Travelers with Disabilities
Many of the park’s facilities were designed before ADA standards were established. Because of steps and narrow doorways, some of the park’s historic buildings are only partly accessible, but most lodges have a number of accessible rooms, and several overlooks have wheelchair access. Restrooms vary in ease of use, but many are accessible.
For specific information about entryways, parking, grade, restrooms, and other details for attractions and facilities on the North and South Rims, refer to the park’s Accessibility Guide. It’s available online (www.nps.gov/grca), at the park entrance stations, and at the visitor center at Grand Canyon Visitors Center.
The America the Beautiful Access Pass is a free interagency pass for legally blind or permanently disabled U.S. citizens, good at all fee-based federal recreation sites. The Access Pass replaces the Golden Access Passport, which may be exchanged at no charge. The pass must be obtained in person at the park, with accompanying documentation such as a physician’s statement, a document issued by a federal agency (such as the Veterans Administration or Social Security Administration), or by a state agency such as a vocational rehabilitation center. The pass admits the pass holder and up to three adult passengers in a noncommercial vehicle. The pass also provides a 50 percent discount on many park-based fees, such as for Mather Campground or the North Rim Campground.
Parking and Shuttles
If you are traveling at the South Rim in your own vehicle, you can ask for an Accessibility Pass at the entrance stations or visitors centers. The pass, placed on the dashboard of your vehicle, allows access to some areas that are closed to general traffic. The transportation desks, Kolb Studio, and Tusayan Museum also issue Accessibility Passes (though, ironically, Kolb Studio itself is inaccessible).
All park shuttle buses are accessible to wheelchairs. Trained service animals are allowed on shuttles.
Most park lodges on the South Rim have a number of accessible guest rooms, with the exception El Tovar of Bright Angel Lodge. Shower chairs and TDD phones are available on request. Contact Xanterra Parks & Resorts (303/297-2757 or 888/297-2757) for information and reservations. The South Rim’s Mather Campground (800/365-2267) has accessible campsites. Request an accessible site when making your reservation and confirm accessibility when you register at the campground. The South Rim’s Camper Services building has a combination shower and restroom accessible to wheelchairs. The onsite attendant has the key.
The North Rim Campground (800/365-2267) has designated sites with accessible picnic tables. These are linked to the showers and restrooms by a level paved trail, and roll-in showers are available. The North Rim’s Grand Canyon Lodge (888/386-4383) has a few cabins that are minimally accessible. Cabins are scattered through the forest, with steep, narrow, rough sidewalks and stairways.
Tours, Trails, and Programs
Many ranger programs are accessible, as noted in The Guide. Some are adapted for the visually impaired. With advance notice, bus tours offered by Xanterra Parks & Resorts can accommodate wheelchairs. Even mule tours may be accessible under some circumstances. Call the Bright Angel Lodge transportation desk (928/638-2631) for advance tour reservations.
For white-water river trips, contact individual outfitters and guides about accessibility. Colorado River Discovery (928/645-9175 or 888/522-6644, www.raftthecanyon.com) offers half-day smooth-water floats from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry, appropriate for passengers with mobility or sensory disabilities.
Gentle trails are available on either rim of the canyon. Along the South Rim, portions of the Rim Trail are paved and fairly level, particularly the two-mile section between Bright Angel Lodge and Mather Point. The North Rim’s Bridle Path has a hard surface and is fairly level between Grand Canyon Lodge and the campground entrance (1 mile).
Trails below either rim are steep, with uneven surfaces and dangerous drop-offs. If you wish to take a service animal on hiking trails, arrangements can be made at the Backcountry Information Center (928/638-7875) in Grand Canyon Village near Maswik Lodge, or the North Rim’s Backcountry Office (928/638-7868), located along the service road north of the campground entrance.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition