Some of the best Grand Canyon hotels are located on the South Rim, the most famous part of Grand Canyon National Park. Perched a mile above the Colorado River at one of the widest spots in the Canyon, the South Rim offers dozens of spectacular viewpoints. The South Rim is also home to most of the park’s lodges, campgrounds and restaurants. Because of its proximity to Interstate 40, which runs through Flagstaff and Williams, the South Rim is the most accessible part of the park. Not surprisingly, it’s also the most crowded part of the park. But no matter how many people visit in the busy summer months, the views are always worth it. And between March and July, the South Rim is one of the best places in the world to view California condors, the largest birds in North America.
Grand Canyon South Rim Hotels
This historic hotel—the “Ritz of the Divine Abyss”—offers the finest lodging in Grand Canyon. Over the years, El Tovar has played host to such 20th century luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt and Albert Einstein. Even if you’re not a guest, El Tovar’s dramatic front lobby is worth a quick look, and its bar and restaurant offer the best food and drinks on the South Rim. If you’ve got the cash, there’s no better place to stay. Perched right on the rim, several rooms at El Tovar have Canyon views, but those rooms are often booked months in advance.
When El Tovar first opened in 1905, it was one of the most technologically advanced hotels in the Southwest. Among its high-tech amenities: electric lights, steam heat, indoor plumbing, and hot water—a stark contrast to the primitive rooms, cheap beds, and outhouses that had previously defined luxury at Grand Canyon. For many years, fresh fruits and vegetables were grown in El Tovar’s greenhouses, and local farm animals provided fresh eggs and milk. El Tovar was the brainchild of the Santa Fe Railway, which wanted a grand hotel to accommodate the flood of tourists arriving by train. Its architect, Charles Whittlesey, was inspired by the grand chalets of Switzerland.
Bright Angel Lodge
This rustic hotel, perched next to the rim of the Canyon, has a bit of a split personality. Its basic rooms (no private bath, showers down the hall) offer some of the best budget lodging in the park, while its premium rooms and private cabins feature sweeping Canyon views and working fireplaces.
Near the main lobby you’ll find a small museum with historic photos and a fireplace built out of actual Grand Canyon rocks—arranged floor to ceiling in their proper geological sequence. A small booth to the left of the front desk also offers information on ranger programs, bus tours, mule rides, and other daily South Rim activities.
The original Bright Angel Hotel offered the first overnight accommodations in Grand Canyon Village. When it opened in 1896, guests could stay at the hotel or in an adjacent tent camp. Guests walked from the tent camp to the hotel along an elevated boardwalk that protected them from mud and horse droppings (a prominent feature of Grand Canyon Village back then). Over the years, the lodge expanded to include a log cabin with eight guest rooms. Cabin rooms were rented for $2.50 per night, and tents were rented for $1.50. The current buildings were designed by Mary Colter in the 1930s.
This rustic lodge is actually located at the bottom of Grand Canyon, but since most people get there via the South Rim, I decided to include it here.
Nestled in a narrow canyon not far from the Colorado River, Phantom Ranch offers Grand Canyon’s only overnight lodging below the rim. Eleven rustic cabins and two dormitories are scattered along the banks of Bright Angel Creek and shaded by towering cottonwood trees. A central dining hall serves home-cooked meals to guests, and showers and flush toilets add a touch of backcountry luxury. An overnight stay at Phantom Ranch is, without question, one of the highlights of Grand Canyon National Park.
There are three ways to get to Phantom Ranch: by mule, on foot, or by raft. Overnight mule rides start from the South Rim and head down the Bright Angel Trail. Overnight reservations for hikers are much harder to come by due to the bargain price. Although reservations (888-297-2757) are accepted up to 13 months in advance, most spaces sell out within a few hours on the first day of availability. Finally, some rafting trips drop passengers off at Phantom Ranch, where they spend the night before hiking out the next day.
Kachina Lodge & Thunderbird Lodge
These blocky, utilitarian buildings, set about 60 feet back from the rim, are situated between Bright Angel Lodge and El Tovar. Surprisingly, there’s not much in the way of Canyon views, but the central location is a big plus. Both lodges offer standard motel-style rooms with two queen beds.
Set a quarter-mile back from the rim, Maswik Lodge offers basic motel-style rooms with two queen beds. The lodge is divided into north and south sections (rooms in the north section are more spacious and offer more amenities). In the summer, small rustic cabins are also available. The cabins feature two queen-size (or two double beds) and a private shower.
Yavapai Lodge is the largest lodge in the park, but because it’s situated a half mile from the rim it’s less popular than other lodges. That said, it’s also the most likely to have rooms on short notice. The lodge offers standard motel-style rooms at Yavapai East (air conditioning) and Yavapai West (ceiling fans).
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