Close-up map of the Grand Canyon.
Where to stay: The South Rim has a variety of accommodation ranging from the historic—and pricey—El Tovar Hotel to the more basic Bright Angel Lodge. Even in the winter, it’s a good idea to make reservations ahead of time (grandcanyonlodges.com). If you’re okay with camping in the cold, the Mather Campground (nps.gov/grca) is open all year. Another option is to stay in one of the many hotels in Tusayan, just outside the park.
Phantom Ranch is the only lodge in the bottom of the canyon, and it has a very limited number of spaces in its cabins and dormitories. Again, it’s best to book ahead (grandcanyonlodges.com), but sometimes there are last-minute cancellations. The Bright Angel Campground (nps.gov/grca) is located nearby.
Where to eat: Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, make sure to have a meal at the El Tovar Dining Room. The room itself is beautiful, and the food is quite good. (I recommend the black bean soup.) If you’re going down to Phantom, order the hikers’ stew. And get a cold Tecate to go with it.
What to bring: The main “corridor” trails—like the South Kaibab and the Bright Angel—are very well-maintained, so if you’re not camping at the bottom (i.e., carrying a heavy pack), you only need light hikers. Take the kind of clothes you’d wear in the mountains—including a light fleece, a rain jacket, hat and gloves—and carry at least one litre of water per person. (There’s no drinking water on the South Kaibab.) It’s also a good idea to pack along some Yaktrax or similar ice cleats.