Where Is Grand Canyon Located and What Is the Best Time of Day to View It?
The Grand Canyon is an incredibly steep canyon that has been carved out by the Colorado River. Located in Arizona, most of the Grand Canyon is within Grand Canyon National Park, which was one of the first national parks in the United States. Today, nearly 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year.
The size and beauty of the Grand Canyon is enough to overwhelm the senses. Following the course of the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon stretches for 277 miles. At its widest point, it is approximately 18 miles wide. And at its deepest point, the Grand Canyon is approximately 6,000 feet — more than a mile deep.
If you visit the Grand Canyon, you can see vast expanses at park overlooks. You can also hike trails down into deep gorges, take boat tours on the Colorado River as it passes through the Grand Canyon, or even ride a burro through the canyon to an overnight camping spot! The sights, including ancient rocks and interesting wildlife, are like nothing else in the world!
Although it’s very deep, the Grand Canyon can’t claim the title of deepest canyon in the world. That honor goes to the Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal, which scientists estimate is more than 18,000 feet — almost 3.5 miles deep.
In addition to gorgeous natural beauty, the Grand Canyon offers scientists a place to view almost 2 billion years’ worth of the Earth’s geological history. As the Colorado River did its work, slowly eroding layer after layer of rock, the Earth’s tectonic plates in the area shifted to push the areas on each side of the river to higher elevations.
What these processes left behind are steep rock walls that show scientists how the area changed over the course of time. Geologists believe the Grand Canyon provides one of the most complete geologic columns on Earth. For years, scientists thought the Grand Canyon was 5 million to 6 million years old. More recent studies, though, show that it may be as much as 17 million years old.
The park is a treasure trove for geologists and archaeologists. Grand Canyon National Park has recorded more than 4,800 archaeological resources in a study of just 3 percent of the park’s area. The oldest human artifacts that have been found are about 12,000 years old and appear to be from the Paleo-Indian time period. These artifacts, such as primitive tools and bowls, give researchers a glimpse into what life was like thousands of years ago.
You may think that midday is the best time to view the Canyon because the light is the brightest, but this isn’t the case. Because of the midday sun which is directly overhead, you won’t see the cool shadows and vibrant colors that you’d see earlier or later in the day. The best times to view the Canyon are sunrise or sunset. The angle of the sun creates more drama, the temperature will be cooler, and the viewpoints may be less crowded.
Views at the South Rim
If you want access to the most views of the Grand Canyon, the South Rim is the place to go. The South Rim is more developed than the North Rim or Grand Canyon West; in addition to a wider variety of services and attractions, the South Rim offers nearly two dozen viewpoints, many of which offer views down to the Canyon floor 4,000 feet below.
Views at the North Rim
Because the North Rim is less developed than the South Rim, its viewpoints are less easily accessible. A few viewpoints can be reached by vehicle and some require a short hike, but don’t be afraid of the extra effort! Hiking at the North Rim can be especially rewarding because of its unique range of vegetation, especially in the autumn when the trees begin to change color.
Views at the West Rim
The West Rim offers fewer viewpoints than the South Rim, but its vistas are no less impressive. The West Rim is also home to the famous Grand Canyon Skywalk, which offers a view into the Canyon that simply can’t be matched by any viewpoints at the South or North Rims.