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A photographer’s dream and a poet’s delight, it only takes one glimpse to understand why Grand Canyon National Park is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Located entirely in northwestern Arizona , the Canyon, incised by the Colorado River , is immense, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. Nestled within are numerous side canyons abundant with greenery, wildlife, waterfalls, raging rapids and calm, glassy pools.
The historic South Rim is open year-round while the more remote North Rim is closed in winter. The Canyon can be explored on foot, or mule, by raft or air. Hikes range from flat, easy rim hikes to rigorous multi-day backpack trips. For a narrated airborne journey, helicopter and airplane tours operate out of Grand Canyon Airport.
For white-knuckle fun in the Canyon, book a rafting trip; the rapids are some of the most exhilarating in the country. Outfitters use rubber inflatable rafts or wooden dories, feed passengers massive amounts of food, and offer hiking trips up beautiful side canyons. Raft trips last from one day (outside of the park) to three weeks, depending on whether motors or oars are used. Most trips start from Lees Ferry near Page, although some trips offer the option of hiking in and joining midway at Phantom Ranch. There are also 3-day trips which exit by hikinh out at Phantom Ranch and others which involve air flight from Las Vegas to Bar Ten Ranch and a helicopter flight to a private landing site on the river below Lava Falls. Grand Canyon West raft trips on the Hualapai Reservation in the lower canyon are 1-day adventures. One-day float trips travel down Marble Canyon Gorge and back. Motorized trips through the whole canyon typically take 6-8 days, while oar-powered trips last 2-3 weeks.
From the South Rim, mules carry riders into the depths of the Canyon to Plateau Point on 12-mile day trips or down to Phantom Ranch for overnight stays. Mule wranglers recount historical and geological tidbits during the descent. The North Rim also has day trips by mule.
Xanterra South Rim, L.L.C. operates seven hotels within the park, including Phantom Ranch, the only non-camping lodging at the bottom of the canyon. The Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim is operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Also located in Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim are Park Headquarters and many tourist facilities, including several restaurants, a bank, Post Office, and a general store.
A few miles south of the Canyon is Tusayan, which has a wide variety of lodging options, a general store, air and ground tours and the National Geographic Theatre, showing the IMAX movie "Grand Canyon - The Hidden Secrets" daily. They also have a food court and visitor information.
Located between Grand Canyon National Park and Lake Mead, the nearly one-million acre Hualapai Indian reservation along the West Rim offers one-day river rafting adventures and the only access to the bottom of the Grand Canyon by automobile.
The new Skywalk opened in March 2007. The Skywalk is a glass walkway that extends out 70 feet over the rim of a side canyon of the Grand Canyon. The Hualapais also offer a "Hop on, Hop off" shuttle at Grand Canyon West, traveling to their remote overlooks, Indian Village, and Western Town, and helicopter trips to the bottom of the Canyon. Rafts operate mid-March to late October. Restrooms, food, lodging, groceries, gas and camping are all available at Hualapai Lodge at Peach Springs. (Please note that Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk are about 250 miles and 5 hours driving from the Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim.)
An eight-mile hike into Havasu Canyonrewards visitors with the Havasupai Indian Reservation, which features four major waterfalls (Navajo, Havasu, Mooney and Beaver) and many minor ones. The mighty roaring falls plunge into travertine pools surrounded by sand beaches. Restrooms, food, lodging and camping are available. Best seasons to visit include late spring, early summer, or early fall. Only use the main trail; side trails are closed to visitors and animals must be on a leash. For those wishing to avoid the hike into the canyon, transportation by horseback and helicopter is also available.