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.

Other Sightseeing Options in Grand Canyon

Want to discover all there is to do in Grand Canyon? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Grand Canyon

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 5,473 reviews

The tour guide Robert was fantastic! without him we wouldn't have known anything about what we were seeing.I felt bad for our guide at the end.We were suppose to be back at 2:00.one man kept us waiting for 50 minutes.we all thought after 30 minutes Robert should have left him.But he was very calm and said he couldn't.

Our guide was very knowledgeable about the area we drove through on our way and about the Grand Canyon. Highly recommend this tour if you are only able to spend a day at the Grand Canyon

Fue una experiencia inolvidable, la recomiendo 100%. Agradezco a nuestra driver y guía NENA, una persona muy agradable, jovial y atenta. Gracias Nena por tan excelente servicio.

It was an awesome experience. I never had been in a helicopter before. It was a very smooth and comfortable experience. And oh so great. I would do it over again and again!

Steve was very knowledgeable and showed us so many sites.