"The wonders of the Grand Canyon
cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The
resources of the graphic arts are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray it's
features. Language and illustration combined must fail. The multifarious and
exceedingly diverse. The Cyclopean forms which result from the sculpture of tempests
through ages too long for man to contemplate, are wrought into endless details, to
describe which would be a task equal in magnitude to that of describing the stars of the
- Major J.W. Powell, "Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons"
Given Mr. Powell's statement (and the
fact that he had the added advantage of being a much better writer than myself) I won't
even attempt such a description. I will, however, provide a few observations based
on my experience hiking and backpacking in the Grand Canyon.
1) The Grand Canyon is HUGE and most of its area is rarely visited.
You could spend a lifetime hiking and exploring inside the park.
2) Given #1, if you enjoy solitude and a wilderness experience avoid the
south rim (except as necessary for entry or exit from the canyon) and the corridor trails
(North and South Kaibab Trails and the Bright Angel Trail). As a warning: the
corridor trails are dusty, smelly and crowded with tourists, trail joggers and mules.
3) To probably state the obvious, temperatures increase as you descend into
the Canyon (figure on Phoenix like temperatures at the bottom). For this reason,
summer hiking is out of the question. The best months the author has found for
hiking the inner canyon (though I'm hesitant to reveal my secret) are February and
November. Though the rim may be icy and cold, once you get into the Canyon you will
have beautiful, cool hiking temperatures.
4) The Park Service issues dire warnings regarding the dangers of hiking
within the Canyon (with the 5 million tourists who visit the park every year, I'm sure the
warnings are warranted). Experienced desert hikers, however, will have no trouble
adjusting to Canyon hiking - it is exactly like hiking lower Sonoran desert regions
elsewhere in the state. It may even be easier than other desert hikes in that there
is considerable information available on current trail conditions and the availability of
5) No matter which trail you hike, it is a long steep climb out of the
Canyon (especially with a full pack) - prepare accordingly.
6) The Mather Campground on the south rim has pay showers (you do not need
to stay at the campground to take advantage of this service)! On the north
rim the Lees Ferry Lodge has laundry and pay showers ($2.50 for 5 minutes).
Current information on the park,
including weather, fees, directions and activities available are posted on the Grand Canyon National Park Service page
and on the Grand Canyon
Official Park Information page.
The Grand Canyon faces many challenges
as visitation continues to increase. Two of the larger issues include:
1) The proposal to increase development on the south rim either by expanding
Tussayan Village or constructing a new gateway community for the park called Canyon Forest
2) Noise pollution caused by scenic overflights tours.
There is nothing worse in my mind than an organization or business that
lines it's pockets with profits from the exploitation of a public resource, while at the
same time degrading the quality of that resource for everyone else. As an individual
whose taxes go towards the support of the Park Service (as well as the $20 entry fee you
paid to get in), you are rewarded with the dust and stink of mules on the corridor trails
(after all you'd be discriminating against the motivationally challenged if you asked them
to walk), the incessant whine of helicopter and aircraft engines (much like that of a gnat
that buzzes around your head, only you can't swat this one away) as well as the pleasure
of the horde straining to get a view & snap that photo since they've already been here
40 minutes and the kids are whining and there is something better on tv anyway.
What is single most effective thing
you can do to combat these two evils? DO NOT GIVE YOUR MONEY TO THEM! Do not
support the overflight businesses, you will have a better time and see more exploring on
foot (and it's better for you). Do not support the gateway communities - buy gas and
food ahead of time (it's cheaper anyway), bring a tent and camp outside in the wilderness
for free rather than staying in a hotel.
If you feel the need to do more, the Arizona Sierra Club works to
protect wilderness in the Grand Canyon and around the state.