Celebrate the Grand Canyon Centennial

grand canyon in arizona

“The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.” – John Wesley Powell

100 years after being designated as a national park, the Grand Canyon continues to inspire and awe the nearly six million visitors who witness the beauty of the canyon each year. On February 26, 2019, the Grand Canyon will celebrate its centennial of being named a national park, commemorating the park’s rich past and looking forward to the next 100 years.

Today, the Grand Canyon continues to provide a space for all visitors to connect with the outdoors through hiking, biking, taking in the awe-inspiring sights, whitewater rafting, and more.

Whether you’ve seen the canyon before or have it listed on your travel bucket list, 2019 is the perfect year for a visit. Every Grand Canyon experience is its own grand adventure, but this year will be bigger than ever.

How to Go Grand in 2019

On September 16, 2018, the 2018 Celebration of Art: Exhibit and Sale kicked off at the Kolb Studio on the South Rim on the park in Arizona. The event, which displays art from some of the best landscape painters in the country, goes through January 14, 2019, and is free to the public.  All proceeds support the goal of a permanent art venue on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

On February 26, 2019, the Grand Canyon National Park’s 100th birthday celebration will include cake and a concert by the Flagstaff and Grand Canyon schools’ choirs at numerous places at the park. Bring the kids and sign the park’s birthday card, eat some cake, and share your memories of the Grand Canyon at the oral history booth. Stick around for special evening program speakers who will talk about the important relationship between the Grand Canyon and the park’s 11 traditionally associated tribes.

Throughout the rest of the year, the Grand Canyon National Park has planned numerous special events, including stargazing parties, Native American Heritage Days, and even naturalization ceremonies.

While you’re celebrating the park’s birthday, you must take time to enjoy the park itself as well. Yes, the views and stunning panoramas are worth the visit, but try to squeeze in a hike below the rim to see the canyon in different ways. Consult NPS.gov for a list of recommended hikes depending on your ability, or talk to a park ranger once you’re there.

If you missed out on the Park’s birthday celebrations, try again another time this year.  Beat the crowds by avoiding the summer tourist rush that usually falls between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In fact, October through February are the slowest times of year at the park, but also some of the prettiest times to go. You won’t have to deal with the staggering heat of the summer, and hey, you might even get to see the canyon blanketed in snow.

To get a real feel for the history of the canyon, opt for one of the many ranger-led natural history programs on various topics or hikes led by a park ranger.

For a full list of centennial activities, visit the Grand Canyon National Park’s event page.

woman hiking in grand canyon in arizona

A Grand History

You can thank President Theodore Roosevelt for the beauty of Grand Canyon National Park. A decade before this natural wonder earned national park status, Roosevelt pushed to designate parts of the Grand Canyon as a national monument in 1908. Roosevelt believed in protecting areas like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone against development and construction, preserving both the physical features and the unique wildlife that lived in these areas.

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, ranges from 4,000 to 6,000 feet deep, and is 18 miles across at its widest point. The views are unforgettable, and on February 26, 1919, Congress passed the act that established the Grand Canyon National Park in the state of Arizona, making it the 15th natural wonder to earn the title of National Park.

South Rim vs. West Rim

As you start your Grand Canyon research, you’ll notice that the different regions of the canyon have unique activities to offer. Which is most worth your time? Well, it depends on what you’re looking to get out of your time in Arizona.

If you’ve seen a picture of the Grand Canyon at some point in your life, it was most likely of the South Rim of the canyon—considered the “jewel of the American Southwest.” The South Rim is surrounded by the picturesque Ponderosa pine forests and offers the best views of the canyon. Most Grand Canyon lodging is found around the South Rim, with six hotels bordering the rim and an additional five hotels just a short drive away in Tusayan, Arizona.

The West Rim is located within the Hualapai Tribal Reservation and is considered more tranquil and relaxed than the South Rim. Though it’s not as developed as the South Rim, more than a million visitors come each year to experience its magnificent carved rock formations, including Eagle Point, a rock structure highly revered by the Hualapai. The West Rim is also home to the infamous Skywalk Bridge, a glass walkway that’ll truly test your fear of heights. The walkway extends out over the edge, suspending brave visitors more than a mile above the canyon floor. The West Rim is also the only region where aircraft can access the canyon floor for hiking and tours.

Book Early to Visit the Grand Canyon!

One thing is certain—you’ll need to book early, especially if you plan to visit the park during the peak spring and summer seasons. Use Roomkey to book the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Grand Canyon, located just a mile from the South Rim entrance, which is open all year round, or the Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel in Grand Canyon Village. You can also visit the National Park Service website for additional lodging and camping information.

In terms of getting to the canyon, you have a few options. Most people fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport—the closest major airport to the South Rim. But, it’s not really that close to the park. You’ll still need to rent a car and make the 231-mile drive to the canyon.

If you’re planning to visit the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, your best bet is to fly into Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, which you can get to from almost every city in the U.S. However, just like flying into the Phoenix airport, you’ll need a car to make the two-and-half-hour drive to get to your final destination.

Looking to minimize your time on the road? Fly into the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. Although it’s small in size, this airport is only 92 minutes from the South Rim and is accessible directly or by connection through Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, or Phoenix.

So, what are you waiting for? Now’s your chance to be a part of history. Get your hiking gear ready and start making plans to visit the Grand Canyon in 2019.