Last Updated on January 22, 2024 by Kelly
There is just so much to see at the Grand Canyon, and the Trail of Time is one of the most interesting hikes! The Trail of Time is one of the world’s largest geoscience exhibitions. If you have questions like “How was the Grand Canyon formed?” and “What types of rocks are within the canyon?”, look no further than this interpretive trail.
We recently completed the Trail of Time, and it was the highlight of our trip to the Grand Canyon. In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know about the Trail of Time at the Grand Canyon.
Trail of Time: Key Information
The Trail of Time will guide you through millions of years of geological history. Each meter along the trail represents one million years of history! It’s genuinely difficult to wrap your mind around that many years in time. Because this trail breaks the units of time down over distance, you will have a true appreciation for how much time has passed to form this canyon.
- Length: 2.83 miles
- Elevation Range: 192 feet (relatively flat)
- Accessibility: ADA Accessible (paved trail)
- Operating Hours: The Grand Canyon is open 24 hours a day
- Trailhead Access: The trail begins at the Yavapai Geology Museum
The Trail of Time is paved and is ADA accessible. We brought our stroller with us and the Trail of Time was an easy, family-friendly hike. The trail skirts the canyon rim, so if you have young children that are walking, be sure to keep a close eye on them. (We kept our toddler in the stroller for most of the walk, although there were some areas where we felt comfortable having her walk on her own.)
The Trail of Time is the perfect hike to do if you have just one day at the Grand Canyon!
Interpretive signs along the Trail of Time explain how the canyon was formed. Bronze markers embedded into the path will remind you of your “current position” in time. You will also see dozens of rocks on pedestals that explain how each rock was formed and where it can be found within the canyon.
The Trail of Time is technically broken up into two sections. The first section (the Million Year Trail) covers the first million years, broken down into variable time increments. After that, the Trail of Time measures time from a much larger scale. Each meter represents one million years. It’s a heartening experience to be able to walk backwards through time! You can’t help but leave this hike knowing that your presence in time is just a small blip in history.
The Trail of Time begins at the Yavapai Geology Museum, which is just a 30 minute walk from the Canyon View Visitor Center. The trail ends at Grand Canyon Village (or you can keep on walking along the rim trail to Hermit’s Rest). If you choose to start at Yavapai Gelology Museum and end at the Grand Canyon Village, it is 1.3 miles. We started at the museum, finished at the Grand Canyon Village, and then walked back to our vehicle for a total of 2.6 miles.
If you’d like, you can walk the trail going forward in time by starting at the Canyon View Visitor Center and ending at the Yavapai Geology Museum. It totally depends on your preference!
There’s shuttle stops on each end of the trail, so if you don’t want to walk back, you can take the shuttle back to your car.
How Long Does it Take to Walk the Trail of Time?
You will need at least one hour to hike the Trail of Time at the Grand Canyon. If you want to stop and take photos (or just contemplate the vistas before you), you might add in another hour. Overall, you should be able to complete the trail in under two hours.
How was the Grand Canyon formed?
The oldest rocks at the Grand Canyon are nearly two billion years old. Igneous and metamorphic rocks form the inner gorge. Above these rocks lie many layers of sedimentary rocks. Between 70 and 30 million years ago, the Colorado Plateau was created when the whole region was lifted up due to plate tectonics.
Between 5 and 6 million years ago, the Colorado River began carving its way through the sedimentary rock, creating the Grand Canyon as we know it today. Each year, the river carves away the thickness of a piece of paper from the rocks below it.
Today, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long with an average width of 10 miles (although it is up to 18 miles at its widest point). It is over one mile deep!
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Items to Pack to Hike the Trail of Time
If you’d like more information about the trail beyond the interpretive signs, you can purchase the Trail of Time Companion Book. It could be fun to purchase the book in advance to help you get excited for your trip.
When you hike the Trail of Time, you’ll want to bring plenty of water and a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection. We also linked the stroller that we used if you’re looking for a good one! You might also want to purchase a selfie stick to get epic photos with the full canyon behind you! (Just be sure that you are safely away from the canyon edge and do not walk backwards.) Finally, you’ll want to make sure you bring a good day pack.
Any time you go hiking, you’ll want to be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. The 10 essentials are items that you need to have on you in order to be safe and prepared while you are out in the wilderness. I wrote a blog post on the 10 Essentials. Safety is always the most important thing, so make sure you are prepared just in case you ever encounter an injury or an emergency while out on the trail.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Trail of Time?
Grand Canyon National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can visit anytime! You may want to base your timing on weather conditions and crowd levels. We visited during the early evening in June and didn’t run into too many people. We noticed a couple of groups of people coming as we were leaving to watch the sunset. There are a number of benches and large rocks that would provide excellent views of an epic sunset at the Grand Canyon. (We had to head back to the hotel for our toddler’s bedtime, but next time!)
Safety at the Trail of Time
It’s important to follow all park rules and regulations at Grand Canyon National Park. Park rangers ask that you stay at least 6 feet away from the edge of the rim at all times. Do not throw rocks or anything else over the edge of the canyon. You could hurt hikers below or cause a landslide. Stay on marked trails, and follow Leave No Trace guidelines. (Leave nature as you found it.)
Summary: Our Hike at the Trail of Time
We really enjoyed the Trail of Time at the Grand Canyon. It was a short trail that packed a lot of views! We were able to truly appreciate how much time has passed to create the canyon, and the views along the way were some of the best we had of the Grand Canyon. We really appreciated that we could learn so much about the Grand Canyon while being outside and enjoying the day.
We thought that the Trail of Time was also a very family-friendly hike due to the paved trail. The distance wasn’t too far, either, so it was easy for us to add this hike into our itinerary. We hope this post inspires you to complete the Trail of Time hike at the Grand Canyon!
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