In celebration of this commemorative year of “50 Years of Wilderness”, and the “Wilderness Act” being signed into law, we recently promised to share some of the beautiful Wilderness Sanctuaries we’ve all been blessed to enjoy. Debuting in our year-long series is none other than one of our nation’s most distinguishable National Parks; the majestic Grand Canyon located in the beautiful northwestern corner of the state of Arizona.
Stretching 277 miles from end to end, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep, the Grand Canyon is, not surprisingly, one of the most visited areas in the United States. Boasting around 5 million visitors each year, it’s lure, of course, is its sheer vast and unadulterated beauty that presents, not only a breathtaking experience on the ground, but from the air as well. If you’re into adventure, you’ll want to consider rowing down the Grand Canyon; it’s been named one of 100 best American adventure trips you can take by National Geographic and what’s more, the Grand Canyon also boasts some of the nation’s cleanest air, with visibility on clear days averaging 90 to 110 miles.
A National Treasure Since 1919
The National Park was named as an “official” national park on Febuary 26. 1919, but the landmark was well known to Americans for over thirty years prior.
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the site and said: “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world… Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”
Your Adventure Awaits
There are, needless to say, a number of distinct experiences that await you when you visit the Grand Canyon. The South Rim, averaging 7000 ft above sea level, is open year round and is the most accessible part of the park. With most visitors walking, utilizing the park’s free shuttle buses or their own cars at overlooks all along the South Rim, you can whet your appetite here with scenic overlooks, dining, lodging and gift shops. You don’t even need a ranger to guide you through the park, thanks to the cell phone audio tours available at popular sites throughout the park. Look for the “Park Ranger Audio Tour” signs, call 928 225 2907, and enter the stop number. These two-minute narrated tidbits offer glimpses into the geology, history, and even the night sky.
You can, however, avoid the crowds by hiking (or by way of mule) the park’s many trails into the Inner Canyon or driving to the beautiful and cool evergreen forests of the North Rim where people are fewer and viewing is more leisurely. Located 220 miles from the South Rim by car or 21 miles by foot across the canyon by way of the North and South Kaibab Trails, The North Rim rises 1000 feet beyond the South Rim, averaging 8000 feetabove sea level. However, because of its remote location and (even in good weather) it’s much less accessible and harder to get to than the South Rim, there’s a shorter ‘public’ season, with lodging and restaurants open from May 15 through October 15 each year.
The Inner Canyon includes everything below the rim and is notably, where the real adventure begins. From mule rides to day treks to camping and river rafting, there’s no lack of wonder and enjoyment to be had for the hardy and adventurous soul at heart.
The West Rim, aka Grand Canyon West, is privately owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe and home to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Suspended 4,000 feet above the Canyon floor, it’s the world’s highest man-made structure and a true modern marvel where you’ll get 720 -degree views offering yet another exhilarating experience.
You can reach Grand Canyon National Park from main entrances on the South Rim – including the South Rim’s eastern entrance – and the North Rim. The Canyon’s western edge, home to beautiful Havasupai Falls and the town of Supai, is also accessible via roads on the Hualapai Indian Reservation.