It really does take your breath away the first time you see it. But getting to the Grand Canyon is relatively easy -- there's even a train -- and making plans for a vacation visit is a snap thanks to resources available on the Web.
Take a look by finding "Photos & Multimedia" at Grand Canyon National Park -- www.nps.gov/grca/ -- for a photo gallery and a Web cam. To put the scenery in perspective, just remember that what you're looking at is 10 miles across if you're standing at Grand Canyon Village, and the village is a mile higher than the Colorado River in the bottom of the canyon. Then click on "Plan Your Visit" for directions, fees and things you can do. That section also has "Things to Know ..." which includes lodging inside the park and motels just outside the park entrance in the village of Tusayan. Reservations are tight at the landmark El Tovar hotel inside the park, but try for a room there first.
If you're taking your hiking boots, check out "Backcountry Hiking" for info on trails and safety. Before you move on, look for "Brochures" to get detailed maps and "park newspapers" which have details on ranger-guided programs, photo workshops, the Grand Canyon Music Festival on Sept. 1-16, and pages of other information including exhibits and shops.
Learn about river rafting trips through the canyon at The Canyon -- www.thecanyon.com/ -- along with hiking and helicopter tours. And in case your mind still isn't made up, follow the "Photos" link to the galleries of several professional photographers who focus on the canyon scenery.
Serious outdoor enthusiasts should check out GORP -- tinyurl.com/399tck -- for in-depth guides to trails, day hiking and other activities in the park, plus feature articles and information on nearby areas and attractions. Then go up to the top left corner of the page, click on "Home" and save the Web address in your browser's bookmarks or favorites files for future reference on other destinations.
Even if you don't pick one of the motels in Tusayan, the village -- www.grandcanyonchamber.org/ -- has another photo gallery, maps, and a business directory of places to eat and shop, tours -- on foot, mule, horse and helicopter -- and attractions including the IMAX big-screen "Grand Canyon Movie."
You can get to the canyon by hooking up with a tour from Phoenix or Las Vegas, but most people drive straight in from the east or west on Interstate 40, take the exit at Williams, Ariz., and head an additional 50-odd miles straight north to the canyon.
Others park the car at Williams and take a leisurely ride the rest of the way on the Grand Canyon Train -- www.thetrain.com/ -- which goes to the Grand Canyon station just a short stroll from the El Tovar Hotel and the canyon rim. Look for "Packages" on the right side of the page for deals combining the train fare with stays at hotels inside the park or at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, next to the depot in Williams. Driving an RV? They have package deals combining their RV park with train fares.
There are several other motels listed under "Accommodations" in Williams -- www.williamschamber.com/ -- most of them just off I-40, along with RV parks and bed & breakfast inns. You can stroll along downtown Bill Williams Avenue, formerly part of U.S. Route 66, to shop for souvenirs. And look under "Things To Do" for links to air and ground tours to the canyon.