The Canyon Is Grand—and So Are the Details

The Grand Canyon.
Photo © Grand Canyon National Park Service, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

From its infinity of layered cliffs to its star-studded night skies, Grand Canyon is cosmic—but sometimes the smallest details can help us gain fresh perspective. Here’s a sampling of the little things that help make the canyon grand.

Split-twig figurines. Some 2,000-4,000 years ago, Archaic hunters fashioned long pieces of wood into the shapes of deer or bighorn sheep, found cached in caves by later explorers. Archaeologists speculate the figurines may have been used as totems to ensure good hunting. See examples at Tusayan Museum.

Fossils. Grand Canyon’s long geologic history includes ancient seas that left behind crinoids and other tiny creatures. On spring mornings, visitors can join ranger-guided walks along the rim to explore the fossil record.

Rocks. Peer through provided viewing scopes for up-close views of rock samples from each of the canyon’s rock layers along the Trail of Time. On this paved 1.2-mile trail, every meter represents a million years.

Architectural details. Architect Mary Colter combined an arts-and-crafts aesthetic with a deep appreciation for natural and cultural context. Each of her landmark buildings on the South Rim—including Hermit Rest, Lookout Studio, Hopi House, and Desert View Watchtower—uses detail to tell a larger story about Grand Canyon. Can you read between the lines?

Wildflowers. Spring wildflowers add splashes of color to the canyon’s rocky edges—bright red Indian paintbrush, fragrant cliffrose, delicate phlox and fleabane. Learn more by picking up the trailside brochure and strolling along the Greenway’s 2.8-mile Hermit Road section, a paved, relatively level stretch with fine views and a fascinating collection of flora.

Apache Plume wildflowers swaying in the wind
Apache Plume wildflowers swaying in the wind. Photo © Owen Xu, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Related Travel Guide