Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

It may be one of the most impressive and perfect examples of erosion, but what leaves visitors breathless at its edge is the beauty and wonder that we call the Grand Canyon.

Related To:


Photo by: Josemaria Toscano

Josemaria Toscano

It may be one of the world's most impressive and perfect examples of erosion, but what leaves visitors breathless at its edge is not always the science lesson implicit in the wonder we call the Grand Canyon. Standing alongside the rim, soaking in the vast cliffs and colors, and finally recognizing nature's immense power over humankind has helped put the lives of countless visitors in perspective. The canyon is by definition a void of land, yet it has become a tangible "thing," filling people with hope and wonder, and the itch to explore.

The landscape is rugged and raw; jagged walls of canyons are striped with rainbows of ever-changing mineral colors. Juniper trees and ponderosa pines cling to the sides of the canyon, and it isn't unusual to see a banana yucca sprouting defiantly along its rim. Even the native animals seem rugged - mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, and the occasional scorpion or rattlesnake lurk in the canyon's niches.

Ideally, two days are needed to experience both the North and South rims of Grand Canyon National Park, but it is possible to see some of the main attractions in one day. Starting with the South Rim, Park Loop Drive or either West Rim or East Rim Drive promise exceptional lookout points. Rim Trail is partially paved and provides an easy hike along the canyon's edge, where stops at various historical sites like Hermit's Point can be made along the way. The canyon's North Rim is seen by a mere 10 percent of visitors because it is a bit farther to reach, yet many hikers claim it offers some of the best views. Transcept Trail (three miles round trip) meanders along the rim of the canyon and ends at the North Rim campground and general store, while Cliff Springs Trail (one mile round trip) - though a bit more arduous - passes ancient dwellings and leads to another fantastic view of the canyon.

Geological History
Carved by the power of the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is possibly the world's, well, grandest example of erosion. Other forces of erosion shaping the canyon include running water from rain, snowmelt and tributary streams that enter the canyon. The wildly rugged shape comes from the response of rock layers in the canyon walls to erosion. The varying layers erode at different rates, forming slopes and cliffs. The canyon's beautiful colors are a result of different minerals in the rocks.

Park Activities
The Canyon View Information Center is a great starting point for park visitors. Information, maps, books and rangers offering suggestions are at your fingertips. Hiking and driving are the most popular ways to explore the Grand Canyon and its environs. There are a few "must-see" stops and trail heads visitors will want to explore. Bright Angel Trail is the most popular route and descends to the Colorado River. Desert View and the Watchtower allow hikers to take in views all the way to the Painted Desert and Utah's Vermillion Cliffs. And Mather Point and Grandview Point offer sprawling vistas as well. Visitors will also want to explore Village Loop Drive and East Rim Drive, which are sprinkled with many of the canyon's most scenic lookouts.

Where to Stay
A surefire way to fully experience the glories of the Grand Canyon is by camping under Arizona's twinkling night sky, sleeping just steps away from the canyon rim. Nestled amid ponderosa pines, the North Rim campground is more tranquil and less crowded than the popular South Rim campgrounds and offers better views of the canyon.

Side Trips
Though it might have been tame for the likes of Billy the Kid, a mule trip down the winding trails of the Grand Canyon lets you live out your Old Wild West fantasies (minus the shootouts and ponchos, of course). Two-day trips to the Colorado River and a one-day trip stopping at Bright Angel Trail or Plateau Point are available to visitors. Plan ahead - trips fill up nearly two years in advance. For more information, contact Xanterra Parks & Resorts at (888) 297-2757 or on the Web at

Next Up

3 Must-Do Outdoor Activities in the Great Smoky Mountains

There's nothing like a challenging hike with a rewarding view.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

While there's nothing scary about Petrified Forest National Park, there is certainly something mysterious and wondrous.

Top 10 National Park Activities

Here's our selection for the most exciting and unusual national park activities on land and sea and even deep underground, including sandboarding, spelunking and more.

National Parks for Families

Plan a fabulous family vacation at a kid-friendly national park.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park seems to represent the original American Dream; it is a model of our nation's natural wonder and a symbol of the pioneers' exploration of the West.

5 Under-the-Radar National Parks

Take a break from the traffic and crowds, and appreciate the unspoiled beauty at 5 of the country's least-visited national parks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The mists of The Great Smoky Mountains seem to shroud the very secrets of the region's historical tragedies and biological triumphs.

Acadia National Park, Maine

A mosaic of geological and ecological features, Acadia National Park is composed of ocean, mountains, forests, streams and ponds, wetlands, meadows and beaches.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Despite its foreboding name, Badlands National Park is a magnificent landscape teeming with stunning mountains and beautiful prairies.

National Parks: The American West

Explore the National Parks of America's West.

More Creepy Content

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss Travel Channel in your favorite social media feeds.