Grand Canyon National Park

When Flying Over the Grand Canyon...
If you know your flight path is going to go over the Grand Canyon, get a window seat. Even from thirty-some-thousand feet above, the chasms within chasms stretch on to the horizon...
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Hike to Ribbon Falls, Grand Canyon
From a distance, we hardly noticed the waterfall tucked back in a side canyon. As the trail climbed the final rise, we emerged from the bushes and gazed up at a jet of water spouting out of the high canyon wall and spilling down a brilliantly green, 50-foot rock face. Ribbon Falls is distinguished by the moss-covered dome of mineral deposits at its base, which was the inspiration for its original name, Altar Falls. While we ate our picnic lunch, a breeze made the narrow ribbon of water dance from side to side across the dome.

The falls are located near the bottom of the Grand Canyon along the North Kaibab Trail and are great for a day hike from Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch (6 miles one-way). If you’re hiking in the summer, make sure to get an early start to avoid the blazing heat trapped by the high canyon walls along the first 3.5 miles of the trail, known as “The Box.” Once you reach the base of the falls, there’s a path to the left that will lead you up and behind the waterfall. Try to arrive by late morning, before the afternoon shadows cover the waterfall and subdue the bright green color of its dome.
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Ride The Train
The Grand Canyon Railway takes you from Williams, AZ, up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. You detrain at the Grand Canyon Depot, which is just down the hill from El Tovar Hotel, and a short walk to the rim.
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This is Arizona: The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a must see. You will regret it if you never get to experience the expansive landscape. Multiple visits are not rare and most visitors start in Phoenix making the scenic drive 2 hours north on I-17 to Flagstaff. Some stop for a night in 3,000 feet Sedona to adjust to the rising elevation from sea/desert level. A long weekend is just enough time to spend wandering the galleries, nature trails, and wine tasting your way through norther Arizona; a full week would be better, but it will also make you seriously consider retiring in the area.

The Grand Canyon Railway is another way to get there from nearby Williams, AZ. Prices vary depending on dates and party size, with coach seating starting at $75 round trip. Hotel rooms are adjacent to the both the Williams and Grand Canyon depots. The website (below) is easy to use and provides more information on train service.

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Grand Canyon Hiking Break
The colors and the grooves and the cuts stretched in every direction: forward, downward, upward, and around. I sat quietly and studied them from a distance, staring at the encroaching shadows as the sun descended over the dry, heat-stricken cliffs.

I was at the bottom of the Grand Canyon after a seven-mile, nine-hour hike left me exhausted and in heavy pain (The South Rim trail). Taking off my shoes, I sat among the cool rocks and dipped my toes into the streaming Colorado River.

The exertion was worth it all for this.

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Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point
There's something to be said after three trips to the Grand Canyon, having stood on the rim looking down... It's the difference one experience makes as you descend Bright Angel Trail, 8 miles into the heart of the canyon to Plateau Point (pictured above).

Wildlife is abundant deep in the canyon. We came upon a herd of deer right alongside the trail that were too comfortable with us to move out of the way. It would've been possible to reach at arms length to touch them.

It's wise to stay overnight at the Indian Gardens campground. We had last minute reservations, over Thanksgiving weekend, that we made the night before and stayed on the rim. I think we were lucky to get a spot at Indian Gardens during that time. The weather was absolutely perfect during the day at 55 in the shade. The temperature plummeted to a chilly 18 degrees at the rim but Indian Gardens was warm at 34 degrees in the middle of the night.

Previous training for the hike is recommended but not required as long as there's a decent amount of rest and you're staying overnight. Make sure you can carry an extra 30 lbs on your back and you have lots of water and food to refuel.
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Dawn Above the Grand Canyon, Finding Solitude
Millions of people from the ends of the earth have put the Grand Canyon on their bucket list, so it might seem impossible to find solitude on the South Rim. Late fall through early spring, though, if you're willing to brave the cold temperatures on the high plateau above the endless chasms below, you just might find a quiet ledge of rim rock from which to watch day break.

Set your alarm and get here early; colors begin animating the sky well before the clock-time for sunrise. Don't underestimate the cold. Gloves and a thermos are indispensable as you face the east expectantly. And once the sun's rays begin pouring into the canyon, make sure to direct your gaze north and west: the naked geology comes alive with light, shadows dancing for a vertical mile below you.

(On this particular morning when I took this photo, a rare inversion caused a layer of fog to fill the Canyon; the sun rose over a sea of clouds--a once-in-a-decade-or-so event!)
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Sunset over the Grand Canyon
No matter how many photos you've seen of the Grand Canyon, nothing compares to being perched, in person, on the rim of its everlasting views. And in the late afternoon, the play of shadow brings the gorges into gorgeous relief. Plan to stay for sunset. Bring a blanket; even summer nights can be chilly, and winter evenings, when the crowds are thinner, can feel glacial at 7,000 feet above sea level. As day disappears behind the distant plateau, breathe in the vista and revel in the fact that you are not stuck in traffic somewhere in some man-made rush hour; you're here, soaking up geologic time.
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Arizona, USA
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