Endless Vastness and Desolation of Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the those iconic places that people usually associate with the United States. And while other popular places tha...

The Grand Canyon is one of the those iconic places that people usually associate with the United States. And while other popular places that attract tourist crowds from all over the world such as Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Las Vegas Strip and Hollywood did not impress me much, the Grand Canyon in Arizona definitely did.  It's a place of an unparalleled beauty, endless vastness and desolation like no other on Earth.

Despite all stereotypes about Arizona being a hot and lifeless desert with big cacti, the land by the Grand Canyon actually turned out to be covered with Ponderosa Pine trees and other vegetation. And while Phoenix and Tuscon may experience heat and drought year around, the Grand Canyon and the high elevation area around Flagstaff can get heavy snowfalls in the winter.
What I particularly like about national parks and other protected areas in the US is that Americans really care about their natural and historical heritage. As a result, wild animals such as these gorgeous elk do not consider people and cars a threat.
The Grand Canyon is immense. It's one of the few objects that can be seen from the space. Therefore, you can explore the canyon from different entry points. The most popular one is the Grand Canyon's South Rim which gets 90% of the park's visitors.
Be sure to stop by the visitor centre at the Grand Canyon Village to watch the 20-minute movie and check some cool exhibits about the natural history of the canyon.
The Grand Canyon sees fewer visitors in the winter, so you can drive your car almost anywhere in the park where there are paved roads. The exception is the Yaki Point where you'll have to take a free shuttle bus, because there is no public parking there. As a matter of fact, Grand Canyon National Park has four(!) bus routes March to November, and two - December to February to reduce traffic congestions. Buses also allow visitors to hike parts of the 12-mile / 21-km Rim Trail.
It goes without saying that the Grand Canyon will make your jaws drop.
There is a famous quote from Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States which explains what this place is: "In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."
I know that pictures do not do justice, but the canyon here is 1 mile / 1.5 km deep.
The Grand Canyon is the living book of geologists. This is pretty much how our planet's cutaway would look like. Each new layer, each new colour mean millions of years of hard work by mother nature.
The Grand Canyon is 227 miles / 446 km long, up to 18 miles /  29 km wide and 6,093 feet / 1,857 meters deep in its lowest point.
The Grand Canyon is the result of work by the Colorado River which cut through this eroded land like a knife.
You can see one of the rim-to-rim trails below. Though you can attempt a round-trip hike to the Colorado River and back, it's highly advisable to spend a night camping by the river bed. 15 mile / 25 km round-trip hike with such a huge elevation loss and gain can be extremely tiring.
Be sure to stay until the sunset as this is when the canyon reveals its stunning palette of colours.
Desert View Watchtower offers one of the best views on the canyon.

Things you need to know before you go

  • Pick an entry point to visit Grand Canyon National Park as South Rim is 210 miles / 338 km away from North Rim or at least 4 hour drive.
  • While South Rim part of the park is open year around, North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park only open May 15 to Oct 15.
  • Staying at Grand Canyon Village can be pricy, but you can find cheaper accommodations at Williams, AZ which is only one-hour drive from South Rim entrance.

When to go
Summers at the Grand Canyon are usually hot, especially at its bottom. Winter is a nice time to visit the park as it's not crowded at all, usually sunny and warm during the day and there are absolutely no insects, snakes and scorpions (it's a desert after all). However sudden snow storms can cause road and trail closures. Also, I would refrain from hiking down and up the canyon, as the trail can be icy and slippery in the winter. Spring and fall are the two great seasons when the park offers not only basic hiking and lookout sightseeing, but more adventurous activities such as river rafting and more backcountry opportunities.

South Rim: located 60 miles / 96 km north of Williams, AZ (via route 64 from I-40) and 80 miles / 129 km northwest of Flagstaff, AZ (via route 180). Address and GPS coordinates of the Grand Canyon Visitor Centre (South Rim): S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023;
36.0592° N, 112.1093° W.

North Rim: located 30 miles / 48 km south of Jacob Lake on Highway 67; the actual rim of the canyon is an additional 14 miles / 22 km south. Jacob Lake, AZ is located in northern Arizona on Highway 89A, close to the Utah border.
Address and GPS coordinates of the North Rim Visitor Centre: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ-67, North Rim, AZ 86052; 36.1984° N, 112.0525° W.

Additional Information
For additional information visit the Grand Canyon National Park's official website.

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