1 Day at the Grand Canyon South Rim

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Despite living in Arizona for 8 years growing up, I (Kathryn) never went to the Grand Canyon! Which is so crazy to me, but at the same time we lived in Texas for 16 years (Kathryn) and 28 years (Adam) and finally made it to Big Bend in December. I am almost glad I didn’t go to the Grand Canyon until now because I feel like I was able to appreciate it sooo much more than I would have as a kid. There are truly no words to describe the Grand Canyon and photos don’t do it justice. It is such a breathtaking, awe inspiring, and well….GRAND sight and we had such a fun day checking out different viewpoints, doing hikes, and admiring the canyon from every angle.

We only were able to make it to the South Rim this trip, so our guide is solely catered to that area. Unless you want to go all the way down into the canyon, we felt that one day was a good amount of time to fully experience it and soak up all of the views! To see how to make the most of 1 day on the South Rim, where to stay, and how to get around, keep on scrollin’!

Grand Canyon Travel Guide

PS: Want to have an epic Arizona road trip? Check out our Scottsdale, Sedona, and Page guides!

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Where to Stay

Grand Canyon Sunrise Yavapai Point

Figuring out where to stay at the Grand Canyon was the hardest choice of our 5 day trip. While we loooove Airbnbs, there weren’t many options, which was a bummer since having a kitchen would’ve been so nice! We ended up choosing a hotel to be close to the action, but we’re listing a handful of options below so you can see a variety of choices.

Airbnb
Note: all of these Airbnbs are located about 35-45 minutes south of Grand Canyon Village.

  • Option #1: This farmhouse loft is probably the best looking traditional option we could find. Super cute and has a kitchen!
  • Option #2: This airstream looks so fun to stay in! You’d have the ability to cook + use the restroom without leaving the trailer.
  • Option #3: Go glamping in a yurt! We’d probably recommend this for warmer months so you don’t get too cold. 🙂

PS: If it is your first time staying at an Airbnb, click this link to get $40 off your first stay!

Hotels
The hotel options at the Grand Canyon are mehhh (in our opinion). The majority of them have poor reviews and they are all a bit pricey for what you get. BUT, if camping or glamping is not your thing, we highly recommend booking a hotel. Here are a few better rated options:

  • Yavapai Lodge: This is where we stayed and it was fine! Nothing fancy, but it was right along the South Rim, so we were super close to the action, giving us a little more time to sleep in for sunrise adventures 🙂 They also have a restaurant there that is decent.
  • Bright Angel Lodge: This is a cool looking lodge in Grand Canyon Village making it an awesome location to explore!
  • El Tovar Hotel: This is probably the nicest option in Grand Canyon Village in an amazing location with views right outside the hotel.
  • The Grand Hotel: This is another nicer option at the Grand Canyon, but it is a bit pricey and 15 minutes from Grand Canyon Village.
  • Holiday Inn Express: Located right by The Grand Hotel, this is a cheaper alternative and they have free breakfast!

Camping
There are 2 campgrounds on the South Rim: Mather Campground and Desert View. Mather Campground is open year round, but only requires reservations March-November. For the other months it is first come first serve. Desert View is only open mid-April to mid-October and does not take reservations any time of the year. Plan to book Mather Campground 6 months out if you’d like to guarantee a site!

Under Canvas
We have been dying to stay at Under Canvas, which is a luxury glamping campground. They have a location 35 minutes south of Grand Canyon Village and we highly recommend checking them out!

Things to know

There are a couple things to know about visiting the South Rim to make sure you have an awesome visit (and are mentally prepared)!

Getting Around
The Grand Canyon is the second most visited National Park in the US, so as you can imagine, it gets super busy! You have four main options getting around the South Rim: driving and parking, the free shuttle bus, walking, and renting a bike/doing a bike tour. For this guide we will focus on the first three. Here’s a little more info on your options!

  • The free shuttle bus is probably the best way to get around the park so you don’t have to worry about parking in each spot. There are four routes total: red, orange, blue, and purple. During the busier times of the year, certain roads are closed to private vehicles (Hermit Road and Yaki Point Road), so the shuttles (red and orange in this case) are your only option to get to those areas. The photo above shows the routes and we will be referencing the red, orange, and blue routes on this guide. The purple route is for those who shuttle in from the neighboring town of Tusayan.
  • There are some parking lots that you can park in for the day, but they can fill up fast! We highly recommend arriving, parking early, and then shuttling around the rest of the day.
  • Walking is another great option to get around the South Rim. You can technically walk 13 miles of the rim, but on this guide we will only have you walking some of it, with the option to walk more or shuttle more.

Hopefully this isn’t too confusing! We will include instructions of how to get to each spot on the guide to hopefully make it a bit clearer.

Food Options
There aren’t a ton of food options at the South Rim, but there are a handful of places to choose from, which you can find here, including a market with a surprisingly awesome grocery selection.

Itinerary

  1. Start the day nice and early with sunrise at Mather Point or Yavapai Point. These are both great spots to view the sunrise (or sunset). How to get there: We recommend driving to these spots for sunrise since it’ll be less crowded.
  2. Drive over to the Canyon Village Marketplace & Deli to grab breakfast and coffee. This is also a good place to grab lunch for later! There are two parking lots here (A and B) that would be great spots to park your car for the day (unless you are staying close by and have somewhere guaranteed to park).
  3. Take the blue route to the Hermits Rest Route Transfer to start the Bright Angel Trail. This is the trail that takes you down into the canyon. We recommend going to the 3 Mile Resthouse and turning around, for a 6 mile round trip hike. If you want to go into the canyon, but hike a little bit less, the 1.5 Mile Resthouse is also a great spot to turn around!
  4. Take a little break and enjoy your picnic lunch before your next hike!
  5. After eating lunch, take a more leisurely walk along the South Rim Trail. This starts right by the Bright Angel Trailhead, so no need to shuttle! This trail goes a total of 13 miles, but you can go as little or as long as you’d like! We suggest going to at least Yavapai to see as much of the rim as possible.
  6. Once you’re done with the South Rim Trail, you have two options of how to get to your next stop. Option #1: You can either walk back to where you started by the Bright Angel Trailhead. Option #2: take the Orange Route or Blue Route (depending on where you stopped) to the Hermits Rest Route Transfer stop (right by the Bright Angel trailhead). Once you get back to the Bright Angel trailhead you can take the red route or walk (2.3 miles) on the rim to Hopi Point.
  7. Spend the rest of the day at Hopi Point for sunset! This spot is popular, so try to get there early to get a good spot. They run a special shuttle right after sunset from Hopi Point back to the Hermits Rest Route Transfer, so make sure to grab one of them so you don’t get stuck there! Once you’re at the Hermits Rest Route Transfer stop, take the blue route back to your car.  
  8. After an awesome sunset, enjoy dinner at one of the park’s restaurants!

If you have extra time…

Grand Canyon South Rim

Here are some ideas of some fun things to do if you have more than one day at the Grand Canyon!

  • Explore more of the viewpoints on Hermit Road!
  • Hike the entire Bright Angel trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (17.7 miles, 5,006 ft elevation gain–permit required)
  • Backpack the Hermit Trail (15.4 miles, 5,144 ft elevation gain–permit required)
  • Hike the South Kaibab trail down to Ooh Ahh Point (1.8 miles, 692 ft elevation gain)
  • Visit the Desert View Watchtower
  • Explore the North Rim! The North Rim is closed December 1-May 15 due to snow, but we hear this part of the park is very worth visiting if you go when the roads are open! Note: this is about a 4 hour drive from the South Rim.

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2 Comments

  1. Suzanne on April 26, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks for all the tips! Maybe one day I will make it back to this beauty! Your tips and suggestions make planing a trip so much less overwhelming!

    • Kathryn Frazer on April 26, 2019 at 6:16 pm

      You’re welcome! 😀 We hope you’re able to make it back there!

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