The Grand Canyon: Arizona’s natural wonder of the world
BY HAILEY TUCKER —
With summer coming to an end and students returning to northern Arizona, why not spend some time at one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World? The Grand Canyon brings in 4.5 million visitors each year, and the South Rim is only 90 minutes from Flagstaff.
Some people visit the Grand Canyon for a day; while others want to spend their time enjoying all the Grand Canyon has to show them. The National Park Service allows guests to stay overnight on the rim of the Grand Canyon in designated campgrounds. Campers are allowed to bring in tents or RVs. Those interested in venturing below the rim can apply for backpacking permits through the Backcountry Office.
There are two areas for tents that are open for the campgrounds at the Mather Campground on the South Rim and the North Rim Campground. Also, for those who bring an RV, the campground is located in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.
For those who want to stay near the Grand Canyon, but do not want to sleep at a campground, there are other lodging options available.
Lodging in the park on the South Rim is in Grand Canyon Village, which has various hotels and lodges, including the historic El Tovar. Lodging requires advanced booking reservations for the summer, and reservations can be made through Xanterra Parks and Resorts.
Tusayan, the gateway town to the park is seven miles from the South Rim entrance, offers hotels, motels and other lodging for visitors who want to go to the Grand Canyon, but stay outside the park boundaries.
The shuttle bus is available to everyone who visits the Grand Canyon and is free for everyone. The shuttle bus goes around the South Rim and is a 50 minute round-trip. The buses run every 15-30 minutes, but schedules can vary.
The bus stops are a short walking distance from the rim views and go to and from restaurants, hotels, campgrounds and the Visitor Center.
There are other transportation means for those visiting for the day or the weekend. There is a taxi service that runs from the Grand Canyon Airport, the hotels and businesses in Tusayan and Grand Canyon Village.
Train services commute from Flagstaff and Williams. The Grand Canyon Railway goes from Williams to Grand Canyon Village, and gives guests the opportunity to travel to the Grand Canyon for the day.
If you do not plan to venture below the rim into the harsh beauty of the Canyon, there is plenty to do at the rim. Explore ancient cultures at Hopi House and Desert View Watchtower, take in a condor talk by a Park Ranger or watch sun set at Hermit’s Rest. Visit http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/index.htm for more information.
The most popular trails on the South Rim are the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails, both of which lead to the Colorado River. Hiking in the Canyon is extremely strenuous, and all who partake should be prepared for extreme heat, weather and elevation changes.
The Bright Angel trail has rest houses with water at 1.5 miles, three miles, and at Indian Gardens (4.5 miles). It is 9.5 miles from the South Rim to Bright Angel Campground, and advance reservations and a backcountry permit are required for a stay there or at Phantom Ranch.
The South Kaibab trail does not have accessible water, and is seven miles from the rim to Phantom Ranch.
The Canyon is full of hiking trails, all of which are extremely challenging.
The Grand Canyon has a variety of guided tours for those visiting. They range from hiking treks, bus tours, helicopter flights, mule trips and raft trips.
The bus tours show their guests the spectacular views of the Grand Canyon, and the leisure of sitting back and relaxing. During the tours, guests are educated on the geology and history of the Grand Canyon.
Jeep and van tours are based outside the park, and let their guests enjoy a touring experience. With a local guide, guests see the viewpoints on the canyon rim and learn about the human history, wildlife, folklore and geology of the Grand Canyon.
South Rim Air Tours are a great way to see the entire Grand Canyon at once. There are both helicopter and fixed-wing tours in the Grand Canyon region offered daily. The tours are based outside the Grand Canyon and some air operators are based in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Las Vegas.
While some enjoy sitting back and relaxing while they see the Grand Canyon, there are those who enjoy taking the time to see details of the Grand Canyon. Park Rangers and various commercial companies lead guided hikes through the North and South Rim.
With the guided hikes, there is an option for a group hike and/or camping trip while being educated in nature. The hikes/camping trips are offered by the nonprofit Grand Canyon Field Institute, and provide expert instructors on topics of the Grand Canyon.
Bike rentals and guides are available for guests. The rentals and guides are provided by Bright Angel Bicycles and are located at the Visitor Center. Bikes are available from April 1 to Oct. 31.
Mule trips are a century-old tradition that goes into the canyon. The rides are ride through the park’s woodlands and scenic canyon overlooks, and also into the Canyon.
Authorized concessionaries offer raft trips for its guests who ride down the Colorado River. There are one-day trips and 3-21 day trips.
The one-day trip down the Colorado River goes through Glen Canyon to Lees Ferry. Reservations are required and when you decide to take a rafting trip, check with the Transportation Desks in Bright Angel, Maswik or Yavapai Lodges to book a trip with a commercial company.
The 3-21 days rafting trips require a reservation in advanced. There are many of companies that provide rafting trips through the Grand Canyon and offer a variety of trips. There are, also, different rafts available; some including: paddle rafts, motorized rafts, oared rafts and dories.
Whether you are looking to go to the Grand Canyon for a day or for a week, Flagstaff’s proximity to the area urges residents and visitors to explore its grandeur.
Visit http://www.nps.gov/grca/ for more information.