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.

What people are saying about Grand Canyon

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 4,966 reviews

I loved that they were able to pick me up from my hotel on the strip. The buses were comfortable and clean. They agreed to the mask mandate. Dierk was our guide and he was simple fantastic. He was funny and full of cool facts and knowledge. Going to Eagle Point, walking the Skywalk and Guano Point will forever be some of my top experiences. It's just mesmerizing. I paid $65 extra to the cashier's at Skywalk bridge to purchase 20 photos their staff took with professional cameras. Well worth it. You can preview the pics and choose to buy singles too. They used professional cameras. Our tour group made adequate stops on the way to the canyon and back for pictures along the way at Joshua Tree forest and for restroom breaks. The breakfast provided included fruit, muffins, breakfast bar and OJ or water. It was plenty for me. Lunch was choice of various sandwiches you choose ahead of time. It was better than expected. In summary, I HIGHLY recommend this tour.

Great experience, a must do if you are in Las Vegas. The road trip feels shorter thanks to Walter, the amazing tour guide. I had been before at Vegas and around and didn’t know anything he explained during the tour. Great light breakfast, fresh sandwiches for lunch and water galore. I love how independent was the tour, I usually do not take tours because I do not want to feel ride to a group and do activities I do not want to do, not the case here. You have 3 hours at your own to enjoy the Canyon how you want it. We were back to our hotel at 5:00 pm and we were the last ones at the bus. If you book with them, be ready to enjoy form the beginning to the end.

This was the BEST experience ever. Matt and Kevin were great tour guides. They helped us get so many great photos and build memories. Our original tour canceled on us last minute, and boy am I glad they did! I booked after 6pm the day before and thankfully Max Tours was able to accommodate us. They were extremely punctual, professional and the van is super clean and well maintained with hand sanitizers. With stops at seven magic mountains, Hoover dam, and Grand Canyon.. plus a few bonus stops for great photos! I definitely recommend Max Tours to EVERYONE. 10/10. Thank you so much for making our trip so memorable!

I HIGHLY recommend this tour. My son and I had already done 2 days “on our own”, and within the first 15 minutes I knew more about Arizona than I had learned in 48 hours. Eric was AMAZING. His knowledge of Arizona history, vegetation, culture, folklore, traditions - just to name a few, was invaluable! This is a MUST DO especially if you can get Eric as your driver/guide/expert.

Walter (our driver and tour guide, was the absolute greatest! The trip was stunning and having Walter was more than expected! Loved it! Thank you! Give that man a raise!!! :)