|Hotel options on the rim of Grand Canyon.
|Most people visit Grand Canyon once or twice in their lifetimes. I have spoken
with many visitors, especially international travellers, who were unaware that
you can stay right on the rim. They were disappointed to have booked rooms
in Tusayan or Flagstaff (map). Interesting and affordable rooms are available right on the rim, if you plan ahead and
know the strategies to get the best option. As a person who visits the Grand Canyon frequently (how do I get the time
and money to do this? Read Rational Simplicity), I have developed opinions and strategies to secure what I think are
the best rooms. Here is what I have learned:
General comments applicable to all South Rim hotels.
All of the South Rim hotels are managed by concessionaire, Xanterra. Xanterra also owns the Grand Canyon Railway
and the "Grand Hotel" a hotel which appears on their website but is definitely not on the rim.
Parking during the busy seasons (any holiday and April through October) is very limited. It is best to take the first spot
you find near your hotel, and move later if a better parking spot is available near your room.
Xanterra provides for 3pm check in time, and sometimes the rooms are not even available then. If you plan to arrive
before 3pm, check the "Click to add Special Requests" which appears only once when you click to preliminarily choose
a room for the night. Also, because the room may not be ready when you arrive, have a contingency plan, like a
leisurely hike on the paved trail to the Geology Museum, or a bus ride to Pima Point on the shuttle which runs during
the busy months.
Admission to Grand Canyon National Park costs $35, but an annual pass to all National Parks and Monuments is
available (to U.S. Citizens and international visitors alike) for $80 and U.S. seniors can get a lifetime pass to all
National Parks for $80.
While on the subject of general comments, the Grand Canyon Visitors' Center is in my opinion a great disappointment
and can easily be skipped. This allows you to avoid the crowds and if you have entered the park on route 180, you
can take Center Road straight to the back of the hotel area and miss all of the Visitors' Center traffic. The Canyon
itself is the awe inspiring attraction. There are plenty of interpretive signs and brochures available. Save the Visitors'
Center for when you have bad weather or extra time at the Canyon.
A further general comment, be sure to watch the weather
before your visit. You can cancel up to two days before
your stay, and a stay with bad weather can be a big
disappointment. Many websites provide fairly accurate 10
day forecasts, I usually use weatherunderground.
|On a recent visit, the Canyon was
obscured by fog for two days.
Several of the rim hotels charge extra for a "partial rim view." In my opinion the surcharge is not worth it. All of the
hotels are set back from the rim and the views are not great. Further, you should be outside in all the daylight hours.
After dark, a view is not very valuable. For me, the view surcharge is not worth it.
Only the Bright Angel Lodge rooms lack a TV (the cabins have one); but television fans will likely be disappointed with
the old, tube style sets and the lack of channels. Once again, you should be outside during the daylight hours, so the
lack of state of the art television sets should be unimportant. Also, although the hotels provide internet access to
guests, so many people are sending high resolution photos and such that speeds are painfully slow. Do not expect
consistent internet access and if you have important work to do, do it in the early morning when fewer people are
using the internet and speeds are much faster.
So, enough introductory comments. In my opinion the best hotel
option on the rim is the Bright Angel Historic Cabins. The cabins in
2018 cost $140 a night. They come equipped with a full bath,
full-size bed, ceiling fan, mini-refrigerator and Keurig coffeemaker.
There is no air conditioning, but the nights are cool and the
windows and dutch door allow for flow-through ventilation. The
cabins are steps from Bright Angel Trail, and close to the
restaurants at Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar, and the Food Court
and Pizza Pub at Maswik. (Bright Angel Lodge Room map)
The rooms at Bright Angel Lodge are different from the historic cabins and not as desirable in my opinion, but they are
much less expensive (rooms with no bath are $85, with a toilet and sink, $97, and with a full bath, $110, all plus taxes
and fees, rates may be lower in Winter). First, the rooms are in a wooden building with carpeted wood floors. Noise
carries from the halls and the other rooms. If you do stay in the lodge, do not accept a room adjacent to an entry door
to the hallway, or you will hear banging at all hours, from the late night revellers to the early morning hikers. Not all
lodge rooms have bathrooms, so if an en suite bath is important, be sure to check your reservation carefully. Some
rooms have a toilet and sink, but you have to shower down the hall, which is not too inconvenient. Also, the lodge
rooms usually have a single window and no flow through ventilation (the louvered room doors have been sealed for
privacy, but you lose the ventilation), so lodge rooms are hot in the dead of Summer.
Almost all Bright Angel rooms have only one bed, so if your party requires two beds, you should consider other options
such as Maswik, Thunderbird, Kachina or El Tovar.
El Tovar is promoted as the "Premier Lodging Facility"
on the rim, but in my opinion it is overpriced, overrated
and worth avoiding. Rooms at El Tovar start at $217
and run to $354, with fees of $442 to $538 for suites
(all plus taxes and fees). Whatever you do, do not
accept a "terrace level" room. Despite the nice
description, they are actually basement rooms.
El Tovar has a concierge, bell-hops and white
tablecloths in the dining room. If these fit your lifestyle,
it is the place for you. But for a Western guy like me,
these things are annoyances best avoided. You can
get just as convenient a room at the Bright Angel
Cabins, then wander over to the El Tovar, sit in the
lobby, have a drink in the bar, or eat dinner in the
snooty restaurant, with the money you saved on your
simpler Bright Angel room.
|El Tovar was built in 1905.You can sit in the lobby
and eat in the restaurant even if you stay at more
|The front of El Tovar hotel.
|El Tovar is the only hotel on the rim with air conditioning. Maswik is close to the rim and has rooms with or without air
conditioning. The contemporary twins (Kachina and Thunderbird) next to El Tovar on the rim have evaporative
cooling which is more than adequate except on oppressively hot and humid days (rare on the rim). Bright Angel and
Maswik South have only windows and fans for cooling.
Kachina and Thunderbird lodges are located right on the rim between El Tovar and Bright Angel. Both were built in
the 1960's with "contemporary" styling. Rooms have two beds each and cost $225 for a standard room and $243 for a
partial view room (plus taxes and fees). The lodges are built of cement, so noise is less of an issue compared to the
older lodges. The rooms look like just about every other mid-priced hotel chain, so they may make up in familiarity
what they lack in character. Parking is located behind each lodge, with additional parking in front of El Tovar and
Bright Angel. During the peak season it may be difficult to find a parking spot, so take the first one you see and try to
upgrade to a more convenient spot later.
|Kachina Lodge is located right on the rim.
|Located next door to Kachina, Thunderbird Lodge is a virtual twin
offering contemporary styling and standard hotel rooms
at over $200 a night.
|The hotels. Fast answer: First choice, Bright Angel Cabins. Second choice (based on price not quality) Maswik
Maswik Lodge is not on the rim, but it is about three to six
minute walk away.
I recently made a last minute trip to take advantage of good
Fall weather and I ended up staying two nights at Maswik
South. At a reduced Winter rate, with tax, the rooms were
about $90 a night. Regular rates are $112 at Maswik South
and $215 at Maswik North. The quality was on par with a Motel
6 or EconoLodge. Nothing fancy, but acceptable.
On the plus side, parking is easy, there are two chairs, a table
and small refrigerator, so the rooms are convenient for an in-
room sandwich (cooking is officially prohibited, but I always
bring a toaster and a hot plate for soup). Maswik South only
has one window and fans, so Summer stays are very hot. As
of 2018, all Maswik South rooms have Kuerig coffee makers.
The Maswik lobby and cafeteria are very lively and the lower
prices and informal atmosphere give Maswik more of a youthful
flavor than the other lodges.
Maswik South is slated for demolition and will close on
April 1, 2019. Building a new lodge will take about two years.
Maswik South has become my second favorite place to stay at
Grand Canyon. Bright Angel Cabins remain my favorite, but
Maswik South offers lower prices, bigger rooms, two chairs and
a table and easy parking--but it will be gone soon.
Yavapai Lodge is no longer administered by Xanterra and is in the park about a mile from the rim. It is served by a shuttle
bus. Yavapai is the only lodge in the park that allows pets. Rooms range from $142 to $178 (plus taxes and fees, lower
rates are available during slow times). Yavapai East has air conditioning,Yavapai West ceiling fans. Parking appears to be
readily available. I have never stayed at Yavapai, but my guess is that it would be better than staying in Tusayan or a more
distant location, but with effort and strategy you should be able to get a room on the rim for your visit.
The best strategy to get a room on the South Rim.
The Grand Canyon is an extremely popular attraction. Xanterra makes rooms available a year+ in advance (13 months if
you book on the first of the month). Unless you are planning on visiting during the slow months (November through March,
with holidays excluded), you should book as soon as possible. But even if you want to visit next week during the high
season, you can still get a room.
First, visit the website. If the room you desire is available, grab it. Xanterra will charge your card immediately, but a full
refund is available if you cancel more than two days before your stay (be sure to double check this policy when you make
If the room you desire is not available, call them at 888-297-2757. I find that there are almost always rooms available that
do not appear on the website.
If a less desirable room is available, consider booking it. You can than plan your trip and try to upgrade to a better room as
your travel dates grow closer.
If no rooms are available, do not despair. Bookmark the website and check back regularly. Particularly about a week
before your travel date, rooms begin opening up as people's plans change. Three days before your visit (the cancellation
deadline is two days before the arrival date) begin checking more regularly and if nothing is available, make one or more
phone calls to their reservation line (888-297-2757).
Understand that Xanterra only requires a one day deposit, even on a multiple day stay. I have frequently departed a day
early because bad weather thwarted my hiking plans. These rooms will open up on the day before or the day of your stay.
Check with the front desk of the lodge you have selected on the day before and the day of your stay to see if rooms have
become available. I have used this strategy multiple times to get from a room in Bright Angel Lodge switched to a Bright
Angel Cabin, or to extend a one night stay for an additional night. The phone number for same day reservations is
928-638-2631. Even in the busiest season, I have been able to get a desirable room on the South Rim of Grand Canyon.
You can too. (Update: 2018 is the busiest year I have ever seen at the South Rim. Perhaps low gas prices are bringing in
more Americans and an improving world economy is bringing in more international visitors. But with perseverance and
frequent checks at the website, you can still get good rooms, It just takes effort.)
South Rim Restaurants.
Xanterra needs to get NPS approval for its pricing, so dining prices are not outrageous, but the park service seems to have
no control over the quality of the food or the efficiency of the service. I find the restaurants disappointing, so my strategy is
to keep the bill (and therefore the disappointment) as low as possible. For that reason, I avoid the snooty El Tovar
Restaurant. The Arizona Room and the Bright Angel Coffee Shop both are attached to the same kitchen, so I assume the
food comes from the same place. The Bright Angel Coffee Shop has the lowest prices of a traditional restaurant on the rim,
so it strikes me as the best value. The fajitas at the Bright Angel Coffee shop pack 2,000 calories and are plenty to serve
two people. The quality varies however.
Maswik Lodge has a food court and pizza pub, which are priced about the same as Bright Angel Coffee Shop but avoid the
need to leave a tip. The pizza pub has passable pizza (the crusts leave something to be desired) and all the restaurants
have reasonably priced draft beer.
After a number of disappointing meals at Grand Canyon South Rim, I have a new strategy. I pack a cooler with the early
breakfast for hikes before the restaurant opens, as well as snacks, salad and sandwich materials and beverages to drink for
my evening meal. That way I can eat what I want, when I want and save money as well.
After a hard hike, I like to visit the Maswik pizza pub for a slice and brew, and then eat a light meal in my room a bit later.
This strategy has saved me money and the disappointment of bad meals and poor service at the South Rim restaurants.
Lodging and Dining at Grand Canyon North Rim.
Although only about ten miles from the South RIm, Grand Canyon North Rim is a four hour drive, and the lodging and
restaurants are run by a totally different company, Forever Resorts. Please note, the Lodge and restaurant are only open
from May 15 to October 15. The entire park is closed in the Winter, although you can enter the park until December 1, or
until snow closes Route 67, whichever comes first.
The North Rim is much less developed than the South Rim, and the closest town, Jacob Lake, is about an hour away. Other
than hiking, there is much less to do at the North Rim. Forever Resorts offers four lodging options, motel rooms ($136),
Frontier Cabins ($148), Pioneer Cabins ($185) and Western Cabins ($204), all prices excluding taxes and fees. There is
an up-charge for view cabins, and unlike the South Rim, the views from some locations are spectacular. The motel rooms
are basic and have one bed, all of the other cabins have multiple beds. There are no televisions in any of the rooms and
there is no Internet access (except for the General Store near the campground). None of the rooms have air conditioning,
but night-time temperatures are quite cool. I have stayed in all of the rooms except the Pioneer Cabins. The motel rooms
are small and basic, and furthest from the Lodge (but closest to the North Kaibab Trail), but are the most affordable The
Frontier Cabins are basic, have a small bath, and are closer to the Lodge. The Western Cabins are expensive, but strike
me as the best value. They have a front porch with two chairs, two beds, a bath including a tub, and a small service pantry.
They are equipped with a propane fireplace and the cabins with a view really do have a view. The Western Cabins are
closest to the Lodge.
Parking for all rooms is in a large group lot that is quite a walk to each of the options. The easiest parking is near the motel,
because it is far from the Lodge and NPS Visitor Center.
Unlike the South Rim, all of the available rooms seem to be posted on the internet at this site. You can also call
877-386-4383 or the front desk for last minute reservations at (928) 638-2611. The cancellation period is 72 hours before a
visit, so rooms often pop up as the cancellation date comes near. Rooms at the North Rim seem to be more available than
rooms at the South Rim. The front desk is very slow and casual, so plan to spend more than a few minutes at check in.
The Lodge itself is at the end of Route 67 and was designed to hide the Canyon view from the visitors until they entered the
Lodge. Unlike the South Rim, the North Rim Lodge is right on the edge of the Canyon and has spectacular views. A
window seat in the dining room is a treat. To get the best seat, take the earliest dinner reservation (4:30pm) and show up
ten or fifteen minutes early to be put on the list first. They seat in order of arrival. You could take your chances with a later
time, but there are a limited number of window seats.
The view at the Lodge dining room is a treat. The food is not. Prices are high (especially on the "specials"), and the
quality, in my opinion is low. My advice is to stick to things they would have a hard time screwing up (like meat), and to keep
the price low. Don't miss the spectacular ambiance of the dining room, but also do not expect fine dining. Dinner
reservations go quickly and are available online or by calling 928-638-2611.
If you plan to be out after dark, be sure to bring a flash light. Lighting is not good. Expect the temperatures to drop sharply
at night and bring a coat or sweater.
Finally, do not miss a drive to Cape Royal. To me, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I love to get up before
dawn and make the drive, so usually I am the only person there. Because the "cape" extends way out into the Canyon, the
Canyon is in front of you, on your side, and behind you. You can see the river, Desert View Tower on South Rim, South
Kaibab Trail, and other sites. In my opinion, Cape Royal is the high point of a visit to the North Rim.
|North Rim Lodge sits right on the rim.
|The North Rim dining room
offers spectacular views
and disappointing food.
|Western Cabins are the best housing option.
|Bright Angel Lodge Entry.
|Bright Angel Historic Cabins.
|A deer at Bright Agnel Cabins.
|Bright Angel Lodge rooms are the cheapest
lodging option on the South Rim.
|Maswik South offers two beds and an
|Maswik South rooms
offer two chairs and a
I have also finally stayed at Maswik North. In late August, they were the only rooms available on the weekend. Like
Maswik South, the North rooms have two queen beds, but they add air conditioning, a back porch, a Keurig coffee
maker, a safe, and on the second floor (which I recommend), vaulted ceilings. There is plenty of parking. Maswik
North is closer to the rim than the South rooms, so it only takes a few minutes to hit the rim or the trail. Maswik North
rooms are a little cleaner and fresher than the South, but from my point of view, they are not worth double the price. In
Summer Maswik North rooms are $215, and Winter rates are a somewhat more reasonable $129 a night and
sometimes even as low as $90. Evenings are generally cool at Grand Canyon, so unless you are in the dead of
Summer, you can find better value than the Maswik North rooms.
|Maswik North Room with vaulted ceilings.
|(UPDATE: Bright Angel Lodge and Cabins are closed for remodeling from October 1 to December 1, 2018)