Grand Canyon National Park
View from the North Rim, by QT Luong, www.terragalleria.com/parks, used with permission.
North Rim vista by QT Luong.
I celebrate the splendor and variety of the natural and human heritage with my photography. For the past twenty-five years, I have been privileged to travel, trek, and climb in some of the most remote and beautiful corners of the earth. Laying down in a colorful meadow dense with wildflowers, clinging precariously to a vertical icy mountain face, listening to the silence of desert sand dunes or to the calls of a bustling floating market might seem like very different experiences, however, I feel that they share the same life-affirming benefits.
For more of Tuan's national park images, visit www.terragalleria.com/parks
A colorful rift in the earth millions of years -- and immeasurable gallons of water -- in the making, the jagged maw of the Grand Canyon draws crowds content enough to simply stare across this impressive cross-section of geology from either the South or North rim of its namesake national park.
And that can be enough for first-time visitors to Grand Canyon National Park. The rims have numerous vantage points from which to ponder the best morning and evening light, points of interest to gain some understanding of the human history that evolved with the canyon, and resting points to celebrate day’s end over meals and stories of wonderment of this hole in the ground.
But those who venture into that maw are in for even more of a treat. That’s not to diminish the enjoyment of staying atop the rims. But take a short hike down to Ooh-Ahh Point, or perhaps Cedar Ridge along the South Kaibab Trail, or a multi-day trek into the Inner Gorge with stops at Phantom Ranch or perhaps the Bright Angel Campgrounds, and the payoff can be as grandiose as the landscape itself and the experience life-changing.
Though the setting is the arid Southwest, water is a main attraction in the Grand Canyon. Side canyons often funnel groundwater out into the main canyon. Among the spectacular waterfalls that await the inquisitive are Havasu Falls and Deer Creek Falls, cataracts that create oases in this generally arid landscape.
And those who explore the Inner Gorge by raft or kayak bouncing along on the Colorado River measure themselves against flumes of water named Zoraster and Bright Angel, Ruby and Lava Falls.
None of those who venture below the rims can escape the pleine air geologic tutorial or ignore the history -- recent as well as prehistoric -- that adds further depth and breadth to the canyon’s majesty.
The only apparent flaw that exists for those visiting the park is that the North and South rims are separated by five hours of driving, or roughly 21 miles of hiking trail if you follow the South Kaibab Trail to the North Kaibab Trail, or visa versa.
While the South Rim draws the most visitors, the North Rim is no slouch. It's higher elevations and coniferous forests make it a decidedly cooler destination in summer. When South Rim temperatures can approach 100 degrees in August, and the Inner Gorge turns into a convection oven of sorts with heat that soars above 100 degrees, on the North Rim highs typically are in the 70s.
Grand Canyon National Park experiences a variety of weather conditions. This weather variety includes cold winters and mild pleasant summers, moderate humidity, and considerable diurnal temperature changes at the higher elevations, with hot and drier summers at the bottom of the Grand Canyon along with cool damp winters. Summer thunderstorms and winter snowfall adds to the weather variety in this region.
The very best way to experience Grand Canyon National Park is to get out and walk. While some visitors believe a trip to the park would be lacking if they didn't hike down below one of the rims, an enjoyable hike along either South or North rims can reward you with magnificent views.
While human visitors to Grand Canyon National Park are quickly put off by its arid nature, a surprising array of wildlife calls the park home, from majestic California condors that are trying to make it back from the brink of extinction, to mountain lions and the curious Kaibab squirrel with its tufted ears.