Spend a lifetime exploring the Grand Canyon

Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 5:49pm

Jagged oranges, reds, purples and pinks make up the view from the rim of the Grand Canyon, changing color as the sun's angle constantly adjusts their tint and position.

Meanwhile, the Colorado River swerves and curves through the canyon floor, slowly expanding the 600 million-year-old gash in the high desert of northwest Arizona.

Grand Canyon National Park lies around and within one of the seven wonders of the natural world; its more than 100 million acres of practically untouched hinterland offer a lifetime of adventure and exploring.

Park stats: Grand Canyon was the second most visited national park in 2012, attracting almost 4.5 million visitors. It has been more than 20 years since fewer than 4 million people visited Grand Canyon National Park in a given year.

The location: The Grand Canyon is in northwest Arizona near the Utah and Nevada borders. Flagstaff is about a 90-minute drive from the South Rim. The park is about a four-hour drive north of Phoenix and a four-hour drive east of Las Vegas.

The Grand Canyon became a national park in 1919. It stretches along 277 miles of the Colorado River, which runs through the bottom of the canyon. The distance from the South Rim to the canyon floor is a full vertical mile. While the canyon's width varies, it measures 18 miles in several places.

If you go: Park entrance fees are $25 per vehicle and $12 for individuals (hikers, cyclists and motorcycles). Be sure to check the weather in advance as temperatures vary according to season and what part of the park you are visiting. The North Rim is generally the coolest place in the park, and the canyon floor is the warmest.

There is no additional cost for day hikes on the rim and into the canyon, but overnight trips require buying a backcountry permit. The permit costs $10 plus an additional $5 for each person in the group.

The park is divided into the North and South Rim. The South Rim is open year-round, while the North Rim is open during the spring and summer.

Grand Canyon Village: There are several lodging options at the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim, including hotels and campgrounds. There is also access to Desert View Drive and the east entrance to the park. Book early. The park's rooms fill up months in advance.

Getting around: There are free shuttle buses in the South Rim that connect the visitor center, museums, lodging and dining to trail heads and scenic overlooks.



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