It’s been a designated national park for 100 years now, so why wait any longer to visit the awesome Grand Canyon!
Back in 2016 America’s national parks celebrated their centenary, and on February 26, the Grand Canyon marked another milestone, having been a designated national park for 100 years – making 2019 a special time to plan your visit. On average about six million visitors tick this iconic natural wonder off their list each year, but what can you expect when you go, and what makes it so special. We’ve come up with 12 reasons:
1. For starters, it’s absolutely gigantic, at a mile deep, 277 miles long and, at its widest, 18 miles across. This is more than just a big hole in the ground, this is an overwhelming sight that proves the adage that bigger is definitely better and the sight of it will stop you in your tracks.
2. It’s pretty old too. The debate still rages, but experts think the Grand Canyon was formed around five to six million years ago, which in geological terms is not really that long. However, there are some rocks here that are believed to be around two billion years old.
3. It’s got some stiff competition from the likes of Yellowstone, the world’s first designated national park, where you’ll see hot springs and spouting geysers, and Yosemite, which boasts mile-high cliffs and giant sequoia trees. But most of us would agree that the Grand Canyon is without doubt the most iconic of the USA’s national parks.
4. Getting out and about in the great outdoors is good for you! Think of all that fresh air you’ll be gulping down in this vast open space. Enjoy the aromas and the colours that surround you too. It’s not all brown rock – look out for purple-hued sand verbena and bright orange globemallow if you visit in the spring and summer months, and inhale the scent of fir trees, aspen and ponderosa pine.
5. As well as all those visitors, the Grand Canyon is also home to a fantastic array of wildlife. Calling this vast gorge home are nearly 450 species of birds, 91 different mammals, 58 types of reptiles and amphibians and 18 species of fish. Look out for elk, bighorn sheep, squirrels, bison and even mountain lions.
6. Who doesn’t love a spectacular sun rise or sun set? Now just imagine it as seen over the Grand Canyon! The silence and stillness of this other-worldly destination will also make this a really special and truly unforgettable moment.
7. If you visit at certain times of the year, you can experience one-of-a-kind events. In September, a music festival is held on the South Rim, the North Rim is the place to be in November on Native American Heritage Days, and there’s always something going on come Christmas and Halloween.
8. If you’ve time and the nerve, you can take a thrilling skywalk 4,000 feet above the canyon. Not for the faint-hearted, this 10-foot-wide horseshoe-shaped bridge pokes out 70 feet over the rim of the canyon at Eagle Point for astounding views. Not only that, but its floor is made of glass, so look down if you dare! The attraction was opened in 2007, and no other than astronaut Buzz Aldrin took the historic first walk, so you’re following in pretty impressive footsteps. Another exciting way to see this immense landscape from a different perspective is on a helicopter ride. As you soar through the sky like an eagle, the sights you see will be breathtaking, and noise-cancelling headphones mean you’ll be at one with your thoughts.
9. If you want to see evidence of the corrosive powers of water, this is where you head. Okay, so it has taken a few million years, but the Grand Canyon was carved by the flow of the Colorado River. Evidence suggests that the area would have originally been home to multiple mountain ranges. These were eventually worn down by rain, wind and frost until they finally formed a plateau. This in turn was then carved by the river’s water.
10. You can say you’ve seen one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and that’s sure to give you bragging rights for the foreseeable future!
11. In the Hopi Indian language, the Grand Canyon is known as Ongtupqa, and is considered to be a passageway to the afterlife.
12. Take our word for it, no photograph or description can ever do the Grand Canyon justice, you simply have to take in its vastness with your own eyes. And, as far as we know, no one comes home disappointed by what they’ve seen.