When it comes to National Parks, The Grand Canyon is in a league of its own. Millennia of history have unfolded here. Hundreds of creatures call it home. Huge swaths of plateau and gorge comprise it. The canyon is a traveler’s paradise. Need more prodding? Here are 11 reasons why you need to visit:
#1. It’s a veritable bouquet of plant life. Many people get the impression that the canyon is made up of subdued desert-brown colors. Not the case. The National Park is home to 650 types of wildflowers, including pink toad flax, yellow ragweed, purple Rocky Mountain iris, and the red Indian paintbrush. Spring and summer are the best time to see the floral fireworks.
#2. Water reveals itself as a real “tour de force.” The Colorado River gets top billing. This is the force that carved the canyon and runs 277 miles through the National Park. Stunning waterfalls also dot the landscape, some cascading hundreds of feet. Two of the most famous ones are Havasu Falls, located on the Havasu Indian Reservation, and Ribbon Falls, which is on the North Rim’s Kaibab Trail.
#3. The mule rides. These sturdy beasts of burden are available for short rides at the top of the South Rim as well as down to the bottom at Phantom Ranch, a two-day overnight adventure that offers breathtaking views from the saddle.
#4. Plenty of fun for the adventurous. Quick trip below the rim? Try the Bright Angel Trail. A more extended day hike? Go for the South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge. Really fit? Do a rim-to-rim. River rafting is available as well, from quick day trips to 15-day bivouacs.
#5. Proof that bigger is better. The Canyon is comprised of 1,217,403 acres (1,900 square miles). It’s also a mile deep, averages 10 miles across, and ranges 190 miles from start to finish.
#6. It’s super old. Geologists believe the Colorado River created the canyon some six million years ago. That’s nothing compared to some of the two-billion-years-old rocks that have been found in its chasm (that’s half the age of the Earth itself!).
#7. It’s the only place where you can experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Located at the West Rim, the “glass bridge” extends 70 feet past the edge and suspends guests some 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. In 2007, astronaut Buzz Aldrin was the first person to walk the bridge. Since then, more than a million people have experienced it.
#8. The canyon is a living history book. To date, archeologists have uncovered more than 4,800 ancient Indian sites. Their findings also suggest that people have continuously inhabited the canyon for 4,000 years ago, with the first to travel through it 6,500 years prior to that.
#9. Wildlife roam freely through the Park. Coyotes, deer, and horned owls are just a few of the animals that call the Grand Canyon home. Overall, there’s 70 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, and 25 species of reptiles.
#10. The ancient rock art. Indian tribes scattered petroglyphs (pictures etched into the rock walls) and pictographs (pictures painted on the walls) throughout the canyon.
#11. It will lower you blood press. City life got you all stressed out with its sirens and non-stop activity? Let the canyon can solve that. Isolated in rural Northern Arizona, its tranquility and stillness will calm you like a hot bath.
The Grand Canyon is truly a unique place to visit. Nothing about it is ordinary, from its sheer size to its importance to the planet as a World Heritage site. Open 365 days a year, the National Park is open to all, making it the perfect outdoor destination for families and sightseeing travelers alike. These “11 reasons why to visit” are just a scratch in the surface. For the whole story, you’ve got to be there.