The Grand Canyon, like the Great Barrier Reef and Mount Fuji, is one of those destinations that has to be seen to be believed. If you are planning a trip to the American West, then you absolutely must include the Canyon on your list. Here's a quick guide to fill you in on the basics of this American trademark.

Meet the Canyon

The Grand Canyon is among the largest on Earth. Grand Canyon National Park takes up 493,077 hectares of land, and the Colorado River that runs through it is 446 km long.

Some of the rocks at the bottom of the canyon are 2,000 million years old, but the Canyon itself, which was formed by erosion of the river, is just a baby in comparison - it's only around 6 million years old.

Getting to the park

The national park is located in the state of Arizona, which is part of the Great American Southwest. There are several driving routes that will take you through some incredible landscape; the US National Park Service provides directions to both the North and South Rims. If you have the chance, check out the charming city of Flagstaff before or after you see the canyon.

Be aware, though, that the Grand Canyon is 370 km from Phoenix with an average driving time of 4 hours each way—just a bit too far for a day trip, so plan to stay overnight. There is lodging at the Park as well as hotels in nearby Williams and Flagstaff.

If you'd prefer to fly, there is an airport nearby, but be warned that its flights can be limited. Still, if you book in advance, you can take a flight from Phoenix, Arizona, or Las Vegas, Nevada.

What to see?

So what exactly does one do during a visit to the Grand Canyon? Mostly, people come just to take in the spectacular view. The South Rim, which is open year round, is the most popular spot to see the canyon. Some brave souls hike down into the inner rim of the canyon, but be warned, it's a difficult trek and requires plenty of preparation.

Be sure to pack wisely for your Grand Canyon visit: at an average elevation of 2,134m above sea level, you can expect winter weather between November and February. As a result, this is one of the least crowded times to visit. The Park Service provides a wealth of information on how to plan your visit to the Grand Canyon.

By Dan Moore

Cover your trip to Arizona and the US with affordable adventure travel insurance from Cover-More; covered activities include canyoning, trekking and horse riding. (And if you plan to drive to the Grand Canyon, don't forget to add rental car excess!)

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance.