Awesome. Majestic. Mesmerizing. Hallucinating. No matter how you describe the Grand Canyon, it doesn't seem enough to convey the wow factor of this amazing natural spectacle.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO world heritage site, the Grand Canyon is celebrating the centenary of its designation as a national park this year.
Planning is essential to experience the Grand Canyon. After all, there are three different areas to visit – the North, South and West rims – and they are miles apart.
Tourists have to plan their visit because there are three different areas to see – the North, South and West rims – and they are many miles apart
First you have to choose the edge that you prefer, because each room has individual attractions and it is not easy to jump from one side to the other.
The South and North Rims may be only ten miles apart as the crow flies, but driving between them involves a journey of 215 miles and takes almost five hours.
South Rim: the people's favorite
The South Rim is the most popular because it has the iconic views that many consider the & # 39; true Grand Canyon & # 39; and the most accessible of the three rims.
About six million people a year make the five-hour drive from Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; and St George, Utah; or the 90-minute journey from regional airports.
The South Rim is open all year round and offers accommodation in hotels, lodges, cabins or campgrounds in the Grand Canyon Village in the National Park itself, or in the nearby towns of Tusayan and Williams, where accommodations and restaurants are for all types of guests.
Top five ways to explore the South Rim
The South Rim is the most popular because it has the iconic views that many consider the & # 39; true Grand Canyon & # 39;
1. A scenic helicopter flight is worth every cent of the sky-high rate. I took the Canyon Spirit tour with Maverick Helicopters, a 50-minute wandering flight from the South Rim. Priced from £ 238, visit FlyMaverick.com
2. It is a once-in-a-lifetime journey to ride a mule train from the South Rim down dizzying narrow and steep hairpin bends for a one or two night stay at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the gorge.
The tour is strongly oversubscribed and only ten riders selected by the lottery can saddle up at any time. I opted for the easy to book Vista mule ride along the edge. Preached £ 114 pp for half a day or from £ 477 pp & night (or £ 840 for two), visit grandcanyonlodges.com.
3. The guided three-hour Hermit Road bike ride ends at Hermit & # 39; s Rest, one of the buildings designed by Mary Jane Colter for early tourists in 1914. £ 52 priced for adults, £ 37 for children, book at Bright Angel Bicycles & Cafe at Mather Point of bikegrandcanyon.com.
4. You don't need an open roof, 4×4 with an entertaining driver with fun anecdotes to navigate the scenic Desert View Drive along the panoramic views of the South Rim, but it does contribute to the adventure.
Prices £ 92 per adult, £ 83 per child, including entrance fees to the National Park and a free IMAX ticket for the Grand Canyon The Hidden Secrets movie. Visit pinkjeeptours.com.
5. The Trail of Time between Verkamp & # 39; s Visitor Center and Yavapai Point and Geology Museum is pram and wheelchair friendly. Walk both below and along the edge while looking up offers a whole new perspective.
Even a short descent to the appropriately named Ooh Aah Point on the South Kaibab Trail will give you a taste.
For Grand Canyon South Rim adventure visit nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/index.htm.
Westrand: Dice with dizziness
The biggest attraction of Grand Canyon West is the Glass Skywalk that protrudes 70ft over the edge of the rim like a giant horseshoe
If you are based in Las Vegas, Grand Canyon West is the closest (130 miles) and attracts the second largest number of visitors – one million a year.
Top three ways to explore Grand Canyon West
1. The biggest draw is the Glass Skywalk that protrudes 70ft over the edge of the rim like a giant horseshoe. Those who are brave enough can take & # 39; in the air & & # 39; walk on the transparent glass balcony that hangs at an altitude of 4000 feet above the Canyon floor.
2. Tour through the Native American Village at Eagle Point.
3. Try cowboy skills such as the mechanical bull at Hualapai Ranch, or hover over the 500ft zip line above a 40 mph gap.
Other Grand Canyon West adventures include plane and helicopter flights; Hualapai River Runners, white water rafting and pontoon trips. See grandcanyonwest.com.
Northern edge: spot a cougar
Natural wonder: the North Rim is best suited for those who want to escape the crowds and heat and have the opportunity to spot bears or fiery fall hues
The North Rim is best suited for those who want to escape the crowds and heat and have the opportunity to spot bears or fiery fall colors.
Only seen with 10 percent of all visitors to the Grand Canyon, it is certainly the less busy road and with good reason because it closes from mid-October to mid-May due to snowfall.
The closest regional airports are St George in Utah (currently closed until the end of September) and Page, Arizona, (both about a three-hour drive), while it is a six-hour drive from Las Vegas and even farther from Salt Lake City or Phoenix.
Top three ways to explore the North Rim
1. North Rim Scenic Drive is a 23-mile route with the best views from Point Imperial and Bright Angel Point to Cape Royal.
2. Best for nature, the more remote North Rim is easier for spotting wildlife such as bears and cougars or rare birds such as the California Condor, with its 9ft 6in wingspan.
3. The higher position of the North Rim means that it is cooler and quieter for walking, cycling and mule tours under the beautiful Ponderosa pines. Far away from light pollution, it is ideal for stargazing.
Other North Rim activities include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, at your own risk.
In the summer, reservations for the Grand Canyon Lodge and the campsite are essential (nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/north-rim.htm).
Do: Wear layers, a hat and sunscreen plus water and snacks. Visit in spring or fall when it is cooler and not as busy as summer.
Do not: Feed the wild squirrels and squirrels – they will bite and do often. Drop trash or throw & # 39; lucky coins & # 39 ;.
Audley Travel (audleytravel.com/USA, 01993 838 755) offers a 15-day tour of the Western US with a three-night visit to the Grand Canyon from £ 3,155 pp (based on two parts) and includes flights, car rental, accommodation and activities. American Airlines (aa.com) has launched a new year-round flight from London in cooperation with British Airways. Fly back from £ 479 pp in Economy; £ 903 pp in Premium Economy or in Business Class from £ 4,250 pp return.
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