Scenic USA - Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park
|Photo by Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly Photography
Desert View Drive-Paul Peterson
Grand Canyon Railway-Ben Prepelka
Hopi House-Bob Goldman
Tanner Rapids-Rob Jones
The Grand Canyon National Park, attracting well over four million visitors a year, features an incredible 217 mile long chasm, with depths at Granite Gorge over a mile. This ancient landscape is one of the world's most impressive sights, where some say its scenery humbles the soul. Despite what first time visitors have heard of this grand chasm, nothing will prepare for its mind-numbing immensity and majestic panoramas.
Although somewhat of an injustice to list the Grand Canyon as a single page item, this brief overview gives some idea of the most famous viewpoints and landmarks, as well as those unequaled Grand Canyon hikes.
Achieving national park status in 1919, the parkland takes in both the North Rim and South Rim. The Grand Canyon continues on to the west, bordering the Havasupai and Hualapai Indian reservations. Although the canyon is roughly 10 miles wide, the shortest driving distance between the South Rim and the North Rim is over 200 miles. Because the South Rim's Grand Canyon Village is just 60 miles from Williams, Arizona, and Interstate 40, the South Rim area is the most popular and sees nearly 90 percent of all Grand Canyon traffic. The Grand Canyon Railway provides a novel way to travel to the South Rim, providing rail service since 1901. The El Tovar Hotel, perched on the edge of one of the greatest scenic wonders, has wowed their guests with first class service and dramatic views since 1905. This landmark and other historic buidlings are found in the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Often considered the official architect of the Grand Canyon, Mary Colter designed six structures in the park, including the Bright Angel Lodge, Hermit's Rest, Phantom Ranch, Lookout Studio, Hopi House and the Desert Watchtower at Desert View. Sometimes called park-itecture, these unique landmarks blend well with the Grand Canyon's desert landscape and became Colter's signature designs.
If crowds along Desert View Drive are a little too much for your liking, consider tackling the additional mileage to the North Rim. Some believe that this is the real Grand Canyon National Park. Here on the quiet side of the canyon, with similar majestic canyonland viewpoints, the North Rim offers plenty of plateau-top trails that avoid very steep descents. There are also more multi-day backcountry hikes that lead down into the canyon.
Before the canyon gained park status, the area still attracted many visitors and harbored a few local residents. One of the most famous prospectors that lived along the South Rim was Louis Boucher (BOO-shay). His name is still found on a tough nine mile trail along the South Rim known for its impressive views of Hermits Canyon. The Hermit Camp area of the canyon is about eight miles from the Grand Canyon Village. While thousands of visitors enjoy traditional mule trips into the canyon and an overnight stay at the Phantom Ranch, hundreds more enter the lottery system for their own hiking permits. Whether on foot or horseback, both sides of the canyon hold a superb web of trails, each with its own unique viewpoints and level of difficulty. Grand Canyon hikes are not only about the length of the trail, but about elevation changes as well. The Tonto Trail hike is the longest continuous trail in the Grand Canyon. Quite often the Tonto Trail is broken in to loop hikes, forming easy to accomplish stretches along the Rim. For those that are looking for a big challenge, Tonto Trail covers nearly 70 miles across the South Rim. This rugged Grand Canyon trek will test all the hiking skills that you've acquired. From Elves Chasm to the Trail's End at Red Canyon, you will see some of the best that the South Rim has to offer.
For an in-depth planning guide on the canyon, focusing on hiking and backpacking, a visit to the Grand Canyon Explorer is a must. A one-stop source filled with trail descriptions, trip reports, backcountry safety tips, permit requirement information and just about anything you need to know for your trip into the Grand Canyon.
Beyond the park borders, whether itís by land or over the water, canyon adventures are found from one end to the other. Grand Canyon rafting excursions, with trips lasting from 3 to 20 days, take advantage of unchecked Colorado River whitewater and miles of powerful rapids. Outfitters setup river excursions throughout the canyonlands, showcasing some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. To the west of the national park, tourism on the Havasupai Reservation is the main source of income. Over 12,000 sightseers visit this tribal land and the Village of Supai every year. Despite the fact that it's an eight mile trek from the Hualapai Hilltop down into Havasu Canyon, all that visit will never forget the turquoise waters of Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls and the jewel-like pools beneath it.
Located on the southern cliffs of the Colorado River, the Hualapai Reservation occupies the extreme western reaches of the Grand Canyon corridor. This rough, rugged land, with few facilities, is accessed over dirt roads. One of the first major attractions in this area is the newly constructed Grand Canyon Skywalk. Here visitors can walk out on a U-shaped bridge that projects 70 feet out over near vertical canyon walls. Its glass-bottom walkway offers breathtaking views of the Colorado River and canyonlands below. The Skywalk opened on March 28, 2007, and is just the first component of new developments in this part of the canyon.
Choosing the Grand Canyon as a Scenic USA top pick is based on popular perception, park visitation numbers, scenic beauty, and its inherent wow factor. While touching on the highlights and briefly listing some of the standout features, it's easy to imagine there are countless photographic opportunities, hiking trails, sightseeing routes and other travel ideas found throughout the Grand Canyon Region.
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