Grand Canyon National Park

View from the North Rim, by QT Luong, www.terragalleria.com/parks, used with permission.

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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.

Park History: Grand Canyon National Park

Quick now, how old is the federal reserve we know today as Grand Canyon National Park?

Seasons In Grand Canyon National Park

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.

Lodging In Grand Canyon National Park

There are lodging options at Grand Canyon National Park for just about every pocketbook. If price is no object, look to El Tovar Hotel. If you're on a tighter budget, consider the Maswick or Yavapai lodges.

Hiking And Backpacking At Grand Canyon National Park

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.

Mule Rides In Grand Canyon National Park

Mule rides, long a way to see the Grand Canyon up close, are still available in the park, but not as plentiful below the rim as they once were.

Floating Through Grand Canyon National Park

Sure, the most iconic river in all the land is the Colorado that flows through Grand Canyon National Park.

Wildlife In Grand Canyon National Park

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.

Geology In Grand Canyon National Park

Few places in the National Park System can compare with the Grand Canyon when it comes to geology lessons.

Getting Around Grand Canyon National Park

This is one big park. While most folks head to the South Rim, the North Rim shouldn't be overlooked. But visiting both rims in one visit is tough.

Resources For Visiting Grand Canyon National Park

This is where you can find websites, helpful phone numbers, friends groups and cooperating associations, and, sometimes, books related to the park.

Grand Canyon National Park News

Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim groups will now need a permit

Grand Canyon National Park to require permits for non-commercial rim-to-rim hikes

Reader Participation Day: Is The National Park System In Danger Of Becoming A Catchall System?

Is the National Park System in danger of turning into a catchall system? Should a site dedicated to the nuclear arms race, another to union organizers, and another to First Ladies really fall under an agency that started out preserving spectacular vistas and landscapes, that showcases Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon?

Monday Is Entrance-Fee Free Day Across The National Park System

If you can manage it, be sure to head to the National Park System on Monday, when the gates will all be open with no need to pay an entrance fee.

Grand Canyon National Park Images