Grand Canyon is probably the most famous of American national parks – surpassing even Yosemite and Yellowstone (world’s first national park) by its reputation. While it’s carved by the river Colorado, it is actually located in northern Arizona. It’s as much as 446 kilometers (277 miles) long and 29 kilometers (18 miles) wide. With depth reaching 1,857 meters (6,093 feet), Grand Canyon stands as the deepest canyon in the world.
River Colorado, along with its tributaries, needed almost 2 billion years to finally cut through the canyon’s three sets of rocks and numerous layers. Geologists believe that the final push happened some 17 million years ago and the river had only changed its course since then – because the hardest part of the job was done already. Grand Canyon is proof that even the most intimidating obstacles like the Colorado plateau can’t resist the force of nature.
Maybe you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands. That’s right. Even if you don’t own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many other natural treasures.– via John Garamendi
About Grand Canyon
Today, Grand Canyon is one of the most prolific tourist attractions in the United States. It attracts around 5 million visitors per year – with around 85% of them being domestic tourists. The rest of them are usually coming from the UK, Canada, Japan, China, and the rest of Europe. With so many visitors, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Arizona authorities have managed to establish a well-organized set of tourist activities.
There’s plenty to do and see here throughout the year, but not all parts of the Grand Canyon are actually accessible year-round. The canyon area is divided into north, west, and south rims with former being open to tourists from mid-May to mid-October, and the latter couple being accessible throughout the year.
Weather & climate
This is mostly due to different weather conditions created by different elevations. North rim is around 300 meters (1,000 feet) higher than the south rim, hence gets more rain and snow, and features lower average temperatures. Speaking of which, even though Grand Canyon’s climate is mostly semi-arid, temperature amplitudes are more than significant. Summer brings temperatures of almost 40 °C (above 100 °F), while winter temperatures have been known to drop below 0 °F (-20 °C).
At the same time, rain and snow are somewhat rare with average yearly precipitation between 200 and 450 mm (75 to 170 inches). Considering all conditions, Grand Canyon is generally reachable and open throughout the year, and this too is one of the reasons why it’s such a well-visited attraction.
All three rims have their differences and own tourist attractions, but only one of them offers the true Grand Canyon experience – the south rim. Out of those 5 million tourists, around 90 percent end up visiting the south rim. West rim isn’t really a part of the national park, but this doesn’t mean that it hasn’t got its own attraction. This reservation is run by the Hualapai Nation which controls access to the skywalk – a contemporary glass bridge connecting the far sides of the canyon. Finally, the north rim is the most secluded and offers the best terms for camping. That’s where Kaibab National Forest is, which means fewer vantage points and lookouts.
Grand Canyon Tours & Landmark
There are numerous ways to enjoy the Grand Canyon including hiking, running, rafting, and even flying. While flying beyond the canyon’s rim is forbidden, it still offers the most imposing view of the canyon. As it is the case with most available tours, helicopter and small airplane tours are only offered in the south rim. Grand Canyon National Park Airport is some 7 miles of the rim, but it’s not the only way to reach the canyon by air.
Many tourists board the aircraft in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Boulder. Viewing the canyon by the river is also an attractive way of experiencing its splendor. Whether you decide to go for a rafting tour or prefer calmer waters, there are plenty of options to browse from.
Rafting, however, isn’t recommended for everyone just like The Grand Canyon Ultra Marathon – a 78-mile day-long race isn’t. You have to possess great fitness and stamina for such an experience, but it’s ultimately highly rewarding. If you don’t have the time to prepare yourself for such an endeavor, a water bus might be right up your alley. This family trip is smooth and safe and lasts for a whole day – enough to see a large chunk of the canyon straight from its bottom.
Grand Canyon Village
Apart from rafting and air tours, people often choose to visit the famous lookouts. If you want to experience the view that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to and feel the difference in the air when you approach the high cliffs of the canyon, this would be the way to go. There are numerous lookout points along the south rim and the best way to access them is probably by starting from the Grand Canyon Village. The Grand Canyon Village is located in Coconino County, Arizona, which is inside the south rim. It’s supplied with all means of accommodation for visiting tourists and serves as both a good starting and retreating point after the long day.
Apart from the mentioned skywalk on the west rim, some 400 km (250 mi) by road from the village, the south rim itself offers scenic vantage points – most notable of which are Lipan Point, Toroweap Overlook, Shoshone Point, Marble View, Desert View Watchtower and many more.
Desert View Watchtower
Mentioned Desert View Watchtower is one of Grand Canyon’s historic buildings, built by Mary Colter in 1932. Other notable historic building sites include Buckey O’Neill Cabin, Hopi House, Grand Canyon Railway Depot, El Tovar Hotel, Bright Angel Lodge, etc. All besides the 1890 Buckey O’Neill Cabin have been built in the 20th century, but knowing how long it took to explore the west, it’s no surprise.
A place to visit – Yavapai Geology Museum
If you’re more of a researcher, then you should take a look at the Yavapai Geology Museum at the Yavapai Point. Browsing through Grand Canyon’s layers will clarify the long and exciting history of this earth’s wonder. While you are certainly welcome to stay and camp as long as you like, Grand Canyon is more of an instant destination. There’s plenty to see and do, but most of it can be done within a day if you decide for a single tour.
If you decide to visit all three rims, then you’ll have to spend a few days given the length and rough terrain between them. All in all, this marvelous formation of rocks that rise more than 2,000 m (8,000 ft) above sea level is a must-see at least once in a lifetime. Diverse flora and fauna are probably the last things that you’ll notice, but the Colorado River is something you won’t be able to miss. After all, we owe it Grand Canyon’s existence.
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.
– via John Wesley Powell
The West Rim, which not only includes Grand Canyon West, home of the Grand Canyon Skywalk but also encompasses two popular backpacking areas – Havasupai Falls and Mooney Falls – is a popular destination particularly for visitors originating from Las Vegas, NV. In addition to Las Vegas, the towns most closely associated with the West Rim are Meadview (a small unincorporated community just outside the rim where the daily park-and-ride shuttle stop is located), Peach Springs (where 1-day rafting trips depart and you’ll find the Hualapai Lodge and the turn off Route 66 to Indian Road 18 toward Hualapai Hilltop, the Havasupai trailhead) and Kingman (where you’ll find greater lodging, restaurant and activity options.)
The star of the West Rim is Grand Canyon West, a Hualapai Indian-owned and managed attraction on reservation land outside the National Park boundaries. Here you’ll find the glass-bottomed structure that’s cantilevered to extend 70 feet over the rim’s edge to the canyon floor 4,000 feet below, the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Grand Canyon West Airport is the destination for all helicopter, air, and combination tours originating from Las Vegas and serve as the gateway to Grand Canyon West. Upon arrival at Grand Canyon West, all visitors are required to choose a visitor package to enter the area, so tours from Las Vegas often include these packages and the cost associated with their fares.
Lodging at Grand Canyon West is limited to just two options; Hualapai Ranch and Cabins, available as part of Grand Canyon West tour packages, and Grand Canyon Ranch, available as part of a tour package or a la carte. Visitors will find greater options in Kingman, Peach Springs, and Las Vegas.
Activities at Grand Canyon West include the Grand Canyon Skywalk, hop-on-hop-off shuttle to several other viewpoints, horseback riding, helicopter tours with canyon floor landings, boat rides, campfires and cowboy gunfights and more. Grand Canyon West also serves as the take-out point for 1-day Colorado River rafting tours that originate 35 river miles east at Peach Springs. Peach Springs also offers visitors a spot to take a Jeep tour to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, tour underground caverns, or venture northeast to embark on an overnight backpacking trip to splash and play in the crystal-clear aquamarine pools at Havasupai and Mooney Falls.
Further west, visitors passing through Kingman can also venture out to pan for gold, reenact Wild West shootouts and explore “living” ghost towns. And don’t forget to drive yourself or take a tour of Hoover Dam, one of the world’s greatest engineering wonders.