The Trail of Time

A concrete walkway next to the rim of the canyon with people walking along it
Visitors walk along the Trail of Time, looking at interpretive signs and views of the Grand Canyon.

Michael Quinn/NPS

What Is It

The Trail of Time is a relatively flat 4.56 km (2.83 mile) long paved walk. It is designed to be a geologic timeline. Each meter walked on the timeline trail signifies one million years of Grand Canyon's geologic history. Walking the trail gives you a visceral appreciation for the magnitude of geologic time. Bronze markers mark your location in time; every tenth marker is labeled in millions of year! Along the timeline trail are a series of rocks and exhibits that explain how Grand Canyon and its rock formed.

 

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Transcript

The Grand Canyon has some very old rock.
The oldest rock, way down at the bottom
of the canyon, is about 1.8 billion years
old. The youngest rock, the layer I'm
standing on right now is about
270 million years old.
That's much older than the dinosaurs.
It's hard to conceptualize these 'illions,
and relate them to human timescales but
a timeline can help. The trail of time is
a geology timeline exhibit along the rim
trail between the Yavapai Geology Museum
and Grand Canyon Village. There's a time
accelerator trail here at the beginning
that helps you make the transition
between human timescales of years,
decades, centuries, to geologic timescales
of millions and billions of years. For
most of the trail, one step equals one
million years. You can start from today,
at the Yavapai Geology Museum, and work
your way back in time through Grand
Canyon's history. Along the way you can
see and touch some of the rocks from the
many varied layers of the Grand Canyon.
These rocks were collected by the river,
brought up for display and then placed
at their birthdays - or their ages.
The canyon itself is a geologically
young canyon. It was carved into these
very old rocks over only the last five
or six million years. That's five steps
in a Trail of Time
that's over a mile long

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Duration:
1 minute, 57 seconds

The Trail of Time is an interpretive walking trail that focuses on Grand Canyon's vistas and rocks, encouraging visitors to ponder, explore, and understand the magnitude of geologic time and the stories told by canyon rock layers and landscapes.

 

Where Is It

The start of the Trail of Time is at Yavapai Geology Museum, a half hour walk from Mather Point and the Canyon View Visitor Center. The trail continues to Grand Canyon Village and beyond. One can stop in the Village or keep walking out towards Hermits Rest.

How Does It Work

Walk into the past, walking backwards in time: Between Yavapai Geology Museum and Grand Canyon Village (2.1 km or 1.3 miles), walk (west), backwards in time and experience Grand Canyon's entire geologic history. You will start by walking the "Million Year Trail", which transitions from human time scales to geologic ones. The "Million Year Trail" is immediately followed by the main Trail of Time where each meter equals one million years of Grand Canyon's geologic history. This fully accessible one hour walking trip provides breath taking vistas of Grand Canyon and allows you to ponder and understand the depths of geologic space and time.

Walk from the past to the present, forwards in time: Walking east from Grand Canyon Village takes you through the same experience, but forward in time, from Grand Canyon's oldest rocks to canyon carving and Grand Canyon's human history.

Purpose

Grand Canyon National Park has about six million visitors every year. A majority of those visitors are unable to hike down into the Grand Canyon. The Trail of Time exhibit is designed to be an accessible way to view the Grand Canyon and "catch people at a moment when they are inspired with the grandeur of the canyon, and want to understand more about how the landscape was shaped by geologic events," says Karl Karlstrom, a geologist at the University of New Mexico who helped design the exhibit.

Last updated: June 18, 2020

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Phone:

928-638-7888

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