About the Grand Canyon

by SmarterTravel Staff
Backpacking the South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon (Photo: Zak Patten)

From the popular South Rim to the less traveled North Rim, the Grand Canyon offers visitors many different ways to experience its beauty. Most travelers head to the South Rim, which is open year-round. Visitors can explore South Rim Village, a historic town built by the Santa Fe Railroad. Of course, the canyon itself is the main attraction, and tourists can take advantage of several scenic drives, including the popular Hermit Road and Desert View Drive, which has six separate viewpoints. The South Rim also claims Yavapai Observation Station, where tactile exhibits help to explain the geological history of the Grand Canyon.

Only 10 percent of Grand Canyon visitors travel to the North Rim, making it an attractive destination for travelers wanting to avoid the crowds. The North Rim is only open during summer months because of heavy snowfall during winter. However, the breathtaking scenery makes this side of the canyon a must-see. At Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim, visitors can look out onto the Painted Desert. Cape Royal overlook provides views in every direction, including magnificent sunrises and sunsets. On the Northwest side of the Canyon, Toroweap Overlook offers dramatic views and a sheer drop of 3,000 feet to the Colorado River.

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There are several areas outside Grand Canyon National Park that may also interest visitors. The isolated Havasupai Indian Reservation, located on the southwestern side of the canyon, is a visually striking area that many visit because of the numerous waterfalls. The Hualapi Tribe manages the Hualapai Skywalk, an observation point with a glass floor that extends 70 feet from the wall of the canyon, providing daring views of the canyon floor.

The nearest major airports to the Grand Canyon are Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (on the south) and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (on the north). Grand Canyon National Park Airport, five miles from the south entrance, also provides limited service.

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