Walking Grand Canyon National Park, ArizonaI look down a mile to spy rock that was new when the earth itself was young. Eons of sand dunes, seashores, river deltas, and calm lagoons built up miles of rock above it, only to be worn away by the wind and water and carved by a hungry stream.
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The Grand Canyon is big in every way, winding 277 miles from Lee's Ferry to Lake Mead
through northern Arizona. We entered Grand Canyon National Park from the east.
Along the East Rim Drive the viewpoints were full of tour buses. The rim here is at
7000 feet, which will leave many people breathless even when walking on the level.
Canyon Trails: These trails are all rated stenuous to very strenuous and should only be undertaken by those carrying plenty of water who are not distressed by the altitude and are able to hike up and down steep inclines.
Grandview Trail: From Grandview Point on the East Rim Drive, the Grandview Trail descends 2600 feet in 3 miles.
South Kaibab Trail: The trailhead is on the East Rim Drive near Yaki Point. It follows the ridges and has no water or shade. It is 7.7 miles to Phantom Ranch, a descent of 4800 feet.
Bright Angel Trail: Descent of 4400 feet from the Bright Angel Lodge area 9.3 miles to Bright Angel Campground. There are water sources along the way.
Hermit Trail: From Hermit's Rest at the end of the West Rim Drive. Descends 4240 feet in 8.9 miles to Hermit Rapid.
Rim Trail Walk: The Rim Trail runs 9.5 miles along the
rim from Mather Point in the east to Hermits Rest in the west. It is mostly level
with only easy ups and downs. Walkers may pick it up at any of the viewpoints along
the way. The canyon shuttle runs along the West Rim Drive, so walkers can choose
where to start and where to finish. Distance between shuttle stops varies from
0.3 miles to 3 miles. There are restrooms at Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon Village,
Hopi Point, and Hermits Rest. The trail is paved from Yavapai Point to Maricopa
Point. West of Maricopa Point it is unpaved and of varying width, with some rocky
areas. Traffic on the West Rim Drive is limited to the shuttles, so walkers can
safely choose to walk on the road. Here you are away from the hoardes of bus
tourists. Except for the viewpoints, you will likely have the trail to yourself for
long stretches. The trail is half shaded and always reveals new vistas.
Geology: The oldest rock is seen in the bottom of the canyon, at the river. This gneiss and schist is 2 billion years old. Then erosion wore the rocks down, and lava and sediments were deposited and eroded again. Then the shallow sea came and deposits were made that would turn into the rock layer cake we now see exposed - Redwall Limestone from 330 million years ago, the Supai Group of sandstone, limestone and shale laid down in lagoon and tidal flat 300 million years ago, Hermit Shale from swamp and lagoon 280 million years ago, Coconino Sandstone from windblown dunes 270 million years ago, and the Toroweap Formation and Kaibab Limestones capping it all from shallow inland seas 250 - 260 million years ago. All of the rocks are too old to contain dinosaur bones - anything deposited atop has been eroded away. The Colorado Plateau then underwest a tremendous uplift of 10,000 feet and more. Streams cut into it flowing west and eroding into the plateau ever eastward until they eroded through to the Colorado River, capturing its waters so it now changed its flow into the stream's canyon, bringing its massive carving power with it.
Lodging: Grand Canyon Village and Tusayan, just a couple miles further, have a variety of hotels, lodges, and campgrounds.