Planning a trip to the Grand Canyon may seem overwhelming. There are a lot of questions to answer, and a lot of information to sift through. We’ve assembled a guide to help answer some of those questions, so you can plan a seamless trip.

Question One: Where am I going?

There are two sections of the Grand Canyon National Park- the South Rim and the North Rim. There is also Grand Canyon West, which is located on the Hualapai Native American Reservation. This area is a bit more of a drive, four hours from the South Rim and seven hours from the North Rim. Now, you can’t visit all of these in the same day, so which section of the canyon should you visit?

The South Rim is the most popular area of the Grand Canyon. It is home to amazing viewpoints, and a wider amount of visitor services and lodging. It has miles and miles of hiking trails, and offers other activities like river rafting and mule rides. If someone you know told you to go to the Grand Canyon, this is very likely the place that they visited.

The North Rim is quieter and less crowded than the South Rim. It has more forest than the South Rim, and this is a good part of the canyon for those seeking more solitude and wildlife viewing opportunities. Photographers in particular enjoy this section of the canyon, as the views are often less disturbed by crowds.

Grand Canyon West has its own draws, including the Skywalk, which is a glass bridge that extends 70 feet over the canyon itself. This is a particular point of interest for thrill seekers, but is not ideal for people with a fear of heights! They also offer zip lining, boating, and a tour of a Native American village. This is the closest area of the canyon to Las Vegas, so many travelers may come from the city.

Question Two: When should I go?

As you can imagine, the Grand Canyon is typically very busy during the summer, when a lot of people get time off of work, and the kids are out of school. However, when visiting in the summer, temperature can soar to extremes! For the South Rim in particular, we actually recommend visiting any other time than during the summer. Not only can you escape the crowds, you can take a trip down into the canyon without the searing heat. If you visit in the winter, you may even see some snow, a truly gorgeous and magical sight.

The North Rim is cooler year round than the South Rim, making a summer visit more pleasant. It is closed between October and May. Unlike the South Rim, the North Rim is less crowded year round, so you can still avoid the crowds when visiting in the summer.

Grand Canyon West is open year round, and is most crowded in the summer months.

Question Three: How do I get there?

Most travelers fly into Las Vegas or Phoenix to get to the Grand Canyon, though there is also a smaller airport in Flagstaff. There is very little public transport, so you will definitely need to rent a car. The canyon itself has a shuttle system and a railroad available for visitors.

Question Four: Where do I stay?

There are half a dozen lodges in the South Rim, but these fill up quickly, so be sure to book in advance. The North Rim has a lodge and a campground where you can stay. Grand Canyon West has cabins available for rent. There are also camping and backcountry camping options in the canyon, for those looking for a more rugged experience.

Question Five: What should I do in the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon is a beautiful place, and chances are, if you’re visiting you want to see as much of that beauty as you can. One of the easiest ways to see this is through a hike. There are lots of hikes in the Grand Canyon, including Angel’s Rest and the Rim Trail, to name a couple. There are other options to see the park offered as well. Some of these options include mule rides, helicopter rides, and rafting trips.

Finally, here are a few general tips for making the most of your time in the Grand Canyon. Be sure to bring plenty of water with you- the canyon is located in the desert, and temperatures can soar to extremes, especially in the summer.

The last thing you want to do is get caught without water. When hiking, be sure to stick to the trails, for both your safety and the safety of the landscape. Finally, for the best photo opportunities, try to avoid the most crowded areas. On the Rim Trail, especially, the popular lookouts can get crowded. If you walk a little bit in either direction, however, you should be able to get an unencumbered view of the canyon for your family picture. Now, go out and enjoy your Grand Canyon adventure!