The Grand Canyon
The Outdoor Recreation Enthusiast’s Paradise!
Published in the Spring 2005 Issue of Canadian World Traveller
Text: Excerpt from Ulysses’ travel guide to Arizona and the Grand Canyon ( www.ulyssesguides.com)
“No matter how far you have wandered hitherto, or how many famous gorges and valleys you have seen, this one, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, will seem as novel to you, as unearthly in color and grandeur and quantity of its architecture, as if you had found it after death, on some other star.”
– John Muir
Arizona’s most famous gem, the Grand Canyon has captivated visitors ever since early 1880s pioneers discovered its charm and realized this spectacular site was destined for tourism rather than copper mining.
In 1908, federal authorities concurred with this decision, naming the Grand Canyon a National Monument. In February 1919, they further elevated its status by designating an enlarged area as the Grand Canyon National Park. Spanning 3,931km2, the park has gone from welcoming 44,173 visitors in 1919 to more than five million per year today.
Thousands of adjectives can be used to describe the Grand Canyon, including “spectacular,” “awe-inspiring” and “superb,” but most visitors are simply left speechless by the sight of this incredible natural wonder. It took more than 5 million years of wind and rain erosion to create Arizona’s most visited attraction. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon is truly irresistible.
Moreover, if the outdoors are your passion, there are countless opportunities to get out and do just about anything your heart desires. Page, a booming town situated next to Lake Powell, north of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, is a great spot for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Watersports are the most popular activities, but many golfing opportunities can also be found here.
Here are a few suggestions of outdoor activities in the Grand Canyon area:
Thrill-seekers will take great pleasure in rafting down the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River. The ride provides an exhilarating shot of adrenaline and the knowledgeable guides will captivate you with facts about the geology and history of the canyon. Rafters will not forget that this trip is often dubbed “the trip of a lifetime.” One-day float trips are available, as are longer voyages of up to 19 days on the water. Prices vary according to the length of the trip but should hover around $200US per day. Trips are usually offered between April and October, but some companies operate year-round. More than 15 guide companies are authorized to navigate the waters of the Colorado River. You should contact them at least a year ahead before making plans to raft the canyon.
The Grand Canyon is full of hiking opportunities appropriate for beginners and experts alike. Although most hikes are strenuous due to the steep pitch of the canyon, the Rim Trails are suitable for those looking for an easy hike. The paved trails meander along the South Rim and are best for 15min to 1.5hr walks. These trails offer gorgeous views of the inner canyon from up high.
The most popular hike on the South Rim is the Bright Angel Trail. With its trailhead west of the Bright Angel Lodge, this route winds down to the Phantom Ranch and offers spectacular views of the canyon. Those who are not planning to stay the night at the ranch can still enjoy the trail and its several stops along the way. The shortest hike covers 4.8km and leads to the 1 ½ Mile Resthouse, requiring 2 to 4hrs to complete; the longer 10km hike takes 4 to 6hrs round-trip. Water is available at these stops during the summer.
Experienced hikers who are not daunted by an unmaintained trail can attempt the Hermit Trail. The trailhead starts 152m west of Hermits Rest. Hiking boots are required for this trip, which dips deep into the canyon. Two options are available: the 7.2km route stops at Santa Maria Spring and takes 5 to 8hrs to complete, while the 10.5km hike to the Dripping Springs takes between 6 and 9hrs. Hikers should bring their own drinking water or be prepared to treat the water they find along the way. Note that pets on leashes are permitted on the South Rim but not on the North Rim trails.
The Elephant Rocks Golf Course is located a mere 4.8km west of Williams. Set amidst the pine trees, the course offers 18 holes that will challenge the avid golfer. There is also a driving range and a practice green. To tee off at another superb course, check out the Lake Powell National Golf Course. Golf Digest gives it a four-star rating.
For year-round fishing near Williams, try Kaibab Lake. The lake is accessible by car and offers a paved boat-launch area as well as a wheelchair-accessible pier nearby. Anglers can try their luck with the rainbow trout. Cataract Lake is another local favourite fishing hole. Rainbow trout and German brown trout inhabit the lake, just waiting for eager anglers. There is a boat-launch ramp, but please note that power boats are limited to single electric motors or gas-powered engines of 8HP or less. The lake is open for fishing from May to October.
For a taste of the Wild West, the Mountain Ranch Stables are ready to take eager riders on trail and hay rides, treating them to some good old cowboy singing along the way. Another ranch, the Stables in the Pines, saddles up for half-day or full-day rides through Kaibab National Forest.
Since Antelope Canyon is such a popular spot, several outfitters offer jeep and SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) tours of the area.
The Bright Angel Lodge organizes mule rides on the South Rim that will take adventure seekers as far as the Phantom Ranch. On the North Rim, Grand Canyon Trail Rides take visitors on short or full-day rides. Enjoy the scenery and the experienced guides’ stories.
Several helicopter companies offer exciting tours of the Grand Canyon. They are all located at the Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan, 10km south of Grand Canyon Village. Some small airplane-tour companies are also located at this airport.
For More Info:
This text is an excerpt from Ulysses’ travel guide to Arizona and the Grand Canyon, which is available at all good bookstores or on the Web atwww.ulyssesguides.com.
Arizona Office of Tourism
Toll Free: 1-866-275-5816
The Arizona Office of Tourism (www.arizonaguide.com)
Cover Photo (at right):
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel, Scottsdale, Arizona (http://www.fairmont.com/scottsdale/).