Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Best trails to see Grand Canyon's wonders

Grand Canyon at sunset, from Mather Point.
Among the best ways to see Grand Canyon National Park’s top sights is via a day hike. Just four short walks will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – the Colorado River gorge, archeological and historical ruins, and incredible sunrises and sunsets.

Colorado River gorge
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon’s immense size – 6000 feet deep from rim to canyon floor at its deepest, 18 miles across from rim to rim at its widest – appears unreal to most visitors. Then there’s the unfathomable age of the rock, up to 2 billion years old. While the South Rim Trail extends several miles along the canyon edge, the short eastern section is perfect for a day hike with children. They’ll be able to see the Colorado River a mile below and an array of incredible buttes, towers and ridges that stretch up to 10 miles away to the canyon’s other side.

Archeological ruins
Along the North Rims’ Cape Royal Road is the extremely short Walhalla Ruins Trail (0.2-miles), which heads to a site inhabited as long as 900 years ago. Ranger talks often are held at the overlook next to the trail’s parking lot; from the overlook, you can see the Unkar Delta of the Colorado River, which ancient Native Americans once farmed.

Historical building
Hermit’s Rest, a century-old building that originally served as a restaurant for a stop along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, was designed so that from a distance it looked like a natural rock formation. From Hermit’s Rest, a segment of the South Rim Trail can be taken 1.1-miles to Pima Point, offering excellent views of the canyon bottom a mile below.

Sunrises…or sunsets
Mather Point boasts spectacular sunsets and sunrises for those willing to walk in the dark. From the El Tovar Hotel, hike a segment of the South Rim Trail about 2.45 miles one-way to the point. You either can go back the way you came or take a 0.25-mile spur to the Canyon View Information Plaza, where you can catch a shuttle to the lodges.

Read more about day hiking the Grand Canyon in my Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking Grand Canyon National Park guidebook.