Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA

The Grand Canyon is probably one of the most famous attractions in the USA. An exploration on foot, by helicopter or with a boat tour guarantees breathtaking impressions and a goosebump feeling.

The Grand Canyon and the associated national park in the American state of Arizona is probably one of the most famous and breathtaking sights in the United States. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. This spectacular attraction has a fixed place on our list of the top 10 sights in the USA.


Formed over millions of years as the Colorado River (formerly the Grand River) carved its way through the Colorado Plateau, the Grand Canyon is now a gigantic 450 kilometres long, barely 2 kilometres deep and up to 30 kilometres wide. The sight of the colossal canyon makes you forget any known sense of dimensions.

The Grand Canyon can be explored on three routes: the South Rim, the North Rim and the Inner Canyon.

By the way: The Grand Canyon is probably the most spectacular canyon in North America, but not the deepest. That title is reserved for the far less well-known Hells Canyon in Oregon/Idaho.

Spectacular flora and fauna of the Grand Canyon

Due to the great differences in altitude, there are several vegetation zones within the national park and a correspondingly rich variety of flora and fauna. In the river, riparian, plateau and desert zones, up to 1,500 plant and 350 bird species have been counted.

In addition, the national park is home to numerous predators, such as cougars, coyotes and bobcats, which prey on bighorn sheep and a variety of smaller rodents. Black bears, wapiti deer, otters, beavers, fish, amphibians and reptiles are also among the animal inhabitants of the Grand Canyon National Park.

The almost extinct California condor was successfully reintroduced at the end of the 1980s. At an altitude of over 2,500m, coniferous forest grows, at the edge of the gorge there is mixed forest and grassland, and in the gorge itself only cacti and shrubs thrive.

Exploring the Grand Canyon

In order to capture as many and as varied impressions of the Grand Canyon as possible, enormous distances have to be covered. By car it is sometimes even more arduous than on foot, as there are no bridges over the canyon. Starting points for hikes and tours along the rim of the canyon are the Grand Canyon Village to the south and Bright Angel Point to the north, where the Visitor Centres located there provide information on the best places to go.


Popular excursion destinations are the "Desert View" lookout point 42km east of Grand Canyon Village, the "Angel's Window" at Cape Royal, the southernmost lookout point of the North Rim, the Indian settlement of Supai in the canyon, which can be reached on foot from the South Rim, and the Skywalk on the South Rim, which opened in 2007.

Here, visitors with a head for heights have the opportunity to float seemingly weightlessly above the Grand Canyon on a 22m-long glass platform. This attraction is just under 400km from Grand Canyon Village and is already outside the national park.

Grand Canyon by air, land and water

Evening atmosphere in the Grand Canyon National Park, USA - © Andy / Fotolia
© Andy / Fotolia

For those who find it too time-consuming to "check out" the countless viewpoints at the edge of the gorge, there is also the option of exploring the gorge by helicopter or in boat tours lasting one to several days.

Rafting on the Colorado River

Although the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon is known as a difficult river for rafting and whitewater canoeing, it also holds long stretches of calm water. It owes its reputation as a dangerous torrent mainly to the past. At that time, the water level was not yet regulated by the Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam, nor was the equipment of whitewater sportsmen as advanced as it is today.

For example, on the most frequented 3-day stretch between Lee's Ferry and Diamond Creek, there are only 31 "official" rapids according to the American Whitewater organisation. So there is definitely a suitable stretch of river for every level of adventurousness.

Hikes at the Grand Canyon

Sports enthusiasts can also venture into or through the canyon. There are plenty of day hikes. Some of the most popular trails are the South Kaibab Trail from the South Rim down to the Colorado River or the Bright Angel Trail from the North Rim along Bright Angel Creek and back up to the South Rim.

Those who venture over the edge of the gorge and down to the river cross a goosebump-inducing span of 5 climate zones and 1.7 billion years of Earth's history with the 1,400 metres in altitude.

For overnight stays inside the canyon you need the permission of the park rangers, which can be applied for four months in advance, and there are strict rules of conduct in the canyon, compliance with which is also monitored.


Caution: Time and again, hikers and climbers who overestimate themselves or are inadequately equipped have to be rescued from hopeless situations in the Grand Canyon in daring rescue operations. Take enough drinking water with you for the possible heat even in moderate temperatures outside the canyon and never descend into the canyon alone!

Related links:

Official site of the National Park Service with road maps and important travel information