommodate up to four shuttle buses at one location.
  • Construction of restroom facilities on the north end of the tour bus parking lot.
  • Removal of all remaining roadway and the parking lot at Mather Point.
  • Construction of a new shuttle bus stop at Mather Point.
  • Rehabilitation of the Mather Point overlook area, including reconstruction of the stairs, an accessible pathway to the overlook and new railing along the entire rim area of Mather Point.
  • Construction of an informal amphitheater east of the overlook, on the rim.
  • Construction of a stone ‘landmark feature' along the primary walkway between the visitor center and the rim, which will serve as a meeting place, a way finding icon and an exhibit.
  • Construction of new picnic areas near the rim.
  • Revegetation of landscape area where parking/roads are removed.

These improvements are expected to be completed by the end of 2010.

The National Park Service (NPS) again will offer a shuttle bus route between Grand Canyon National Park and the neighboring town of Tusayan for the 2010 summer season.

The service (the Purple Route) will be available from May 15 through Sept. 12 and will run at 15-minute intervals between 8 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

The first bus will leave Tusayan at 8 a.m. and the first bus will leave the Grand Canyon Visitor Center at 8:40 a.m. The last buses will leave Tusayan and the Grand Canyon Visitor Center at 9:30 p.m.

The shuttle buses will make four stops in Tusayan including the IMAX Theater, R.P.'s Stage Stop, Squire Inn, Airport (Grand Canyon Airlines terminal) and Western Discovery Museum (in the same location as the former Canyon Flight Trading Company stop). Public parking is available at IMAX, RP's and the Airport.

New this year, beginning May 1 and continuing into the fall, Bright Angel Bicycles will offer rentals and operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Visitors will be able to ride on portions of the park's multi-use greenway trail system open to bicycles, on all park roads open to public vehicular traffic and on park roads open only to shuttle bus traffic, including the Hermit Road and the Yaki Point Road.

"Biking is an excellent way for visitors to experience Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim," said Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin, who announced the awarding of the concessionaire authorization.

For most visitors, the best way to learn about the Grand Canyon, its natural wonders and its history, is to stop by the Visitor Centers. They include:

Kolb Studio
Once the home and business of the Kolb brothers, pioneering photographers at Grand Canyon, this building has been restored. Visit the free art exhibits in the auditorium and shop in the bookstore. Kolb Studio is located in the Village Historic District, at the Bright Angel Trailhead. See page 4 for art exhibits displayed here. Free admission.

Verkamp's Visitor Center
The newest visitor center resides in one of the oldest buildings on the South Rim. Operated for more than 100 years by the Verkamp family, the building now features displays telling the history of Grand Canyon Village and a bookstore.

Yavapai Observation Station
How old is the canyon? How did it form? The exhibits at Yavapai Observation Station answer these and other geology questions. The historic building, located one mile east of Market Plaza, features expansive canyon views. The bookstore offers a variety of materials about the area.

Canyon View Information Plaza
Start your visit at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Books and More bookstore, and Mather Point. Use the ample nearby parking or ride the free shuttle buses. View the outdoor exhibits anytime.

Tusayan Museum
A visit to Tusayan Ruin and Museum provides a look into the lives of a thriving community as illustrated by its pottery, seashell bracelets, corncobs, and arrowheads. See 2,000-4,000-year-old original splittwig figurines. Art from today's tribes provides a glimpse into their rich cultures. The museum is located three miles west of Desert View.

Desert View Bookstore & Park Information
The Desert View Bookstore and Park Information Center, located at Desert View Point near the park's east entrance, offers an excellent selection of publications and park information.

Getting around the South Rim is easy; use the park's free shuttle bus service.

All shuttles feature improved accessibility and can accommodate most wheelchairs. Bicycle racks allow visitors to combine a shuttle ride with bicycling. Riding the shuttles makes your stay more enjoyable, while reducing pollution and lessening traffic congestion.

Shuttles run from before sunrise to after sunset, come by frequently, and do not require any ticket or toll.

Riders can get on or off at any stop. Ride to a stop, enjoy the view, shop at a gift store, or walk along the rim, and board a later shuttle. Shuttle bus routes serve many areas of the South Rim-two operate year-round and two seasonally. When you arrive at the park, look in The Guide for current operating schedules and a map of routes and stops.

The three routes inside the South Rim include:

Village Route (blue)
This loop, running year-round, connects visitor centers, lodging, restaurants, gift shops, and campgrounds. It provides the best means for arriving at many of the ranger programs. Canyon views unfold a short walk from several of the stops.

Kaibab Trail Route (green)
Heading east from Grand Canyon Visitor Center, this shuttle takes riders to the South Kaibab Trailhead and other canyon viewpoints. This route runs throughout the year and is the only way to go to the South Kaibab Trail.

Hermits Rest Route (red)
The western-most route winds for seven miles along the rim to Hermits Rest, stopping at viewpoints along the way. The Hermit Rest Route operates from March through November.

Entrance to the park is $25 per private vehicle; $12 per pedestrian or cyclist. Admission is for seven days and includes both the South Rim and the North Rim. The $80 America the Beautiful interagency pass provides entrance into all National Park Service areas. U.S. citizens 62 or older can obtain a lifetime Senior Pass for $10 allowing free entrance to the parks. Fees collected support projects in the park.

There is much to see and do at Grand Canyon National Park, ranging from mule trips to river rafting.

Visit the Grand Canyon National Park Web site at
www.nps.gov/grca/ for a full range of information and recreational opportunities.

National & State Parks