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What is the Trail of Time?

Trail of Time's markers are installed

The Trail of Time is a 4.56 km (2.83 mile) long geologic timeline. Each meter walked on the timeline trail signifies one million years of Grand Canyon's geologic history. Walking the trail gives you a visceral appreciation for the magnitude of geologic time. Bronze markers mark your location in time; every tenth marker is labeled in millions of year! Along the timeline trail are a series of rocks and exhibits that explain how Grand Canyon and its rock formed.

Trail of Time components

Trail of Time's entry portals

Portal signs welcome visitors to the exhibit at the entry points to the trail, Yavapai Point and the west end of Grand Canyon Village. The rock column holding up this sign shows Grand Canyon's rock actual layers, brought up from deep in the canyon.

NPS photo my Mike Quinn

One of Trail of Time's exhibit rocks

Placed at their "birthdays" along the trail are about 50 samples of Grand Canyon rocks brought to the rim from deep in the canyon. Many show spectacular features, like 1.7-billion-year-old folds, 1.2-billion year-old mud cracks, 800-million-year-old algal reefs, or 270-million-year-old fossils.

NPS photo my Mike Quinn

One of Trail of Time's viewing tubes

Viewing tubes along the trail link times on the timeline to features and rocks down in the canyon.

NPS photo my Mike Quinn

One of Trail of Time's waysides

Waysides tied to the timeline explain the key events that lead to formation of Grand Canyon's rocks and the landscape we see today at Grand Canyon.

NPS photo my Mike Quinn

The "Million Year Trail", located at the Yavapai Point end of the Trail of Time, serves as an introduction or an "on ramp" to the Trail of Time. Along it the first million years is stretched out to link human timescales (e.g. visitors' birthdays and key events in early Grand Canyon explorations) with geologic timescales (e.g. climate change and Grand Canyon's recent volcanic eruptions).

Go to the Virtual Trail of Time page to see all the Trail of Time displays in detail.

Last updated December, 2010