Grand Canyon

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5 geological facts about how the Grand Canyon was formed

Whether you see it from above by helicopter, below by boat, or choose to tour its hiking trails by foot, Arizona's Grand Canyon is one of North America's most breathtaking sights. Here's a step-by-step guide on how it came to be!

  • The rise of the Kaibab plateau

    1. The rise of the Kaibab plateau

    When the Kaibab plateau was forced upwards 35 million years ago, the ancestor of what is now the Colorado River was diverted away from its previous route towards the Pacific Ocean.

  • The formation of Lake Bidahochi

    2. The formation of Lake Bidahochi

    The river's new route saw it empty into the Gulf of Mexico. Volcanic activity caused this river to become obstructed as well, creating a vast lake.

  • Rivers reunited

    3. Rivers reunited

    Eventually a path was eroded through the Kaibab plateau, accelerated by the last ice ages, and the old Pacific-ward segment of river was reconnected to the rest of it.

  • The emergence of the Little Colorado River

    4. The emergence of the Little Colorado River

    With a steeper route heading west now open, the waters of the ancient Lake Bidahochi were drained, leaving just a deep crevice through which the Little Colorado River now runs.

  • It never stops!

    5. It never stops!

    Though the bulk of it formed during this epoch, continued erosion and rock falls have expanded the canyon further still. It may look very different in another 35 million years!

Planning Your Visit

  • When to visit?

    April to early June is a great time to visit the Grand Canyon, arriving just in time to make the most of the rising temperatures before the intense heat and bursts of rain that come with summer. September and early November are also good times to go if you want to avoid the peak-season crowds before it gets too cold!

  • What to pack?

    The weather can be unpredictable so pack rain gear even if it's gorgeous when you set out. In summer, the cool canyon breeze can also disguise the heat of the sun's rays, so be sure to wear sunscreen even if it doesn't feel necessary. Bring plenty of water, too, of course, and light snacks. Trust us, you'll be better off topping your energy up as you go rather than setting out after a heavy meal!

  • What to wear?

    When it's hot, cover up in light, airy fabrics rather than revealing tops and shorts, as you'll be highly exposed to the sun. Sunhats and sunglasses are also a must in summer, and comfortable walking shoes are essential at any time of year. Make sure your feet don't slip around in them either, or the steep canyon trails may result in bloody toes!

Good to know

  • When should I visit?
    The South Rim is open all year round, the North Rim is only open from May 15th to October 15th.
  • Is it expensive?
    An individual permit is $12 and is good for 7 days.
  • Will I need a guide?
    There are some great tours available! Might be worth it to check out our best-selling tours.
  • How to get there
    By car you can take a scenic drive through the Kaibab National Forest, or sit back, relax and take the Arizona Shuttle.
  • Additional information
    There are several free admission days, so check the website before your visit! |
    Don't forget that if you are bringing a car, you'll have to pay for a vehicle permit, as well.

What people are saying about Grand Canyon

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 5,297 reviews

My experience was excellent except the van could have been cleaner and ...this is serious...and understood Bill did his best and it was out of his control...except that he should speak loud and clear and several times repeat when to be back in the bus A couple was late 2 hours....2 hours in returning...sad Customers waiting for 2 hours , inside a bus in a parking lot....that put a dent on the experience Billl was casual in saying “they misunderstood”...no, they were rude and should have been punished some way....2 hours: 1:30-3:30 late! I know Bill minimized it...not good, it was very serious Sincerely, tania m simpson

Great flight. We did the 40 minute airplane flight around the canyon. The check in with Howard was a hoot and he made us feel right at home. Kevin our pilot was professional and informative. As an aircraft mechanic the equipment looked well maintained. We would recommend this especially if you’re a first time traveler to the Grand Canyon.

What a wonderful tour! I was scared to death to fly and this was smoother and way more comfortable than any commercial flight I’ve taken. The pilot was super nice and informative. The tour route was perfect and we saw everything. I absolutely loved it and they far exceeded my expectations!

Brandon was a valuable asset to our vacation. He was knowledgeable and fun. Wendell the driver was cool and helpful as well. The bus seats are not the best but overall it’s no problem. No worries! Only hate the south rim trip was cancelled.

Omg this was an amazing deal!!!! You can’t beat the price! We saved so much money getting a package deal and we left without finishing so much! However, I’m still happy because we got to do so much I’ll definitely recommend!