The Grand Canyon – millions of years of geologic history.
The 1902 square mile (4.926,67km^2) big national park, with a length of 227mi (446km) and a width of 3.72mi (6km) to 19mi (30km) it is the most impressive national park in the USA!
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States (you can read more about the current president here) said once that the Grand Canyon is the only place on earth that every American should visit. He declared the Grand Canyon as a national park and preached “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you.”.
The Colorado River is almost the only thing responsible for the existence of the biggest canyon in the world. The Grand Canyon started forming approximately 40 million years ago. The Colorado Plateau started to lift 1500 to 3000m as a result of the Laramide orogeny (a period of mountain building) approximately 65 to 70 million years ago. It build a barrier to prevent the flow back of the Colorado River to its origin in the southeast. That is why it dug a completely new river bed across the Colorado Plateau. Because the river now gets the meltwater from the Rocky Mountains and because it now has a bigger down-grade, it has a higher erosive power to start the cutout of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River was flowing through the rupture zones of the canyon that developed through the lifting of the Colorado Plateau. The river started to denude the rocks and dug itself deeper and deeper into the Canyon. Nowadays it is still working really hard on those old (1,8 to 1,4 million years) and hard granites on the bottom. Because the rocks are difficult to erode, the canyon is growing in its width faster than in its depth.
The probably most famous sightseeing point is the South Rim. This one and many other view points that let you take a look into the canyon are very accessible with the car.
Grand Canyon Village is the touristy center of the national park. Here you can find the park administration, the Visitor Center, hotels, restaurants and lodges.
Another vista point is the West Rim Drive, wich is closed from the beginning of march to the end of november for traffic, the only possibility to reach this point is the free Shuttlebus.
The North Rim is only opened from the end of May to the beginning of October. Reason for the closure is the high snowfall in winter. The climate is very variable in and around the Canyon. While the North Rim has an annual precipitation of 27in (700mm), the South Rim has an annual precipitation of 15in (380mm) and on the bottom only 7in (180mm), In May the temperatures on the South Rim range around 35.6 to 78.8°F (2 to 26°C) and at the Colorado River from 98.6 to 122°F (37 to 50°C). In winter you can even expect up to 16mi (5m) high snow at the North Rim.
In May we started driving on a friday night at around 6:00pm from san Jose to the Grand Canyon. We arrived on Saturday around 1:00pm at the Mather Campground in Grand Canyon Village.
Then it directly started for us to go INTO the Grand Canyon. Yes, we went into the Canyon. To be exact…we started hiking the South Kaibab Trail and had a lunch break at Skeleton Point which we hiked to approximately 3mi (5km). You should definitely not underrate this 3mi (5km) hike. It is hot, really hot because there is almost no shade on the entire trail. The path is steep and slim. Within 3mi (5km) you will lose 2060ft (630m) elevation. Finally reached the Skeleton Point you will have an awesome view on the bottom of the Grand Canyon and on the Colorado River, which has a wonderful color! I believe that this is the most beautiful view I have ever had while eating lunch! It is recommended to hike back after this point if you were only planning on a day trip. That is what we did because it is impossible to hike in one day from the beginning to the end of the trail.
The hike had a total length of 6mi (10km) and it took us about 5 hours with many breaks. Because of the steep trail you should plan in more time to hike up than it took you to hike down. After 1.5mi (2.5km) you can find the first and only bathroom along this trail on Cedar Ridge. It is recommended to hike back on a hot day during summer. Otherwise the hike may get too exhausting to hike it back up.
The path in unpaved and you should definitely wear good shoes. Throughout the entire hike there is no water availability. Which is why You Should Definitely Bring Water. The only place you can get water at is the shuttle bus stop. Because this trails are very tight you have to follow some rules in case people are coming the other way or even mules. You can book the mule riding in the visitor center so they carry you down and up the canyon. The rules are to always give the mules the right of way. Do not stop standing on a cliff always wait on the side of the stonewall. You can only reach this trail by taking the shuttle bus which is for free and drives from the Visitor Center to Yaki Point and back. For this trail is located at the “South Kaibab Trail” stop. (https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/SouthKaibabTrail.pdf)
I really liked this hike but after some time I really had nothing to look at anymore. I mean you are in a Canyon that is hella dry. There is not a lot of change besides coming closer to the ground. Still. Knowing that I am in IN the biggest canyon in the world was unbelievable.
In case you don’t really want to hike down the Grand Canyon but you still want to see more than only the rim there are soooo many possibilities for you! As I already mentioned you can book a Mule-Tour, a Helicoptertour or a Raftingtour. If those are too expensive or already booked you can also watch the 3D movie in the iMax in Tusayan.
The Grand Canyon is calling so, don’t wait too long and come! You will never ever forget this view again!
If you don’t only want to come to the Grand Canyon I can also recommend to fly to Las Vegas and take a tour from there to the Grand Canyon. With a tour you will most likely not be able to hike down the Grand Canyon but you can visit it and even book a helicopter tour to fly above it!