Grand Canyon National Park
Sights to See
Whether you stay on the south rim or descend into the inner canyon, there is much to see in Grand Canyon. Here is a sampling of the best the park has to offer.
Grand Canyon Village is a good starting point. The Rim Trail extends east from Hermit Rest to Pipe Creek Vista on Desert View Drive. Stop off at Yavapai Observation Station for an introduction to Grand Canyon geology. Popular Bright Angel Trail, which accesses the inner canyon, begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge. Concessioner Fred Harvey Company built several lodges and gift shops in the Village, beginning in 1905 with El Tovar Hotel. Talented architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter designed many of the buildings here, including the 1905 Hopi House, Bright Angel Lodge (1935), Lookout Studio (1914) and Hermits Rest (1914) on Hermit Road. Sights outside of the Village include Phantom Ranch at Bright Angel Creek (1922) and the Desert View Watchtower (1932). Verkamp's Curios, one of the canyon's oldest continuously operated stores, was constructed in 1906. Kolb Studio, founded by photographers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb in 1904, has revolving art and history exhibits that feature the canyon region. Also revived is the historic, steam-powered Grand Canyon Railway, which puffs into the Village daily in summer (diesel trains operate in winter).
The South Rim Drives
From the Village, drive or bicycle either Hermit Road or Desert View Drive to major canyon viewpoints and historic features. (If you decide to bicycle, please be cautious on narrow, congested roads.) Free park shuttles run between the Village and Yavapai Point (East), Yaki Point (East) and Hermits Rest (West). The Hermit Road is closed to vehicular traffic March 1 through November 30; take the free Hermits Rest shuttle.
The 16-mile round-trip Hermit Road takes in Hopi, Maricopa and Pima viewpoints as well as the breathtaking Abyss, where the Great Mojave Wall plunges 3,000 feet to the sweeping Tonto Platform and the visible Colorado River. Powell Point has a memorial to river runner John Wesley Powell and a view of the Orphan Mine, one of the last mines in operation in the Grand Canyon which ceased operation in the late 1960s.
Hermits Rest is a great place to attempt a challenging hike. The rocky Hermit Trail meets up with several others below. Although the road ends here, the Grand Canyon continues for another 180 miles, only accessible by hiking the backcountry trails or by boat on the Colorado River.
The 46-mile round-trip Desert View Drive to Desert View and the East Entrance is a must.
Yaki Point offers glorious, unobstructed canyon views and an ideal vantage point to see the sunrise. South Kaibab Trail is one of few trails that leads you along a ridge down into the canyon offering spectacular open views (reachable only by free shuttle or on foot). The distinctive conical buttes or "temples" that populate the canyon are clearly visible here.
At Grandview Point, miner Pete Berry built a trail in the 1880s that led down to his mine at Horseshoe Mesa. The remains of this mine can be seen on the Grandview Trail, a steep, rough, unmaintained route that should be attempted only by experienced hikers.
Moran Point offers a very tranquil and peaceful spot, as it is not frequented by as many visitors as some other locations.
Take a tour of Tusayan Ruin and Museum and view a small, 12th- century ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) pueblo. The displays feature several of the modern tribes, including the neighboring Hopi. Desert View, where the Vermilion Cliffs, San Francisco Peaks, Painted Desert and Colorado River come into view, is the piÃ¨ce de résistance of your drive. Climb Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter's Watchtower, inspired by ancestral Puebloan structures, to reach the highest point on the South Rim offering stunning 360-degree views of the canyon. The tower is decorated with colorful murals. A store, snack bar, restrooms, gas station (open seasonally) and gift shop make this a pleasant destination.
The Inner Canyon
The inner canyon may only be reached from the rim by a strenuous, minimum-two-day hike (backcountry permit required) or mule trip (reserve well ahead). The Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails intersect with several other trails for a variety of hiking options. Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground are popular overnight stops and are open year-round. All overnight backcountry camping trips require a permit with the exception of Phantom Ranch.
Within the canyon, the Colorado River drops 2,215 feet while being channeled into ever-narrower paths. It makes for an adventurous, whitewater ride that thousands of people of all abilities enjoy every year. All river trips (generally offered April to October) originate at Lees Ferry. Passengers join or leave trips at Phantom Ranch. A list of concessioners offering whitewater raft trips through Grand Canyon can be found at in the Trip Planner or www.nps.gov/grca.
There is much to see on the Colorado Plateau. East of the park are many major sights, including the Painted Desert, the Navajo Indian Reservation where Monument Valley is located, and Sunset Crater Volcano, Walnut Canyon and Wupatki National Monuments, near Flagstaff.