Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Grand Canyon, copyright www.gcnpf.org
If your hearts are set on hiking into the canyon, be forewarned: It'll be a long, hard and thirsty day. And you won't be able to do it roundtrip (that's a two-day gig).
Remember, these treks require good physical conditioning. On the park's hot, dusty trails, everyone has to pull their own weight. Pooping out is not allowed.
- The Bright Angel Trail. This 30-mile trail is one of two "superhighways" of the Grand Canyon. Originally an Indian trail used by the Havasupai Indians ("People of the blue-green water") to commute between the South Rim and Indian Gardens, Bright Angel Trail's upper section is nice and wide with long switchbacks and some incredible views. It also has a rare commodity -- shade -- as well as water and rest areas at the 1.5- and 3-mile points.
- The 9.2-mile roundtrip to Indian Gardens, a small oasis situated 3,000 feet below the rim, makes a great day hike. Going down is a cinch. The trek back up is strenuous, so allow twice as long for your return trip.
- Before heading down the canyon, check out Kolb Studio, at the Bright Angel trailhead. This photography studio, built and run by Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, displayed canyon photographs taken by the brothers during the first-ever Colorado river-running trip.
- South Kaibab Trail. This alternate superhighway begins at Yaki Point and follows a ridge that offers extensive views of the canyon. Points of interest include Cedar Ridge, a sensible target for a half-day trip, O'Neill Butte, and The Tip Off, where canyon walls are shades of red and purple.