Grand Canyon Tips for Visiting
It’s a long way down – 6,000 feet to be precise. The Grand Canyon is as deep as Clingman’s Dome is high. The wind whipped around us, and I swallowed, stepping forward slightly to peer into the endless chasm. Although the view was overwhelming, I was more concerned about the drop – all 6000 feet of it – and the fact that there were no guardrails to be found. I flinched as another screaming child raced by.
The Colorado River has spent several million years carving out this natural wonder. The rock at the rim dates back 230 million years, while the rock at the base is more than two billion years old. Each layer has a varying shade of rust, tan, pink and orange. Sunset ignites the colors for the line of photographers wriggling on their stomachs toward the edge. I tried to fire off a couple of shots but the wind, and the image of my crushed body sprawled across the rocks below, prevented any masterpiece.
Five Native American tribes – the Hopi, Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Paiute – have called the canyon home for nearly three thousand years. The Paiute refer to the area as Kaibab, or ‘Mountain Lying Down.’ It was the explorer John Wesley Powell who coined the name ‘Grand Canyon’ in the 1870s.
The area was originally a national monument, only becoming the seventeenth national park in 1919. This change was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson and, in 1975, President Gerald Ford expanded the park to double its size. But, it was Teddy Roosevelt who first sought to protect the Grand Canyon:
‘In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely
unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great
wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not
a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the
sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot
improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.’
Fortunately, many have taken this to heart over the years, and there are still only a handful of hotels along the South Rim. Book months (or more) in advance. Expect a terrible parking situation in the summer months. Oh yeah, and please keep a watchful eye on your children.
Tips for visiting:
- The best times to visit are in May, and from mid-September to mid-October.
- The weather is unpredictable much of the year. Wear layers. The rainy season spans most of August and the base of the canyon can reach temps of 106º F.
- Take water!
- To combat traffic congestion, many area hotels provide a free shuttle.
- The South Rim offers the best views. The early morning or late afternoon hours are great for photographers – assuming you aren’t paralyzed by the idea of heights!
- Be on the look out for rattlesnakes.
Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon? Share your experience below.
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.