My Grand Canyon photos — and some stories to go with them

By Caitlin Kelly

The Grand Canyon is 277 river miles long, a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide. It was declared a national park in 1919 — and today receives five million visitors a year. You can visit the South Rim, (the most popular), which is dotted with hotels and two campgrounds, restaurants and shops, or the North Rim, which is 1,000 feet higher — and therefore even cooler. Altitude is about 7,000 feet, which can leave you breathless from even simple activities.

At the bottom lies the Colorado River, along which veteran boatmen take brave souls.

Many visitors, though, never venture below the rim, preferring only to snap a few photos or walk around the rim, which is easily done through a system of free buses allowing you to walk as little, or as much, as you like.

In 1994, I hiked down Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point — stupidly, doing the last, unshaded section, alone at noon — by then 100+ degrees. It was the first time I truly understood hyperthermia, how the body literally cooks. In desperation, I began pouring my bottles of water over my head. I sat in the creek at Indian Garden for 30 minutes, soaking my clothes completely and trying to cool my core temperature.

Then I looked up at the rim and thought, “Not possible.” Eight hours later, I emerged, the straps of my backpack crusted white with the dried salt of my sweat. I would urge every visitor to hike into the Canyon, intelligently. Nothing compares to the experience of being inside it, not just looking at it from a safe, noisy, crowded distance.

Note: all images here are mine, and copyright!

If you are afraid of heights, don’t stand close to the rim! The edges are rocky, slippery and unprotected.  People have fallen to their deaths.


The canyon is the result of billions of years of erosion, with multiple layers of rock. The white layer is Kaibab limestone.


This is Bright Angel Trail, on a nice, flat bit! It is the most-used trail and is also used by people riding on mules, so look out for fresh dung! Hikers must step aside when they meet a mule and give them right of way. I shot this image late afternoon, in late May, so there is some shade. Hiking in direct sun, and 100-degree temperatures — the temperature rises as you descend into the canyon — is doubly tiring. Drink a lot of water!

I didn’t take as many photos as I thought, but Jose and I like this one the best of all. Several challenges make photographing the Canyon difficult — there is often dust; the scale is enormous; it’s hard to pick a spot that includes some sense of scale (which is why I framed this with weathered, gnarled branches.) The small silvery curve on the left-hand side is the Colorado River, far below.



This sunset image was taken from Hopi Point, one of the overlooks on the South Rim. It is one of the two most popular spots for people to congregate, and the views are excellent. But too many people are rude, noisy and distracting — if you really want to savor a sunset in solitude and silence, do not pick that spot! The sun sets around 7:30 (late May) and rises by 5:00 a.m.


One of the most amazing and lovely aspects of the Canyon is the terrific abundance of wildlife. This shot was taken with a small Canon G7, not a telephoto lens — i.e. I was barely a few feet away from this squirrel. But — very serious warning! — the single most common injury here is squirrel attacks. If you are bitten, you will need five injections from the lovely folks staffing the GC Clinic: plague, tetanus, rabies and two others. Do not feed the damn squirrels!


25 thoughts on “My Grand Canyon photos — and some stories to go with them

  1. Stunning. Those two middle photos with the silver curve of the river and the sunset are profoundly beautiful. I’m not a religious person but when I see sights like that, especially in person, I definitely feel a greater presence. One of the reasons I love being in nature. Thank you so much for sharing the images and the information.

  2. Wonderful photos, Caitlin. Be proud! I, too, like the gnarled branch in the foreground and the silver thread in the distance. But you forgot to take a photo of the condors and the rangers so you have to go back and finish the assignment. If I could hike that trail, the height would not bother me – it looks like a good trail. But of course, I have not been on it so maybe I am full of it.

  3. Yes, beautiful photos. But squirrels! Yikes! After a long, long day hiking in Yosemite, I was trying to hydrate myself and eat some nuts when I was surrounded by a pack of squirrels. They are not afraid of humans. Each time I’d move, they’d surround me again. Sigh. Gotta watch those squirrels. . . they are not these cute little critters in fur coats.

  4. Jessica Slavin

    Wow! Beautiful photos. In the middle one, I also love how you used the tree in the foreground and captured the reflection of the sun on the river. Beautiful. And, it makes me wish I had ventured down from the rim the one time I visited the Grand Canyon. Thanks for sharing these.

    1. Thanks! Without some sort of framing device, you have no sense of scale, I think. I found those trees so beautiful — I also have some super-tight closeups of their color and texture.

      Below the rim is the bomb!

  5. Beautiful photographs showing the majesty of the whole area. My nephew has just returned from a visit and was awe struck by the scale of it. I’m looking forward even more to seeing his photographs too. xx Hugs xx

      1. We have NOTHING to compare with the Grand Canyon! I drove through the NZ geological equivalent a few weeks back – Manawatu Gorge, 6 miles long with the river running maybe 80 feet below the road. A squib of a place by Grand Canyon standards (and the cliff sides relentlessly collapse into the road, but that’s anoither story).

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