This week we're celebrating the centenary of the Grand Canyon! This week marks 100 years since the Grand Canyon was designated a protected national park.
The Grand Canyon is huge. Carved over several millennia, this massive wonder of nature is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep. With such wonder on this scale, where do you start? Especially if you’ve got limited time?
That’s where we come in. We live and breathe the real Americas, and we’re experts on how to get the best Grand Canyon experience. We know exactly how to see the Grand Canyon in a day, and what the best hiking trails at the Grand Canyon are.
Hiking The Grand Canyon: The Power of Three
If you’re wanting to lace up your boots and hike the Canyon, you have three main choices that we recommend: the Rim Trail, Bright Angel Trail, and South Kaibab Trail.
Hike The Rim Trail
The most straightforward of the trails, the South Rim Trail is open all year round and is one of the easiest ways to explore the Canyon edge: almost (but not quite!) flat, this well-defined trail stretches for miles and affords unforgettable views over the Canyon for as far as the eye can see.
Hike the Bright Angel Trail
This out-and-back trail starts at the rim and heads down toward the river, 4000 feet below. It’s the most popular choice of trail; confident hikers often head for Plateau Point, a stunning outcrop where you can gaze 1300 feet down to the mighty Colorado River. Don’t expect an easy stroll; it’s a full day hike to reach the plateau and return, though for those wanting a shorter walk you can turn back at any point, and there are two water refill stops, making this a great hike for flexibility. The start is the easy bit; your return journey will take twice as long, and it’s all uphill – this is where the challenge lies.
South Kaibab Trail
Another out-and-back trail, which follows the same format as the Bright Angel Trail of starting on the rim and descending to the river. But this time the start point is further down the line – you’ll need to hop on the free shuttle bus, and stock up on enough water for the whole day as you can only refill at the trail head. It’s steeper than the Bright Angel Trail, so a little harder on the knees, and a more demanding return journey. All this sounds less appealing, until you realise this: these factors culminate to make this trail more the quieter – and the views are simply stunning. If you want a bit of a challenge and some tranquillity on the trail, this is the one for you.
Go Beyond Hiking
Not a hiker? Looking for something different? No problem, the Grand Canyon has plenty to offer.
Watching the Sunrise or Sunset
The absolute natural splendour of seeing the sunrise or sunset at the Grand Canyon is almost impossible to overstate. Few sights can compare to the colours aflame across the huge mass of iron-rich rock, which take on a mesmeric glow in the transition hours around sunrise and sunset. The sun creeps slowly across the horizon, whilst hues of reds, golds and ambers spread out over the illuminated rocks structures, deep cast shadows adding drama to proceedings.
In the Winter
The classic image of the Grand Canyon is of a rugged, red rock giant bathed in sunshine - but, for a truly memorable experience, seeing it in the winter is pure magic. Desert snow is one of the most aesthetically pleasing sights, where the white of the snow rests against the ruby red rock - and another bonus, is just how much quieter it is during the snowy months.
The thrill of soaring above the Grand Canyon, with the immensity of one of the world’s seven natural wonders spread out beneath you, is hard to describe. From the glass bulb of the a helicopter the view over the canyon is incredible – it is, without a doubt, the best way to get a sense of the scale of it. This is a unique experience you’ll never forget. The 45 minutes in the air fly by, but this is certainly one of the bucket list ticks that does not disappoint.
Rafting the Colorado River
For an angle on the Grand Canyon few ever see, then this is the ultimate adventure. It’s rare enough to find a desert adventure you can enjoy from the water, but white water rafting on the Colorado River and it winds its ancient way through the Grand Canyon will blow you away. Forget all your technology for the next few days – you’ll be out in the wilderness amongst the cacti, not checking your emails. As eagles soar overhead, take time to swim in the side pools and take hiking detours between tackling class IV white water rapids.