Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon National Park lies in northwestern Arizona, bounded on the west by Lake Mead National Recreation Area, where the Colorado River is dammed by the Hoover Dam, and on the northeast (following the course of the Colorado River) by Canyonlands National Park and the Glen Canyon. Although the North and South Rims are only 10mi/16km apart as the crow flies, the distance by road is 215mi/346km.
Official site: www.nps.gov/grca/
Address: Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023-0129, United States
Entrance fee in USD: $12.00, Vehicle plus all occupants $25.00
Useful tips: Admission covers a 7 day period.The park is open year-round, but the best times to visit are from April to June and from September to mid-November.
Grand Canyon National Park Highlights
TopographyThe Grand Canyon created by the Colorado River was described by the Scottish-born pioneer of conservation John Muir as the grandest place on God's earth. The breathtaking width and depth of this canyon, its beauty, its forms and colors, leave even the most traveled visitor lost in admiration.Here the river winds its way for a distance of 277mi/446km through the Kaibab plateau, into which it has cut a deep yawning gorge ranging in width between 4mi/6km and 18mi/29km. On the south side the rock face falls down 5,000ft/1,500m to the river below (alt. 2,400ft/730m), on the north side no less than 6,000ft/1,800m.OriginsThe history of the formation of the Grand Canyon has not been certainly established, but the general view is that the reduction in the height of the Colorado river-bed has been brought about mainly over the past 9 million years. The lowest level of erosional activity now runs through a narrow gorge cut out of Palaeozoic rocks up to 1,700 million years old. The canyon becomes wider towards the top, where younger, horizontally bedded sedimentary rocks of varying degrees of resistance have been eroded away. These layers of sandstone and limestone, in brilliant reddish, bluish-gray and yellowish tones, depending on light conditions, were laid down during the Cambrian, Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian periods, and the steep rock faces descending in steps to the bottom of the canyon display a complete stratigraphical sequence. Going down into the canyon, you pass 1,700 million years of the earth's history.HistoryMuch evidence has been found of Indian settlements in the Grand Canyon dating back more than 4,000 years. The most impressive remains are the 1,000 year old rock dwellings of the Anasazi Indians. When a member of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado's expedition questing for gold became the first European to discover the Grand Canyon in 1540 these had probably long been abandoned. In 1869 Major John Wesley Powell, later director of the U.S. Geological Survey, traveled by boat through the inhospitable gorges of the Colorado and Green Rivers, starting from Wyoming. In the 1880s the tourist potential of the Grand Canyon began to be realized; the first hotel was built on Grand View Point in 1892, and ten years later visitors were able to visit the Grand Canyon by rail. Thereafter the numbers of visitors grew steadily, particularly after the establishment of the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919. In 1965 the number of visitors was over 1.6 million, and by 1992 the figure had risen to 4 million.
The South Rim can be reached from Williams or Flagstaff on State Route 64 and U.S. 180.
Useful tips: South Rim facilities are open all year.
East Rim Drive
The East Rim Drive (25mi/40km) runs east from the Visitor Center, passing Yavapai Point and the Yavapai Museum, to Desert View and on to the east exit of the National Park, towards Cameron. Stops can be made at a number of viewpoints.
Tusayan Ruin and Museum
3mi/5km west of Desert View on the East Rim Drive is the Tusayan Ruin, one of over 2,000 remains of Indian settlements in the Grand Canyon region. In the late 12th century the Tusayan pueblo was home to some three dozen Anasazi Indians, but - like most of the pueblos in this region - it was abandoned in the 13th century. The Tusayan Museum surveys the history of the Anasazi culture.
Desert View Watchtower
Lipan Point is one of several lookouts on the East Rim Drive of the South Rim. Lipan Point offers an excellent view of the Unkar Creek area in the inner canyon and the Palisades of the Desert.
Navajo Point (2,272m/7,450ft) is a lookout on East Rim Drive. Watch for the Colorado River and Escalante Butte.
Yaki Point is one of several lookouts on the East Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon. It is the trailhead for the Kaibab Trail.
West Rim Drive
The West Rim Drive (8mi/13km) offers spectacular views into the canyon, with viewpoints at Trailview Overlook, Maricopa Point, Hopi Point, Mohave Point, the Abyss, Pima Point, Hermits Rest. The West Rim Drive is barred to private automobiles from May to September; instead there is a free shuttle bus.
Hermit's Rest is one of several lookouts on the West Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon. The stone building at Hermit's rest was constructed in 1914 and sells souvenirs and refreshments.Hermit's Trail and Rest stop were named for the "hermit" Louis Boucher, a 19th-C French-Canadian prospector who had a number of mining claims and had built a home down in the canyon.
Maricopa Point is one of several lookouts on the West Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon.
Trailview Overlook is one of several lookouts on the West Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon.
Mohave Point is one of several lookouts on the West Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon.
Pima Point is one of several lookouts on the West Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon.
The Abyss is one of several lookouts on the West Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon.
South Rim Trails
Among the South Rim Trails in Grand Canyon National Park are the South Rim Trail and the South Kaibab Trail.
Bright Angel Trail
The Bright Angel Trail (8mi/13km) starts from Bright Angel Lodge (6,861ft/2,091m) and runs down by way of the Indian Gardens (3,806ft/1,160m; campground) either to Plateau Point (3,780ft/1,152m), or right down to the Colorado River (2,395ft/730m).Bright Angel Trail was originally used by the Havasupai Indians to commute between the rim and Indian Garden. The trail was improved in the 1800s by prospectors.
South Rim Nature Trail
The South Rim Nature Trail (3mi/5km) is an easy walk from the Yavapai Museum along the rim of the canyon to Maricopa Point. Part of this scenic route is signposted as a nature trail.
The Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails are linked by the Tonto Trail (4mi/6km) and the River Trail (2mi/3km).
South Kaibab Trail
The South Kaibab Trail (6mi/10km) runs steeply down from Yaki Point to the Colorado River, 4865ft/1483m below.
Grand Canyon Village
The main concentration of buildings near the Grand Canyon is at Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Grand Canyon Village consists of the old Grand Canyon Depot, Hopi House and El Tovar Hotel as well as other restaurants and lodges.
Yavapai Observation Station
Mather Point is located in Grand Canyon Village, off the south entrance road. It is named for Steven Mather, director of the National Park Service when the Grand Canyon became part of the park system in 1919. Mather Point is at an elevation of 7,120 feet, and has views of Pipe Creek Canyon and the Inner Gorge.
The Visitor Center on the South Rim, which is much more heavily visited than the North Rim, is on South Rim Drive, 1.25mi/2km east of Grand Canyon Village.Along with a wide variety of displays and exhibits on the canyon, the visitor center is also a good place to book ranger guides.
Grand Canyon IMAX Theater
The Grand Canyon IMAX Theater has a seven-storey screen and presents a film that depicts the history and beauty of the Grand Canyon. It was one of the first IMAX theaters ever built and it seats 524 guests.The film takes viewers where they could never go and allows them to see things they could never see. Those who watch the Grand Canyon film learn of the Anasazi who inhabited the Canyon 4,000 years ago and Major John Wesley Powell, who challenged the Colorado River in 1869.
The Phantom Ranch was built in 1922 of wood and native stone. The ranch can be reached by hiking or mule-back trips. It offers accommodations, cabins and a dining room.
Since the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is between 1,000 and 1,250ft (300 and 380m) higher than the South Rim, it offers a whole range of new and spectacular prospects. The most popular viewpoints are Bright Angel Point, Point Imperial and Cape Royal.In winter the North Rim is under heavy snow, and most of the roads and tracks are closed from November to mid May.The North Rim can be reached from Jacob Lake on State Route 67.
Useful tips: North Rim facilities are open mid-May through mid-October.
North Rim Trails
The North Rim Trails of the Grand Canyon include the North Kaibab and the Transept Canyon Trails.
North Kaibab Trail
The North Kaibab Trail (14mi/23km) starts at a parking area (8,242ft/2,512m) at the head of Roaring Springs Canyon, 2.5mi/4km before Grand Canyon Lodge, and runs through Bright Angel Canyon, passing the Cottonwood Campground (4,003ft/1,220m), the Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground, to the Colorado River (2,395ft/730m).
Transept Canyon Trail
From Grand Canyon Lodge the Transept Canyon Trail (2mi/3km) runs to the North Rim Inn. There is also a short trail to Bright Angel Point.
A few miles north of Bright Angel Point a 22mi/35km road branches off. This then forks, one road running northeast to Point Imperial, the other southeast over the Walhalla Plateau to Cape Royal. Point Imperial, the highest point in the National Park (8,803ft/2,683m), affords views into the Marble Canyon to the east and of the Painted Desert on the south side of the Grand Canyon.
Bright Angel Point
From Cape Royal there are views of the Painted Desert and of the striking rock towers known as Wotan's Throne and the Vishnu Temple.Visitors can walk out to the fenced perch over Angels Window, but a word of caution - the ground drops away when you look down. Vishnu Temple is a tall rocky summit located to the south.
Tuweep Area covers 40 miles of the Grand Canyon from Kanab Creek and the Pine Mountains.
The Colorado River is spanned by two bridges leading to the Bright Angel Campground and the Phantom Ranch.