Words can’t do the Grand Canyon justice, and even the most seasoned of Grand Canyon visitors haven’t taken in all this amazing national park has to offer. The iconic view found at the South Rim overlook is just the tip of the iceberg, and the deepest secrets of the Grand Canyon remain untapped by the bulk of the visiting public.
The Grand Canyon is massive, stretching across 1,902 square miles, and holds plenty of secrets within its cavernous depths and winding ridges. From the curious to the downright baffling, we’ve gathered some of the most surprising Grand Canyon secrets.
A Historical Resting Ground
You might be surprised to learn that a cemetery can be found within the massive expanse of this beautiful national park. The Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery opened nearly a century ago, and now contains almost 400 individual burial graves. Also known as South Rim Cemetery, this area serves as a resting place for many early Grand Canyon families and pioneers.
In 2017, the cemetery was officially closed to new burials due to lack of space; however, the area is still rich with the stories of those buried there.
As you walk amongst the gravestones, keep an eye out for the memorial to the Unidentified Victims of United Airlines DC-7, a tragic but important moment in the Grand Canyon’s history.
On June 30, 1956, 128 people were traveling in two separate commercial flights; the United Airlines DC-7 and TWA Constellation. Due to lapses in communication, the two aircraft collided over the eastern part of the Grand Canyon, killing all those aboard. This horrific crash spurred changes that led to the Federal Aviation Administration that governs today’s flight travel.
If you’ve ever visited the Grand Canyon during the summer months, you understand the toll Arizona’s high temperatures can take on your visit. What if we told you there was a way to frolic in cool waters deep inside the park?
One of the best-kept secrets of the Grand Canyon comes in the form of a gushing waterfall. Havasupai Falls has remained well-hidden thanks to the 10-mile hike it takes to reach its crystal blue waters. However, if you’re ready to tackle that hike—and the 10 miles back—this destination spot won’t disappoint. The breathtaking falls and small, isolated community within the Havasupai Indian Reservation draw thousands of tourists every year.
Visiting Havasupai Falls requires some planning; the Havasupai Tribe administers the land, which lies outside the jurisdiction of Grand Canyon National Park. In order to stay in the Havasupai campground, you must reserve a spot in advance. If you’re interested in exploring this Grand Canyon secret, check on campground availability by calling the Tourist Office at 928-448-2121.
If you want a lodging experience unlike any other, check out Phantom Ranch. This facility is the only accommodation found below the canyon rim, and offers an unparalleled Grand Canyon experience. This historic oasis can be found at the very at the bottom of Grand Canyon, nestled on the north side of the Colorado River.
Phantom Ranch was commissioned by the National Park Service as the first tourist facility within the canyon. Getting a reservation for the Phantom Ranch can be a tough task, but it’s a worthy one. All reservations must be made in advance, and you’ll have to try your luck at the lottery system to book yourself a room.
There are two types of accommodation to choose from:
Background photograph by Grand Canyon National Park, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.
An IMAX Experience
Taking in all of the secrets of the Grand Canyon is virtually impossible (at least in one visit!), but you can still experience the hidden gems of the park through a screening of “Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets” at the National Geographic Visitor Center’s very own IMAX® Theater. The six-story screen provides crisp imagery and premium Dolby surround sound offers advanced sensory technology designed to simulate movement—you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to various areas of the park, secrets you wouldn’t see otherwise.
Soar above the canyon, dip down below the rim, and feel the rush of wild rapids—all within just 34 minutes. Here’s a money-saving secret of the Grand Canyon: book in advance and save 20 percent by purchasing tickets online. Shows play hourly on the half hour, so it’s easy to fit in this one-of-a-kind film experience, no matter what you have planned for the day.
Even in a destination as famous as the Grand Canyon, there are still secret treasures waiting to be discovered— make sure to check out these marvels during your next visit.