Book Review: The Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

We've enjoyed featuring the extraordinary guidebooks of award-winning author and photographer James Kaiser here on our site. You can read more:

Meet Author Photographer James Kaiser
Joshua Tree: The Complete Guide
Acadia: The Complete Guide
Yosemite: The Complete Guide

What I love about Kaiser's guidebook series is the completeness of it (hence the title) - exploring the entire CONTEXT of a place. You'll learn history, geography, geology, places to eat and stay, outdoor adventures, and more.

Here, in Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide, Kaiser explores:

Adventures (hiking, river rafting, mule rides, scenic flights, etc.)
Basics (park fees, weather, getting around, lodging, camping, dining, activities)
Ecology and Wildlife
South Rim
North Rim
Colorado River
Havasu Canyon

Grand Canyon - Havasu Falls

Grand Canyon - Havasu Falls

Did you know that the Grand Canyon is one mile deep, ten miles wide,and 277 miles long? Amazing! It covers 1.2 million acres, all in Arizona. There are four Grand Canyon Tribes - the Hopi, Southern Paiute, Havasupai, and Navajo. We've shared a kids book about John Wesley Powell's adventures exploring the Grand Canyon and Colorado River - this incredible journey is well-documented in this guidebook, and makes YOU want to head to the Grand Canyon and (safely) explore via the river, as well. From the Spanish explorers to the introduction of the railroad, from the formation of the Grand Canyon National Park to the over 4 million visitors to the park each year, this book gets you excited about exploring the treasures of the Grand Canyon.

And, as always, Kaiser's photos are inspiring glimpses into the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon.

We sat down to chat with James Kaiser about his book, top tips for visiting, nature, visiting with disabilities, and more. Here's what he had to say...

Please tell us about your book, Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide...

My book, "Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide," covers the most spectacular parts of Grand Canyon National Park, including the South Rim, the North Rim, and the Colorado River. It's filled with over 100 color photos, and it provides fascinating information on Grand Canyon's geology, ecology, and human history.

Grand Canyon Rafting

Grand Canyon Rafting

What are your top tips for families visiting the Grand Canyon?

Plan your trip ahead of time! So many people arrive at the Grand Canyon and soak in the amazing views, but then wonder what to do next. Grand Canyon has some of the best outdoor adventures in America—hiking, river rafting, mule trips—but most people miss out on them because they didn't plan ahead of time. They think Grand Canyon is just a pretty view. The views are spectacular, but there's so much more to see and do!

How did nature shape the Grand Canyon? Is it still changing?

Although Grand Canyon seems ancient, it's actually quite young, geologically speaking. The Canyon was carved out by the Colorado River over the past six million years. When you consider that the earth is 4.2 billion years old, six million years is like a blink of the eye. Erosion continues to shape the Canyon today, but the changes are relatively subtle and small.

What are the different ways to experience the Grand Canyon? Are any of them accessible for travelers with disabilities?

The best way to experience Grand Canyon is on a whitewater rafting trip. It takes about two weeks to travel the length of the Canyon, although trips are broken up into two one-week sections, so you can go for one or two weeks. There are also motor-powered rafts that whiz through the Canyon, which is great if you only have a limited amount of time, but I prefer taking my time and really soaking in the sights.
Hiking is another great way to experience the Canyon. There are over a dozen rock layers in Grand Canyon, and if you hike from the rim to the river, you'll hike through nearly 2 billion years of earth history.
For travelers with disabilities, there are several paved walkways along the rim. Bus and helicopter tours are also available.

Grand Canyon - Cape Royal

Grand Canyon - Cape Royal

How did John Wesley Powell change information - and future experiences - in the Grand Canyon?

John Wesley Powell led the first research trip along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon in 1869. His team traveled in wooden boats, and it was one of the most remarkable journeys in American history. Before Powell, nobody knew what lay at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It was one of the last places to be explored in the continental United States. Powell's trip laid the groundwork for our current scientific understanding of Grand Canyon.

What tips do you have for hikers?

Hiking in Grand Canyon is incredible rewarding, but it definitely presents some unique challenges. Unlike most places on earth, you start at the top and hike down in Grand Canyon. Day hikers often get in trouble because the hike down is so easy. They go farther than they should, and by the time they turn around they realize how hard the hike up is going to be. It's important to fully understand the risks and challenges of hiking in Grand Canyon. My book offers plenty of hiking tips that will keep you safe.

Is staying overnight worth it? or is it to crowded?

Staying overnight in Grand Canyon is absolutely worth it! At night the day trippers have all headed home, and you've got one of the most incredible views in the world—Grand Canyon illuminated by billions of stars—all to yourself. Grand Canyon is one of the best places to stargaze in the continental United States. It's high elevation (7,000 feet) and remote location results in remarkably clear skies. There's very little air pollution or light pollution. Staying overnight also makes it easy to wake up early and watch the sunrise over Grand Canyon.



Thanks so very much, James! As always, we LOVE your guidebooks and highly recommend them to our readers.

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All photos courtesy and copyright James Kaiser.


Note: We received a review copy of Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide. Thank you!