Grand Canyon Fun Facts: 9 Things You Didn’t Know

interior - do people live inside the grand canyon

I am really excited to spotlight the Grand Canyon as my Featured Travel Destination for the month of March. It’s been a while since I wrote extensively about a national park, and the Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, so it’s about time we give it some love.

The Canyon is the second most-visited national park in America, behind only Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. For years, about four million people visited the Canyon annually, but since 2015, those numbers have shot up. In 2017 and 2018, the number of visitors exceeded the 6 million mark!

Do people still live inside the Grand Canyon? How long does it take to drive from one side of the Canyon to the other? Let’s run down some Grand Canyon fun facts and interesting tidbits. As with the 9 Things You Didn’t Know About Yellowstone post, you may already know some of these items, but hopefully you’ll pick up a few new facts.

Interesting and Fun Facts About the Grand Canyon

1 Members of one Native American tribe still live inside the canyon
The Havasupai (which means “people of the blue-green waters”) have a reservation that borders Grand Canyon National Park. Their village is located near Havasu Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River that often sees flash floods. Supai Village has a population of a couple hundred residents.

Havasu Canyon is located inside the Grand Canyon, so technically, yes, people live inside the Canyon. They’re not near the touristy part of the Grand Canyon, though.

Outside visitors are welcome in Supai Village, but you’ll have to be truly committed. It’s a minimum 8-mile hike from the nearest road into the Supai Village, and you’ll pay an entry fee of $35 per person. As of 2020, guests who want to stay there are charged $375 for a three-night camping visit. Here’s more official info on the Havasupai.

grand canyon fun facts and interesting trivia

Yes, some people still live in the Grand Canyon in its remote sections!

 

2 There’s more than 1 billion years worth of rock exposed at the canyon
If you hike down into the canyon, you’ll walk past more than 1 billion years of rock. The canyon itself was supposedly formed between 5 and 17 million years ago. Either way you look at it, that’s seriously ancient. The canyon is 277 miles long, a mile deep, and 18 miles across at its widest point.

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3 You can’t buy bottled water in the park
The Canyon has gone green! In March 2012, the Canyon officially eliminated the sale of water in disposable containers. This decision came after a study determined that 20 percent of the park’s waste came from plastic water bottles.

So what’s a thirsty hiker to do at the Grand Canyon? The park has free water stations throughout, so bring your own water container and fill it up as much and as often as you like.

4 It snows – sometimes a lot
The picture of the Grand Canyon most people have is that of a hot, dry place, but the North Rim, which sits 1,000 feet higher than the South, sees colder temperatures and plenty of snow in the winter months.

Sometimes, the main road to the canyon on the northern side will have to be closed due to inclement weather. I visited in late May and found snow on the ground. Not a ton, but enough for a snowball fight!

snow piles grand canyon

It’s fun seeing snow at the Grand Canyon!

 

5 It takes five hours to drive from one side of the canyon to the other
Thankfully, nobody has yet built a bridge across the canyon, so even though the North Rim and South Rim are only about 10 miles apart straight across, you have to drive all the way around the canyon to get from one side to the other.

That’s a 215-mile, five-hour drive. Most people don’t bother to visit both rims of the canyon since it’s such a long trek. If you like, you can take the Transcanyon Shuttle, the daily bus that travels from the North Rim to the South Rim and back once a day. Round-trip cost is $180 per person, or $90 for one way.

6 Lots of people die there
“Lots” is a relative term, but there are plenty of stories of people dying at the Grand Canyon – enough that some books have been written on the subject. In 2009, 12 people died there – one from a heart attack, one from suicide, and 10 from accidents. That was a fairly typical year.

Approximately 53 people fell to their deaths from the canyon rims from 1925 to 2005, with another 48 deaths inside the canyon. On rare occasions, people have even driven their vehicles straight into the canyon off the South Rim, Thelma and Louise style. People also have to be rescued on occasion. The last time I visited, I witnessed some sort of helicopter airlift out of the canyon. I don’t know if it was a person or supplies, but something was being transported out.

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 grand canyon helicopter

7 The Canyon was unknown to Europeans until 1540
It’s believed that Spanish explorers and soldiers, traveling with Hopi guides, reached the canyon in 1540. The next contact with the site from Europeans didn’t come until 1776, and then not until the 1820s. It’s hard to believe that this massive American treasure was virtually unknown and unexplored by non-Native Americans just 250 years ago.

8 You can hike from one side to the other
The South Kaibab Trail is the one path that goes down into the canyon, crosses the Colorado River and comes back up the other side. It’s a 21-mile hike, which means that you’ll have to camp within the canyon overnight to complete it. And temperatures inside the canyon can be up to 30 degrees hotter than at the rim. Definitely not a trip for beginners!

grand canyon top

9 There’s are official Grand Canyon webcams
Check them out here, but you’re not going to see much happening. It’s a view looking north from the South Rim at Yavapai Point. On a clear day, the visibility is 225 miles. The webcam also provides weather information like temperature, wind speed, humidity and precipitation.

Other Facts and Trivia About the Canyon

For more info on the Grand Canyon, see some of our other blog posts:

Return of the California Condor: This post describes how the California condor went from the verge of extinction to a growing population. There are now roughly 500 of the famous birds in total between captivity and the wild. This post tells you where to see them!

Wildlife of the Grand Canyon: Want to see bighorn sheep, bald eagles, lizards, deer, bats, and even bears? Check out this article to get the lowdown on the full range of animals that are found in the Canyon.

Hiking North Kaibab Trail: You can hike down into the Canyon! This one describes my hike from the North Rim down a few miles into the Canyon, and gives tips on how to make it easier for yourself (bring lots of water!!)

Do you have any other Grand Canyon fun facts to share?

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Looking for a hotel? I always recommend Booking.com where you can easily compare hotel rooms, prices, and availability. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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42 Comments

  1. My husband and I have hiked rim to rim twice, in our 60s. It was so much fun the first time that we did it again the very next year. We trained for it, for sure, but honestly the hardest part was getting all of our reservations and permits. Both times, it took about a year, checking daily for cancellations. You have to be dedicated and tenacious!! We started at the north rim after staying there a few nights to get acclimated to the elevation, as we are senior flat landers. We hiked halfway down, camped at Cottonwood for one night, then hiked down to Phantom Ranch at the bottom for 2 nights. Next, we crossed the Colorado River and hiked halfway up the Bright Angel Trail and camped at Indian Gardens for one night. Then, we continued hiking up and out. After staying on the south rim for a few days, we took the shuttle back around to the north rim to our rental car. As you can see, there was lots of planning but it’s so worth it. It’s an amazingly wonderful experience.

    1. Thanks for the info Teresa! This will be very helpful for anyone who wants to go rim to rim. It sounds like you had the perfect itinerary, camping for a few nights to give yourself plenty of time to make the journey.

    2. I forgot to mention that we made both of these hikes in mid September, after temperatures had dropped. Since we started our rim to rim hike on the north side, we flew into St. George Utah.

  2. We first visit as a young couple from the UK in the late 1970, we had children and took them several times as they/we got older.Love both rims and love the snow.We have been most months of the year but the middle of May seems best when the crowds are not crowds and the weather can turn in a moment.Hail.Snow Thunderstorms all cast their magic over the Grand Canyon.A special time is Christmas when both of the large Fireplaces in the lodges are alight with logs its all cosy, while it might be blowing a gale outside. My most favorite place on the planet with Zion canyon a close second.
    IWe have hiked it, flown it and ridden it over the years bit now as 60 somethings we are quite content to wander the rim trails and watch the bright young things decend into the canyon and come back looking completely knackered a few hours later GOOD TIMES

  3. I can’t believe I finally made it to the Grand Canyon! Had a great time there on last Friday & couldn’t believe how incredibly beautiful it is! Absolutely breath-taking! I was also amazed at how close people stand to the edge! I love adventure as well as the next person, however, be sensible!!!

    1. I had a signal part of the time with Verizon, but part of the time I didn’t. I wouldn’t count on a reliable connection while there.

  4. Love the Grand Canyon and love this post! It actually snowed in the canyon…. shortly before I arrived. It also melted shortly before I arrived 🙁 The whole group of Grand-Zion-Bryce apparently welcomed winter with snowy days in early-or-so October this year. I saw the north rim from the road, on the way to Page, and I wished I was able to spend time there as well, but loved the south rim 🙂

  5. I love that you can’t buy bottled water. I only wish this was the case in every other part of the country!

    The Grand Canyon is one of those places that we thought might underwhelm. We had built up such high expectations that we were almost certain it would not live up. We could not have been more wrong.

    We were blown away.

  6. Love how you find out the details that are not known. Hiking the canyon is beyond me but I have never been to the North Rim and may have to do that next time I am out in that area.

  7. I can’t believe I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon considering how close it is to us. I would love to do the 5 hour drive around it just to say I did it! haha!

    1. True, most people don’t leave enough time, probably because they don’t realize how much there is to do besides just looking down!

    1. I read that sometimes the GPS (and cell phones) don’t work there. I don’t remember having any problems on the north rim.

  8. Nice post…I love that the Canyon is stopping the use of plastic water bottles…great move. Jealous about the snow…I think it would be cool visiting the Grand canyon in a snowfall!

  9. Yay! Thanks for this. My husband and I just yesterday received word that we were granted permits to backpack rim to rim this summer… in July! It’s gonna be hot, but we are so excited.

    1. Cool! July will be rough temperature-wise, but I’m sure you will prepare adequately. That will be an awesome experience to read about!

  10. You’re right, I didn’t know these! We contemplated visiting the Grand Canyon when we were in the RV, but we didn’t have enough time to do it justice. When we go I definitely want to visit both rims, and maybe hike (though that 21 miles sounds intense….).

  11. Love the Grand Canyon! And, even though you said that most people don’t visit both rims (in fact, only about 10% of visitors ever make it to the North Rim!), it is TOTALLY worth that long drive!! My sister and I visited both rims in one day last summer, and it was great.

  12. Love this post. One of my favorite places in the world. About the snow — I went there in January once & it was absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t realize that so many people died there each year. Very sad.

  13. You can’t get bottled water at Muir Woods either and I think this is a great new trend. People are pigs and leave their trash everywhere! At least, this is one less thing they will leave.

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