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The US is blessed to have a plethora of breathtaking areas designated as national parks. Whether you are a fan of the Mighty 5 in Utah or perhaps the iconic Yellowstone or Yosemite National Park’s further north, these areas offer some of the most spectacular natural landscapes not only in the United States but anywhere in the world. One national park that defies the laws of nature is Grand Canyon National Park, located in Northern Arizona. Encompassing 277 miles of the Colorado River and comprising of layered bands of red rock, this epic natural landscape is unlike anywhere else in the world.
For those that have never visited the Grand Canyon, it’s one of those iconic landscapes that you cannot afford to miss…a once in a lifetime experience that will likely make you want to return time and time again. It’s no surprise to hear that the Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world alongside other infamous natural phenomena such as Mount Everest, Victoria Falls, and the Great Barrier Reef. Visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time epitomizes everything you associate with an awe-inspiring experience, and regardless of how much time you have in this historic national park, you will certainly want to make the most of enjoying all of the iconic landmarks.
The Grand Canyon is frequently recognized with a divide between the North and South Rim of the canyon itself. Of course, visitors to either “rim” may be persuaded to head into the inner depths of the canyon itself, and the really adventurous folks will try to make their way between the two rims for the ultimate experience. While the North Rim is equally breathtaking, we want to focus our attention on the South Rim and why this is generally recognized as the more popular of the two.
Find the Perfect Place to Stay
It may seem obvious but finding the perfect place to stay while exploring the Grand Canyon is critical to ensuring your experience is the best possible, regardless of how long you are staying in the area. Do you want to stay inside the park? Do you want to stay outside so you can enjoy other nearby experiences?
You may be surprised to hear that there are actually several options available, which is rather unusual for a national park as these are frequently in remote locations with little to no choices available. If you are really ambitious and want the most flexibility, Flagstaff is less than 90 minutes from the South Rim entrance.
Less than 60 minutes away is the town of Williams which has an abundance of accommodation options including the trendy Luxury Sky Domes by Clear Sky Resorts. These “one-of-a-kind experiences” offer guests a unique adventure to ensure their stay matches the experience of actually exploring Grand Canyon National Park. Of course, the best options for convenience are in the nearby town of Grand Canyon Village.
Whether you choose to stay at the Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel or perhaps opt for a self-catered Canyon Plaza Premier Studios and Apartments, there are various accommodation options in the Grand Canyon area available.
Ok, so you have found the perfect place to stay…now it’s time to explore! Let’s take a look at some of the best things to do in the Grand Canyon South Rim.
Visit the South Rim Viewpoints
When it comes to panoramic vistas overlooking the Grand Canyon, the South Rim has a myriad of epic spots that you cannot afford to miss during your visit. Visitors to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon have the opportunity to explore three different sections, each of which is incredible and we 100% recommend that you try to experience all of the following if your time in the park allows it.
Desert View Drive is 25 miles, but you will likely need several hours to experience this because there are so many spots you will not want to miss…and the hardest part will actually be leaving each of the viewpoints as the panoramic views are breathtaking. Shoshone Point, Grand View Point, Moran Point and Desert View Point are just some of the most iconic overlooks along this stretch of road but you may also stumble across other spots that are not as clearly identified but offer unique angles overlooking the canyon that you won’t want to miss.
Hermit Road is 7 miles long and while it offers less viewpoints, this should take nothing away from the inherent beauty of overlooks such as Powell Point, Mohave Point and Maricopa Point.
Grand Canyon Village is undoubtedly the most popular because of its proximity to everything – Mather Point is the most frequently visited overlook throughout the national park and certainly for good reason. If you can get here for sunrise or sunset and avoid some of the larger crowds, the views are magical. Yavapai Point is equally spectacular and generally less busy than Mather Point, while Yaki Point offers more epic scenery across the South Rim and beyond. Check out a full list of the best Grand Canyon lookout points for further inspiration.
Hike the South Rim Trail and Below the Rim
Visitors to Grand Canyon National Park simply will not experience the inherent beauty of this natural landscape if they don’t wear their favorite hiking shoes and hit the open trails either along the South Rim or below the rim. For those that are ready for a little more adventure, get ready for the ultimate thrill by hiking along one of the iconic trails deep into the canyon.
Bright Angel Trail is a little under 10 miles and descends over 4300 feet into the canyon, offering a myriad of eye-catching spots where you can capture lifelong memories. It’s always recommended to proceed with caution before heading too deep into the canyon because the further you go down, the further you have to hike back. There are several “shorter” options available, each with unique experiences and a plethora of amazing views across the canyon.
The South Kaibab Trail is another of the South Rim’s iconic trails that attracts visitors from all across the globe. Ooh Aah Point is under 2 miles for the round trip and as the name suggests, it’s a pretty amazing view and well worth the effort to reach this. Throughout the full length of the South Kaibab Trail, it’s worth noting that this is a lot more exposed than other trails and while this offers more breathtaking scenery, it’s also not for the faint-hearted and visitors should proceed with caution.
For those that are not too fond of the idea of heading into the canyon itself and prefer to stay on high ground, the South Rim Trail is the easiest but equally spectacular. The 13-mile trail offers a variety of smaller segments which all the family can enjoy and you can still say you have hiked the Grand Canyon! Hiking in the Grand Canyon is an amazing experience, but nothing is quite like the views that you will not want to stop admiring.
Experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk
Ready to experience the Grand Canyon from above? Do you have a fear of heights that you are ready to conquer? Head over to the spectacular Grand Canyon Skywalk that is actually located on the West Rim of the canyon for an amazing experience unlike anywhere else in the region. Take a stroll out on to the horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge that has a glass bottomed floor to enjoy epic panoramic views across the Grand Canyon. As you venture out 70 feet over the canyon, this experience offers views 4,000 feet down into the canyon!
Recognized by many major media outlets as offering “unparalleled views of one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders”, the Skywalk is an eye-catching and awe-inspiring experience that is the perfect adventure for anyone suffering from acrophobia. Located at Grand Canyon West, this is an independently owned landmark operated by the Hualapai Tribe on the reservation, rather than inside the nation park itself.
For those that want a little more adventure, why not hop on one of the various helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon which is another great way to experience a “birds-eye” perspective of this natural phenomenon.
Day Trip to Horseshoe Bend
While you could be forgiven for wondering why anyone would want to leave the Grand Canyon, if you have time built into your schedule that allows for a nearby day trip, head north to Horseshoe Bend to experience yet another iconic natural landmark that offers equally breathtaking panoramic scenes. This horseshoe-shaped incised meander on the Colorado River is an incredible experience and definitely worth the short hike from the nearby parking lot.
As you approach the edge of the overlook, you cannot help but appreciate the beauty of nature as you peer over the 1,000ft drop-off. Be cautious of your surroundings and don’t try to get too close to the edge to take that epic selfie because it’s simply not worth the risk, especially if there has been any rain in days leading up to your visit. The variety of viewpoints offer unique perspectives of Horseshoe Bend, and you may be fortunate to see kayakers meandering their way along the Colorado River as you appreciate nature at its finest.
For those of you looking to experience as much as possible in the immediate vicinity to Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon is yet another incredibly popular tourist attraction and certainly for good reason. Try to plan your visit at the right time of the day so you can capture those epic memories on your camera.
Enjoy an Epic Sunrise or Sunset
There are not many places across the globe that offer a more spectacular sunrise or sunset experience than the Grand Canyon. Be prepared to wake up early to find the perfect vantage point and enjoy a breathtaking sight of the sun lighting up the canyon in a maelstrom of bright colors. Take a moment to admire how the canyon rock changes color as the sun rises into the morning sky, while appreciate the fact that this is likely the best time to visit the Grand Canyon for awe-inspiring views with the fewest amount of people.
Alternatively, head to one of the iconic overlooks to enjoy an epic sunset but be prepared to fight larger crowds who will want to gain the perfect spot to capture that once in a lifetime picture. Any of the aforementioned overlooks are breathtaking at both sunrise and sunset but perhaps our favorite is Yavapai Point, though I would argue any of these are equally worth visiting.
When it comes to national parks, Grand Canyon National Park is definitely one of the most spectacular in terms of natural beauty. The landscape across the canyon from any of the viewpoints along the South Rim are beyond breathtaking and it’s incredibly difficult to pinpoint just a few spots worth visiting. You will likely need much more time to explore everything you want to see at the Grand Canyon South Rim, but regardless of how much time you have, this is a national park you simply cannot afford to miss.
As travel today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. If you are comfortable with traveling, please travel responsibly and within regulation as any travel is at your own risk.
If you do decide to travel at this time, we strongly encourage you to follow our following recommendations:
- Wear a face mask.
- Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands on a regular basis.
- Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures and status of local businesses.
- Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.