Amid the chill weather of the dark early morning, you won’t have any idea of how big the landscape standing in front of you is. As the sun rises and the light exposes the canyon, you’ll feel like you’re looking at a 2D picture. But as the sky changes colors and it becomes a mix between red and blue, the sun slowly reveals all the details you’ve been missing. You start noticing the sharp edges of distant ridges and peaks, the asymmetrical rock formations sprinkled everywhere, the vibrant vegetation, a small flock of birds flying above you and the Colorado River far below. That’s when you realize the true scale of the canyon.
Location and size
This famous American landmark is located in Arizona, five hours away from Las Vegas and almost four hours away from Phoenix.
The Grand Canyon National Park is about 446 kilometers (2777 miles) long, 29 kilometers (18 miles) wide and almost 1,860 meters (6102 feet) deep. Carved by the Colorado River, its tributaries and years of erosions, the canyon exposes two billion years of geological history within its layers since 5 to 6 million years ago when the river started to cut through the rock.
The best way to visit
As much as we’d like to, it’s not possible to experience the entire place right away because of its enormous dimensions. One of the best ways to visit the landmark is going to one or two lookout points to see the ever-changing light from there. You’ll have no problem having these since the roads along the rim indicate where to go.
Hopi Point, one of the best lookout points in the entire area, allows you to look both ways along the canyon, and it’s also close to the Grand Canyon Village. You’ll enjoy the spectacular landscape and how it changes colors throughout the day. Besides, you can also see the Colorado River from here, looking apparently small and serene.
If you want to go into the canyon, there are different trails that allow so. Depending on the one you choose, you can hike down and back up in a day, if you start early enough, or camp on the way. However, it’s advisable to split your trip into two days, even if you take a shorter trail. You have to remember that the way back is up, and walking back up is twice as long and hard as walking down. If you’re not used to heavy exercise, you might want to rent a mule to carry you, but you have to know that the ride is quite uncomfortable.
One of the advantages of trail-walking is that it will give you a new idea of how big the canyon is. Walking down offers you new details of the scene and it redefines distances between certain points as they become more accurate. As the day goes on, you’ll notice that landmarks that looked so close, actually take hours to reach while the canyon walls slowly start to tower around you.
Will you find big crowds? How’s the weather?
Over a million people visit the Canyon each year, most of them just stay a few hours and gather on the popular south rim. However, these are not the only people the Grand Canyon welcomes. Native American have inhabited the area for thousands of years, building settlements within the park and its caves, and considering it a holy site.
The best time to visit this stunning landmark is during spring or autumn in order to avoid big crowds. Although it will be colder, the air is clearer and the striking perspective you’ll get will be worth it. However, the weather can suddenly change and you can find yourself under blue skies one day and in a white-out blizzard the next. This also applies to the area’s temperature. Because of the canyon’s great height, during just one day, you can walk through heavy snow at the top and hot sunshine at the bottom.
How can you get there?
You have different options to get here. Flagstaff is the closest major airport and it’s an hour and a half away from the south rim. If you’re coming from Las Vegas you can either take a five-hour drive or you can fly directly to the Grand Canyon airport at Tusayan.
To get around the park you can use the free bus service they provide, but if you want to have more freedom to explore, we advise you to rent a car.