About the Grand Canyon
The history of the Grand Canyon dates back 10,500 years. Native Americans have inhabited the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area, now the Grand Canyon National Park, for at least 4,000 years. Inhabited by the Pueblo who were dependent on agriculture and the Navajo who lived there until being forced onto reservations by the U.S. Government. The first pioneer settlements along the rim came in 1880s.
By the turn of the 20th century, the Grand Canyon became a well-known tourist destination. The Grand Canyon did not achieve U.S. National Park status until 1919. Today, Grand Canyon National Park attracts approximately five million visitors each year.
It is recommended that the canyon be viewed from above and, there are many vantage points that are well worth it. Trips along the South and North Rims include the Grand Canyon Skywalk, hiking, camping and other popular outdoor activities.
The South Rim:
Grand Canyon Village
The South Rim is a very popular choice by visitors because of the many attractions available within Grand Canyon Village. It has some of the best lookout points in the park including Yavapai Point. If you are not into camping but wish to stay within the village, you can get great lodging here. The El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge are two of the finest, but can be very expensive. If hiking is something that interests you, it is highly recommended that you bring an experienced guide with you and never hike alone.
Grand Canyon Railway
The railway tour runs between Williams and the Grand Canyon Depot. The depot is a cabin station that also houses the park services offices. Built in the 1800s, this historic railroad originally transported ore from Anita mines, north of Williams, AZ. Once arriving at the Depot, you can head over to several art studios in the village including the Kolb and Lookout Studios.
The train departs Williams at 9:30 a.m. and arrives in the village around 11:45 a.m. and return trips leave the village at 3:30 p.m., arriving in Williams around 5:45 p.m. There are four different classes to choose: Coach, First Class, Observation Dome and Luxury Parlor. Rates vary but are rather expensive.
Touring The South Rim
Touring the Rim from Hermits Rest, east of Desert View, drive through the Navajo reservation and Marble Canyon area and up to the Kaibab Plateau and Jacob Lake. The peak season runs between May through Sept, hotels are sold out months in advance as well as mule rides and some raft trips.
Bright Angel Trail
One of the most popular hikes at the canyon, you should spend a few days to take in everything. This trail starts just west of Bright Angel Lodge to Plateau Point and is over 6 miles one way. It is not recommended that you attempt a round trip in one day. Pack camping gear if you wish to go all the way to Plateau Point and bring plenty of water.
Traveling the Bright Angel Trail by mule will take you to Plateau Point and back the same day with lunch at Indian Garden. Although the trip is usually safe, inexperienced riders will find this option pretty grueling. Another alternative is the overnight mule rides which go from Plateau Point back to South Kaibab Trail.
The North Rim
The North Kaibab Trail is one of the very best choices for hiking. It runs all the way to the Colorado River and 14 miles to the Bright Angel Campground near the water. Experts point out that this can be a difficult trail during the summer months, due to the intensive Arizona sun. There is little shade along this route, so spring and fall are better alternatives. Experienced hikers will enjoy some of the most beautiful views within the canyon.
Grand Canyon West and Supai
Many visitors limit themselves to sites and tours along the South Rim, but should not ignore the western part of the Grand Canyon National Park. There are several ways to enjoy this area, including helicopter rides, horseback rides and the popular Grand Canyon Skywalk. To experience exquisite surroundings, head further west and visit the Havasupai tribe in Supai. This small village is surrounded by numerous natural attractions including Havasu Falls. You should expect to spend approximately 2.5 hours to drive from Grand Canyon Village to Supai, but it is well worth it.
For those looking for a really unique adventure, whitewater rafting down the Colorado is for you. There are several companies that run these trips: Colorado River Discovery and Hualapai River Runners offer day trips. Those who wish to spend a few days on the river, sign up with O.A.R.S or Wilderness River Adventures.
Whether you are a beginner or experienced hiker in the Canyon, keep in mind you should always have an experienced guide with you. Visiting the Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular experiences you will ever have. Using common sense and knowing your own limitations, will give you memories to last a lifetime.