No matter how much you read about the Grand Canyon or how many photographs you've seen, nothing really prepares you for the sight of it. One of the world's seven natural wonders, this iconic natural park is situated in most of its magnitude throughout the state of Arizona.
At about two billion years old – half of Earth's total life span – the layer of Vishnu Schist at the bottom of the canyon is some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet. The means by which it was exposed is, of course, the living, mighty Colorado River, which continues to carve its way 277 miles through the canyon as it has for the past six million years. For thousands of years, the area has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans, who built settlements within the canyon and its many caves. The Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon a holy site and made pilgrimages to it.
The two rims of the Grand Canyon – South and Northwest – offer quite different experiences and, as they lie hundreds of miles and hours of driving apart, are rarely visited on the same trip. Summer is when most of the visitors arrive (4.42 million in 2012), and 90% of them only visit the South Rim, which offers easy-access viewpoints, historic buildings, Native American ruins, and excellent infrastructure. If it's solitude you seek, make your way to the remote North Rim. Though it has fewer and less dramatic viewpoints.
A unique activity that will add to your Grand Canyon vacation memories, is a horseback ride. This is the ultimate “Old West” adventure offered on your vacation to this grand natural wonder. For horseback riding near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, contact Apache Stables ( www.apachestables.com). Visitors can embark on a 1- or 2-hour horseback trail ride. There’s also a popular “Campfire Trail Ride” as well as a Campfire Wagon Ride. Prices start at $46.If you are exploring the North-West Rim, you can enjoy a guided horseback ride with Canyon Trail Rides (www.canyonrides.com).
We visited the Grand Canyon National Park in October 2016 during the ''off'' season, which I highly recommend mostly due to mild weather and fewer people on the most popular trails. The best plan of action is always to visit the park's headquarters and inform yourself about the best trails and bus routes. We made our way to the park early morning from nearby Williams and manage to arrive around 8 AM which was sufficient enough to find available parking close to the park's information center and buy some breakfast and coffee. We visited plenty of parks during 2016 with an intention to explore hiking trails and enjoy the nature, the Grand Canyon presented a huge challenge for us physically so we decided to mostly focus on photography and enjoying the spectacular views. We made our way by free park bus to Yaki point for some amazing landscape views of the park and horseback riding. From there we took the bus to the historic Hopi house and El Tovar Hotel. The Hopi House, a National Historic Landmark, has been offering authentic Native American arts and crafts to visitors for purchase and it is conveniently situated right next to the canyon rim. After spending some time immersed in art and eye-catching views, we continued exploring the Grand Canyon ''Village'' and walked to dazzling Lookout Studio that is perched on the very edge of the rim. Lookout Studio sells photography and books related to the Grand Canyon, rock and fossil specimens, traditional souvenirs, books and photographic prints. It is located a short walk west of historic Bright Angel Lodge.
With so much to see from an aerial view of the Canyons, the Grand Canyon helicopter tour has quickly become one of the best ways for visitors to take in the amazing sites. Slightly better than other air tours, helicopters are allowed to fly 1,000 feet lower than an airplane. If you are interested to know more about helicopter rides above the Grand Canyon click here: http://grand-canyon-park.org/plan-your-visit/helicopter-tours/ .
The entrance fee for the Grand Canyon National Park is $25 for each private vehicle. For anyone that is riding a bike or motorcycle, is on foot or part of a non-commercial tour group, the entrance fee is $12 per person. Because the park is so large, the admission fee is valid for seven days and includes access to both the South and North Rim.
As mentioned previously, we decided to lodge in the nearby town of Williams (which I definitely recommend as it has plenty of small shops to visit and interesting restaurant and bars to eat at, however, if you prefer to stay somewhere closer please take a look at the available places by using the search option below: