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Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon National Park is the most famous natural marvel in the United States for a reason; its reality actually surpasses its famous reputation. This 277-mile long, mile deep canyon is like a world unto itself. Its numerous ecosystems run a gamut of variety comparable of that between Canada and Mexico and some of its flora and fauna can be found no where else in the world. Its significance to geologists can’t be over stated because the walls of the canyon expose rock, earth and fossils representing 3 out of the 4 Geologic Eras. Most of all its stunning beauty and humbling size have an undeniable power to touch the human soul.

While there are many outdoor adventures to be had in the park, visitors may want to spend a few hours learning about the park’s fascinating cultural and scientific history. The Yavapai Observation Center has many educational geology exhibits to see. The Tusayan Museum is an excellent place to learn about the areas Ancient Puebloan history.

Both are located near the Visitors Center located on the South Rim, a good place to enjoy free ranger-led walks and talks, or let the kids become Junior Rangers.

One way to see the Grand Canyon is via the numerous overlooks dotted along its scenic drives. On the South Rim visitors can take the Desert View Drive or the Hermits Rest Route. The North Rim has some great views, like the Point Imperial Overlook (the highest in the park at over 8,800 ft.) and the Toroweap Overlook.

Almost 90% of the parks visitors begin their exploration on the South Rim, where most of the park amenities are located. This is also where most tourists who are only there to get a snapshot or two stop. It’s a very crowded area. The North Rim is more of a getaway, but the Grand Canyon National Park is a popular place, and crowds are to be expected for most of the year.

There are a number of ways to explore the Canyon. Hiking expeditions run from the .75-mile Coconino Overlook trail on the North Rim to the South Rim’s strenuous Bright Angel Trial on the top of the canyon to campgrounds past the Colorado River at the very bottom. Mule tours are available, provided you weigh less than 200lbs, are over 4’7” and book way, way in advance. There are Motorized Tours for ATV and Jeep lovers. Air Tours are noisy and annoy most park visitors, but they are available in limited areas.

Campers have many sites to choose from, though most are likely to be fairly crowded. Reservations are required with out exception. The main campground at Mather near the South Rim, for example, requires reservation 5 months in advance. Back Country camping in the North Rim’s Cottonwood Campgrounds is somewhat less crowded, but is remote and requires a permit. Dispersed camping is permitted north of the park’s borders in Kaibbab National Forest.

One of the most popular activities at Grand Canyon National Park is river running. There are numerous rapids for all skill levels to enjoy, with trips last anywhere from one to three days. It isn’t cheap, however, and individuals should be prepared for prices in excess of $200 a day.

Visitor should plan as carefully as possible for their trip and do so well in advance. Permits are required for nearly everything. 30,000 backcountry permits are requested every year and only 13,000 are given out.

The Grand Canyon is a harsh, desert environment and unprepared visitor face serious consequences. Full desert survival precautions should always be taken.

The Grand Canyon Village has hotels, shops, post-office and other amenities.