The New Trail of Time at Grand Canyon National Park - A Review
Wayne Ranney

Incredible as it may sound, it was not that long ago that geology was nowhere to be found in Grand Canyon National Park. Of course, this is not to say that the canyon itself lacked any geology, but rather refers to the ironic fact that topics concerning geology were mostly absent in the displays and interpretive signs found within the park. Visitors rarely were made aware of the canyon's connection to geology or of its world-class significance as a premier geologic wonder. However, with the May, 2007 rededication of the Yavapai Observation Station as a superb regional geology museum and the October, 2010 opening of the Trail of Time, geologic interpretation has now taken center stage at Grand Canyon National Park.

The gathering crowd during the Trail of Time dedication ceremony.

Billed by its creators as "the world's largest geoscience exhibition at one of earth's grandest geologic landscapes," the Trail of Time (TOT) interprets the geology of Grand Canyon's spectacular views and its largely inaccessible rocks. The trail leads visitors towards key geologic concepts that can be read in the rocks of the canyon and serves to help people contemplate and more fully appreciate the enormity of geology and the larger meaning of geologic thought. One of the recurrent themes presented on the trail is that of "deep time" something that the Grand Canyon has in spades. I was honored to be a participant and presenter at a three-day symposium held during the dedication of the TOT, October 13 to 15, 2010. I have already and will continue to use this marvelous education tool in the many informal learning opportunities that I am so privileged to conduct at the canyon. The TOT is the brainchild of Dr. Karl Karlstrom and Dr. Laura Crossey of the University of New Mexico and a host of other professionals, who envisioned an exhibit that could help park visitors learn about and interact with the canyon's stupendous geologic heritage. Initially conceived in 1995, the trail went through numerous iterations before a grant from the National Science Foundation came in at the tune of $2.4 million. Working closely with the parks interpretive staff and utilizing other cognitive and evaluative resources, the group sought to develop an educational geoscience exhibit that would be accessible to a wide-range of learning capabilities. The result is striking and visitors can't help but partake in the stunning display as they walk the popular Rim Trail between the El Tovar Hotel and the Yavapai Observation Station.

1 2 3

Wayne Ranney, geologist, author, and river and trail guide

Flagstaff, AZ

Author of:
Sedona Through Time, Ancient Landscapes and Carving Grand Canyon

Arizona Geology is published by the Arizona Geological Survey. | © The Arizona Geological Survey, 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Editor: Michael Conway