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Crowds already pouring into Grand Canyon park, officials expect record year

South Rim entrance at the Grand Canyon National Park . (National Park Service Photo)

PHOENIX — A lot of people have the same vacation idea right about now: anyone heading to the Grand Canyon National Park for spring break can expect long lines and full parking lots.

Emily Davis with the National Park Service said wait times at the South Rim entrance were running about 15-20 minutes.

“If visitors can get here before 9 or 10 a.m. that will help,” she said.

“Riding shuttle buses is also a big help.”

The free South Rim shuttle runs three routes: one connects the Visitor Center to the village and parking areas; another leaves from the Visitor Center and takes a scenic route through the canyon; another rolls along a historic road for a scenic tour.

Davis said traffic has been backed up at all entrance stations and the worst of it happened between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The parking lots closest to the Grand Canyon visitor center start reaching capacity by 11 a.m., she said.

Last year, Grand Canyon’s visitation hit an all-time high with more than 5 million people.

Park officials expected to top that this year with the unusually warm winter weather, low gas prices and the celebration of the agency’s centennial year.

Grand Canyon visitors were also encouraged to explore neighboring national parks and monuments, such as Petrified Forest National Park and Wupatki National Monument.