That show has been running for a long, long time. While some geologists think the canyon started taking shape as long as 70 million years ago, the rocks themselves date back much further, as you learn on the Trail of Time, a 1.3-mile bluff-top walk that starts near Grand Canyon Village. The path is marked by polished blocks of Vishnu schist, ruby gabbro, and other treasures from the canyon walls, all placed in sequence as you’d see them in a crawl up from the depths. Among the displays are pieces of 800-million-year-old fossil reef, relics of the era when this wondrous landscape lay beneath a sea.
Following the Trail of Time to its east end, you wind up at the Yavapai Geology Museum, where windows offer arresting views of the stacks of multihued ancient rock. Scale models, photos, and maps illuminate the canyon’s origin story, especially the role the Colorado River played in sculpting the chasm.
Seeing the canyon intimately means a daylong hike down, with no shortcuts. Or there is Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder, a free film that screens all day at the visitor center. The 20-minute documentary, filled with swooping shots of cliffs and spires and rapids, brings you into the canyon’s mysterious crannies.