A mile deep, 277 miles (446km) long and up to 18 miles (29km)
wide, the breathtaking grandeur of the Grand Canyon is so
impressive that pictures or words simply cannot do it justice. One
of the great natural wonders of the world, it was formed by the
cutting action of the Colorado River over millions of years. The
hard rock formations survive as great cliffs, pinnacles and buttes,
and the different layers of rock span a range of colours: from
purple, fiery-red and pastel-pink, to yellow, brown, grey and soft
tones of blue.
Whether by foot or on horseback, from a plane or helicopter,
aboard a raft down the mighty Colorado River or by merely gazing in
awe from the rim, the canyon's seemingly infinite depths can be
experienced in a variety of ways and is a sight not to be missed
however one chooses to see it. The park receives hoards of visitors
from around the world, who never fail to be transfixed by the
sculpted rock shapes, the shifting colours that change with the
light, and a tiny glimpse of the Colorado River far below.
The Grand Canyon National Park comprises two separate areas: the
South Rim and the more remote North Rim. Separated by the 10-mile
(16km) width of the canyon, it is a 215-mile (346km) drive from one
Visitor Centre to the other. The South Rim is the most accessible
and has more facilities, and as a result it attracts the bulk of
visitors to its boundaries. The North Rim is higher in elevation,
wetter, with thicker surrounding forests, is further to access, and
is cut off by snowfall from October to May. Many people however,
prefer its comparative peacefulness and less-crowded lookouts.
Both rims have numerous drives and walkways along the edge with
various scenic viewpoints, and some hiking trails into the canyon
where one can overnight at Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor. The
impact of the more than four million visitors a year to the South
Rim, especially during the busy summer months, is one of
overcrowding and traffic congestion; but to see for oneself one of
the most spectacular examples of natural erosion in the world more
than makes up for the inconvenience.
Grand Canyon West has recently opened the Grand Canyon Skywalk,
a glass-bottomed, horseshoe shaped deck that juts almost 70 feet
(21m) from the canyon's rim. It gives visitors the sensation of
being suspended amid the canyon's towering red rock walls above a
faint sliver of Colorado River flowing 4,000 feet (1,219m) below.
There is an additional charge for the Skywalk, which is not for
those with a fear of heights.