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Into the wild

How to explore the Grand Canyon

Clive Wedderburn October 5, 2018

The Grand Canyon has been drawing gasps of amazement since man first gazed across its dizzying complex of valleys, chasms and gorges. One of the seven wonders of the natural world, it receives four million awe-struck visitors a year. If this place of wonder is top of your travel wish-list, enjoy our suggestions on how to experience one of the most iconic natural sights in the world…

Best time to visit the Grand Canyon

Spring and autumn are the best times to visit the Grand Canyon, when daytime temperatures are not so stifling (frequently in the high 80s). During spring or autumn, however, expect temperatures in the milder 20s, but still featuring sharp blue skies and mottled clouds that are ideal for photography. When the sun sets, Class 1 night skies make it easy to view millions of stars and the Milky Way with the naked eye. Wintertime is equally impressive, and the even lightest dusting of snow will make you gasp for joy.

The North Rim

The most remote part of the Grand Canyon from the major cities of Las Vegas and Phoenix, you’ll find well-equipped campsites, but only one visitor centre and more focus on trekking, rafting and horse-trekking.

The South Rim

Discover the epic images that you see in travel magazines, plus visitor facilities and campsites with a range of fascinating activities for children.

How the Grand Canyon was formed

Although there is still a debate ongoing to discover how precisely the Grand Canyon was formed, most scientists believe the process began more than five million years ago when the Colorado River began to erode the terrain at the eastern end of the canyon. As the river flowed over millennia, it carved deeper, creating the deeper narrow channels you see today.

Are there tribes still in the Grand Canyon?

The Havasupai which means “people of the blue-green waters” have lived in this region for hundreds of years.

Grand Canyon Fast facts

  • 277 miles long – 10 miles wide – 1 mile deep
  • It is neither the longest, widest, deepest canyon in the world, but it could be the most spectacular
  • Established as a national monument in 1908 and received official park status in 1919
  • It reveals nearly half the world’s history (1.7 billion years) through the multiple rock strata
  • Paiute Indians called the canyon Kaibab or ‘upside-down mountain’
  • Eleven tribes including the Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai regard the Canyon as a place of cultural and religious significance.

 

Where is the Grand Canyon – exactly?

The Grand Canyon is situated in the northwest corner of Arizona, near to the borders of Utah and Nevada 256 miles from Las Vegas – 486 miles from Los Angeles and 277 miles from Phoenix. The driving time between the rims is approximately 4 hours (West Rim/Skywalk to South Rim – 4 hr, 11 min, and South Rim to North Rim – 3 hr, 54 min). The park resides in a 36 million acre eco-region that includes the Little Colorado River, the Grand Canyon-Parashant and the spectacular Vermilion Cliffs.

Wildlife in the Grand Canyon

Employ a keen eye and quiet step on your hike through the Grand Canyon. This will reveal many rare species from desert tortoises, Gila monsters, northern goshawks, and Mexican spotted owls, black bears, plus breeding populations of desert bighorn sheep, California condors and peregrine falcons. Just watch out for those pink rattlesnakes. They blend into the rocks.

Best way to see the Grand Canyon

“Please don’t rush. I’d recommend staying overnight at the Grand Canyon to see the difference both sunrise and sunset makes to this incredible place. The colours playing off the rock strata are unimaginably beautiful.” Isla, Destination Executive.

Pressed for time?

Take a walk on the edge of the canyon and peer 4,000 feet down through the glass floor of the Skywalk at Eagle Point, a horseshoe structure that juts out 70 feet from the rim of the canyon. This could be the best place to take in the majesty of the canyon. It certainly is a spectacular vantage point for memorable selfies.

Things to do...

There’s so much choice here, depending on how much time you allocate to your visit. Getaway from the crowds when you hike the Rim Trail or mule ride to the bottom of the canyon and stay at Phantom Ranch. Budding geologists should Walk the Trail of Time between the Yavapai Museum of Geology and Verkamps Visitor Center to discover the canyons’ natural treasures. Or hop in the car and cruise the 25 mile Scenic Dessert View Drive, with breath-taking views of the Colorado River. For added adventure, reserve ahead and try your hand at either whitewater or smooth-water rafting trips; from day trips to three week-long adventures. Younger visitors can also become a Junior Ranger by completing a list of activities.

Opening hours 

The South Rim is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week 365 days a year and visitor services are available all year round. The North Rim is open only from May 15th to October 15th as Highway 67 can sometimes be closed to snow during the winter months.

Note to self

You’re only allowed to camp at designated sites and please, never feed the wildlife.

Where to stay

Designed to look like one of the old staging posts of the mid-West, stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, enjoying the indoor pool, or chatting to your nearest neighbour in Spenser’s Bar. Located next to the historic Williams depot, use this as your desert oasis to return to after sunset and to rise from before the sunset, to witness those astounding colours slowly appearing across the Grand Canyon. Use this as the perfect stopover en route to the glamour of Los Angeles after your visit to Las Vegas.

 

 

Try these suggestions to enhance your trip

a lit up city at night

Las Vegas and Nevada

Las Vegas

Las Vegas
Empty road in Monument Valley

USA

Utah & Arizona

Utah & Arizona
Griffith Observatory

California

Los Angeles

Los Angeles