Grand Canyon National Park offers a free (well, assuming you’ve paid your park entrance fee), energy efficient shuttle-bus service to many locations in the Grand Canyon Village area (including the town of Tusayan, AZ just south of the park).  Visitors can select from several color-coded transit route options depending on where they wish to go and what they want to see (Figure 1A.1).  The blue (Village) and orange (Kaibab/Rim) routes begin and end at the park Visitor Center, while the red (Hermits Rest) transit route begins and ends at the Hermits Rest/Village Transfer Stations.  A bus route offering free transport between Tusayan, AZ and the visitor center (the purple route depicted in Figure 1A.1) is also available.  Two trails also wind their way along the South Rim in the vicinity of Grand Canyon Village, often overlapping with each other and taking in the same destinations reached by the shuttle routes (Figure 1A.1).  The paved Greenway Trail provides a scenic biking route bar none, while the Rim Trail offers an excellent opportunity to stretch your legs and take in the sights without the relief (and strain) normal to the rim-to-river trails.  The park service shuttles are equipped to carry bikes, making it a very real possibility for families with younger children to bike portions of the Greenway Trail and hop on a bus when the need arises.

Figure 1A.1 Grand Canyon Village Transit Routes

Figure 1A.1.  Shuttle transit routes and hiking/biking trails in the Grand Canyon Village area, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park.

 

Geological route descriptions in Field Trip 1A correspond to park service shuttle transit routes; and since my hope is that you’ll be riding a bus and leaving your personal vehicles at your lodging or campsite, I describe the routes by bus stops rather than by mileage.  Of course, bike riding on the Greenway Trail or hiking the Rim Trail would be the ideal way to experience the canyon.  Since there is significant overlap between these trails and the transit routes, I do not describe the trails individually as is the norm throughout the rest of my website; but instead, I insert references to trail locations and travel distances within the dialogue describing the shuttle-bus touring routes.

 

Purple (Tusayan) Route

The two-way purple transit route begins at the main shuttle terminal at the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center and ends at the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater in Tusayan, AZ (Figure 1A.1).  The shuttle will take you in and out of the park, so if you are staying in Tusayan, it provides stress-free access to the park and helps reduce congestion and vehicular pollution.  From the visitor center, you can take additional transit routes that access all of the South Rim’s canyon overlooks and interpretive sites in the Grand Canyon Village area, as well as plenty of opportunities for lodging, shopping, and dining.  One segment of the Greenway Trail parallels the purple transit route, allowing bike access to the park; although it is 6.6 miles one-way between the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and the IMAX Theater in Tusayan (four of it is currently unpaved).

 

Blue (Village) Route

The blue transit route is the primary utility corridor of the shuttle system (Figure 1A.1); you won’t actually see the Grand Canyon from anywhere along this route, but it affords vital access to both of the principle canyon “overlook” routes (the orange and red transit routes), the Greenway and Rim Trails, and other important destinations such as Mather Campground, the Backcountry Information Center, the train station, and various lodging, shopping, and dining options.  The description which follows is by no means comprehensive, please visit the Grand Canyon National Park website for more detailed information.

 

Stop #1     Refer to Map 1A.1.  The Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center hosts the main shuttle terminal in the park (where the blue, orange and purple transit routes merge).  Before taking the westbound blue transit shuttle, make some time for the visitor center.  Here, you have access to interpretive displays and one-on-one conversations with rangers, as well as the Grand Canyon Association bookstore; bicycle rentals and a great coffee shop finish off the ledger of opportunities.  From this location, you can also walk out to Mather Point and join the Rim Trail, start a bike trip on the paved Greenway Trail (also used by pedestrians), or catch a ride on the orange transit route.

 

Stop #2     Market Plaza Westbound.  A quick walk from this stop takes you to Market Plaza.  You can find lodging, shopping, and dining at Yavapai Lodge, and the Canyon Village Market offers a deli, a surprisingly well-stocked little grocery store, camping gear, and plenty of souvenirs, as well as the park’s only bank and post office.

 

Stop #3     Shrine of the Ages (Westbound).  This stop provides access to the park headquarters, a large auditorium for ranger-lead interpretive programs, and access to the Rim Trail.

 

Stop #4     Refer to Map 1A.2.  Train Depot.  Here, the shuttle stops just across the street from the Grand Canyon Railway station at the beginning of the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District.  The train offers scenic tours between the park and Williams, AZ.  Nearby stairs provide access to the Rim Trail and Verkamp’s Visitor Center (and the end of the Trail of Time).

 

Stop #5     Bright Angel Lodge.  This stop affords a plethora of lodging, shopping, and dining opportunities at El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, Kolb Studio and Lookout Studio and lies a mere stone’s throw from the canyon rim.  Here, the Rim Trail is also the most congested location on the South Rim.

 

Stop #6     Hermits Rest Route Transfer.  From this stop, you can quickly walk to the Village Route Transfer of the red transit route and access the very scenic western end of the South Rim’s many viewpoints.  The Rim Trail also passes right by this location, and a short walk east brings you to the Bright Angel Trailhead.  The Bright Angel Trail is easily the most popular hiking trail in the park (see the Bright Angel, River, and Plateau Point Trails – Tr 1A.2 described in the Optional Hiking Trails section).  This trail is one of three “corridor” trails within the park’s vast trail system (the North and South Kaibab Trails being the other two), meaning that it is regularly patrolled by rangers and that it receives routine maintenance; but it also suffers from large crowds of day-hikers.  The upper portion of the trail follows break-down slopes along the Bright Angel fault at the head of Garden Creek canyon.  Its geological exposures, gentle, switch-backed gradient, piped-in water, and bathrooms make it ideal for a day-hike; adding an overnight stay at shady Indian Garden Campground and an evening stroll out to Plateau Point for a view of Granite Gorge makes it an unforgettable first-time backpacking experience (see the Bright Angel, River, and Plateau Point Trails – Tr 1A.2 described in the Optional Hiking Trails section).  Following the Bright Angel Trail all the way to the Colorado River provides access to the River Trail, which joins the Bright Angel to the South and North Kaibab Trails via a short hike up the south side of the river within Granite Gorge (see the Bright Angel, River, and Plateau Point Trails – Tr 1A.2 described in the Optional Hiking Trails section).

 

Stop #7     Maswik Lodge.  This location provides additional lodging, shopping, and dining options.

 

Stop #8     Backcountry Information Center.  If you plan to do any overnight hiking below the canyon’s rim, you’ll first need a backcountry permit which can only be obtained here.  The park service does reserve a few campsites below the rim for “walk-ins” at the information center, but because of the popularity of overnight trips, I highly recommend using the Grand Canyon National Park’s website which offers a means of obtaining permits well in advance of your intended backpacking trek.

 

Stop #9     Center Road.  An out-of-the-way location; but this stop does offer a small public parking area and access to the Greenway Trail.

 

Stop #10     Village East.  This location lies near the Train Depot stop (which can take you westbound again) and access to the same places described there; from here, you leave the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District heading eastbound.

 

Return to Stop #3     Refer to Map 1A.1.  Shrine of the Ages (Eastbound).  This stop returns you to the Shrine of the Ages and its recreational offerings.

 

Stop #11     Mather Campground.  If you enjoy car-camping, you’ll likely be staying in the park’s own Mather Campground with its wooded, relatively spacious, and secluded campsites (and convenient access to showers and laundry).  This stop offers ready eastbound access to the park visitor center where you can hop on an orange transit bus; however, if your goal is the main hub of activity in the Grand Canyon Village National Historic Landmark District, I would walk the extra distance to the Shrine of the Ages Westbound stop.

 

Stop #12     Trailer Village.  For the travel-trailer camper, the park offers more luxurious accommodations here; remain on the shuttle to the visitor center, or exit at Market Plaza Eastbound and catch the next available blue westbound bus.

 

Stop #13    Market Plaza Eastbound.  This stop returns you to Market Plaza (described earlier); remain on the shuttle to the visitor center, or exit here and catch the next available bus at the Westbound stop across the road.

 

Return to Stop #1     Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center.  You have come full-circle.  From here, catch your choice of shuttles on the westbound blue, orange, or purple transit routes.

 

Orange (Kaibab/Rim) Route

The orange transit route affords access to Yaki, Mather, and Yavapai Points and their spectacular views across the widest stretch of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim’s Kaibab Plateau (Figure 1A.1).  The South Kaibab Trail and eastern terminus of the Rim/Greenway Trail system are equally worthy destinations reached from this shuttle route.

 

Stop #1     Refer to Map 1A.1.  The main shuttle terminal at the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center.  From this location, you can take the orange transit route east to the South Kaibab Trailhead, Yaki Point and Pipe Creek Vista, or west to Mather Point and Yavapai Point.  This description assumes that you head east first, then to the west.

 

Stop #2     South Kaibab Trailhead.  The main purpose of this stop is to deposit eager hikers at the trailhead for the South Kaibab Trail (see the South Kaibab Trail – Tr 1A.4 described in the Optional Hiking Trails section).  The South Kaibab Trail is one of three “corridor” trails within the park’s impressive system of trails (the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails being the other two), meaning that the trail is regularly patrolled by rangers and that it receives routine maintenance; but it also suffers from large crowds of day-hikers and the occasional mule train.  However, the trail is rather unique in that it follows an eye-popping, ridgeline descent for much of its length (unlike most of the park’s trails which are confined to canyons) and it offers spectacular scenery at every turn.  The view point from the top of the Redwall Limestone at the end of Cedar Ridge makes for an awesome day-hiking goal.  The South Kaibab Trail joins the North Kaibab Trail at river level, and merges with the Bright Angel Trail just down river via the connecting River Trail, a short hike along a stretch of Granite Gorge (see the Bright Angel, River, and Plateau Point Trails – Tr 1A.2 described in the Optional Hiking Trails section).

If you feel in the mood for walking, but would rather not endure the rigorous workout that all rim-to-river trails entail, the official beginning to the Rim Trail starts at the southwest edge of the parking area (Map 1A.1), allowing you to hike from here all the way to Hermits Rest should you so desire, a mere 12.3 miles to trail’s end.  It is approximately 1.0 mile between here and Pipe Creek Vista (Stop #4 on the orange transit route).  If you have children, a pleasant day-hiking option you might consider is a leisurely stroll from here to the Hermits Rest Route Transfer (Stop #6 of the blue transit route).  Roughly 4.5 miles in length, this hike affords great canyon views, and offers many rest stops, potty breaks, and educational opportunities along the way.

 

Stop #3     Yaki Point.  This scenic vista lies on a promontory at the head of Cedar Ridge which separates Cremation Canyon on the east from Pipe Creek Canyon on the west.  It is one of the South Rim’s premier viewpoints, and not to be missed.  This is also my unofficial trailhead for the Rim/Greenway Trail system.  With only gentle undulations, it offers relatively easy hiking, and its entire 13-mile length can be completed in a day (although with so many incredible vistas to suite any taste, I recommend splitting the trail into a two-day feast).  The “unofficial” beginning to the Rim Trail starts at the southwest edge of the parking area (Map 1A.1).  It is just over 0.5 miles to the South Kaibab Trailhead parking area from here.  Starting from this location adds relatively little to the nearly thirteen mile point to point trek from here to Hermits Rest, but in its doing, one can boost that they have truly seen all the South Rim has to offer.

If you plan an excursion to Yaki Point, be sure to include a sunrise in your itinerary, this one is a classic (Figure 1A.2).  In spring, the sun is seen to rise over flat, Kaibab Limestone-capped Wotans Throne, an isolated remnant of the North Rim’s Walhalla Plateau (the similarly capped pinnacle of Vishnu Temple rises just to the right).  A gorgeous sunrise-enhanced view into Pipe Creek Canyon and its western headwall comprised of the alternating cliff-slope-cliff-slope pattern of Paleozoic strata is worth every effort to catch the early shuttle (Figure 1A.3).  Here, as with every rimtop view, the upper sequence of rocks is comprised of the Kaibab Limestone, Toroweap Formation, Coconino Sandstone, Hermit Shale, and Esplanade Sandstone of the Supai Group.  The outcrop pattern of these formations is observed throughout the Grand Canyon and will become like an old familiar friend, a product of differential erosion of alternating hard and soft sedimentary rock layers.  In the Grand Canyon and southwest more generally, limestones and sandstones typically erode into resistant cliff-formers, while mudrocks such as shale erode into nonresistant slopes.

Figure 1A.2 Yaki Point Sunrise copyrighted

Figure 1A.2.  Sunrise over Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple from Yaki Point; what place could paint a more iconic image of the Grand Canyon landscape?

 

Figure 1A.3 Kaibab Limestone and sunrise at Yaki Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.3.  The western wall of upper Pipe Creek Canyon as viewed from the west side of Yaki Point; note the alternating cliff-slope-cliff pattern of resistant Kaibab Limestone, soft mudrocks of the Toroweap Formation, and resistant Coconino Sandstone, a product of differential erosion.

 

Many of the Colorado River’s tributary canyons have been notched into the landscape along fault-controlled lineaments, and Cremation Canyon is no exception.  Cremation Creek carved its canyon along the northwest-southeast trending Cremation Fault (Figure 1A.4a); fracturing of the rocks having generated a ready-made zone of weakness exploited by stream erosion.  Careful observation of the valley floor reveals up-to-the-southwest displacement of rock layers associated with reverse movement on the Cremation Fault caused by crustal compression during the Late Cretaceous – Early Teritary Laramide Orogeny (Figure 1A.4b).  The Middle Cambrian Tapeats Sandstone is folded over and partially ruptured by the fault and red Hakatai Shale of the Late Proterozoic Grand Canyon Supergroup overlies the Tapeats on the west side of the fault.  Part of the South Kaibab Trail can also be observed from your vantage point where it passes around the east flank of O’Neill Butte and descends from Cedar Ridge through the Redwall and Muav Limestones (Figure 1A.5).  Follow the trail’s descent; the contact between the red Supai Group and gray Redwall Limestone occurs just before the notch at the end of Cedar Ridge, while the Redwall – Muav contact occurs at trail levelbelow the Redwall cliff, right at the break in slope.   Incidentally, the flat just before reaching the notch in the Redwall makes an excellent day-hiking destination if you want to obtain a much closer view of the Colorado River’s Granite Gorge; the occasional condor perched along the crest of Cedar Ridge makes for a worthy bonus.

Figure 1A.4 Fault-controlled Cremation Canyon copyrighted

Figure 1A.4.  Yaki Point affords an excellent view of fault-controlled Cremation Canyon (A), the arrow indicates the approximate position of the fault; Cremation Fault offsets Proterozoic and lower Paleozoic sedimentary rocks by up-to-the-southwest motion (B), where Late Proterozoic Hakatai Shale lies juxtaposed against the Tapeats Sandstone along the fault trace (indicated by the dashed line).

 

Figure 1A.5 South Kiabab Trail from Yaki Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.5.  A portion of the South Kaibab Trail can be seen from Yaki Point; it clings to O’Neill Butte’s eastern face and then crosses a flat stretch at the Redwall – Supai Group contact before descending through a notch in the Redwall Limestone at the end of Cedar Ridge, eventually passing into Muav Limestone near the base of the ridge.

 

Stop #4     Pipe Creek Vista.  Pipe Creek carved its canyon along faults subsidiary and subparallel to the northwest-southeast trending Cremation Fault.  The view here lies more or less along the axis of the canyon and it is not difficult to observe its linear shape, a product of fault-controlled erosion.  Below you, note the sharp V-notch at the head of Pipe Creek Canyon where water has exploited the fault trace to form sheer walls of Redwall Limestone.  As with many rim views, this is a good place to observe differential erosion by focusing your attention on the stair-stepped nature of the upper Paleozoic sequence (Figure 1A.6).  The cliff-bands of Kaibab Limestone, Coconino Sandstone, and Esplanade Sandstone of the Supai Group formed in response to their relatively high resistance to weathering and erosion, in contrast to the Toroweap Formation and Hermit Shale which are slope-formers, a consequence of their relatively weak mudstone composition.  The Coconino forms less of a distinctive cliff here compared to most locations because it has been highly fractured by faulting (compare this rim section to its counterpart on the west side of Pipe Creek Canyon).

Figure 1A.6 East Headwall of Pipe Creek Canyon copyrighted

Figure 1A.6.  Pipe Creek Canyon’s eastern headwall is adorned by a layer cake of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks whose alternating cliff-slope topography is a product of differential erosion, while in the distance, the Grand Canyon’s North Rim displays a similar banded pattern; look more closely at the nearby cliffs, you may notice that the Coconino appears crumbly, an expression of the “shattering” influence of the Cremation Fault.

 

Looking to the east headwall of Pipe Creek and beyond (Figure 1A.6), one can attempt to place some perspective on the vastness of the Grand Canyon.  A discerning eye can pick out the trace of the South Kaibab Trail as it first comes into view ascending ledgy outcrops of interbedded red Supai Group and Hermit Shale sandstones and mudstones along Cedar Ridge, then through the much-subdued, fault-shattered cliffs of Coconino Sandstone, and finally along a lengthy traverse through slopes of Toroweap Formation mudstones, eventually disappearing back into the recesses of the canyon where it will climb tight switchbacks in rapid succession up through the imposing banded cliffs of Kaibab Limestone.  And in the distance, across the inner gorge of the Colorado River, one can easily make out the thick white band of the Coconino Sandstone’s normally impressive cliffs along the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.

Other evidence of the erosive forces at work in the Grand Canyon is also on display within the confines of upper Pipe Creek Canyon.  Figure 1A.7 focuses your attention on two large blocks of Redwall Limestone that have become detached from the eastern headwall; blocks such as these are fairly common where a resistant rock unit like the Redwall overlies weaker rock units like the muddy Muav Limestone and the Bright Angel Shale below it.  Mudrocks are easily weathered and eroded, even in the relatively dry climate of the Grand Canyon region, and they tend to backwaste more rapidly than resistant limestones and sandstones.  Here, backwasting of the weaker Bright Angel Shale and overlying Muav Limestone (actually comprised of shale interbeds nearer its base with an increasing dominance of limestone upward) has destabilized the massive Redwall Limestone causing blocks to break lose and slide downward over the underlying mudrock slopes.

Figure 1A.7 Slump blocks in the Redwall Limestone, upper Pipe Creek Canyon copyrighted

Figure 1A.7.  Slump blocks formed in the Redwall Limestone cliffs of upper Pipe Creek Canyon; the normally dense, resistant Redwall has become unstable and fractured into large slabs that are gradually sliding downslope due to rapid weathering and erosion of the weaker Muav Limestone and Bright Angel Shale which lie below it.

 

From this location, you can rejoin the shuttle and eventually make your way to Mather Point; or you can hike or bike the 1.4 paved miles to Maher Point instead, enjoying wonderful views of Pipe Creek Canyon and Cedar Ridge enroute (Map 1A.1).

 

Return to Stop #1     Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center (westbound).  Remain on the bus; since the orange transit route runs both east and west from the main shuttle terminal at the visitors center, one must return here briefly before heading to Mather Point (if you intend to take in both portions of the orange route).

 

Stop #5     Mather Point.  This wonderful vista is named for Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service.  Few locations more splendid than this one could serve as a reminder of Mather’s contributions to conservation of our nation’s most uniquely spectacular places, both as an advocate for the creation of the National Park Service, and then as manager of the fledgling agency for its first dozen years of operation.  Because of its location nearest the south entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, as well as its proximity to the new park visitor center and its attendant parking lots, Mather Point tends to draw huge crowds.  However, the overlook is well chosen, offering scenic beauty, especially at sunrise or sunset, and wide-open views both up and down canyon, making it worth the amusement park feel; and I admit that I do take  pleasure in hearing those first gasps and exclamations of awe from many a canyon initiate here.

Mather Point is an ideal location to experience the oft-mentioned array of shifting colors and patterns comprised of rock and shadow as the sun advances through its day.  Dawn and dusk are especially pungent.  The up-canyon view of Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple at sunset that is presented in Figure 1A.8, pretty though it may be, is a mere vestige of the true grandeur of this Grand Canyon phenomenon.  You really must experience it for yourself; the view down-canyon from Mather Point is equally enchanting, especially at sunrise (Figure 1A.9).  Standing at Mather Point, gazing into the canyon and basking in its immensity, a first experience for many, can elicit a multitude of responses; but surely nearly universal among them is an appreciation for the vastness of time.  Questions come to mind, such as how much time did it take to create all of those rock layers, and the Grand Canyon is so huge, how much time did it take to carve this landscape?

Figure 1A.8 Mather Point sunset, looking upcanyon copyrighted

Figure 1A.8.  Sunset on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple; viewed from Mather Point.

 

Figure 1A.9 Mather Point sunrise, looking downcanyon copyrighted

Figure 1A.9. A sunrise view down canyon from Mather Point; the interplay among colored rocks, light, and shadow in the Grand Canyon is unparalleled.

 

Returning to our geological roots, perhaps this is a good time to recall that the Grand Canyon exposes almost two billion years of earth’s history, including a thick Paleozoic sedimentary rock sequence, the Great Unconformity (in places representing as much as 1.2 billion years of missing rock), graben-filling Late Proterozoic sedimentary rocks of the Grand Canyon Supergroup, and Middle Proterozoic crystalline basement rocks of the Granite Gorge Metamorphic Suite (Figure 1.4), plus a multitude of faults and folds related to ancient and ongoing regional tectonic upheaval (Figure 1.3).  Most visitors peering into the Grand Canyon from Mather Point can readily distinguish the layer-cake arrangement of rocks within by their color, thickness, and stair-step-like exposure pattern.  In addition to their artfulness, Figure 1A.8 and 1A.9 display these patterns remarkably well.  Identifying faults and folds can be more challenging, but it is a good bet that most tributary canyons are dissected along the traces of ancient faults; and it is also likely that many of the isolated pinnacles and buttes within your field of view (and common throughout the canyon) are a product of the gradual erosion and wastage of larger mesas first separated from the main canyon rims along fault controlled weaknesses in the layer-cake of sedimentary rocks.  Vishnu Temple, Wotans Throne, and the Walhalla Plateau present a living example of the latter process (Figure 1A.8); Vishnu Temple, lying farthest to the south and closest to the canyon axis, was separated from the main North Rim for the longest time and is eroded to a mere pinnacle, while Wotans Throne separated more recently in time, forms a butte, with the main rim comprising Walhalla Plateau lies farthest the north and at the greatest distance from the canyon axis.

Mather Point lies on the east side of a major South Rim promontory separating the west trending Pipe Creek Canyon from the east trending Garden Canyon.  A pleasant 0.7 mile walk on the Rim Trail brimming with excellent views will take you to the end of the promontory at Yavapai Point (Map 1A.1).  Doubling that distance completes a short loop that takes you along the west side of the promontory for equally gorgeous down canyon vistas, where you can join a short 0.4 mile trail back to the Shrine of the Ages and a shuttle ride on the eastbound blue transit route back to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center near Mather Point.

 

Stop #6     Yavapai Point and Geology Museum.  Occupying a location at the head of the first bold promontory east of the main Grand Canyon Village area, and west of the park visitor center, combined with ease of accessibility by foot, private car, or transit bus, Yavapai Point is one of the most visited of the South Rim viewpoints.  The presence of a small museum specializing in Grand Canyon geology, plus the fantastic 180 degree panoramic view of the inner canyon and North Rim, make this site a must-see destination.  Unobstructed views up, down, and across the canyon are ideal for observing many of the geologic features common to the Grand Canyon.  One such view unfolds across the inner gorge of the Colorado River to the northwest where Trinity Canyon can be followed to its sources on the North Rim at Shiva Temple (Figure 1A.10).  Granite Gorge in the depths of the Colorado’s inner canyon snakes darkly across most of your panoramic view, its walls comprised of dense Middle Proterozoic crystalline basement, here mainly Vishnu Schist intruded by pinkish ribbons of Zoroaster Granite (Figure 1.4).  These rocks formed deep within the earth’s crust, grafted to the ancient North American continent at the site of collisional mountain building long ago.  Original sediments comprising the Vishnu are folded tightly into nearly vertical layers of metamorphic rock that was periodically intruded by felsic magma that would cool and solidify to form the Zoroaster.   The resistance of these crystalline rocks forces the Colorado River to expend much of its erosive energy on downcutting, there is little energy left over for meandering about, hence explaining the deep V-notch of the Grand Canyon’s inner gorge.

Figure 1A.10 Trinity Creek Canyon from Yavapai Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.10.  The inner gorge of the Colorado River and Trinity Creek Canyon from Yavapai Point; the tributary drainage is headed by Shiva Temple which is framed by the dual Coconino Sandstone-capped  spires of Isis Temple (on the right) and Osiris Temple (on the left).

 

The main portion of Trinity Canyon is confined by walls of sedimentary rock (Figure 1A.10).  The Tapeats Sandstone, oldest of the Paleozoic layer-cake of sedimentary rocks overlying the crystalline basement (Figure 1.4), forms a distinctive thick, horizontal, brown band capping the igneous and metamorphic rocks below.  The Tapeats rests on the Great Unconformity, the gently undulating surface generated by countless millennia of weathering and erosion that exhumed the core of ancient mountains.  The grayish slopes above the Tapeats are formed of Bright Angel Shale and Muav Limestone (Figure 1.4), the threesome of rock units completing a fining-upward sequence of sedimentary rock generated by worldwide Middle Cambrian marine transgression.  Above the gray slopes of Bright Angel and Muav lay the massive red cliffs of resistant Mississippian Redwall Limestone (Figure 1.4), its natural gray marine carbonates coated in red muds derived from oxidized sediments carried down from above.  Resting on the Redwall is the distinctively red, stair-stepped bands of the Pennsylvanian and lower Permian Supai Group and Hermit Shale (Figure 1.4), the source of the Redwall’s adobe texturing.  These units are partially terrestrial, deposited along an arid coastline undergoing periodic marine incursions.  To complete the picture, follow Trinity Creek upward, its dual arms encircle Shiva Temple, a large butte capped by resistant Permian Kaibab Limestone isolated from the main Kaibab rim beyond.  Trinity Canyon and Shiva Temple are framed by the twin pinnacles of Isis Temple to the east and Osiris Temple to the west, both erosional remnants topped by resistant Permian Coconino Sandstone.  The Permian Toroweap Formation forms the vegetated, slope-forming unit between the whitish cliffs of Coconino and Kaibab (Figure 1.4).  The Coconino formed in a huge coastal desert, while the successive layers of the Toroweap and Kaibab represent a gradual return to marine conditions.

Aside from the wonderful exhibits housed in Yavapai Point’s Geology Museum, this stop offers another educational opportunity that should not be overlooked.  Following the Rim Trail west of the Geology Museum toward the main village area (Map 1A.1), one can gain immediate access to the Trail of Time.  Completed in 2010, this stretch of the Rim Trail has been marked off in one-meter-per-million-year increments that provides a unique, distance-equals-time comparative view of the passage of time exposed in the walls of the Grand Canyon.  Walking west from the museum and into the earth’s past, each geological rock unit that has been described and mapped in the Grand Canyon is laid out in its proper place along the trail by its inferred age (Figure 1A.11).  The Trail of Time occupies about 2.1 km of the Rim Trail and covers about 2.1 billion years, the entirety of the rock record unearthed by canyon carving.

 

Figure 1A.11 Trail of Time, Yavapai Point to Ver Camp's Visitor Center, South Rim copyrighted

Figure 1A.11.  The pedestal of Elves Chasm Gneiss marks the beginning of the Trail of Time just west of Yavapai Point; this section of the Rim Trail is marked off in one-meter-per-million-year increments with each rock unit exposed by canyon dissection laid out in its proper place along the trail by its inferred age, and offering a uniquely visual display of the immensity of time portrayed within Grand Canyon’s depths.

 

Regardless of your reasons, a walk along the South Rim west of Yavapai Point offers world premiere geology.  From here to the Hermits Rest Route Transfer is a 1.9 mile stroll; if it is all the time you’ve got, it may just be the hike that you don’t want to miss (Map 1A.1 and Map 1A.2).  A definite highlight on this stretch of trail is the little publicized overlook well deserving of its name, Grandeur Point.  Situated at the end of Garden Canyon’s eastern rim, Grandeur Point offers stunning vistas, from its intimate view deep into the confines of Garden Creek’s canyon, to its broad views of the main Colorado River canyon, Bright Angel Canyon, and the North Rim beyond.  Along the western side of the promontory and nearly opposite your vantage point, the panorama provides an unparalleled view of the straight-as-an-arrow confines of Bright Angel Canyon where its perennially flowing creek has cut a deep trench back into the North Rim west of Walhalla Plateau (Figure 1A.12).  The distinctive lineament of this large tributary canyon is matched on the South Rim by Garden Canyon.  This unique lineation is controlled by the Bright Angel Fault, canyon erosion having occupied the path of least resistance as streams tributary to the Colorado River cut downward, keeping pace with base level lowering.  The Bright Angel Fault first formed in the Late Proterozoic as a normal fault generated by extensional tectonics during the breakup of the supercontinent of Rodinia, but was subsequently reactivated as a reverse fault during the Late Cretaceous – Early Tertiary compressional tectonic regime associated with the Laramide Orogeny.  And this major rupture is probably at it again, recently reactivated as a normal fault during ongoing Basin and Range extension.  Figure 1.3 shows many other faults in the region with similarly complex histories; the take-away here is that old faults never die, they just quiet down from time to time.

Figure 1A.12 Bright Angel Canyon from Granduer Point on the South Rim copyrighted

Figure 1A.12.  Bright Angel Canyon from Yavapai Point; the distinctive linearity of this large tributary to the Colorado is the result of preferential stream erosion along the trace of the Bright Angel Fault, a Late Proterozoic normal formed by extensional tectonics and reactivated as a reverse fault during the Late Cretaceous – Early Tertiary Laramide Orogeny and again as a normal fault during ongoing Basin and Range extension.

 

East of Grandeur Point, turn your gaze toward Garden Canyon’s headwall which offers a superb view of the up-to-the-west displacement of sedimentary rocks related to Laramide movement on the Bright Angel Fault (Figure 1A.13).  As you examine the headwall area, look for evidence of faulting.  For starters, trace the path of the Bright Angel Trail downward from the rim; most rim-to-river trails were developed along breakdown slopes in the Paleozoic strata, and this one is no exception.  Faults such as the Bright Angel generally rupture along multiple, closely spaced, subparallel fractures called a fault zone, and only rarely occur along a singular plane; that rupturing produces countless small breaks in the rock layers, weaknesses exploited by weathering and erosion that results in copious amounts on talus, hence the breakdown slopes.  Notice also that the Kaibab Limestone caprock of the South Rim is not level; buildings of Grand Canyon Village occupy a segment of the South Rim that lies below Garden Canyon’s western wall; the dip at the back end of Garden Canyon indicates fault displacement.  Finally, follow any layer of sedimentary rock west to east through the very head of the canyon, the Coconino Sandstone’s massive, buff-colored cliff is one such a standout, and you can see that that layer is displaced downward on the nearer, eastern, Grand Canyon Village side (or upward on the western side).

Figure 1A.13 Bright Angel Fault from Grandeur Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.13.  The headwall of Garden Canyon is split by the Bright Angel Fault (dashed line); the readily visible displacement of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks was generated by up-to-the-west motion related to Laramide age compression (although the fault is currently undergoing extension).

 

Return to Stop #1     Back to the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center.  Your tour of the orange transit route is complete.  From the main shuttle terminal you can catch connecting buses for either the westbound blue or purple transit routes.

 

Red (Hermits Rest) Route

The red transit route takes you to the wide open spaces west of the Grand Canyon Village, with access to the alluring views at Maricopa, Powell, Hopi, Mohave, and Pima Points, as well as the historically significant Hermits Rest (Figure 1A.1).  The Hermit Trail and western portion of the Rim/Greenway Trail system are also afforded from this shuttle route.

 

Stop #1     Refer to Map 1A.2.  Village Route Transfer.  The red transit route provides access to many of the South Rim’s classic viewpoints along the old West Rim Drive.  Begin your tour from here; I recommend an early departure if you want to avoid the crowds and are planning to hike portions of the Rim Trail along the way.  Walking from here to Maricopa Point to catch the shuttle is one of my favorite geological strolls in the park.  Alternatively, the paved road and Greenway offer a great low-traffic volume biking opportunity.

 

Stop #2     Trailview Overlook.  Looking back to the southeast form this viewpoint, the Grand Canyon Village Historic District can be seen lying in a natural depression along the South Rim at the head of Garden Canyon (Figure 1A.14a).  The dip in the rim here is related to down-to-the-east displacement on the Bright Angel Fault, as well as preferential weathering and erosion caused by fault-induced weaknesses in the cap rock.  The view is difficult at this angle, but a discerning eye may notice that the Coconino Sandstone on this side of the fault is higher than on the southeast side.  The village was established at the end of the Grand Canyon Railway (formerly a spur line of the Santa Fe Railroad) and the major cross-canyon hiking route comprised of the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails.  Now follow the Bright Angel Trail as it zigzags down through the Paleozoic rock formations in upper Garden Canyon (Figure 1A.14b).  The trail briefly crosses onto the Bright Angel Fault near the contact between the slope-forming Toroweap Formation and the cliff-forming Coconino Sandstone, and then makes a series of tight switchbacks on a colluvial wedge of Toroweap debris deposited along the fault where it has completely fractured and offset the Coconino.  The trail passes through the Coconino cliffs at a fault-related breakdown slope, a common feature of Grand Canyon rim-to-river trails.

Figure 1A.14 Grand Canyon Village and Bright Angel Fault from Trailview Overlook

Figure 1A.14.  Trailview Overlook offers a good opportunity to observe evidence of faulting; (A) Grand Canyon Village Historic District lies at the head of Garden Canyon in a natural depression along the South Rim related to down-to-the-east displacement on the Bright Angel Fault; (B) the Bright Angel Trail zigzags down from the rim, crossing onto the fault near the contact between the Toroweap Formation and Coconino Sandstone, then makes a series of tight switchbacks on a colluvial wedge of Toroweap debris deposited along the fault trace where it has completely fractured and offset the Coconino.

 

Stop #3     Maricopa Point.  This viewpoint lies on the east side of the multipronged promontory projecting well out into the main canyon just west of Grand Canyon Village.  The point overlooks Horn Creek Canyon bordered by ridges of Supai Group and Redwall Limestone forming The Battleship on the right and a long buttress extending to Dana Butte on the left (Figure 1A.15); its panoramic view spreads along the North Rim from northeast of Bright Angel Canyon to northwest of Trinity Canyon and Shiva Temple.  Maricopa Point offers the best opportunity to view sedimentary rocks belonging to the Late Proterozoic Grand Canyon Super Group in this part of the Grand Canyon, although rocks of the Paleozoic sedimentary sequence above as well as the Middle Proterozoic Grand Canyon Metamorphic Suite below are also superbly on display.  Starting with the narrow inner gorge nearest the river, dark rocks seemingly shot through with lightly-colored ribbons comprise the crystalline basement made up of vertically foliated Vishnu Schist intruded by the Zoroaster Granite (Figure 1A.15). The multihued layers of flat-lying, more brightly-colored rocks stacked above form the Paleozoic sedimentary rocks so prominent throughout the canyon.  The contact between these major rock bodies is fairly obvious, a nonconformity known as the Great Unconformity, readily identified where the buff-colored Tapeats Sandstone rests on the igneous and metamorphic crystalline rocks at the lip of the inner gorge.

Figure 1A.15 Bright Angel and Trinity Canyons from Maricopa Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.15.  Two views from Maricopa Point; (A) shows the right-hand side of Horn Creek Canyon and its eastern bounding ridge forming the The Battleship in the foreground, with Bright Angel Canyon’s linear, fault-controlled trench descending from the North Rim in the background, (B) shows the left-hand side of Horn Creek Canyon and its western bounding ridge ending in Dana Butte in the foreground, with Trinity Canyon headed by Shiva Temple loaming large in the background.

 

Not all of the rocks in your field of view comprise Paleozoic sediments.  A prominently paired cliff and slope of red sandstone and shale are exposed at the base of Cheops Pyramid, running from Bright Angel Canyon (Figure 1A.15a) southward to near the position of Isis Temple (Figure 1A.15b).  These distinctive rock layers are the Shinomo Sandstone and Hakatai Shale, Mesoproterozoic sedimentary rocks of the lower Grand Canyon Supergroup (the red rock cliffs below the pyramid are often mistaken as Tapeats Sandstone, but are instead Shinomo Sandstone).  Difficult to discern from this rim view, the Supergroup rocks dip to the northeast within a large fault-bounded graben formed during crustal extension associated with Neoproterozoic rifting of the Rodinian supercontinent.  The Shinomo Sandstone would have formed a resistant, ridge-like “island” during Middle Cambrian marine transgression that was not immediately inundated, consistent with the lack of Tapeats Sandstone over the tilted red cliffs here which are instead overlain by the Bright Angel Shale.  Figure 1A.16 focuses attention on the area just below and to the fore of Cheops Pyramid.  The NW-SE trending normal fault bounding the southwest side of the aforementioned graben is exposed at either end of a table-like feature formed of Tapeats Sandstone in the center of the photograph (and passes beneath the “table” as well).  Within the graben, Shinomo and Hakatai units dip away to the northeast, while crystalline basement is exposed on the southwest upthrown side of the fault.  The Tapeats Sandstone capping crystalline basement at the lip of Granite Gorge in this view thins away from the gorge, pinching out against the Shinomo Sandstone cliff, especially below the pyramid.

Figure 1A.16 Granite Gorge from Maricopa Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.16.  The inner gorge of the Colorado River, known as Granite Gorge, exposes Middle Proterozoic crystalline basement comprised of the dark-colored, vertically foliated Vishnu Schist intruded by stringers of pinkish-colored Zoroaster Granite.

 

If you feel in the mood to stretch your legs a bit, this stop provides access to a wonderful little 1.6 mile segment of the Rim Trail covering Maricopa, Powell, and Hopi Points.  All three locations occur at nearly the same elevation, so the hike is an easy saunter for families with young children, and the views offer nearly the full gambit of what the South Rim has to offer in terms of scenery and geology.

 

Stop #4     Powell Point.  This stop hosts a memorial to John Wesley Powell, the leader of the first two scientific expeditions through the Grand Canyon in 1869 and 1872, who later became the first director of the U.S. Geological Survey.  The viewpoint occupies a needle-like promontory that projects outward from the rim into upper Horn Creek Canyon.  Views here are very similar to Maricopa Point a short distance to the east.  A short hike between here and Mohave Point makes for an excellent introduction to Grand Canyon Geology and wonderful opportunities to catch a sunrise or sunset.

 

Stop #5     Hopi Point.  This overlook is perched at the rim’s edge on the middle toe of the multipronged promontory jutting out into the canyon just west of Grand Canyon Village due south of Dana Butte and the ridge separating Horn Creek Canyon on the east from Salt Creek Canyon on the west. The viewpoint lies almost directly opposite and closest to the twin spires of Osiris and Isis Temples north of the river, standing as sentinels to Shiva Temple herself at the head of Trinity Canyon (Figure 1A.17).  Both pinnacles are capped by white Coconino Sandstone, but Shiva Temple retains her crown of Kaibab Limestone.  The large, flat-topped temple is isolated from the North Rim by erosion along the Phantom Fault which trends northwest-southeast behind the edifice and then down Phantom Canyon.  The Cambrian Tapeats Sandstone forms a particularly prominent layer blanketing the much darker Middle Proterozoic Vishnu Schist above the Great Unconformity; this sandstone unit and all of the formations above comprise the Grand Canyon’s incomparable Paleozoic sedimentary rock sequence.

Figure 1A.17 Cross-canyon view of Shiva Temple from Hopi Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.17.  Hopi Point sits directly above the ridge hosting Dana Butte separating the Horn Creek and Salt Creek amphitheaters; the view due north from Hopi Point looks directly across the canyon to Osiris and Isis Temples which form gate posts bordering Trinity Canyon, with Shiva Temple in between.

 

This is an excellent place to consider the Grand Canyon’s Paleozoic stratigraphy.  Ubiquitous throughout the canyon is the prominent “bathtub ring” created by the white cliffs of the Coconino Sandstone (Figure 1A.17).  Using this rock unit as a guide, it is not difficult to pick out much of the stratigraphic sequence described back in the introduction (Figure 1.4).  The cliff-slope pair capping the rim and overlying the Coconino Sandstone is the Kaibab Limestone and Toroweap Formation, and directly beneath the Coconino cliff is a red sloping unit, the Hermit Formation; this foursome creates the stair-stepped upper rim of the canyon visible from anywhere.  Beneath the Hermit is the thick band of red ledgy slopes making up the Supai Group, four rock formations consisting of varying thicknesses of oxidized  sandstone and mudrock.  Below the Supai Group lies the major cliff-forming Redwall Limestone, typically scalloped into large curving alcoves separated by long narrow spurs (much like the ridge that connects Dana Butte to the South Rim directly below you).  The greenish, gray-yellow slopes consistently found below the Redwall form the broad expanse of the Tonto Platform which is well expressed here; these slopes are eroded from the Muav Limestone and Bright Angel Shale.  Another prominent cliff-band forms the final Paleozoic unit, the Tapeats Sandstone.

Take your time here, and be sure to explore all that Hopi Point has to offer.  A walk from its eastern end to its western end offers a nearly 180 degree panorama up, across, and down the main canyon.  At its western end, you are treated with the first view of the Colorado River on the red transit route, not to mention a particularly gorgeous vantage point (Figure 1A.18) and one of the most highly photographed sunset locations in the park.

Figure 1A.18 Down-canyon view from western end of Hopi Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.18.  A down-canyon view from the western end of Hopi Point, come back and enjoy the show at sunset, Hollywood could never do it better!

 

Stop #6     Mohave Point.  Lying on the westernmost protrusion of the three-toed promontory west of Grand Canyon Village, Mohave Point’s better than 180 degree panoramic view down canyon offers one of the most spectacular of the South Rim vistas (Figure 1A.19).  The overlook affords a bird’s eye view into the depths of Monument Canyon; a careful observer can even identify the canyon’s namesake, The Monument, a spire of Zoroaster Granite at the confluence of the main stream channel and its largest western tributary.  The usual suspects are all on eminent display as well, with a impressive view into the canyon’s inner gorge and its exposure of crystalline basement, as well as the many layered and multihued soaring cliffs and ramparts comprised of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks.  Down canyon, you are teased by excellent views of the Colorado River on your tour along the old West Rim Drive.  A close observation of the river corridor reveals two rapids, Granite at the mouth of Monument Creek, and Hermit at the mouth of Hermit Creek (Figure 1A.20a).  Notice that occurrence of both rapids seems to be tied with the confluence of the Colorado River and a major tributary canyon; this is no coincidence.  The turbulent, frothy flow of water through a rapids corresponds to a significant change in stream gradient, in this case a byproduct of the deluge of coarse, rocky debris delivered to the river by periodic flash flooding on its tributaries.  The Colorado’s energy would quickly remove these obstacles without renewed input of bouldery material by repeated flood events, probably reoccurring with a frequency of about one in every 50 years.

Figure 1A.19 Down-canyon from Mohave Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.19.  The down-canyon view from Mohave Point offers up deeply carved Monument Canyon, your first good opportunity to see the rushing waters of the Colorado River, and an excellent display of rock deformation, Grand Canyon style.

 

Faults and folds are also on display here.  Lying immediately before you is Monument Canyon (Figure 1A.19), its lower end at least in part controlled by erosion along the northwest – southeast trending Monument Fault.  More distantly, follow the Colorado River’s course downstream where it begins a gentle turn to the northwest, a prominent buttress of Redwall Limestone north of the river projects southward toward the inner gorge, paralleled on its eastern side by an obviously quite linear canyon.  This stone rampart-canyon pair is featured in the foreground of Figure 1A.20b; the ridge is capped by red Supai Group rocks comprising the Tower of Ra at its northern end.  The linearity of this natural rock wall, as well as the adjoining canyon to the fore, are telltale signs of fault-controlled rock deformation and stream erosion.  The trend of the buttress and canyon lie parallel to the trace of the Crystal Fault which cuts diagonally from north to south across the upper end of the ridge (just east of the Tower of Ra) from Crystal Canyon to Ninetyfour Mile Canyon through crystalline basement as well as Paleozoic rocks (Figure 1A.20b).  Looking further afield, shift your attention to the North Rim and the skyline (Figure 1A.19).  Just below the rim, the Coconino Sandstone forms its typical, horizontal white cliff-band.  Follow this layer from right to left to the first large V-shaped notch in the rim; this is the Muav Saddle, separating Powell Plateau from the North Rim proper.  As you have learned elsewhere, this notch too is a subtle sign of erosion along a fault, the Muav Fault in this case.  The Muav Fault was first active as a normal fault, generated by the regional extension that prevailed during breakup of the supercontinent of Rodinia in the Late Proterozoic.  As with a great many faults in the Grand Canyon region, more recently, the Muav Fault was reactivated as a reverse fault during the Late Cretaceous – Early Teritary compressional tectonics of the Laramide Orogeny.  Evidence of this latter stage of faulting is also exhibited in your view and best observed in Figure 1A.20b.  Notice that the Coconino  cliff-band to the left of the Muav Saddle bends downward as it approaches the notch; the red layers of Supai Group rocks beneath also bend downward toward the saddle.  The crustal block on which Powell Plateau was uplifted during Laramide compression, and the Paleozoic rocks that had accumulated on earlier faulted crystalline basement were fractured and warped into a monoclinal fold over the fault when it was reactivated between 75-50 million years ago.

Figure 1A.20 Monument Canyon from Pima Point

Figure 1A.20.  Views from Mohave Point; (A) the inner gorge and Hermit Rapids at the mouth of Hermit Creek, and (B) fault-controlled erosion in the form of Ninetyfour Mile Canyon (in the foreground) which is cut along the Crystal Fault and the V-notched Muav Saddle (along the skyline), and expression of the Muav Fault.

 

Mohave Point is an excellent location to get off the shuttle and hike a section of the Rim Trail.  You can easily reboard at either of the next two stops along the red transit route.  This stop perches at the northern end of the Great Mohave Wall, a particularly steep section of the upper Paleozoic sedimentary rock sequence forming the eastern side of Monument Canyon.  The steep headwall of Monument Canyon can be attributed to westward thickening of resistant, cliff-forming units in the Paleozoic sequence, especially the Redwall Limestone.  As you approach the next shuttle stop (Map 1A.2), look for tell-tale signs of rock falls from the Coconino Sandstone cliff along the canyon headwall (Figure 1A.21).  These features appear as fresh scars where unweathered sandstone is now exposed on the cliff face, accompanied by a downslope runner of bouldery scree, evidence that weathering and erosion is alive and well in the Grand Canyon.

Figure 1A.21 Rock falls along the Monument Canyon headwall near The Abyss copyrighted

Figure 1A.21.  Recent rockfalls at the head of Monument Canyon attest to active processes of weathering and erosion that have gradually sculpted much of the scenery arrayed before you.

 

Stop #7     The Abyss.  A brief stop here is worth it just for the sheer adrenaline rush of looking over the edge of the rim into Monument Canyon.  The canyon forms a deeply carved reentrant into the South Rim, bounded by incredibly high, steep cliffs that drop some 3000 feet to the base of the Redwall Limestone.  Let your eyes wonder out to Mohave Point and be sure to gape appropriately at the Great Mohave Wall that soars skyward along the eastern and most sheer side of the canyon.

 

Stop #8     Monument Creek Vista.  This stop offers another worthy look into Monument Creek’s depths.  It is also a great place to disembark from the shuttle and bike or hike on the newly paved Rim/Greenway Trail out to Pima Point, about 1.7 miles distant.  Choosing the trail potion, in about three quarters of a mile, you will pass an unnamed promontory overlooking Monument Canyon’s western side (Map 1A.3).  A viewpoint here affords a superb view of the lower canyon and confluence with the Colorado River (Figure 1A.22).  Granite Rapids occurs here; notice that once again, a rapids has formed at the mouth of a major tributary stream where loss of energy has forced the deposition of many a flash flood’s bouldery sediment load.

Figure 1A.22 Lower Monument Canyon from Rim Trail east of Pima Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.22.  Lower Monument Canyon and Granite Rapids observed from the unnamed promontory on Monument Canyon’s west side; the promontory viewpoint can be reached by following the Rim Trail west from the Monument Creek Vista stop on the red transit route.

 

Stop #9     Refer to Map 1A.3.  Pima Point.  This viewpoint lies at the end of a major promontory between Monument Canyon’s deep cleft, and Hermit Canyon’s wider, but more deeply inset drainage, and may just offer the most spectacular view along the West Rim Drive.  Lying at the promontory’s western edge, your eagle’s eerie provides a near perfect view of Hermit Creek’s expansive canyon (Figure 1A.23a).  Hermit Creek carved its canyon parallel to and on the downthrown western side of the northeast – southwest trending Hermit Creek Fault.  Several minor fault splays lie subparallel to the main fault and can be observed to cut through Supai Group and Redwall Limestone directly below your perch (Figure 1A.23b).  Weaknesses induced by the faultinghave caused slumping to occur within the Supai and Redwall units and resulted in a large landslide observed in Figure 1A.23b (the toe of the slide mass is brightly light by sunshine).  Much of lower Hermit Canyon is comprised of greenish-gray slopes eroded from the Muav Limestone and Bright Angel Shale and form the broad expanse of the Tonto Platform which is well expressed here (Figure 1A.23).  The thick, brown cliff-band underlying the platform comprises the Tapeats Sandstone, the final sedimentary rock unit of the Paleozoic sequence.  These latter three formations accumulated successively, during an overall rise in sea level during the Cambrian.  As the west coast of North America was inundated by marine transgression, sandy to pebbly Tapeats beaches were laid down in wave-agitated water, followed by deeper, quieter offshore waters that allowed accumulation of Bright Angel muds, and finally, the limestones of the Muav were formed on a distal carbonate platform far from terrigenous input.  The Tapeats rests on the undulating surface of the Great Unconformity; Middle Proterozoic Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite lie below, so the erosional gap here represents nearly 1.2 billion years of missing rock record.

Figure 1A.23 Hermit Canyon from Pima Point

Figure 1A.23.  Your downcanyon panorama from Pima Point looks directly into the wide expanse of Hermit Canyon and on down the winding corridor of the Colorado River (A); Hermit Canyon is carved along the northeast – southwest trending Hermit Creek Fault, one splay of which can be observed to bisect the narrow ridge of Redwall Limestone forming Copeland Butte and pass into Supai Group rocks nearly under your feet (B).

 

If you have an opportunity, don’t miss the chance to witness a sunset from Pima Point (Figure 1A.24).  Perhaps not quite as outrageous (or well known) as that of a Mather Point sunset, but the downcanyon view is less obstructed and uniquely gorgeous.

Figure 1A.24 Sunset at Pima Point copyrighted

Figure 1A.24.  A marvelous sunset from Pima Point looking north along Copeland Butte, the narrow spine of Redwall Limestone separating Monument Canyon to the north from Hermit Canyon to the south; in the distance, the last rays of the sun shine on Shiva Temple, bounded to the east and west by Isis and Osiris Temples.

 

Stop #10     Hermits Rest.  The end of the line for the red transit route and the West Rim Drive; there is naught else to do but hike, bike, or ride the bus back to the first stop at the Village Route Transfer Station.  The views from Hermits Rest are not much to describe in comparison to what you’ve witnessed on the way here; but Hermits Rest is historically significant and it does offer a snack bar and gift shop.  This location serves as the jump off point for the Hermit Trail (see the Hermit Trail – Tr 1A.3 described in the Optional Hiking Trails section).  This is a classic rim to river trail which connects with the Boucher Trail and Dripping Springs Trail (see the Boucher and Dripping Springs Trails – Tr 1A.1 described in the Optional Hiking Trails section) in upper Hermit Canyon, as well as the Tonto Trail in the lower canyon (see the Tonto Trail West; Indian Garden to Boucher Creek – Tr 1A.5).  A long, but fairly popular day-hiking option is an out and back excursion to Dripping Springs, lots of great scenery and a great introduction to the Paleozoic geology of the inner canyon.  This location also serves as the end of the Rim/Greenway Trail and walk back to Pima Point and beyond is also a worthy goal from here.

 

Return to Stop #9    Pima Point.  The red transit route stops at only three locations on the return trip, the first is here at Pima Point.  An inviting option to your return ride is to hike the Rim Trail/Greenway Trail from here to Mohave Point around the lip of Monument Creek yawning amphitheater.

 

Return to Stop #6    Refer to Map 1A.2.  Mohave Point.  Second stop on the return route and a good opportunity for a pick up after you have hiked part of the Rim Trail/Greenway Trail from either direction.

 

Return to Stop #4    Powell Point.  The final stop on the return route.  A short hike between here and Grand Canyon Village in either direction makes a wonderful sunrise or sunset stroll.

 

Return to Stop #1    Village Route Transfer.  Back to the beginning of the red transit route; hope you enjoyed the show!  From this location, you can catch a connecting blue eastbound transit bus by walking over to the nearby Hermit Route Transfer Station.

 

Road Route and Hiking Maps

Phantom Ranch, AZ (WC quarter) (Map 1A.1)

Map 1A.1.  Shaded-relief map of the west-central quarter of the Phantom Ranch, AZ 7.5 minute quadrangle.

 

Grand Canyon, AZ (EC quarter) (Map 1A.2)

Map 1A.2.  Shaded-relief map of the east-central quarter of the Grand Canyon, AZ 7.5 minute quadrangle.

 

Grand Canyon, AZ (WC quarter) (Map 1A.3)

Map 1A.3.  Shaded-relief map of the west-central quarter of the Grand Canyon, AZ 7.5 minute quadrangle.