Feature

This week’s travel dream: Winter inside the Grand Canyon

In winter, the Grand Canyon is "all the more impressive" because the landscape is wrapped in silence, stillness, and solitude.

The Grand Canyon may be the “Disney World of national parks” during the summer, but come winter it’s a completely different place, said Henry Shukman in The New York Times. Without the traffic jams and crowds of camera-crazy tourists, the famous gorge is a “place of peace, sequestered from the rest of the world.” All those cliffs of blue, pink, orange, and purple descending deep into the earth are yours to explore. In the “silence and stillness, in the solitude of the canyon in winter,” the experience of descending into the otherworldly landscape is “all the more impressive.”

As I started my rigorous hike down the South Kaibab Trail, I was grateful for the chilly weather. The Grand Canyon is located in the middle of the Arizona desert—so though the temperature may drop at night, it rarely falls below 30 degrees. Snow and “tongues of ice” can be found on the trails, but only at the highest reaches. Below me, I could see “sweeping brown plateaus bulge as if they were soft upholstery.” I passed rugged cliffs of Coconino sandstone as I descended into a “deep tub of crimson stone.” With every step came “endless new levels, new shears, shelves, and tables to descend.” Dropping deeper into the rocky abyss, I began to feel as if this wasn’t “just a trip out of the human realm but into the deep geology of the earth.”

When I had descended 4,000 feet or so, I stood “encased in the immense walls of the inner gorge.” Towering “rows of Easter Island–esque monoliths” peered down at me from atop the cliff. The icy, clay-red Colorado River rushed by. Two California condors flew past, and in the “quiet, still winter beauty,” I could hear the wind ruffling their feathers. This was a new form of tourism for me, one that “wasn’t so much about looking at a view as being in the midst of one.” I had become one with nature, alone in America’s grandest natural monument. If “America has a heart, this just might be it.”Contact: Nps.gov/grca

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