From DESERT USA -- http://www.desertusa.com/gc/du_gc_main.html
Grand Canyon National Park is the nation's most popular national park with 5 million visitors annually. Located entirely in northern Arizona, the park encompasses 277 miles of the Colorado River and adjacent uplands. One of the most spectacular examples of erosion anywhere in the world, the Grand Canyon is unmatched in the incomparable vistas it offers from the rims. Grand Canyon National Park is a World Heritage Site.
Expect crowds during the spring, summer, and fall months. During these months reservations for camping and lodging are essential. For books to help plan your Grand Canyon visit click here.
Seasons / Hours
South Rim: Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
North Rim - Open 24 hours a day. Closed from late October to mid-May.
Rates & Fees
Private vehicle - $25.00 7 days
Individual (pedestrians, bicycle, etc..) - $12.00 7 days
Annual Grand Canyon pass - $50.00 (individual or vehicle)
Annual Golden Eagle pass - $50.00 (all U.S. recreation sites)
Permit Fee (per permit) - $10.00 plus $5.00 per person
Frequent Hiker (all permits annually) - $25.00
Nightly Impact Fee (per person) - $4.00
South Rim - Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (longer hours during peak season). The main park Visitor Center is located just east of Grand Canyon Village, approximately 6 miles north of the south entrance station.
North Rim - 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (longer hours during peak season) mid-May through late October only; located in the lobby of Grand Canyon Lodge
Interpretive Centers are also located at
Yavapai Observation Station
Climate And Map
Camping and Lodging
Things To Do and see
In addition to the main park Visitor Centers, historic Kolb Studio is open to the public for most of the year and features a variety of canyon-related exhibits. There are six lodges in the park (including the historic El Tovar Hotel) and a wide variety of eating establishments (from cafeterias to formal dining at the El Tovar Hotel). Tusayan Museum offers exhibits of Anasazi and Hopi culture.
The park offers free ranger-led programs throughout the year, including a wide variety of walks, talks, and a nightly evening program (outdoors in summer, indoors during cooler weather).
Regularly scheduled special events at Grand Canyon include the Grand Canyon Chamber Music Festival each September, regularly scheduled theatrical productions in summer, art exhibits at Kolb Studio on the rim (April through October), and others. Check THE GUIDE upon arrival for details and schedules of current activities.
Food/Supplies Groceries and supplies are available on the South Rim at Babbitt's General Store (both in Grand Canyon Village and at Desert View). There is a small camper store on the North Rim, adjacent to the North Rim Campground.
Facilities vary a great deal. Write for a copy of the park's free 8-page Accessibility Guide.
Rules, Regulations, Precautions
Firearms, including air pistols, bow & arrows, and fireworks are prohibited.
Fires are not allowed except in grills at Mather and Desert View campgrounds.
Hiking and other strenuous activities in extreme heat can be hazardous. Pace yourself and rest often. Carry water (at least 1 gallon per person per day is recommended) and drink even when you don't feel thirsty. There is no water available at picnic areas or along most trails.
Reservations for camping and lodging must be made in advance, particularly during peak season. Permits are required for all overnight hikes; permits must be obtained in person or by written request (phone reservations are not accepted). Write and request a copy of the park's Backcountry Trip Planner for additional information on backpacking in the park. Permits are not required for day hikes.
Pets are allowed in the park but must be on a leash at all times. Leashed pets are allowed on rim trails throughout the developed areas in the park but not below the rim, in park lodging or on park buses. The only exception is certified service dogs. Persons wishing to take a certified service dog below the rim must check in first at the Ranger Office (at the corner of Center Road and Village Loop Drive.) There is a kennel at the South Rim; call 520-638-2631, extension 6549. Reservations are suggested. Kennel services are not available on the North Rim; pets are not recommended.
Grand Canyon National Park is located in north-central Arizona about 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff. It runs for 215 miles along both sides of the Colorado River between Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (much of which is in Utah) and Lake Mead National Recreation (much of which is in Nevada).
Grand Canyon National Park encompasses areas of the Kaibab Plateau (on the southern extreme of the Colorado Plateau) at elevations between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, and also the Colorado River gorge which runs through it at elevations as low as 2,000 feet
The Grand Canyon's South Rim has an elevation 7,000 feet above sea level. Such an elevation means snow in the winter and cool nights, even in summer. The Inner Canyon (below the rim) has a distinctly different climate, since at the bottom along the Coloardo River, elevation is almost a mile lower. Temperatures herealong the Colorado River at the canyon bottom can reach 120 degrees F.
The North Rim is 8,000 feet above sea level (1,000 feet higher than the South Rim) and can receive snow throughout most of the year. Weather is particularly unpredicatable in spring and fall so visitors should be prepared for a variety of climates. The North Rim is closed in winter.
Summer temperatures on the South Rim are relatively pleasant (50s-80s F; low teens to high 20s C) but inner canyon temperatures are extreme; daytime highs at the river (5000 feet below the rim) often exceed 100 F. North Rim summer temperatures are cooler than those on the South Rim because of its increased elevation.
Winter conditions at the South Rim can be extreme: expect snow, icy roads and trails, and possible road closures. Canyon views may be temporarily obscured during winter storms; in such cases entrance fees are not refundable. The North Rim is closed in winter.
Spring & Fall
Spring and fall on both rims and the Inner Gorge weather is quite unpredictable, so visitors be prepared for sudden changes in the weather and a variety of climates.
Average Monthly PrecipitationandTemperature Highs & Lows
(Degrees F. - Inches)
(Degrees F. - Inches)
(Degrees F. - Inches)
Grand Canyon Village (South Rim) is located 60 miles north of Interstate 40 at Williams via highway 64, and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff via highway 180. Only ten miles from rim to rim as the crow flies, the North Rim is 215 miles (about 4 1/2 hours) from the South Rim by car. The North Rim is 44 miles south of Jacob Lake, AZ, via highway 67.
Commercial air carriers serve Las Vegas, Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Grand Canyon Airport (in Tusayan, just south of the park).
Bus service is available from Flagstaff and Williams via Nava-Hopi Bus Tours ((800) 892-8687).
Historic steam train service is available from Williams (call 1(800) THE TRAIN).
Free shuttle service is available throughout Grand Canyon Village, along the West Rim Drive, and out to the South Kaibab Trailhead during peak season only (generally Memorial Day to September). At that time of the year the West Rim Drive and Yaki Point are closed to private vehicles. Shuttle service is also available (for a fee) to Tusayan. Taxis are available (on call) from Grand Canyon National Park Lodges, call (928) 638-2631 ext. 6563.
Paleo-Indians were the first to settle in the Grand Canyon region about 11,000 years ago. Gradually, this culture evolved into to the Archaic, which ended about 3,000 years ago. Archeologists found remnants of this culture when they discovered small animal figures made of willow twigs in the caves of the Redwall Limestone cliffs. Radiocarbon dating revealed that the figurines were approximately 4,000 years old.
No other indication of human habitation in the canyon has been discovered until the time of the Anasazi , who flourished in the canyon from 500 to 1500 AD. During the end of this time, the Anasazi, shared the region with the Cohonino who wove baskets and hunted deer, sheep and rabbits. Later, as the civilization advanced, the Anasazi settled into pueblos, or "towns," and built irrigation structures to aid in farming. Living in peaceful coexistence, both tribes traded with each other until a prolonged drought during the thirteenth century forced them to leave. As the Anasazi moved east, they became the ancestors of today's Hopi.
More than 2,000 Anasazi sites have been discovered within the park's boundaries. The Tusayan Ruin, 21 miles east of the Village on East Rim Drive, is one of the most impressive. The ruin and the adjacent Tusayan Museum offer a unique glimpse into the lives of Anasazi who inhabited the canyon 800 years ago. The pueblo at the site was occupied by about 30 people who hunted, gathered edible wild plants, and farmed the land.
About 150 years after the Anasazi and Cohonino exodus, the Cerbat moved into the western end of the Grand Canyon. Their descendants are today's Hualapai and Havasupai, who occupy reservations in the western end of the canyon, south of the Colorado River.
Coinciding with the arrival of the Cerbats the Southern Paiute Indians began making hunting and gathering trips to the canyon's North Rim. The last native culture to arrive at the Grand Canyon was the Navajo, who have inhabited the area for the past 400 years. The Navajo reservation borders the eastern side of the canyon.
Exploration & Settlement
In 1540, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led the first expedition of Europeans into the American Southwest in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. While investigating other areas, Coronado dispatched Garcia Lopez de Cardenas and several men to the Indian lands along the South Rim of the canyon, where they were assisted by Hopi guides. It was Cardenas who made the first European discovery of the canyon, However, Cardenas and his men left disappointed that they had not found the riches they sought.
In the 250 years following the Cardenas expedition, only a handful of trappers and missionaries visited the canyon. Most quickly turned away after finding the terrain impenetrable. It was first called the "Grand Canyon" by John Wesley Powell who, in a daring expedition down the Colorado River, led the first fully documented exploration of the canyon in 1869 with nine men and four boats. Powell's party covered more than 1,000 miles of the river in just 98 days. After he led a second journey in 1871, Powell published an official, illustrated report of his journeys in 1875, whichencouraged many travelers to explore the Grand Canyon for themselves.
Prospectors also entered the region hoping to cash in on the river's rich mineral ores. The canyon's ruggedness made mining extremely difficult, however, and pioneering prospectors soon realized that tourism would provide a more lucrative trade.
One prospector, John Hance, built a ranch east of Grandview Point and began to offer bed and board to visitors. Reportedly the first white settler at the canyon, Hance arrived about 1883 and remained until his death in 1919. He is credited with carving many of the existing trails in the park, many of which follow old Havasupai Indian paths.
Grand Canyon tourism began to boom in 1901 with the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad. Development of Grand Canyon Village began shortly thereafter, primarily by the Fred Harvey Company, which opened El Tovar Hotel in 1905. Many of the early buildings of Grand Canyon Village survive today and are included on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
Mary Jane Colter, an architect for the Fred Harvey Company from 1902 to 1948, designed several landmark buildings throughout the park. Colter applied her knowledge of architecture and ethnology, and with a respect for the Native American cultures that thrived in the canyon, designed Desert View Watchtower, Hopi House, Hermit's Rest, the Lookout Studio, Phantom Ranch, among others.
In 1908, under authority of the Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument. This status protected the region from private development until 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill creating Grand Canyon National Park. In 1979, it was named a World Heritage Site, joining Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, and other distinguished sites having exceptional natural and cultural features considered universally valuable for all humankind.
Because the Grand Canyon ranges from 2,000 feet to 7,400 feet above sea level, it can support a wide variety of plant and animal life indigenous to desert and mountain environments. Almost 2,000 animals and plants have been cataloged in Grand Canyon National Park.
Four species of trees have adapted well to the rims of the Grand Canyon: the Ponderosa Pine, the Pinyon Pine, Gambel oak and Utah Juniper. At elevations below 7,000 feet the Pinyon Pine and the Utah juniper are the dominant members of the South Rim "pygmy forest." The short-needled pinyon is prized for its edible seeds. The juniper with its shaggy bark is particularly well adapted to this and climate. Ponderosa Pines grow to great heights proliferating on the North Rim.
Also common here is the Banana yucca, one of the most common and useful plants in the American southwest. Native Americans have traditionally used it in the manufacture of soap, as a source of fiber for rope and sandals, and for its edible fruits which resemble small bananas.
Grand Canyon is home to many shrubs, including Cliffrose, Fernbush (both members of the Rose Family) and Mountain Mahogany. The Cliffrose's gnarled branches produce white flowers in late spring, while the Fernbush is a late bloomer, waiting until August to blossom. Mountain mahogany sprouts a white flower that twists like a corkscrew when it rains.
The bright red claret cup is the more common of two species of hedgehog cactus at Grand Canyon. At lower elevations its showy red blooms appear in April. On the edge of the rim it blooms in May or June.
Today, 67 different species of mammals are known to inhabit the canyon region, including Bighorn Sheep, Bobcat, Mule Deer, Albert Squirrel, Coyote and Mountain Lion. In developed areas along the rim rock squirrels have lost their natural fear of humans and are often seen begging for handouts. It is dangerous and illegal to feed them.
The Colorado River in the canyon region is home to 16 species of fish. There are also many reptiles and amphibians, including 22 types of lizards and 24 types of snakes. Among the reptiles commonly seen along the rim are the Eastern Fence lizards. Look for a blue patch on either side of their throat. Of the two dozen snakes living in the canyon, thhe commonly encountered are harmless to humans, usually Gopher Snakes, which feed son rodents and insects. Poisonous snakes, such as the Grand Canyon rattlesnake, Crotalus virdis abyssus,are found in the area, but are rare.
More than 290 species of birds have also been counted. Seven types of hawks and eagles have been seen in the park, but the one most visible is the Red-tailed hawk. Both the Mountain Chickadee and the Nuthatch are small, acrobatic birds common in the Grand Canyon's coniferous forests. The White-throated Swifts and Violet-Green Swallows dive through the air in pursuit of insects. The large black bird commonly seen perched along the rim or soaring in the canyon below is the Raven.
The Grand Canyon is the world's most spectacular example of erosion and most remarkable assemblage of exposed of rocks in sequence and intact.
The Grand Canyon officially measures 277 river miles from Lees Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs. Today the Colorado River through Grand Canyon is bracketed at either end by dams - Glen Canyon Dam (Lake Powell) on the upstream end and Hoover Dam (Lake Mead) at the lower end. As a result, the dynamics of the Colorado River have changed considerably. Prior to its impoundment the river carried a sediment load many times what it carries today.
Compared to the rocks in which it is carved, Grand Canyon is geologically young, occurring only in the past 6 million years. The Grand Canyon is the result of erosion, primarily by water. While the Colorado River has played the primary role in creating the canyon's present depth, runoff from rain and snow, and the streams that flow into the Canyon from both rims also helped shape and size the Canyon.
Almost a mile -- 5,000 vertical feet -- below the South Rim of the Grand Canyon the Colorado River, from its origins high in the Colorado Rockies, the river flows more than 1,400 miles toward the Gulf of California and passes through a series of remarkable canyons, of which Grand Canyon is only one.
In addition to its size, the Grand Canyon shares many things with its neighbors -- Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches, and Mesa Verde -- which all lie within the geologic province called Colorado Plateau. This region is characterized by relatively flat-lying sedimentary rocks of great thickness that have been raised thousands of feet above sea level in a series of pancake-like plateaus.
Due in part to climate the semi-arid climate which exists in this part of the U.S., erosion proceeds in a very dramatic fashion. Each of the rock layers within the Grand Canyon erodes in its own manner, giving the Canyon its characteristic stepped-pyramid appearance.
Shales erode to slopes, sandstones and limestones form cliffs; the dark igneous rocks of the Inner Gorge and southern end -- more resistant to erosion than the softer sedimentary rocks above-- produce the steep-walled narrow gorge. Vertical fractures are common and are responsible for the tall pillars and erosional remnants that are prevalent along the rims. The flat-topped mesas and buttes are characteristic landforms of Southwest where flat-lying sedimentary rocks are present.
Many of the stunning colors of the remarkable features of this landscape are due to the presence of small amounts of iron and other minerals which stain the surface of the canyon walls. The measured thickness of rock in Grand Canyon is about six thousand feet. Each layer represents an interval of time during which a particular environment of deposition prevailed, but many of the layers are separated by gaps of unrecorded time and missing rock layers referred to as "unconformities."
Most of the flat-lying rocks visible from the rims are Paleozoic in age, recording events that took place on the North American continent hundreds of millions of years ago, long before dinosaurs roamed the earth.
The youngest of these layers is the Kaibab Limestone, the top layer, deposited in shallow warm seas at the end of the Paleozoic period (65 million years ago). Below the rim these layers become progressively older, reaching back into the early Paleozoic.
Four thousand feet below the rim, in the walls of the Inner Gorge, are the oldest rocks of this region: the igneous and metamorphic rocks known as the Vishnu Group. Very different from the sedimentary rocks above them, these ancient schists and gneisses are almost 2 billion years old and form the very basement of the North American continent.
Here is the Paloezoic & Precambrian rock sequence in the Grand Canyon, from top to bottom:
Kaibab Limestone (Permian)
Torpweap Limestone (Permian)
Coconino Sandstone (Permian)
Hermit Shale (Permian)
Supai Group (Pennsylvanian)
Redwall Limestone (Mississippian)
Temple Butte Limestone (Devonian)
Muav Limestone (Cambrian)
Bright Angel Shale (Cambrian)
Grand Canyon Supergroup (Precambrian-proterozoic)
Vishnu Schist (Precambrian-archeozoic)
Zoroaster Granite (Precambrian-archeozoic)
Things to Do
The Grand Canyon is unique among national parks because, in addition to its natural geologic wonders and incredible wilderness resources, it is also a small town in itself, containing a multitude of hotels, restaurants, gift shops, various stores and a variety of services. Grand National Park is also huge! So many activities can take place at different locations and seasons. There are numerous activities available at the Grand Canyon, but most occur on the South Rim's Grand Canyon Village. They include:
Hiking & Backpacking
Helicopter & Air Tours
Archeology / Museum Tour
For books to help plan your Grand Canyon visit. - click here.
Motor Vehicle Tours
The Grand Canyon may be viewed from the rim at a number of overlooks along the East Rim Drive (26 miles from Grand Canyon Village to Desert View) and the West Rim Drive (9 miles from Grand Canyon Village to Hermits Rest; closed to private vehicles from Memorial Day through September, when it may be accessed by free park shuttles). There are many overlooks accessible by car which offer spectacular views of the canyon. If you're a dedicated scenic driver, head to the South Rim while you have a chance. Because of of severe overcrowding, the park will soon be switching over to a new shuttle service.