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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

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

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

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

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!

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!

Our insider tips

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

Awesome experience surrounded by majestic beauty

Mike Stone and David, our tour guide, are the best!! Small group of 14 which I really liked and everyone was so friendly we got along so well. David's knowledge of Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and other surroundings just amazing. Highly recommend taking any tours with David.

We had a very good time. Highly recommended!

Our guide Antonio and our driver Mike did a very good job keeping us informed and engaged. It was a long day, but the Grand Canyon was breathtaking!

Grand Canyon: Multi-Stop Guided Tour from Las Vegas Reviewed by a GetYourGuide customer, 04/02/2019

Amazing time flying over the Grand Caynon

We had the most marvellous time seeing the Grand Canyon from the Air. Our pilot Robert was very informative. It was worth every penny we paid. Booking in was very easy and all tge staff were very polite.

Amazing experience, very friendly service.

Very accommodating Staff, we ended up in wrong place with GPS direction. When we called staff were very receptive and accommodated is in next available slot immediately. One of Very smooth landing out of my extensive air traveling, Highly recommend.

Grand Canyon: Discovery Air Tour Reviewed by Arunasree, 03/10/2019

Definitely worth it! Incredible experience. Awesome servis. Many stops

It was awesome from the beginning to the end. Our tour guide Stephany was awesome. She told us many interesting facts about places which we visited, but also about places which we only passed by and saw from the bus. She was kind and made everybody to feel good on the trip. Also our driver on this trip Evelio, he was funny and did really great job. We got also smaller breakfast, simple but bigger lunch, and water was available for the whole time. And the Grand Canyon? You need to see it!

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