Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

A Guide to Hiking the Grand Canyon

Flora and Fauna

Whether you're day-hiking on a partial trip down one of the many beautiful paths in the Park, heading all the way to the bottom or even making your trek rim-to-rim, you'll be treated to a wealth of flora and fauna, some of it specific to the region. In fact, you can even sample checklists of all the fascinating wildlife at the National Parks site. All in all, the Park contains 89 species of mammal, 355 different birds, and 56 amphibian and reptile species. Of course, you should never approach wild animals, and make sure you don't feed them, either by your own hand or by accidentally leaving food or trash where they can get at it. These animals can sometimes get used to humans, which means they could be aggressive when you don't expect it, so be smart. They're a big part of the wonderful experience you're aiming to have, so it's important to respect their place in it.

Ponderosa and pinyon pine forests grow on both rims of the canyon, while the springs and water in the walls preserve 11 percent of the Grand Canyon's plant species, which have many fascinating qualities specific to the region. For example, plants on the south wall receive only about one-third of normal sunlight down in the canyon, so they have developed in ways usually found at higher elevations and more northern latitudes. On the opposite wall, the plants are closer to what you might find in the Sonoran desert. In terms of fauna, the South Rim includes the famously delicate Sonoran mule deer, bighorn sheep, gray fox and rock squirrels -- the Abert squirrel in particular has a distinctive coloration pattern to look out for. You can find mountain lions and northern goshawks along the North Rim. The Kaibab squirrel is found only here, with its bushy white tail, and because it's unique to the area it's actually been designated a National Landmark -- although one that moves more quickly than most.