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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

Antelope Canyon is a definitely cannot miss tour.

Scott, our tour guide, was very informative and knowledgeable. He took really care of the group. He's also an excellent driver, driving us everywhere, taking us to many beautiful places along the route.

Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend Tour From Las Vegas Reviewed by Naddachan, 11/11/2018

The tour was the highlight off my trip to Vegas!

Amazing from begging to end the bus driver Thomas was out off this world had the whole bus laughing an made the trip to an from the canyon a lot more bareable 5*

Great coach trip, very informative. Highly recommend it!

Coach turned up on time, driver very friendly. Stopped at Hoover Dam on route, plenty of photo opportunities. On board commentary at key points. Stopped for lunch at a desert cafe and shop. Had four hours at the Canyon to see the three points of interest which was enough time without being rushed. Fantastic tour which I highly recommend to anyone wishing to visit the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon West Bus Tour from Las Vegas Reviewed by fiona, 12/08/2018

Oh yes, if you want to see authentic canyon, indigenous owned

Thank you to the owners of the land - the Hualapai tribe, for allowing me on your land.

Grand Canyon West Bus Tour from Las Vegas Reviewed by Kathryn, 07/08/2018

Driver provided excellent service , timing and was very friendly.

Driver provided excellent service. He was very friendly and very knowledgable about the tour. My wife and children were very exited and learned from the trip.

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