If you’ve never visited the Grand Canyon before, you might assume that Grand Canyon Village is merely a tourist center. You’ld be partially correct. However, it may surprise you to know that this bustling “tourist center”, although not incorporated, is in all other aspects considered a city. Complete with a census count of nearly 1500 residents, their own school district, and a Chamber of Commerce, Grand Canyon Village holds more than meets the tourist eye!
With roots tracing back to the early 1900’s, when the Santa Fe Railroad charged into the Grand Canyon, the village was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Known for its exceptional design and development as a town, Grand Canyon Village is still home to many of the buildings and structures built in its early years of existence. Today, attracting over 5,000,000 visitors annually, you can find lodging, camping, access to a few of the local trails (Village Loop, Hermit Road Loop, Bright Angel and Kaibab Trail Loop), as well as the Grand Canyon Railway station and museum.
Running 9.5 miles along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, Rim Trail provides endless opportunities to witness the sheer magnificence of the horizon. Starting on the western end at Hermits Rest, you’ll pass the Pima, Mohave, Hopi, and Maricopa Point outlooks ending shortly past Mather Point. During this 7-mile stretch of unpaved trail, you can literally look out into The Abyss while catching to incredible views of the Colorado River. Continuing east past Maricopa Point, which is paved yet narrow and steep in places, you’ll wind up towards Grand Canyon Village, and encounter the Bright Angel Trailhead. The 2.5 mile stretch from Bright Angel to Mather Point is also paved, and nearly level. This hike takes you past El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House, and the Yavapai Point Observation Station up above, and more breathtaking vistas below. Arriving at Mather Point, you can stop at the Canyon View Information Plaza, or continue towards Pipe Creek Vista, where the trail ends.
Brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, explorers armed with cameras and movie projectors, created a thriving photography studio on the Grand Canyon’s south rim that operated for nearly 75 years. In 1905, they obtained permission to build a permanent structure at the head of Bright Angel Trail, in order to accommodate the growth of their business as the area increased in popularity. From their studio, perched precariously on the edge of the south rim, they sold prints of canyon scenery, and pictures of mule parties as they descended into the canyon. In 1911, the Kolb brothers made the first motion pictures of the Grand Canyon during a treacherous 1200-mile excursion down the Colorado River.
Over the years, there would be many more adventurous excursions, as these two men seemingly dedicated their lives to capturing and preserving all the splendor of the Grand Canyon.
Kolb Studio, today a National Historic Landmark, stands as a tribute to their work, and offers visitors a chance to view the canyon as it was seen through their eyes.
A short distance west of Bright Angel Lodge, the Lookout Studio was built in 1914 to serve as a lookout point for the Fred Harvey Company. One of the five Grand Canyon structures brought to life by architect Mary Jane Colter, the studio was designed to blend seamlessly with the south rim by utilizing native rocks and a jagged roof line. The design of Lookout Studio was a tribute to the architectural style of the native pueblos scattered throughout the southwest. Once used as a resting place, complete with a fireplace, art room and lounge, Lookout Studio now houses a souvenir shop, and a lookout terrace that provides high powered telescopes from which to gain a wider perspective of the canyon’s beauty.
Commissioned by Fred Harvey, architect Mary Jane Colter designed Hopi House to reflect the efficiency and beauty of the adobe pueblos found in Oraibi, Arizona. In 1905, across the courtyard from the El Tovar Hotel, construction was completed in major part by Hopi Indians, and featured the stones, adobe masonry and thatched roofs found in the ancestral dwellings. The interior houses many authentic artifacts, including a sacred sand painting, ceremonial alter, prayer feathers, and several utensils and vessels utilized by Hopi tribe members in daily life. This impressive structure was Colter’s attempt to bring Native American culture and history in direct contact with the multitudes of people passing through the canyon each year. Today, the multilevel pueblo houses the curio shop, which offers handmade Native American arts and crafts for sale and a museum on ground level, storage on the closed second level, and an apartment for this National Historic Landmark’s manager on the third level.