The Grand Canyon:
A Sneak Peak in Depth
by Kristin Hooten
It is no mystery why the Grand Canyon is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. With nearly six million visitors annually, the Grand Canyon National Park is an exquisite site with views that will amaze the human eye beyond imagination. Although, those who travel inside the National Park only look at the canyon for an average of 20 minutes during their visit. There are lots of distractions that can take away from your experience at the Grand Canyon. As a tour, hiking, and backpacking guide in the Grand Canyon National Park, I have spent a lot of time discovering the hidden secrets and best places to go to make the most out of your visit there.
The most popular place to view the Grand Canyon is on the South Rim, as it is open annually. There are several ways to travel into the Grand Canyon National Park including: The Grand Canyon Railway Train, several tour companies, rental car, personal car, or a free bus shuttle from Tusayan (a small town right outside the park). However, you choose to enter the park please keep in mind there is almost always limited parking in the summer months. Inside the park they provide a complementary shuttle bus that can scoot you around most efficiently.
Here is a list of suggestions for your visit:
- Grand Canyon Visitor Center: Here at the visitor center there is a life-size replica of John Wesley Powell’s boat that he used on his journey down the Colorado River, as the first man to make such a voyage through the Grand Canyon in 1869. Many other interactive activities are inside the building, as well as a 15–20 minute video in the auditorium that is well worth a watch. The Visitor Center is walking distance to Mather Point, which is a popular viewpoint.
- Yavapai Geology Museum: This building is located on the rim and provides more views. Inside the museum you can learn about the geology of the Grand Canyon and how the canyon was formed throughout time. There are examples of the rock layers that easily illustrate the composition of the layers of the Grand Canyon. Ranger programs are offered here regularly.
- Kolb Studio & Bright Angel Trail: The Kolb Studio contains a Grand Canyon Association gift shop and an art gallery below. This studio was built and maintained by brothers, Emery and Ellsworth Kolb whom took pictures of the early mule train riders going down to the bottom of the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. As you walk down the Bright Angel Trail, look up at the first switchback and you can see the original window in which the photos were taken. I highly recommend taking a walk down the Bright Angel trail. Only 1% of visitors go below the rim of the canyon. If you continue down the trail you will reach a small tunnel and just past the tunnel look up to your left and under the stone overhang you will see ancient pictographs in red. Hiking to this tunnel is 0.36 miles roundtrip. If you choose to continue make sure you are properly prepared with enough water. Remember, “Going down is optional, coming back up is mandatory!”
- Desert View Watchtower is a 70ft stone building located on the East side of the park. Desert View is named a U.S. National Historic Landmark and was designed by a very influential Southwest woman architect, Mary Colter. The watchtower provides exceptional views of the Grand Canyon and one of the few spots to view the Colorado River. Native American Indian’s from local tribes are sometimes on-site in the Kiva (lobby) area of the watchtower displaying traditional jewelry, artifacts and rug weaving.
- The Best Sunset Spots: The best places to view the Grand Canyon at sunset are Hopi and Yavapai Points. These spots are not located near each other but are easily accessible by the Grand Canyon Shuttle Bus.