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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

Overall rating
4.6 / 5
based on 4,696 reviews

We are from Indiana and booked a trip to the Grand Canyon with Grand Canyon Adventures. Our trip was wonderful. Drew was our guide and he was excellent. He is so knowledgable. He could answer any question we had. He brought his telescope and binoculars and showed us the north rim lodge, the river close enough to see the rapids, kayaks and people on the trails. It was amazing. We had a very good lunch and Drew has been doing tours for a long time and knows all the secret stops that were great. I would recommend Grand Canyon Adventures and especially Drew.

From Flagstaff: Grand Canyon National Park Tour Reviewed by

This was an amazing tour!!! Steve was our guide and did an amazing job, with all the information at every stop. Very interesting! He was definitely the next best thing after actually seeing the Grand canyon!!! If I would have been informed, or read the reviews, I would have opted OUT of the train ride. It was extremely long, even with the 45 minute nap I took on it. I would have rather stayed with our group and spent another hour at the Grand Canyon, being totally honest. But, it was definitely an amazing adventure.

From Flagstaff: Grand Canyon Railroad Full-Day Tour Reviewed by

Charlie our tour guide was SO AMAZING and incredibly knowledgeable! He was fun from the moment he picked us up at our hotel! We had a small group and Covid safety measures were taken. Charlie’s knowledge of the Canton made it easy for our group to decide how to best use our time. This was a life time experience that we’ll NEVER FORGET!

Sedona: Grand Canyon Sunset Tour with Dinner Reviewed by

Wonderful trip with an energetic guide. Shared wonderful entertaining stories all along the way in our comfortable state of the art vehicle with an open air sunroof that made everyone feel comfortable and safe during this Covid pandemic time. The trip was everything I had hoped it would be and more.

Grand Canyon Full-Day Sunset Tour from Sedona Reviewed by

Our bus driver Walter was wonderful! He was very friendly and informative. 5 stars for Walter. The tour was excellent and scenery was beautiful. Unfortunately on this trip we didn't get the wagon ride, play cowboy games or watch the shootout. That was the reason we picked this tour.

From Las Vegas: Grand Canyon West Bus Tour Reviewed by