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Grand Canyon National Park

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How big is it?
Grand Canyon National ParkThat depends on how you look at it. The park includes over a million acres of land - 1,218,375.54 acres / 493,077 hectares, to be exact, or 1,904 square miles / 4931 square kilometers. But most people measure the canyon in river miles, along the course of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon. By that standard, Grand Canyon is 277 miles / 446 km long. It begins at Lees Ferry (mile 0) and ends at the Grand Wash Cliffs (mile 277 / km 446).

The Colorado River is longer, of course: 1450 miles / 2333 km long from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Grand Canyon is only one of many beautiful canyons which the river has carved. Others include Cataract Canyon and Glen Canyon - the latter now beneath the waters of Lake Powell. Most people agree, however, that Grand Canyon is the most spectacular. There's simply no other place in the world that looks quite like it.

Width and depth of the Canyon vary from place to place. At the South Rim, near Grand Canyon Village, it's a vertical mile (about 5,000 feet / 1524 m) from rim to river (7 miles / 11.3 km by trail, if you're walking). At its deepest, it is 6000 vertical feet / 1829 km from rim to river. The width of the canyon at Grand Canyon Village is 10 miles / 16 km (rim to rim), though in places it is as much as 18 miles / 29 km wide.

Is the Grand Canyon the deepest canyon in the world?
No. Both the Barranca del Cobre in northern Mexico and Hell's Canyon in Idaho are deeper, just to name two, but the Grand Canyon is known throughout the world for its overwhelming size and its intricate and colorful landscape. It is one of the most spectacular examples of erosion in the world.

Are there dams in Grand Canyon?
No, although several dams bordering the park have a profound effect on Grand Canyon. At the upper end of the Canyon, 15 river miles / 24 km above Lees Ferry, is Lake Powell, formed by the waters behind Glen Canyon Dam. At the lower end of the canyon is Lake Mead, formed by the waters behind Hoover Dam. The controlled release of water from Glen Canyon Dam at the upstream end affects the water that flows through Grand Canyon. Waters from Lake Mead flood the lower 40 miles / 64 km of Grand Canyon when the lake is full. Hoover Dam was completed in 1936. Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963.

How old is the Canyon?
That's a tricky question. Although rocks exposed in the walls of the canyon are geologically quite old, the Canyon itself is a fairly young feature. The oldest rocks at the canyon bottom are close to 2,000 million years old. The Canyon itself - an erosional feature - has formed only in the past five or six million years. Geologically speaking, Grand Canyon is very young.

When did Grand Canyon become a National Park?
Although first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later as a National Monument, Grand Canyon did not achieve National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. Today Grand Canyon National Park receives close to five million visitors each year - a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 which the park received in 1919.

How does one see the Canyon?
Nearly five million people see Grand Canyon each year. Most of them see it from their car at overlooks along the South Rim (this includes Grand Canyon Village, Hermits Rest, and Desert View). The South Rim - 60 miles / 97 km north of Williams and 80 miles / 97 km northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona - is the most accessible part of the park and is open all year. A much smaller number of people see the Canyon from the North Rim, which lies just 10 miles / 16 km (as the raven flies) directly across the Canyon from the South Rim.

When is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon?
Expect heavy crowds during spring, summer, and fall months. You will find fewer crowds in the early spring or late fall. The South Rim is open year round, but heavy snows close the road to the North Rim from late October to mid May of each year.

How hard is it to hike into the Grand Canyon?
Unlike hiking in mountainous terrain, Grand Canyon trails involve a downhill trip followed by a strenuous uphill climb. Hiking in the Grand Canyon is so demanding that even people in excellent condition often emerge sore and fatigued. Yet it has been hiked by small children, senior citizens, and people with physical disabilities. The day hiker, out for just a few hours, and the overnight backpacker must be equally prepared for the lack of water, extreme heat and cold, and isolation characteristic of the Grand Canyon.

Do I need a permit to hike into the Grand Canyon?
Permits are not required for day hikes below the rim, but you must obtain a backcountry permit if you plan on camping overnight outside an established campground.

What is the weather like at the Grand Canyon?
Summer
- Summer temperatures on the South Rim are relatively pleasant (50s - 80s F; 10s to high 20s C) but inner canyon temperatures are extreme. Daytime highs at the river, 5,000 feet below the rim, often exceed 100 F (38 C). North Rim summer temperatures are cooler that those on the South Rim due to the increased elevation.

Winter - Winter conditions at the South Rim can be extreme: expect snow, icy roads, and possible road closures. Temperatures are low, and with the wind-chill factor can at times drop below 0 F (-18 C). The North Rim is closed in winter.

Spring and Fall - Spring and Fall weather is extremely unpredictable; be prepared for sudden changes in the weather during these seasons.