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Grand Canyon Tool Kit
Everything you need for planning the perfect Big-Ditch trip By Mark Kirby

Photo: On the edge of the Grand Canyon
Farsighted: Plan before you descend.

Some four million people visit Grand Canyon National Park each year. The vast majority of them never get below the rim. To venture into the heart of what John Wesley Powell called the "Great Unknown" takes planning. But the rewards are never less than grand.

GETTING THERE & AROUND: Phoenix is four hours from the South Rim; Las Vegas, five. Open Road Tours offers airport-to-rim bus service from Phoenix ($57 one-way; 800 766 7117, U.S. and Canada only). There are 2,000 parking spots on the South Rim, and in summer there are up to 6,000 cars—ditch yours in a designated lot and ride the free Eco-Shuttle to the trailheads and into Grand Canyon Village. Most North Rim visitors travel the five hours from Vegas. There's no shuttle along the North Rim (closed late fall to mid-May), but parking is less scarce. For rim-to-rim public transport, take the Trans-Canyon Shuttle ($110 round-trip; +1 928 638 2820).

FEES AND PERMITS: You'll need a seven-day visitor permit to enter the park ($20 per vehicle; $10 per person on bike, foot, or motorcycle). Backcountry permits ($10 per permit, plus $5 a night per person) are required for all overnight hiking trips. Permits become available on the first of each month, four months prior to the month of travel. (For example, permits for May travel become available January 1.) Forms can be found at www.nps.gov/grca/backcountry and must be mailed or faxed (+1 928 638 2125). Tip: Fax at midnight on the first day permitted.

CAMPING AND LODGING: Call months ahead to ensure reservations at Mather Campground near Grand Canyon Village, or at the North Rim Campground ($15 for a six-person site; 800 365 2267, U.S. and Canada only; reservations.nps.gov). The East Rim's first-come, first-served Desert View Campground operates from mid-May to mid-October ($10 per site). There are also Forest Service and commercial campgrounds in the towns of Tusayan and Jacob Lake (www.nps.gov/grca/grandcanyon). The South Rim's elegant El Tovar Lodge (from $123) has hosted the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Albert Einstein; the Bright Angel Lodge's rustic cabins offer canyon views (from $84). From the terrace of the North Rim's Grand Canyon Lodge, guests can peer through binoculars at the tourist bustle across the canyon (from $91). For reservations at any of the park's seven lodges, call 888 297 2757 (U.S. and Canada only) or visit www.xanterra.com.

RESOURCES: John Annerino's Hiking the Grand Canyon (Sierra Club, $17) is an exhaustive trail guide. Main-corridor hikers can use NG Trails Illustrated's map ($10; maps.nationalgeographic.com), while backcountry hikers should add USGS quad maps ($6; www.usgs.gov). For rules governing hikes on tribal lands, call Havasupai Tourist Enterprises (+1 928 448 2121). Visit www.nps.gov/grca/grandcanyon for extensive trip-planning advice.

Photo courtesy of Elias Butler

Online Extra
Four million people visit the Grand Canyon every year, but you can have the great gorge all to yourself by downloading our Grand Canyon desktop image. Download image >>

From the print edition, March 2004

The Grand Canyon Tool Kit: Essential strategies for doing the canyon right
Hiking the Grand Canyon: Three ways to hoof the hole
Rafting the Grand Canyon: The best way to run the Colorado
Canyon Legends: Three unsolved mysteries
High Holy Days: Cleansing your karma on Tibet's Mount Kailas
The Adventures of Tim Cahill: Why a little bird is picking on a whale
Special Report: Wreck diving's deep frontier, on the S.S. Aleutian

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Related Web Site

Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets. An IMAX Film

Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets
Experience the thrills of the great gorge with a preview of the IMAX film Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets

Grand Canyon Maps
For the maps you need to explore every inch of the Grand Canyon—including Trails Illustrated's new topographic version—visit National Geographic Maps.

Grand Canyon Quest
While prolific author David Quammen kayaked the Colorado in September of 2001, the whole world changed—except the Grand Canyon. Check out photos and audio dispatches from his trip.

Grand Canyon Travel Guide Online
Get in-depth information from National Geographic, including historic sites, driving tours, photographs, links, maps, and more online.

Grand Canyon National Park
For more tips on traversing the Grand Canyon, consult the National Park Service.

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March 2004

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