The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the main attraction in northern Arizona and thousands of people venture into this National Park each day. For many tourists, the Grand Canyon is the only destination that can be visited, because of time constraints. Those who book passage on a Grand Canyon tour bus from Las Vegas or Phoenix really have no other option than to stay within the bounds of the National Park. Since the majority of tourists never venture outside of the Grand Canyon, the other nearby destinations are far less crowded, which is like a sigh of relief for those who seek some breathing room.
The Little Colorado Gorge is a destination that many Grand Canyon tourists overlook, yet it is literally located right next door to the big National Park. From Grand Canyon Village, all that it takes is to follow Desert View Drive (State Road 64) to the east park exit gate. Just beyond the gate is the Kaibab National Forest, which is a mountainous terrain with juniper and pine forests . There are several scenic overlooks, primitive campgrounds and hiking trails in the National Forest area, so this place is a nice destination on its own. After passing through the short section of the National Forest, State Road 64 enters the Navajo Nation and this is where the majestic Little Colorado Gorge comes into view.
The Little Colorado River begins where rain water drains from mountains near the vast Painted Desert. The Little Colorado River meanders north to the Grand Canyon, where it meets the mighty Colorado River. Near to the Grand Canyon, the Little Colorado River never runs dry, so after eons of time the erosive forces have carved a deep gorge.
The two Little Colorado Gorge Viewpoints along State Road 64 offer spectacular views of the magnificent landscape. Navajo artisans market their wares along this road, so there are opportunities to shop for a hand crafted Navajo jewelry, pottery, clothing, rugs and blankets to take home. In this same area is where the Little Colorado Gorge Tribal Park can be found, which is where the closest views of the deep ravine can be found. The price of admission is usually free in the tribal park, but tipping for services is required, just like anywhere else. Proceeds from souvenir sales and guided tours help to support the local community and fund the facility maintenance, so it is customary to spend a few dollars when visiting such a place.
The short trail that goes to the main Little Colorado Gorge Viewpoint on State Road 64 is easy to navigate. There are picnic tables and plenty of natural rock amphitheater seating for those who wish to spend an afternoon taking in the peaceful surroundings. Safety rails along the rim help to prevent accidents, but it is still best to keep small children nearby, because the cliffs surrounding the gorge drop nearly one half mile straight down.
The views of the Little Colorado Gorge are so mesmerizing, that it is easy to spend hours looking at this magnificent narrow canyon! The roaring river rapids can be heard all the way at the top of the gorge and the sound of water in this desert environment has a way of creating a dreamlike state. Before long, the mind wanders into the realm of the spirit world and a little something is learned during the experience. The Little Colorado Gorge is a spiritual place that provides a chance to gain some serenity far away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
There are many more touring options to choose from just east of the Grand Canyon National Park. All it takes is making a little more travel time to visit the great destinations in the Navajo Nation that many mainstream tourists never see. The Little Colorado Gorge definitely is a great place to start!
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