Introducing Grand Canyon Region
No matter how much you read about the Grand Canyon or how many photographs you've seen, nothing really prepares you for the sight of it. One of the world's seven natural wonders, it's so startlingly familiar and iconic you can't take your eyes off it. The canyon's immensity, the sheer intensity of light and shadow at sunrise or sunset, even its very age, scream for superlatives.
At about two billion years old – half of Earth's total life span – the layer of Vishnu Schist at the bottom of the canyon is some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet. And the means by which it was exposed is of course the living, mighty Colorado River, which continues to carve its way 277 miles through the canyon as it has for the past six million years.
The three rims of the Grand Canyon offer quite different experiences and, as they lie hundreds of miles and hours of driving apart, they're rarely visited on the same trip. Summer is when most of the visitors arrive (4.38 million in 2010), and 90% of them only visit the South Rim, which offers easy-access viewpoints, historic buildings, Native American ruins and excellent infrastructure.
If it's solitude you seek, make a beeline for the remote North Rim. Though it has fewer and less-dramatic viewpoints, its charms are no less abundant: at 8200ft elevation (1000ft higher than the South Rim), its cooler temperatures support wildflower meadows and tall, thick stands of aspen and spruce.
Run by the Hualapai Nation and not part of Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon West is famous for its Skywalk, the controversial glass bridge jutting out over the rim that debuted in 2007. Critics consider the Skywalk sacrilege and a harbinger of unwise development on the fragile West Rim, but most agree that its construction will be a much needed financial shot in the arm for the casino-less Hualapai Nation to keep their tribe afloat.
Best places to stay in Grand Canyon Region
7 natural wonders of the world: Lonely Planet readers' picks
The New7Wonders Foundation caused no end of controversy and outrage with their shortlist of the world’s natural wonders, and it wasn’t long before alternative lists like the one from the G Adventures crew began to sprout up.
Need to know
Grand Canyon Region destination guides
Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam Day Trip from Las Vegas with Optional Skywalk
Hit the highway out of Las Vegas and spend the day touring the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. On this day trip you'll have four hours at the Grand Canyon, with the option of walking on the popular Grand Canyon Skywalk for panoramic 360-degree views.
Ultimate Grand Canyon 4-in-1 Helicopter Tour
Take the ultimate Grand Canyon tour! You'll fly from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon by helicopter, cruise the Colorado River, then spend time at the West Rim. You also have the option of choosing the Grand Canyon Skywalk for 360-degree panoramic views.