No amount of photos or words will ever do justice to this magnificent landmark, because it is, as its name suggests, the grandest of all canyons. There is no doubt as to why it is one of the world’s seven natural wonders, and it is hands down, one of the most incredible things I have ever seen.
The morning started off early, heading towards the Information Centre, before setting out on a helicopter ride to experience the beauty of the Canyon from the South Rim. Now, the night before, the tour group had gone out for a couple of a drinks at a country bar in Arizona, one of the states on the West Coast of the USA. There, we had run into a couple of friendly locals from Phoenix, who had described the Canyon as a ‘bloody hole in the ground’ and that taking the helicopter ride was a waste of money. Granted, the 45 minute tour on the chopper was rather dear, approximately 300 USD, but despite what we had been told the night before, it was worth every penny. And the fact that I had never been on a helicopter was definitely an added bonus.
THE CANYON SPIRIT
The Canyon Spirit was the name of the helicopter tour we took and it departed from the South Rim of the Canyon, flying over Kaibab National Forest. The forest is home to the world’s largest population of ponderosa pine trees. It was absolutely stunning flying over acres and acres of forest, but the best bit was yet to come.
Kaibab National Forest
Drawing closer to the edge of the canyon, it was within a matter of seconds where the South Rim dipped away and you get a spectacular view of the North Rim and the Eastern End- and it is far by one of the most breathtaking views in the entire canyon.
The helicopter pilot did an amazing job of explaining and pointing out the geography and various part of the canyon, as well as the Painted Desert and the Desert View Watchtower, which was designed by the Hopi Indians. We then continue flying along the Colorado River, which is in fact responsible for the exposure of nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history. The river and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock whilst the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. Flying over the canyon, the pilot points out Marble Canyon, Point Imperial and the Dragon Corridor, which the widest and deepest part of the canyon. After which, we crossed back over the Colorado River and over Kaibab National Forest, before landing safely back at the airport. For any of you who are looking at doing a tour of the South Rim, the link is:
When doing summer hikes at the Canyon, it is crucial to be well prepared! Here are a few tips
To make the most of the day we had left at the canyon, we set off to do the South Kaibab Trail. Located on the South Rim, the trailhead is only accessible via a shuttle bus from the Visitor Centre. More information on the trail and a map can be obtained from: https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/SouthKaibabTrail.pdf
Here are a pointers as to how to prepare yourself before a hike at the canyon:
- Hydration is key! Remember to bring a bottle of water as well as an isotonic drink (Gatorade, Powerade etc.). The inner canyon is hot and dry, and it is important that you replace the water you’ve lost via perspiration.
- Pack salty snacks. Food is the body’s primary source of energy and fuel, and snacks such as salted nuts and pretzels ensure that the salts lost via perspiring are replaced. It is also crucial that you balance your food intake with fluid consumption.
- Hat and sunscreen. Summertime temperatures can go as high as 40C (106F), so if you can, avoid hiking between 10am and 4pm. It is between those times that the heat of the day is the strongest, also bearing in mind that the further you go into the canyon, the hotter it gets! Plan your day well, and take breaks near shade and water.
- Map, first aid kit, torch and waterproof jacket. These are essentials you should ALWAYS pack into your backpack prior to any hike.
SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL
The South Kaibab Trail is something I would highly recommend. The round trip from the trailhead to Skeleton Point is 6 miles (approximately 10km), and it is challenging, yet not overexerting. Throughout the hike, the trail offers breath-taking views of the canyon, and walking amongst this spectacular formation that dates back to almost 2 billion years ago is more than enough to make one feel insignificant as a tiny human being.
Steepness of the trail
A good thing to take note of, however, is the fact that the steepness of the trail is rather misleading. Contrary to other hikes, you’re walking down the canyon, before climbing back up again. So it is crucial that you allocate twice as long to come back up as it did to hike down. Also, remember to go slowly at your own pace, rest when needed and to keep cool, so as not to overexert yourself.
The first look out on the trail is called Ooh-Aah Point, and as funny as that name sounds, it was indeed rather apt. It is about 0.9 miles into the hike and the track opens out to the widest, most magnificent view.
Cedar Ridge and Skeleton Point
The next destination point was Cedar Ridge. It is a good turn-around for late starters, casual hikers and first time canyon hikers. Toilets are available here. Following the trail for another 3 miles after Cedar Ridge and you get to Skeleton Point. Here, you get the first view of the Colorado River. According to the National Park Services, it is inadvisable to go past this point as a day hike. We relaxed at Skeleton Point for about half an hour, taking it all in and immersing ourselves in the atmosphere, before starting the hike back up to the top. In all honesty, the climb back was definitely harder than the trip down, but the experience of it all was worth every drop of sweat and sore leg muscles the next day.
Tick it off the Natural Wonders Bucket List!
So if you ever get the chance to visit it the Grand Canyon, do jump at it without a second thought, and I assure you, you will not regret it. It will be far by one of the most incredible things you’ll see, exuding absolute grandeur and splendor. And, despite what some locals might tell you, it is most definitely far from a bloody hole in the ground. I had brought home more than just photographs that day. I’d brought back memories of a lifetime. Natural wonders bucket list: 1 down, 6 to go.