Grand Canyon, Arizona
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- The Grand Canyon has an average depth of 4,000 feet for its entire 277 miles.
- Traversing the climate zones in the canyon is like driving from Mexico to Canada.
- Much of the Grand Canyon Village Historic District was built by the Santa Fe Railroad.
- The canyon is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 18 miles at its widest.
- The oldest rocks at the bottom of the canyon are 2 billion years old.
The grand Grand experience
The Grand Canyon, located in the northwest corner of Arizona, is a spectacular sight — so grand that upwards of 5 million people visit each year. It draws by the millions because it is dramatically beautiful, hence, appealing to all personality types. It also offers options for riding the river’s rapids or climbing around on its rocky wonders, thus holding extra appeal for the active and venturesome among us.
The aptly named canyon also is a great example of a quintessentially American West landscape. As a result, visitors come from all over the world to look at a river (the Colorado) flanked by brightly colored cliffs and flowing a mile or more below tourist lookout points.
The canyon, most of which is within the Grand Canyon National Park, runs roughly east to west, and visitors can view it or enter it from either the north or south side. Most visit and begin their adventures from the South Rim, which is accessible all year. The North Rim is not open to visitors in winter due to snow.
Tourists typically visit the Grand Canyon Village, on the South Rim, where there are lodges, restaurants, shops, museums and historic buildings.
Then, it is a matter of choosing how to arrange the most memorable exposures to the area’s grandeur — whether on a shuttle ride, a scenic drive, a short or long hike. The more ambitious alternatives — mule trips, backcountry hiking/camping or rafting the Colorado — must be planned well in advance because spaces are limited and fill up quickly.
Limits are designed to protect the canyon from overuse. Approximately 30,000 people request backcountry permits yearly, but the park only issues 13,000. Permits for some rafting trips are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, others based on a lottery.
Finally, the invaluable National Park Service Web site is explicit about the hazards of adventurous choices. The self-guided rafting trips are “not for the inexperienced,” and there are “no easy trails” into or out of the canyon. The biggest hazards for hikers are extreme heat or cold and dehydration. More than 250 people are rescued from the canyon each year.
Things to do for Venturers
- Book well in advance to participate in a multiday whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado. Choices for length vary widely from two days to nearly a month.
- On the South Rim, follow the steep Bright Angel Trail, which zigzags down a couple of sets of switchbacks, for a roundtrip day hike of up to 12 miles. Alternatively, for experienced desert hikers only, the South Rim offers the steep Hermit Trail and Grandview Trail. Or, aspire to reach the remote Toroweap Overlook, with its sheer drop of 3,000 vertical feet to the river.
- On the North Rim, walk some part of the 14.2-mile North Kaibab Trail. Consider the 10-mile, roundtrip hike down to Roaring Springs and the oasis it creates. The hike will require a full day and is described as strenuous.
- Book a one- or two-night mule trip from the South Rim into the canyon, overnighting at the Phantom Ranch near the Colorado River.
- Cross the canyon. The hike, on the South Kaibab Trail, is 21 miles and involves an overnight on the way. The alternative is a 220-mile drive, but quicker at five hours.
- Request a backcountry permit for an overnight backpacking trek into the canyon. Fifteen trails and other less-used routes give access to the inner canyon.
Things to do for Centrics
- Get a good overview. Take a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon.
- See the canyon on a mule. Three-hour trips are offered from the South Rim. One-hour and half-day mule trips are available on the North Rim, too.
- You are in the area, so take a one- or two-hour horseback trail ride into the Kaibab National Forest.
- Take a one-day whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado River.
- Take a ranger-led nature walk, or take a short (three miles) ranger-led hike into the canyon.
- Join an educational hiking or camping trip offered by the Grand Canyon Field Institute. Topics include archaeology, ecology, geology, history and photography.
Things to do for Authentics
- Use your cell phone to hear park rangers give two-minute audio tours at various points of interest on the South and North rims.
- Travel on the Desert View Drive for 26 miles of scenery from the Grand Canyon Village following the canyon’s South Rim east to Desert View at the east entrance to the park. Or, on the North Rim, take a winding scenic drive to Point Imperial and Cape Royal. Point Imperial, at 8,803 feet, overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of the Grand Canyon.
- Look for the mule deer and desert bighorn sheep that frequent the river corridor. And keep your eyes open — 355 bird species pass through or live in the canyon.
- Hike some part of the popular 12-mile South Rim Trail for panoramic views of the great canyon. At Hopi Point, be awed by the 45-mile views up and down the canyon. Use shuttle buses for part of the trip to make your hike shorter if you prefer.
- Ride on the Hermit Road shuttle, which stops at nine canyon overlook sites along the South Rim’s seven-mile Hermit Road.
- Spend some time touring the Grand Canyon Village Historic District on the South Rim to get a reading on the canyon’s past. Also, visit the Yavapai Museum of Geology, on the South Rim, for great views of the canyon and a lot of information about how the canyon was formed.
For more information contact the National Park Service at www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm