Yavapai Observation Station
If you’re interested in learning more about the canyon’s geology, Yavapai Observation Station is a must-stop. Recently updated displays, including a three-dimensional canyon map and geological column, explain how the canyon was formed. There are daily ranger talks, guided nature walks, and a small Grand Canyon Association bookstore.
Designed by architect Herbert Maier and opened in 1928, this pueblo-style structure of native limestone and wood blends into the rim. Its original purpose and function were as a museum and weather station, with the goal of helping visitors understand the canyon’s outdoor environment.
Broad canyon-facing windows frame panoramic views of the North Rim and Inner Gorge. Spotting scopes provide even closer views, and there’s often a ranger nearby who will help you focus the lens on Phantom Ranch, tucked among bright green cottonwoods at the bottom of the canyon, or on the bridge that leads hikers across the river to Bright Angel Campground.
If the parking lot is full, you can return via the shuttle, but it’s even more pleasant to arrive on foot along the Rim Trail. The 0.75-mile section between the heart of the village and Yavapai Observation Station is paved, relatively level, and partly shady—an easy effort rewarded by wonderful views.
Trail of Time
Between the Yavapai Observation Station and Verkamp’s Visitors Center, the Rim Trail becomes a walk through the canyon’s geologic past. Interpretive markers and rock samples from the canyon’s depths line the paved trail, forming a geologic timeline—the Trail of Time.
Each meter of the timeline equals 1 million years of history. It’s your choice to travel forward or backward in time as you learn about 2 billion years of the canyon’s geologic past, from the oldest rock, Elves Chasm gneiss (formed 1,840 million years ago), to the newest, Kaibab limestone (270 million years old).
Viewing tubes and touchable rock samples help bring the vastness of geologic time closer to human understanding.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition