First explored by John Wesley Powell soon after the Civil War, Grand Canyon National Park is a geologic layer cake displaying more than two billion years of history. “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it,” heralded pioneering conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt, “The great sight that every American should see.”
There are at least three very different ways to see the Grand Canyon. The most popular is a visit to the tourist-friendly South Rim. Here are such panoramic viewpoints as Mather, Yavapai and Powell Points as well as many
other great scenes of the iconic landforms within the canyon. Trails starting here include the Bright Angel and the Kaibab, providing access to world-class hiking down to the river and the famed mule rides into the mile-deep Grand Canyon.
Another good option is a stay on the less well-known North Rim. The Grand Canyon Lodge is perched right on the rim at Bright Angel Point and just a short drive from the wonderful views at Cape Royal and Point Imperial. Even though the North and South Rims are only a few miles apart here as the crow flies, the drive from one to the other is well over 200 miles.
Also on the North Rim is the view that can be had at Toroweap Point. Toroweap is reached by turning south off Rt. 389 west of Pipe Spring National Monument and then driving about 65 miles south on Rt. 109, an unpaved
track that gets fairly rough for the last 5-6 miles. This is not an easy place to reach, and you may be the only one there once you arrive. I strongly recommend driving a high-clearance vehicle. And since this is strictly a sunrise shot, you will need to either drive in the dark or spend the night.
The third option may be the best of all. For the ultimate Grand Canyon experience, consider a rafting trip of a couple of hundred miles down the Colorado River. Raft through some of the 100 rapids of varying classes through the very heart of this geologic layer cake. Several outfitters operating from the Marble Canyon area near Page, Arizona, offer deluxe trips of about one to two weeks. Take your camera gear, a sleeping bag and some sunscreen and experience an adventure that many have called life-changing. Along the way you can explore unknown side canyons and experience such special places as secretive Elves Chasm, the ancient granary of Nankoweap and twisting Deer Creek. Throw in an opportunity to sleep alongside the Colorado under the starry Arizona skies and you’ve got a sure winner.
Whichever portion of this immense wonderland that you choose to explore, isolate small segments of it in your compositions. Many folks (myself included) are so overwhelmed with the place on their first visit that they try to capture its whole enormity in a single photograph. As we quickly learn, it simply can’t be done. To achieve big results, think small.
The South Rim offers many lodging options both inside the park and just over the boundary. On the North Rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge has both deluxe and comfortable basic cabins. Rafting trips generally provide camping with a good deal of panache.
Jerry Ginsberg is a freelance nature and landscape photographer based in Florida. His work has graced the covers and pages of hundreds of books, magazines and travel catalogs. Jerry has hiked and photographed all 59 U.S. national parks. To see more of his work, go to www.JerryGinsberg.com