Making your way to the Grand Canyon involves more than simply finding an entrance gate and parking your car. The area surrounding this spectacular landmark is massive, and the National Park surrounding the rim is actually divided into two separate sections: the North Rim and the South Rim. Additionally, once you arrive, the actual places you can go as you enter the canyon are numerous as well. It is wise to come up with a plan as to how you will approach visiting the Grand Canyon so that you can get the absolute most out of the experience.
The Grand Canyon is located in the Northwest corner of Arizona, running near the border of both Utah and Nevada. Having formed thanks to the flowing of the Colorado River, there is water from seven different states running through the area. The Grand Canyon is separated into the individual rims by a smaller, 277 mile long canyon that creates a divide. Coming in at nearly a mile deep, the Grand Canyon stretches ten miles across from one side to the other. However, the size makes driving between the South Rim Village and the North Rim Village an approximated five-hour journey. The distance is 215 miles.
The South Rim of the canyon is open to the public year-round and accounts for 90 percent of the visitors who make their way to this natural marvel. This rim has an airport and is easily accessible off of Interstate 40. There are also transport stations from both Flagstaff and Williams in Arizona. The North Rim of the canyon is much more remote, causing the area to be open only for a limited amount of time each year. Food and lodging here is available from the middle of May until the middle of October. The entrance station to this portion of the park is located off of Highway 67, 30 miles south of Jacob Lake. There is no rail or bus service available, making it accessible only by car. There are also services in place that allow you to reach either rim of the canyon using methods that are completely “green.” These reduced-emission forms of transportation can be explored by visiting the Traveling Green homepage (http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/traveling-green.htm).
Even people that do not wish to hike an entire trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon should take the time to get a view from a different perspective. The unique outlooks can be easily found by exploring some of the shorter trails accessible through the South Rim. These trails include the Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge which is only 3 miles in length or Skeleton Point which is only six miles total. There is also Grandview Trail, a path that offers its first lookout point at only 2.5 miles in; however, the path is a bit more rugged than those mentioned above.
Many people also wish to avoid the crowds when coming to visit the canyon. The best time of year to see this breath-taking work of nature is in late August. At this time, the kids are returning to school and the summer is winding down, causing the crowds to recede. If you do not mind colder temperatures, however, then consider making the trip some time before Christmas through to the end of February. These are the slowest times of the year for the park. The busiest time to visit the parks are by far during the end of May or the beginning of September.
One major event that people often have on their checklist when visiting the canyon is watching the sunset over this stunning formation. This activity is best done from the stops along the Rim Trail. You can reach this path by taking a shuttle from the South Village to Hermit’s Rest Road. The shuttle also runs back to the Village after the sun has completely sank below the horizon.
If you wish to take the road less traveled in order to further explore what the Grand Canyon has to offer, then take a mule ride down to the bottom of the canyon floor. The journey takes nearly an entire day, but the views that it offers cannot be matched by any other trail in the area. You may also wish to consider taking a helicopter tour as well in order to catch a glimpse of parts of the canyon that are simply inaccessible by foot. The passionate photographer will find this method of seeing the canyon one that is too good to pass up. One should not call a visit to the Grand Canyon complete without edging out onto the Skywalk. This cantilever bridge features a transparent floor that virtually takes the ground out from under you. It is approximately 800 feet above the canyon floor, and visitors can access it through the Grand Canyon West Airport Terminal.