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16 Must-See Attractions and Things to Do in the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is America’s most iconic and inspiring natural attraction and has been a popular road trip destination for generations.

Although the North Rim and South Rim can be accessed from different sides of the canyons, most visitors visit the Grand Canyon National Park’s, South Rim. While the North Rim is closed during winter, the South Rim (and West Rim) are accessible year-round from popular tourist destinations such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Flagstaff.

These attractions are located on the South Rim. The exception is the Skywalk At Eagle Point which can be found at the West Rim.

The South Entrance is the main point of entry to the South Rim. This is also where the main visitor centre is located. You can also enter via the east at the Desert View Entrance. However, for most people, this is less convenient.

You can explore the park via road from the South Entrance Visitor Center: Hermit Road runs east, past the small resort of Grand Canyon Village (more commonly known as Village) and numerous overlooks. The road is open to private cars from December 1 through February 31, but you will need to use the park shuttle buses outside these times.

Another option is Desert View Drive. This drive runs east of the Visitor Center and 22 miles to the Desert View Watchtower. These drives offer different views of the Canyon and are both spectacular.

Many tours offer unique ways to see the Grand Canyon. These range from helicopter rides to whitewater rafting. Some depart directly from the Grand Canyon, while others leave from nearby cities like Las Vegas.

Maximizing your time by deciding where to go and what you will see once you are there is possible. This will make your visit more enjoyable and relaxing.

Accommodation is available at the Village national park and is managed by a concessioner. The small town of Tusayan is located just outside the South Entrance. It has a greater variety of chain hotels as well as other services.

  • Grand Canyon South Rim Attractions
  • Grand Canyon West Rim Attractions
  • Grand Canyon Tours
  • How to get to the Grand Canyon
  • Where to Stay in the Grand Canyon

Attractions at the Grand Canyon South Rim

1.Visitor Center & Mather Point Overlook

The best way to enter the park from Williams’ direction is to head straight to the visitor centre. A few displays give a brief overview of the park and some background information. The park staff can answer questions or provide information about hiking trails and other attractions.

A short path will take you to Mather Overlook. This is a popular spot in the park because of its spectacular views and easy access. A couple of large viewing areas are located on a peninsula just out into Canyon, providing stunning views over the landscape. This is a great spot to view the Grand Canyon sunrise.

2. Rim Trail

For 13 miles, the Rim Trail, a mostly paved walking trail, follows the Grand Canyon’s rim. It runs east from the Visitor Center to South Kaibab Trailhead and ends at Hermit’s Rest at the extreme west end of Hermit Road.

The trail is almost level and offers stunning views all the way.

It can be accessed from the Mather Point visitor centre, in the Village or any of the scenic stops on Hermit Road. The Mather Point section, which runs west of Yavapai Point, is a good choice for those with limited time. It also includes the Geology Museum.

3. Geological Museum

The Geological Museum is one of the most informative and interesting exhibits in Grand Canyon National Park. A group of prominent geologists chose this location in the 1920s to house the museum because of its stunning views.

The museum explains in detail the layers and rock that can be seen as you look through the wall of windows. The formation of the Canyon is described in detail by huge diagrams, which show everything from the lifting of the rocks to how the water runs through it.

You can see the trails below from the windows. There is also a view of Plateau Point, an offshoot of the Bright Angel Trail. A side path leads down to the Colorado River.

4. Hermit Road Drive

Hermit Road is a scenic seven-mile drive with many viewpoints along the canyon rim. This is the most well-known route in the park.

You can drive your vehicle if you visit between December 1 and February 30. You must use the park shuttle buses from March 1 through November 30, which run every 10 to 15 mins and stop at nine overlooks.

The overlooks that line this route offers breathtaking views of the Canyon. Despite being a source of controversy, some of the most spectacular views can be found at Maricopa PointHopi PointThe Abyss and Pima Point. You might skip Hermit’s Rest if you have limited time.

5. Bright Angel Hiking Trail

Bright Angel Hike is the most popular hike in the park. It starts at the Village, where the shuttle bus to Hermit’s Rest begins. Although this is a strenuous hike, many walk a few miles to get an idea of the experience. Round-trip from Bright Angel Campground is 19 mi and takes two days.

Many hikers prefer to hike to the Indian Garden Campground. This nine-mile round-trip hike takes six to nine hours. This hike involves a strenuous climb with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

The Upper Tunnel is 0.4 miles round trip and takes less than 30 minutes. The lower tunnel, at 1.7 miles, takes between one to two hours. The hike follows the canyon walls with sharp drops and cliffs at the end. This hike is not recommended for those with a severe fear of heights. Some sections of the trail may be in shadow and could be covered with snow or ice. This is even when the conditions at the top are dry and warm.

In conjunction with private donors and the park service, significant improvements have been made to Bright Angel Trailhead. It wasn’t easy to find the trailhead in the past. But, thanks to a new plaza and better signage, this problem is now solved. The new plaza includes a sitting area, shade structure, and flush toilet washrooms. There’s also a water-bottle filling station. New parking lots for 90 cars were added, as well as improvements to the accessibility of the walking trail.

6. Desert View Drive

Most people gravitate towards Hermit Road, but the 22-mile Desert View Drive is equally stunning. The main difference is the view of the Colorado River from certain stops on this drive. This is more visible than the Colorado River further west. You can see the whitewater rapids and the long, narrow sections of river that run through the Canyon.

Although there are only a few stops on this route, they are well worth the effort to take the time to appreciate the views. Moran Point has a stunning view of the Colorado River from the east side of the parking lot. There are also a variety of colours visible in the Canyon’s rock walls.

Lipan Point offers stunning views of Colorado but is also a notable location for birders. This is the most direct canyon route for migrating birds. They use this narrower section of their flight path.

Grandview Point has one of the best views on the South Rim. The Grandview Hiking Trail descends steeply from the viewing area and quickly disappears out of sight. This hike is strenuous on an unmaintained trail and is best for serious hikers. This trail is more challenging than Bright Angel. It’s slippery in spring and hot in summer.

The watchtower can be seen off to the right from Navajo Point. This is the last stop before Desert View Watchtower. It is worth mentioning Desert View as the last stop. The watchtower is proudly displayed on the cliff edge at Desert View.

The Tusayan Museum and Ruin are also found along Desert View Drive. It is a small museum that provides information about the area’s inhabitants and leads to the ruins via a trail. This allows for a closer look at the dwellings.

7. Desert View Watchtower

If you’re coming from the east, Desert View is your first stop. The main attraction of this stop is the Indian Watchtower.

The tower, which measures 70 feet, is not a crumbling, ancient ruin. It was constructed in 1932. It is one of four structures located in the park that Mary Jane Colter designed. All of them are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was designed to look like an Anasazi watchtower. Although the tower is constructed around steel and concrete, the exterior stone blends well with the surrounding colours. You can see the interior walls from every level, including the circular balconies, stairways and stairs. They are covered in what looks like petroglyphs or ancient art.

The second floor has an open observation deck, and the top floor has an enclosed observation deck with amazing views of the Canyon and the desert to the east.

8. Lookout Studio and Kolb Gallery

The Kolb Gallery and the Lookout Studio are located along the canyon wall in the Village. The Lookout Studio can be found in one of the Mary Jane Colter Buildings, located throughout the park. It has a traditional stone design that looks like a ruin. The studio sells trinkets and souvenirs, but there are also two outdoor viewing decks with views over the Grand Canyon.

The Kolb Gallery is located just a few steps to the west. It’s a dark brown wooden structure. The Kolb brothers were pioneers in the park’s early days and built this Victorian home in 1905. The building is now an art gallery with rotating exhibits and a small bookstore selling books and information about the Kolbs. Near the beginning of the Bright Angel Trail is the Kolb Gallery.

9. Wildlife viewing

Although most people do not visit the Grand Canyon to see wildlife, there is a good chance you will spot some animals while driving through the park. Elk is one of the most common suspects along the Rim Trail.

While you’re less likely to spot them, mountain lions can be found in the park forests. Signs along Desert View Drive warn drivers to keep an eye out for them while driving. You will also find bighorn sheep, hog-nosed squirrel, mule deer, Arizona’s state mammal, the ringtail, and many other small critters like the Kaibab squirrel in the park.

10. IMAX Movie at National Geographic Visitor Center

The town of Tusayan is just outside of the South Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. It is one of the oldest IMAX Theaters. Seeing a movie, there has been a long-standing tradition for families who visit the Canyon.

Grand Canyon: The Movie (Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets) is a 34-minute movie that starts on the hour. Visitors can view the film and also receive information about the park.

11. Nearby: Little Colorado River Overlook

You can exit Grand Canyon National Park by going east from the South Rim. The Desert View entrance is the Desert View entrance. This first sign-posted scenic overlook offers a stunning view of the Little Colorado River. This is Navajo land. In the parking area, Navajo artisans sell handmade jewellery.

A short walk along the trail from the parking lot will take you to two picnic tables and a lookout spot (with railings) with direct views of a section of the gorge. The Little Colorado River can be seen far below the edge.

Attractions at Grand Canyon West Rim

12. Skywalk and Eagle Point

You can reach Eagle Point at the West Rim in just a four-hour drive from the South Rim if you have seen photos of the glass bridge that juts out over the Grand Canyon. The horseshoe-shaped glass walkway extends 70 feet above the Canyon and lets you see straight down.

The Sky View restaurant offers a view of the Skywalk and can be booked for dinner. You can also visit the Native American Village and watch Native American dancing.

Grand Canyon Tours

13. Helicopter Flight Over the Grand Canyon

You can take a 25-minute Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour to appreciate the Grand Canyon’s grandeur truly. You will fly over the Canyon to get a birds-eye view. The Grand Canyon Airport is located in Tusayan and is less than 10 minutes from the South Entrance. You will fly over the Dragon Corridor, the largest and deepest section of the Canyon. There are also many other attractions.

14. Grand Canyon Railway Adventure starting in Sedona.

A full-day Grand Canyon Railroad Excursion from Sedona can combine a luxurious train ride through the desert and sightseeing at the Grand Canyon.

The tour includes pick-up from your hotel in Sedona and takes you to Williams train station. You will then be taken by train through Arizona’s high country to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here you can explore the area and take a guided tour to the rim.

This is the best way to see the Grand Canyon without driving or parking.

You can spend some time in Sedona and Williams if you have the time.

15. Grand Canyon White Water Rafting Trip From Las Vegas

A one-day Grand Canyon White Water Rafting Trip departs from Las Vegas. You will raft 40 miles of the Colorado River. This 15-hour trip departs at 4 am. It includes a van ride, a short helicopter flight to the Colorado River, whitewater rafting through Grand Canyon and a return trip to Las Vegas.

16. South Rim Mule Rides

Mule rides are available year-round from the South Rim if you’re interested in going to the Grand Canyon but don’t want to hike. For a short stay at Phantom Ranch, guests can take the mules down the Bright Angel Trail for a 5.5-hour ride. The mules return the following day.

How to get to the Grand Canyon

As the name implies, The Grand Canyon is large. It is important to plan your trip to the Grand Canyon. It can be time-consuming to make the trek to Arizona’s South Rim.

You should expect to drive for at least 4.5 hours if you’re heading from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon. A tour is also an option.

Phoenix is closer, taking a 3.5-hour drive one-way. If you wish to avoid driving, there are many options to get from Phoenix to Grand Canyon.

Sedona is closer by two hours. Although the drive is beautiful, you might want to take in the scenery rather than just watch it. It is possible to base yourself in Flagstaff or Sedona and then go on a day trip to the Grand Canyon. There are many stunning resorts in Sedona, as well as a variety of accommodations in Flagstaff.

Continue reading: The Best Ways to Get There.

Where to Stay in the Grand Canyon

Four lodges are available at Grand Canyon National Park’s Village. These can only be booked through the concessioner. The only other accommodation close to the South Entrance is in Tusayan, a five-minute drive from the park gate. There are many hotel options here and restaurants that offer everything from high-end cuisine to fast-food chains. Here are some highly-rated Tusayan hotels:

  • The luxurious Grand Hotel at Grand Canyon was renovated from the ground up in 2016. It offers spacious rooms and rustic charm.
  • The Holiday Inn Express has also been renovated and features large rooms with fridges and microwaves. Breakfast buffet included in room rates.
  • The Red Feather Lodge is the only Tusayan hotel that allows pets (fee applies). The property is made up of two buildings. One is a motel with drive-up rooms, and the other is a hotel with interior corridors. From mid-May to mid-September, guests can use the complimentary park shuttle.
  • The Canyon Plaza Resort also offers a complimentary shuttle. It has oversized rooms as well as an on-site restaurant.

These hotels have outdoor pools and are within walking distance of restaurants and other amenities. Our complete guide to the top hotels in the Grand Canyon offers a comprehensive overview of hotels.



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