Hotel Review: Thunderbird Lodge, Grand Canyon, Arizona

by joeheg

Visiting the Grand Canyon was one of the “anchor” stops during our trip through the American Southwest. We’ve visited the Grand Canyon twice before, once as a day trip from Las Vegas and the other time as part of an Adventures by Disney tour. The last trip was 10 years ago and we decided if we ever went back, we’d do it right.

Originally, my plans were to stay on the South Rim at the El Tovar. Open since 1905, it’s the premier place to stay at the park. It only has 78 rooms and with over five million people visiting the Grand Canyon every year, reservations go pretty fast.


Reservations open for the hotel up to 13 months in advance, however I wasn’t able to lock in dates from work for our trip in October until January. When I looked for a reservation ten months in advance, the nights we wanted at El Tovar weren’t available.

I looked at the other hotels located at the South Rim. None of the hotels were available for all three nights but I was able to piece together two reservations that would cover our stay. I booked a room at the Thunderbird Lodge for the first two nights.

Thunderbird Lodge
7 North Village Loop Drive
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

The Thunderbird Lodge was built in the late 1960s on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The two story hotel has 55 guest rooms with either a king or two queen beds. Many of the rooms have partial views of the Grand Canyon. Note: You can’t select which floor you will be staying on and there’s no elevator to the second floor.



To book any of the rooms on the South Rim, it’s easiest to go directly to the Grand Canyon National Park Lodges website.

I booked 2 nights in a standard 2 queen / partial view room. A one night deposit for the room was due at the time of booking and cancellations can be made up to two days before the arrival date to receive a refund of the deposit.

Room cost for 2 nights – $519.54

I put the deposit on my Citi Prestige card and earned 779 Thank You points. I charged the rest of the room at checkout to my Chase Sapphire Reserve and earned 779 Ultimate Rewards points.


Check in for the Thunderbird Lodge is located in the Bright Angel Lodge, which is about a ten minute walk.


We arrived just around the check in time of 3PM. Parking was a mess when we arrived as many of the tour buses were picking up passengers right in front of the Bright Angel parking area. Luckily, we managed to snag a spot in that lot and left the car there for 2 days. Parking does clear up later in the evening, so if you get a lousy spot just move your car closer when spots open up

Bright Angel & Thunderbird Map

Upon checking in we were assigned room 6249 on the second floor. We walked with our luggage (the did offer luggage service, we stubbornly declined) to the building, up the stairs and to our room that was located somewhat in the middle of the walkway.


I’ve already written a post about how this hotel was lacking in so many of the areas that I feel are important. I forgave them because I had to. It’s the simple law of supply and demand. There aren’t many rooms located on the South Rim so you’re going to overpay for a mediocre room and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The room was basic, with two queen size beds.


There was also a desk area with a single chair.


There were three power outlets built in the desktop (that worked), a USB port (that worked) and two phone plugs (we have no idea if these worked as we left our 2600 baud modem at home).  The phone connection might have worked better than the WiFi connection in the room, which varied between slow and non-existent.


There was a single closet area with a refrigerator, Keurig coffee maker, safe (that we didn’t use since we had our PacSafe bag) and room to hang a few items of clothing or two jackets.


The bathroom was basic with a tub/shower combo.


They are very focused on being environmentally friendly so the bath products were all in refillable containers (they had seen better days. The soap dispenser broke on me the second day).


The same goes for the hand soap (with a Sharon selfie photobomb). The soap was lemongrass scented.


If you wanted to use the toilet, the room was designed so you HAVE to close the door before sitting down. Modesty was very important back then.


Just in case you forgot that you were staying in a National Park, the guests right outside your room were usually there to remind you.



There was a foreign tourist on the floor below us while taking this picture. He was reaching towards the elk and making noises to get their attention, even though there are signs and photos EVERYWHERE that say to stay FAR away from the elk and not bother them. Sharon wanted to video him so badly but I didn’t let her (Note from Sharon: Grrrr….! WHY does he make me be RESPONSIBLE and APPROPRIATE?). It was like watching an accident that was about to happen. I wanted to look away but also wanted to keep watching. We were heading to dinner so I don’t have an ending to that story. Sorry!

I imagine it would have gone something like this.



The Thunderbird Lodge is a basic hotel with limited amenities located at one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. To complain about the internet connection or that the building doesn’t have an elevator seems petty.  The room was clean but was really showing its age in both the furniture design and the wear and tear seen everywhere. For what they charge it would seem that they could invest in refreshing them a little more often.

None of these things made our stay any less wonderful. I would go back and stay here again but I would plan even farther our and try to get into the El Tovar. That hotel captures the majesty of the National Park lodges of the past instead of feeling like you’re staying in a college dorm.

If you’re questioning if you should stay at the South Rim hotels, here’s one final image that might convince you.


Here’s links to the other posts about our trip through the southwest.

No, My Carry On Bag Is NOT Too Big To Fit In The Overhead
Hotel Review: MOXY Phoenix Tempe/ASU Area, Tempe, AZ
Our Visit to Mystery Castle (a.k.a. “The House A Man Built By Himself”)
Hotel Review: Hyatt Residence Club Sedona, Piñon Pointe, Sedona, AZ
Our Visit to Bedrock City in Williams, AZ
Our Visit to Grand Canyon Caverns (Warning! They Might Be Haunted!)
What To Do When Your Uber Charge Is Higher Than Expected
Hotel Review: W Hollywood, Hollywood, California

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