Arizona‘s Grand Canyon, like a master sculptor, has chiseled its way through millennia, crafting a geographical poem that speaks in hues of red, ochre, and gold. Peer over its living canvas of light. Hike down into its immense depth (with proper preparation). White water raft the Colorado River that runs through it (with advance reservations). Walk the horseshoe-shaped, glass Skywalk suspended 4,000 feet above the canyon floor (with a steely spine). Stargaze and visit the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, where Pluto was discovered.
Flagstaff pulses as a park gateway – one part Wild West (with restored brick buildings and a historic railroad district) and one part tourist central (it’s chock full of hostelries and eateries). Nostalgia incarnate, Williams holds court as the last rail stop on the unpretentious Route 66, where neon signs flicker over vintage diners and the steam-engine Grand Canyon Railway still rumbles towards the canyon. — Kim Grant