The Grand Canyon National Park lies in the Coconino and Mohave counties of Arizona and was created in 1919 by an Act of Congress. Long before this, though, it was recognised as a spectacular area of interest and natural beauty, and in need of preservation even before that. It is the USA’s 15th oldest national park and it covers an area of 4,926 km2 (1,902 sq mi).
The Grand Canyon itself is, of course, the star attraction. A staggering 446 km (277 mi) long, it is between 0.48 and 29 km (0.3 mi and 18 mi) wide, and plunges to depths of more than 1.6 km (1 mi). Carved out by the Colorado River, it is renowned for its striking geology: the landscape cuts through and clearly demonstrates evidence of all four eras of the earth’s evolutionary history. No wonder it is often considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The whole area supports a wide variety of different ecosystems and provides a highly important environmental refuge for many protected or disappearing species of flora and fauna.
With over 5 million tourists a year, the main routes – the North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon - are well trodden and worn, but you don’t have to go far off the beaten track to find yourself alone. The rest of the park is very craggy, uneven and remote, though there is a good network of pack trails and back country roads.
The main activities centre on viewing the landscape, and this can be done in a variety of ways - by driving either as part of a tour or individually, mule riding, walking or viewing from the air from several small private charter companies.