Planning to take a day trip through the southern rim of the Grand Canyon? I’ve got a few tips and tricks for the perfect day!
Even the Southern rim of the Grand Canyon is worth spending multiple days, but if you only have one day to explore this majestic wonder, here is a guide to hit all the high points! Tip: Some people get a week pass to the national park but don’t use all the days. Your hotel concierge might have extra passes you can use.
When staying in Sedona or Flagstaff, take US-89 to AZ-64 through Cameron. This route takes you through the Navajo Indian Reserve. (Side note: Fill your tank up with gas before you leave, because there is no station in the reserve.) The land is dry, bare, and red but it is definitely a cool sight to experience. You get a little taste of canyon views with a few remote look-out points along the way. We pulled off at Marble Canyon of the Little Colorado River Gorge, which really psyched us up for our day of site seeing. The walk is only about 100 yards from the parking area on a gravel road, so it is accessible for everyone.
As you continue driving towards the Grand Canyon, you’ll enter on the eastern side of the South Rim. After going through the national park gate, your first stop is the Desert View Watchtower, also known as Navajo Point. This is where you can stamp your national park book, climb up steps into a watchtower to get an even higher view of the canyons, and scope out the landscape details with their telescopes. It is a very popular, touristy point so be ready for a large crowd. We went on Easter Sunday expecting a lower number of tourist, but we were wrong, lol! Luckily, the other stops were not as busy as this first one.
Next, you’ll drive 22 miles west to the Visitor Center. On that drive, they have about three points where you can stop to take a look. Lipan, Moran and Grandview are the main points. For time sake, pick one or two. The view is fairly similar to the watchtower at these points, but they are way less crowded!
We had a cooler of waters in our car, but if you need to grab drinks or snacks, you can stop at the Park Store in the Visitor Center. They not only have a grocery store, but also a deli with sandwiches and pizza. I’m not the type to pass up pizza, so we got it to go and took it with us to the main area, aka the Village, for a picnic. This is where the hotels and restaurants are located and it is only a 2 mile drive from the Visitor Center. There were not many places to picnic in the Village, so we ventured to the edge and sat on a stone ledge. Many people passed by us saying we were brave for sitting there, but how many people get to say they ate lunch literally on the edge of the Grand Canyon?? That was by far our most spontaneous part of the day- I highly recommend it! They have restaurants where you can eat if that is more your style.
After lunch, we found a parking spot in a lot near the bus stop. The buses are free and rotate between nine different look-out points. You can hop on and off the buses as they pass. Again, you don’t have to go to all of them but pick about four to get off and venture. We stopped at Trailview Overlook, Hopi Point, the Abyss, and Hermits Rest. Hermits Rest is as far west as you can go on the South Rim. It is the only stop that has a bathroom or snack food option. The snack bar at Hermits rest closes an hour before sunset, so make sure you get there in time to grab some coffee. It will keep you busy and warm you up as you wait for the sun to set! Watching the sun set over the canyon was a dream of mine, and I soaked up every second. It was a once in a lifetime experience seeing the sky change colors- No filter needed! Catch the last bus back to the parking lot and head home.
As you leave, take a different route home by exiting through the South Entrance Station down AZ-64. You’ll come to the city of Tusayan, which is right outside of the national park. We stopped for dinner at Big E Steakhouse & Saloon and it was good eatin’! It is a western themed steakhouse whose serving sizes are like the Grand Canyon.. large. After all that hiking, you’ll want to refuel for the drive back.
We spent our one year anniversary day-tripping the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was April 1st, so the weather was hot during the day but cold out on the points and while watching the sun set. Be sure to bring a warm, yet light-weight jacket. I personally recommend this one!