The Grand Canyon
Discover secrets of the most-visited U.S. National Park
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to stand on top of the world and experience the pure beauty of your surroundings? To stand on the edge and watch the sunset paint the rocks or be in awe of the raw power of nature as a thunderstorm ignites the clouds? You can experience all of this and more when you stand at the edge of America's most visited National Park that is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and a mile deep. Come visit the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon became a national park in 1919 but humans have called it home for much longer than that. Archeologists have found human remains in the park dating back over 12,000 years with the continuous use and occupation of the park since that time. There are currently 11 associated Indian tribes that can trace their ancestry to the Grand Canyon including the Hopi, the Zuni and the Navajo. You can even visit an authentic Puebloan village ruin at Tusayan Ruin and Museum about three miles west of Desert View on the South Rim. Here, Pueblo Indians lived and called the Grand Canyon home 800 years ago. It's a window into the Southwest's fascinating past.
As visitors are quick to understand, there are a number of ways to view the Grand Canyon, but most visitors do so from the edge. There are two sides to the canyon, the North Rim and the South Rim. The South Rim is open year round and offers visitors a full service stay. There are about a dozen RV resorts on the South Rim, many of which are Good Sam rated. Choose one of these fine RV parks to call home base and then set out to explore. There is even a free shuttle bus to help you along the way.
On the South Rim you'll find the National Geographic Visitor Center. Here you can purchase a park pass, good for seven days that will get you into both the South and North Rim areas. At this visitor's center you can also take in a movie—an IMAX 3-D movie that helps you to understand the sheer magnitude of the canyon.
From the South Rim you can also visit the Grand Canyon Village, Hermit's Rest and Desert View—all spectacular areas to view the canyon.
The North Rim is a bit more remote than the South Rim and sits 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the South Rim. For this reason, this area has a shorter season because of weather. The North Rim is open from about mid-May to about mid-October. Here you'll find the North Rim Visitor's Center located next to the Grand Canyon Lodge, one of the canyon's most historical buildings.
You might think that there is an easy way to get from the South Rim to the North Rim, and you'd be right depending on how adventurous you are. There are three corridor trails that will take hikers "rim to rim." You can cross the canyon on the South Kaibab, Bright Angel or North Kaibab Trails. These trails meet at the bottom at the only bridges crossing the Colorado River. These trails are patrolled by rangers and offer adequate water supplies and the opportunity to hike in and out on different trails. These trails are also recommended for first time hikers.
If you'd prefer not to go out on your own, there are daily ranger-led hikes through the canyon as well as a wide variety of backpacking guide services available.
Use your cell phone along any of the trails to hear National Park Rangers give 2-minute audio tours at points of interest.
One of the most iconic ways to see the canyon is by mule. Daily trips leave the Grand Canyon Village and travel down the Bright Angel Trail. You have the option of taking a one-day, 7-hour trip that ends at Plateau Point, 1,000 feet above the Colorado River.
Or take an overnight excursion and descend the entire length of the Bright Angel Trail and spend the night at Phantom Ranch. If you don't think you can sit on a mule that long try a one-hour or half-day trip that departs from the North Rim and follows the North Kaibab Trail.
Other ways to see the Canyon
If walking for miles or riding on a mule doesn't sound like your cup of tea, that's okay because you can still see the canyon from the comfort of your own vehicle. There are roads that circle the canyon but be aware that it is about 220 miles from the North Rim to the South Rim. If you're a little more adventurous, you can see the canyon from a helicopter.
One thing you'll definitely not want to forget when you visit the Grand Canyon is your camera. The perfect picture is made of perfect light and the Grand Canyon has some of the most perfect light you'll ever see.
Sunrise and sunset paint the rocks with gold, red and orange tones while dusk and dawn brush purples and blues onto the peaks. Twilight offers views of the moon that will take your breath away. Make sure you have a tripod with you so your low light shot doesn't get blurry. And keep an eye out for the wildlife that can be found in the canyon.
For More Information:
Arizona Office of Tourism
Grand Canyon National Park