Although first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later as a National Monument, Grand Canyon did not achieve National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. Today Grand Canyon National Park receives close to five million visitors each year - a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 which the park received in 1919..
Nearly five million people see the 1 mile deep (1.6 km) Grand Canyon each year. Most of them see it from their car at overlooks along the South Rim (this includes Grand Canyon Village, Hermits Rest, and Desert View). The South Rim is the most accessible part of the park and is open all year.
A much smaller number of people see the Canyon from the North Rim, which lies just 10 miles / 16 km (as the condor flies) directly across the Canyon from the South Rim. The North Rim rises a thousand feet higher than the South Rim, and is much less accessible. Heavy snows close the road to the North Rim from late October to mid May of each year. Even in good weather it's harder to get to. It is 220 miles / 354 km by car from the South Rim, or 21 miles / 34 km by foot across the Canyon by way of the North and South Kaibab Trails.
The Inner Canyon includes everything below the rim and is seen mainly by hikers, mule riders, or river runners. There are many opportunities here for adventurous and hardy persons who want to backpack, ride a mule to Phantom Ranch, or take a river trip through the Canyon on the Colorado River (which can take anywhere from a few days to three weeks - there are no one-day river trips through Grand Canyon).
Foot bridge above Colorado River
How Do People Get Across the Canyon?
If you are hiking across the canyon, the South Kaibab Trail crosses the Colorado River on a narrow foot bridge 70 feet/ 21 m above the water. It is a 21 mile/ 34 km hike to go "Rim To Rim," with a vertical descent - followed by a climb - of 1 mile/ 1.6 km. That makes this an overnight hiking trip for 99.5% of hikers.
Grand Canyon Area MapThere is only one way to cross by automobile, and that is 137 miles / 231 km from the South Rim Village (at Marble Canyon, AZ) via the Navajo Bridge, a few miles downstream from Lees Ferry, where the Canyon is only 400 feet/ 122 m wide.
There is no longer an airstrip on the North Rim of the park. That means that the North Rim village may only be reached by driving all the way around - or by hiking across the canyon. (NPS.gov)