Grand Canyon National Park is a geological wonder located in northern Arizona. The Grand Canyon is massive at over a mile deep and ten miles across.
The visitors centers on either side are only about 10 miles apart as the bird flies, but the drive from the North Rim Visitor Center to the South Rim Visitor Center is 210 miles and takes about four hours!
The South Rim and North Rim
Because of its enormity, visitors usually only visit one side at a time. About six million people visit Grand Canyon National Park each year and just over 90% of them visit The South Rim. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is conveniently only about an hour from Williams or 90 minutes from Flagstaff. By contrast, the North Rim is only about 1 hour 40 minutes from Kanab, Utah. The North Rim is only open from mid-May through mid-October, but the South Rim is open year-round. The North Rim is about 1,000 feet higher in elevation, so it is cooler than the South Rim. Either way the temperatures usually rise as you hike into the canyon.
The North Rim only has one lodge and one campground, with the next closest hotels being nearly two hours away. In contrast the South Rim has lots of lodge and hotel options inside the park and in the town of Tusayan just a few miles away. We stayed in the Maswik Lodge, which is actually a whole complex of cabins and motel-style buildings.
Grand Canyon South Rim
The Grand Canyon South Rim is conveniently set up with a shuttle system. Most stops you can just hop on and off easily when the shuttles arrive every 10-15 minutes, but occasionally there are lines like we had waiting for the Hermit’s Rest Road (red line). They had a nice covered area for waiting.
There are three separate shuttles that circle the park. The main Canyon Village area is served by the blue line. The viewpoints and hiking trails along the first part of Desert View Drive are along the Kaibab/Rim Route (orange line) and the Hermit’s Rest Route (red line) to the west. Cars are permitted in Grand Canyon Village and there is quite a bit of parking. Personal Cars are not allowed along the red route. Cars can drive part of the orange line, but not to the South Kaibab Trailhead or Yaki Point.
Grand Canyon Village
Grand Canyon Village has lots of lodging and eating options. There is a kennel on site since dogs aren’t allowed in most of the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center
The Visitor’s Center hosts lots of programs so be sure to check out what is available during your visit. Some options might be Critter Chat, Geology Talk, Ranger-led Constellation Tour, Fossil Discovery Walk, etc. We were there during the annual star party, so there were hundreds who had brought their telescopes to allow visitors to look through.
The Kaibab/Rim Route shows off many of the best viewpoints. Mather Point is convenient to the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center and a must see!
The Mather Point area is also a fantastic spot for Milky Way photography.
Yavapai Geology Museum
The Yavapai Geology Museum is built right on the edge of the Grand Canyon Rim. It has a little gift shop that isn’t very crowded if you don’t want to have to wait in line to pick up a souvenir. There are interesting displays inside and out.
There are little viewfinder telescopes along the way to get a different perspective.
There is a tiny section of the rim trail just west of the Yavapai Geology Museum called the “Trail of Time” that tells about the geology and inhabitants of the Grand Canyon.
The views from near the Yavapai Geology Museum are fantastic!
Near the museum of between Tusayan and Grand Canyon Village are great spots to look for wildlife. Be sure not to approach wildlife and keep a safe distance.
South Kaibab Trail
The South Kaibab Trail is one of the best options for hiking down under the rim. It is only moderately steep, so most can go to Ooh Aah Point which is just over 1 1/2 miles round trip. Of course you can continue further down or even to the base of the canyon.
Hermit’s Rest Road
The Hermit’s Rest Route has lots of viewpoints and the famous Bright Angel Trail that leads all the way to the base of the canyon. We didn’t have time to stop at all of the viewpoints, but choose a few and see the beauty!
The railings and viewpoints were mostly built as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to get the United States out of the Great Depression. We certainly appreciate having the railings today!
You may also want to walk along the Rim Trail. It is paved from Powell Point east to Mather Point, but it is still nice in the non-paved sections.
Desert View Drive
The scenic drive from Grand Canyon Village to the East Entrance is drivable by car.
Here is a map of the drive. Some of the viewpoint are Grandview Point, Moran point, Lipan Point and Desert View.
Grandview Point is a great viewpoint along Desert View Drive.
There is a tiny trail you can take to a lower viewpoint.
The Desert View Watchtower is the highlight of this stop right by the east entrance of the Grand Canyon. It was built in 1932 by architect Mary Colter and designed to reflect the Native American designs of the Southwest United States.
They meter the number of people who can enter by giving out 25 tickets for every half hour. The top few floors are currently closed, but we went ten years ago in 2013.
When you leave the Grand Canyon you can stop at some of the souvenir stands on the Navajo Reservation.
If you are headed east towards Page, Arizona check out Horseshoe Bend or Beehive Trail. If you are headed west towards Las Vegas then stop and see the Hoover Dam. Hikes near Las Vegas include White Owl Canyon and hikes in Red Rock Canyon like Pine Creek Trail.