Getting your head around the multiple accommodation options for the Grand Canyon can be a tricky task. The Grand Canyon label is applied to hotels over 1.5 hours away and at first we found it hard to wade through all the information out there. After staying there for nearly a week, we’ve been able to create a summary of everything you need to know before booking your accommodation and choosing where to stay in the Grand Canyon.
We ended up personally staying in five different hotels (that’s what happens when you book last minute and can only snag a night somewhere!) so we can give personal insight into many of the options we’ve listed here. Just to let you know we paid full price for all hotels we mention.
With that said here’s everything you need to know about accommodation options at the Grand Canyon South Rim for all budgets.
How to pick where to stay in the Grand Canyon South Rim
The main variables are distance and cost. As you can imagine, the hotels closer to the South Rim tend to be more expensive, with the cheapest options being 1 - 1.5 hours away. Places like Bright Angel Lodge and Maswik Lodge are a great blend of proximity and low-cost, but they are often the options which sell out first.
If you can, we recommend trying to get as close as possible to the rim. The Grand Canyon is one of the busiest national parks in America and it pays to get there early and beat the crowds, which is difficult if you have to drive 1.5 hours each way! However, if budget is your primary concern, then look to Flagstaff and Williams as they are significantly cheaper.
The closest - In the Park/Village
Staying in the park itself has many obvious advantages: you can get to the trails before anyone else and taking in a stunning sunrise won’t require a middle of the night alarm! You can also get some amazing views of the canyon if you’re lucky.
We loved being really close to the start of the trails and being able to wander around in the quieter times and see wild elk and viewpoints without anyone else around. Just simply being able to stay on the South Rim also feels like a bucket-list experience.
The main surprise was the cost, as unlike the majority of touristy places, the prices here aren’t as bad as you might imagine, especially for food. Restaurants like the one at Bright Angel Lodge offer some main courses for under $10 which were decent enough and huge portion sizes (as you’d expect in America).
The main drawback (if you consider it a negative) is that wi-fi here is almost non-existant and there is no phone signal, so you will be cut-off from the world.
Our pick - Bright Angel Lodge
Bright Angel Lodge is probably the best value and best all round hotel in the village. Whilst the rooms here are pretty cosy (i.e small), they are stylishly furnished and have everything you need. Some have en-suite bathrooms, others will have shared bathrooms, but they are spotlessly clean. Wifi is terrible.
The beds are really small but comfy and all rooms have tea and coffee making facilities. You are literally a minute from the rim which kind of blew our minds.
The onsite restaurant serves hearty food pretty cheaply.
Bright Angel Lodge does have parking, although it is fairly limited and doesn’t seem to be restricted to guest use. We always managed to find a spot but sometimes it took a while.
Cheap & good for families - Maswik Lodge
Maswik Lodge has seen better days, but in terms of price and space it is the best in the village. The rooms here are large with many having two doubles - perfect for young families wanting to squeeze into one room. It is pretty dated, but it isn’t any worse than the majority of motels in the US and is a good choice for a night or two. If you’re not a family we’d go for Bright Angel every time though. Our room didn’t get wifi at all, but even if yours does expect it to be dire.
It also has the food court on site which serves up several different cuisines at ok prices. The food isn’t anything to write home about, but it isn’t too awful either. Overall though it was our least fave food at the rim.
Maswik lodge has plenty of parking.
High-end - El Tovar
El Tovar is certainly the grandest and most prestigious of all the lodges in the park - after all, this is where Presidents stay when they visit. The rooms here are a bit more stylish, and you will have no problem resting up after a day in the park. Bathrooms are much bigger than at Bright Angel. The wifi is terrible.
The hotel lobby is the most grand part of the hotel and still has old world charm - although we’re personally not a fan of the stuffed animal heads.
However, it is pretty pricey and we found that Bright Angel was a bit better all round for price vs comfort.
The best part of El Tovar is the restaurant, which serves up the best food in the park by a long way. It isn’t cheap, but the food here delivers and has views of the canyon from your dining table!
The car park at El Tovar was quite small but we were always able to park.
Yavapai Lodge - A budget choice
We didn’t stay at Yavapai Lodge but when we made all our bookings it was always available so we wanted to include it. From the pictures and reviews online it reminds us of Maswik Lodge. Dated but comfy enough for a night or two. Wifi is available in the reception area and there is a restaurant onsite.
At the bottom of the Canyon
Once in a lifetime - Phantom Ranch
A stay at Phantom Ranch is a truly magical experience. Sitting on the bottom of the Grand Canyon, these cosy cabins don’t offer luxury, but the journey there makes it feel like you’ve won the lottery (and in some ways you actually have just in getting a spot here!).
The trail down is simply stunning and you can experience something that few others get the opportunity to. The ranch offers private cabins (with shared bathrooms), dorm rooms (with private bathrooms) or camp sites. All rooms are clean, kept in good condition and are decent for hiking huts - just don’t go here thinking you can compare it to any hotel on the rim! For a hikers ranch it’s pretty luxurious though with hot water showers and flush toilets!
You can treat yourself to a homemade stew or steak dinner (you must book in advance unless they happen to have some spares) and marvel at the setting at the bottom of one of the natural wonders of the world.
Booking Phantom Ranch
Like a lot of national parks attractions, places at Phantom Ranch can be booked by a lottery system. They operate 15 months prior to your stay (yes, that’s a long time in advance!) and tell you whether you have been successful in the month following when you entered the lottery. You then have a short time to confirm your booking or you’ll lose it.
The lottery is incredibly popular and getting a spot is pretty hard, but not impossible. If you know what you’ll be doing 1 year and 3 months out, this is the best method to try first. You can read more about it on this link.
Snagging a cancellation
Booking Phantom Ranch is all about luck. Reservations go on sale 13 months ahead of time and sell out quickly. However, if you miss them first time round, you may still be able to sneak in. There are cancellations that happen, so check the website as often as you can and have the flexibility to jump on the dates that become available. This is harder during the summer months, but is a lot more realistic in the winter, spring and autumn (these are the cooler months with a lot nicer hiking conditions).
Keep heading to this page, click “Search Phantom Ranch availability” on the Grand Canyon Lodges’ website and hope you’re in luck! This is how we were able to stay!
Check on the morning at Bright Angel Lodge
The other alternative is to check at Bright Angel Lodge early in the morning and see if there has been a cancellation for that same day. Sometimes beds do become available on the day. We were asked if we wanted to extend our stay at the bottom as there were five people who hadn’t turned up for their multi-day stay and hadn’t cancelled in advance. You may get lucky, so it is always worth checking.
Just outside the Park - Tusayan
If you haven’t planned a long way in advance, then chances are that the accommodation in the park will be sold out. The next best option - in terms of location - is Tusayan, a small town just outside the park boundary.
The great news is that Tusayan is only a 15 minute drive from the South Rim, meaning you can easily go back and forth to your accommodation. It also has phone signal, meaning you don’t have to be completely disconnected from the world.
The drawback is that prices here are steep, even for the food. It’s strange to think that hotels and meals cost more than in the prestigious Grand Canyon Village.
Best Western Premier - Grand Canyon Squire Inn
The best option in Tusayan is the Grand Canyon Squire Inn. This hotel offers everything you’d expect from a Best Western Premier - stylish, comfortable rooms with space and nice touches. It is the most luxurious and comfortable option within an hour of the national park, so you’ll have the best of all worlds.
The main drawback is that this place doesn’t come cheaply, especially as you won’t have any canyon views at all.
You can either drive into the park (parking could be a problem in high season) or take a shuttle bus. The shuttle service details can be found here.
1 hour away - Williams
The town of Williams is a good value option for people visiting the Grand Canyon. Whilst it is an hour away, you will save a sweet penny on the accommodation with even the higher end hotels here being better value. There are also several motels and budget accommodation options, making it perfect for anyone on a budget who simply wants to swing by the Grand Canyon for a day trip.
The drawback is that Williams isn’t that inspiring and it can be noisy. The railway runs right next to many hotels and this is a stop for truckers.
Mid-range - Best Western Plus Inn
The Best Western Plus in Williams offers nicely furnished comfortable rooms, but at a much cheaper price than its compatriot in Tusayan. It also includes breakfast and has a hot tub to relax in after taking on one of the many hikes in the canyon.
Budget - Red Roof Inn Plus
This motel is pretty good, especially for the price charged. It was clean and comfy and had all the usual things you’d expect to find in a US motel, think coffee pot and microwave. The wifi also worked well.
1.5 hours away - Flagstaff
Flagstaff is a big step up from Williams in terms of the town itself, but compromises on being further away. This quirky town has loads of good restaurants, cafes, shopping and plenty of stuff to keep you going. It also has a good range of hotel options from budget motels to high-end hotels.
We stayed in Flagstaff a few times as it is neatly positioned 1.5 hours from the Grand Canyon and 1 hour from Sedona - two places which can be difficult to get reasonably priced accommodation in.
The biggest drawback is the distance though. At a three hour round trip, it isn’t that appealing unless you are happy to do a massive day trip. If - like us - you want to spend a few days in the park, the distance between the South Rim and Flagstaff can make it a gruelling place to stay.
If you’re in need of hiking gear before your trip, it has an excellent REI store which is where we were able to buy some last minute essentials when we snagged our cancellation booking at Phantom Ranch.
Mid-range - Fairfield Inn & Suites (by Marriott)
The Fairfield gets universal rave reviews as it is new, clean and one of the best Fairfield Inns. It offers everything you expect from a Marriott - big rooms, modern styling and a relaxing experience. The breakfast included seemed to be a hit with waffles and more than your usual continental spread.
As it is based near the University, the hotel is away from the trainline and offers peace and quiet (something that can be hard in Flagstaff).
Budget - Americas Best Value Inn and Suites
We ended up staying here twice and thought it was a great motel for the price. It’s dated like many of the motels in this price bracket but it’s clean and comfy. Watch out for the bathroom taps which have the hot/cold water reversed, on our first night we ended up having a stone cold shower for no reason :)
Wifi worked well and the location was on the main road but strangely not very noisy.
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Are you planning a trip to the Grand Canyon? Is there anywhere great to stay you think we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!