ISN’T IT GRAND

What to look out for when you’re plan­ning a trip to one of the world’s great nat­u­ral won­ders

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS GRAND CANYON - SARAH NI­CHOL­SON

IF YOU PLAN ON HIK­ING IN THE CANYON GO EARLY TO AVOID CROWDS AND PEAK TEM­PER­A­TURES

The Grand Canyon snakes 450km through the heart of Amer­ica but ask a trav­eller to point out this great nat­u­ral won­der on a map and most are mys­ti­fied about its ac­tual lo­ca­tion.

The big at­trac­tion of Ari­zona’s Grand Canyon Na­tional Park – which cel­e­brates its 100th an­niver­sary on Fe­bru­ary 26, 2019 – the 1857m-deep gorge carved by the Colorado River at­tracts about six mil­lion vis­i­tors each year who come to marvel at its rocky red mag­nif­i­cence.

We’ve asked some ex­perts for tips for the first-time Grand Cany­oneer.

WHERE IS THE GRAND CANYON?

Col­lette head of mar­ket­ing James Hewlett says be­cause the Grand Canyon is so vast it’s best to con­sider the lo­ca­tions of the three main tourist ar­eas – the South Rim, North Rim, and western sec­tion – when ex­plain­ing geog­ra­phy.

“The South Rim is in Ari­zona’s north­west cor­ner close to the Utah and Ne­vada borders, 370km from Phoenix or an easy four-hour drive from Las Ve­gas. The Hoover Dam is a pop­u­lar stop,’’ he says.

He rec­om­mends this area to first­time vis­i­tors be­cause of its stun­ning views high­light­ing the unique to­pog­ra­phy. There are ho­tels and lodges, mu­se­ums to learn about the area’s his­tory and a maze of paths to ex­plore on foot.

“The North Rim is four hours’ (drive) from Las Ve­gas or six hours’ from Phoenix and while the North Rim and South Rim van­tage points are only 34km from each other by trail, the drive be­tween the two points takes five or six hours. He says the western part of the canyon is clos­est to Las Ve­gas, about three hours by road. The main at­trac­tion there is the Skywalk, a glass cantilever bridge al­low­ing tourists to ex­pe­ri­ence the sen­sa­tion of float­ing over the val­ley.

HOW DO I GET THERE?

Drive from Flagstaff, Ari­zona, the

South Rim’s gate­way city. There are sev­eral routes, all of­fer­ing plenty to see along the way.

Mar­jorie Mag­nus­son, from the Ari­zona Of­fice of Tourism, says High­way 180 passes through the world’s largest pon­derosa pine for­est. An­other op­tion is first driv­ing west along the fa­mous Route 66, stop­ping in the his­toric town of Wil­liams to pick up the Grand Canyon Rail­way – the train trav­els to the South Rim and takes 2 hours and 15 min­utes each way – then con­tin­u­ing north on High­way 64 to the na­tional park gates.

The drive north from Flagstaff on High­way 89 goes past the stun­ning black lava flows of Sun­set Crater Vol­canic Na­tional Mon­u­ments and Wu­patki Na­tional Mon­u­ment where the ruins of 800-year-old pue­b­los (Na­tive Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties) dot the land­scape. “If you take this longer route turn west at High­way 64 and drive through the east en­trance where you can stop at some over­looks to the Grand Canyon,” Mar­jorie says. “And be sure to see the Desert View Watch­tower with an un­usual stone struc­ture de­signed by ar­chi­tect Mary Colter in the style of an­ces­tral Pue­bloan tow­ers.

DO I NEED A PASS?

Yes. You can buy a pass to Grand Canyon Na­tional Park at its east and south en­trances but var­i­ous busi­nesses in the area also sell them. Ve­hi­cle passes cov­er­ing all oc­cu­pants are $US30 (about $40) and in­di­vid­ual en­tries are $US15.

NPS.GOV

WHEN’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?

Ad­ven­ture World Travel North Amer­i­can prod­uct man­ager Kristy Prince says peak time is be­tween June and Septem­ber, as well as dur­ing au­tumn and spring hol­i­days. She rec­om­mends go­ing in spring and au­tumn – March to June and Septem­ber to De­cem­ber – be­cause “crowds are smaller, ser­vice is good, and the weather is de­cent’’.

“The South Rim is open all year round while the North Rim closes dur­ing win­ter, typ­i­cally from Oc­to­ber to May. The South Rim is less crowded dur­ing the cooler months but some ser­vices may close over that time,’’ she says. “If you plan on hik­ing in the canyon go early to avoid crowds and peak tem­per­a­tures, and while it’s beau­ti­ful all year round it’s es­pe­cially spec­tac­u­lar dur­ing win­ter if there has been a dust­ing of snow.’’

CAN I TAKE A TOUR?

Any­one who wants to delve into the Grand Canyon Na­tional Park’s ge­ol­ogy, cul­ture and nat­u­ral his­tory can con­tact the Grand Canyon As­so­ci­a­tion Field In­sti­tute, which of­fers classes, guided hikes and ed­u­ca­tional shows.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Mindy Riesen­berg says the in­sti­tute, which is cel­e­brat­ing its 25th an­niver­sary this year, is com­prised of ge­ol­o­gists, his­to­ri­ans, ecol­o­gists, ar­chae­ol­o­gists, artists, for­mer Na­tional Park Ser­vice em­ploy­ees and other ex­perts who have de­voted their lives to un­der­stand­ing the amaz­ing land­scape. “We of­fer ev­ery­thing from day hikes to guided back­pack­ing and raft­ing trips as well as pho­tog­ra­phy, yoga classes and cul­tural his­tory tours,’’ Mindy says.

GRANDCANYON.ORG

IS THERE A SHUT­TLE BUS?

There is a free South Rim shut­tle and while the Vil­lage Route – con­nect­ing the vis­i­tor cen­tre with ho­tels, restau­rants, camp­grounds, trail­heads and look­outs – op­er­ates all year, the park-and-ride ser­vice from neigh­bour­ing Tusayan is seasonal. This year, it’s avail­able un­til Septem­ber 30.

WHERE CAN I WALK?

Many vis­i­tors fly over the Grand Canyon to get a bird’s-eye view, but Trafal­gar travel man­ager Tiffany Zamol­sky says walk­ing al­lows for a per­sonal con­nec­tion with a place she de­scribes as “rough, rugged, peace­ful and med­i­ta­tive’’.

“If you’re look­ing for a lit­tle ad­ven­ture, a favourite hike of mine starts at Mari­copa Point and heads west to Mo­have Point, wind­ing along the rim for 1.6km.”

She says the trail is a hid­den gem with views ev­ery step. “Take your time to find a quiet spot along the way and feel like you have the canyon to your­self,’’ she says.

“If you want a smoother walk, I rec­om­mend the Trail of Time.”

The 2.4km paved and flat path starts at the Yava­pai Ge­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum and heads west to­wards the El To­var Ho­tel, pro­vid­ing a ge­o­log­i­cal his­tory of the Grand Canyon with each me­tre rep­re­sent­ing a mil­lion years in time. “You could top off this hike with a visit to the El To­var Ho­tel and have a drink on the back porch tak­ing in more of the view while giv­ing your feet a rest.’’

WHERE CAN I GO TO SEE THE SUN?

Hopi Point is the fa­mous sun­set viewing spot but Tiffany Zamol­sky prefers Pima Point. “You can spy the Colorado River below and have a view as far as your eyes can see,” she says.

Li­pan Point is an­other ex­cel­lent spot where you can savour sun­rise with a pic­nic break­fast.

Whether you are greet­ing or farewelling the sun, set­tle on a spot an hour be­fore the show.

PIC­TURES: ISTOCK, GRAND CANYON SKYWALK

About six mil­lion vis­i­tors a year come to marvel (main pic­ture) from van­tage points in­clud­ing fa­mous sun­set spot Hopi Point and the Skywalk in the western part of the canyon. Phan­tom Ranch, reached by mule or foot on Bright An­gel Trail, sits at the...

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