The Grand Canyon
A mile deep, 277 miles (446km) long and up to 18 miles (29km) wide the breathtaking grandeur of the Grand Canyon is so impressive that pictures or words simply cannot do it justice. One of the great natural wonders of the world, it was formed by the cutting action of the Colorado River over millions of years, the harder rock formations remaining as great cliffs, pinnacles and buttes, and the different layers of rock possessing colours that range from purple, fiery red and pastel pink, to yellow, brown, grey and soft tones of blue.
Whether by foot or on horseback, from a plane or helicopter, aboard a raft down the mighty Colorado River or by merely gazing in awe from the rim, the canyon's seemingly infinite depths can be experienced in a variety of ways and is a landscape not to be missed, however one chooses to see it. The park receives hoards of visitors from around the world, who cannot fail to be transfixed by the sculpted rock shapes, the shifting colours that change with the light and a tiny glimpse of the Colorado River far below. The Grand Canyon National Park comprises two separate areas, the South Rim and the more remote North Rim. Separated by the 10-mile (16km) width of the canyon, it is a 215-mile (346km) drive from one visitor centre to the other and the South Rim, being the most accessible and possessing more facilities, sees over 90 percent of the park visitors.
The North Rim is higher in elevation and wetter, with thicker surrounding forests; it is further to get to and is usually closed by snow from October to May, but many people prefer the comparative peacefulness of its less crowded lookouts. At both rims there are several drives and walkways along the edge with numerous lookout points for views from different angles, as well as a few hikes down into the canyon where one can overnight at Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor. The impact of over four million visitors a year to the South Rim, especially during the busy summer months, has its negative influences on the park, with overcrowding and traffic congestion, but despite the hoards it is a positively memorable experience to have visited one of the most spectacular examples of erosion in the world.
Telephone: (928) 638 7888
Transport: It is possible to the Grand Canyon in one day from Las Vegas, but ideally travellers should stay overnight unless flying there. Scenic Airlines (tel 702 638 3300; www.scenic.com) offers various tours, including overnight stays and two-day hikes.
Opening times: South Rim is open 24 hours daily, all year round. The Information Plaza is open 8am-5pm. The North Rim is open from 15 May to 14 October 8am-6pm.
Admission: $25 per vehicle, $12 for pedestrians and cyclists, valid at both rims for 7 days.