Exploring the Grand Canyon
If you have a few days to spend in the Grand Canyon, you will barely touch the surface of all the things to do here. If you have a chance to visit, do it.
Arizona is known worldwide for the famous Grand Canyon National Park. The park is in the northwest corner of Arizona about 250 miles from Phoenix. As one of the Seven Natural World Wonders, millions of people come to see this deep canyon that time and the mighty Colorado River carved.
The south rim is were 90 percent of visitors will explore what the canyon has to offer.
Five Main Areas of the South Rim Grand Canyon
- Visitor Center
- Market Plaza
- Hermit's Rest (west)
- Desert View (east)
Grand Canyon Visitor Center
From the south entrance the first and most popular gathering spot is the Visitor Center. From here visitors can get their bearings, gather information, rent bicycles, take a shuttle bus (orange or blue line) or walk to Mather Point. The Rim Trail is a paved walkway along the rim of the canyon from the Visitor center to Hermit's Rest. Visitors can walk the entire trail if they would like.
Mather Point is where most people get their first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.
If you stopped to see Mather Point continue west on to Yavapai Point and Geology Museum. This observation station has large glass pane windows that offer an incredible view of the canyon as well as a great source of information regarding the canyon itself.
We took the Kaibab/Rim Route shuttle (orange line) from the Visitor's Center to the South Kaibab Trail. Getting there early was the key. The bus was not crowded and the path is shaded in the morning. Hiking in the Grand Canyon is amazing. Just remember lots of water and salty snacks.
The South Kaibab trail starts off with steep switchbacks.
The hike to Ooh Ahh Point is just under two miles round-trip. The views are stunning.
After the hike on South Kaibab Trail we took the shuttle bus to Yaki Point. You can see five of the canyon trails from this point.
The shuttle then took us back to the Visitor's center where our car was parked. If you drive west of the Visitor's center you will reach the Market Plaza area.
Not too much further and you'll come to Market Plaza, another hub of activity. You can find the post office, bank and General Store here. The General Store really does have just about everything, so if you forgot something you can probably find it here. The market plaza is within walking distance to Mather Campground. We also saw several elk in this area including a baby elk.
The train depot for Williams is on the way west towards the Village. The Village is where the majority of lodges are located including the famous Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House and Verkamp's Visitor Center. From here visitors can catch the red and blue line shuttle bus. The Bright Angel Trail is located in this area. This trail is extremely popular.
The points to the west of the Village towards Hermit's Rest can only be accessed by walking the Rim Trail or by taking a shuttle bus. Needless to say, the earlier you catch the shuttle bus the less people you will encounter.
Hermit's Rest - West of the South Rim
Catch the red line shuttle bus just past Bright Angel Lodge to see the stops on the west side of the canyon. There are nine stops along this route. The bus ride is 80 minutes long if you do not get off at any of the stops.
Hopi Point stop juts out farther into the canyon and offers great views of the Colorado River. We visited this stop during the rainy season, so the water looked like mud.
Hermit's Rest is the final stop on the shuttle bus and leads to the trail head. This is also the only spot on the route with a water station, gift shop and place to purchase snacks and drinks.
Hermit's Rest was opened in 1914 as a rest house. Visitors were brought by horse and buggy. Mary Colter designed Hermit's Rest, which has now been converted into a gift shop. Stop in and check it out if you are out this way.
Desert View East of the South Rim
For a little less congestion drive east on Desert View Drive for the next 23 miles. The free shuttle buses do not come this way, so if you want to see the east side of the canyon you'll need a car. This side of the canyon, in my opinion, is better because there are less people.
Viewing Spots Include:
- Grandview Point
- Moran Point
- Tusayan Ruin and Museum
- Lipan Point
- Navajo Point
- Desert View Point & Desert View Watchtower
The Tusayan Ruin and Museum offers you a glimpse of how the Pueblo Indians lived some 800 years ago. It is on the National Historic Registry.
Driving further east from the Tusayan you can stop at Lipan Point and Navajo Point and end at Desert View point.
If you are visiting the Grand Canyon I would highly recommend not to forget to see the sights on the east entrance area. Navajo point has spectacular views of the 1930's Watchtower overlooking the canyon as well as of the Colorado River.
The Grand Canyon Watchtower is found at Desert View Point and is a pretty cool building to explore. You enter through a gift shop and make your way up four flights of stairs to the top. Each floor is circular with petroglyph drawings on the walls and windows to view the canyon.
Lodging and Camping
How deep is the Grand Canyon?
This impressive canyon is not the deepest canyon in the world, but at 1 mile deep, 18 miles wide and 277 miles long it is one huge canyon!
The South Rim is at a 7,000 foot elevation and the North Rim is close to 9,000 feet in elevation.
Weather in the Grand Canyon
Summers in the Grand Canyon are pleasant. Spring and fall can be much cooler than it is in Phoenix, so layering your clothing is a good idea.
Winter is much cooler and it is impossible to view the North Rim during the winter months as the roads will start to close mid October due to snow and often do not open again until the end of May.
How Long does it Take to See?
In a nutshell, as long as you want it to. You could spend the day there or your entire vacation. A visit to the Grand Canyon can be a weekend trip or a destination in itself. View the canyon, hike the many trails, go rafting on the Colorado River, view waterfalls, whatever you choose to do-enjoy the nature that surrounds you!.
If you are staying in Northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is a wonderful spot to spend a few days and truly enjoy the views and the many trails.
To drive from the South Rim to the East Rim is close to 25 miles one way.
We suggest visiting the Grand Canyon National Park's web site for up to date information on weather and road closures before you begin your journey to visit the Grand Canyon.
A 7-day pass to the Grand Canyon National Park will cost you $30.00 (for a private car) as of 2017.
There are three FREE shuttle bus routes in the Grand Canyon. Hermit's Rest Route (red line), Village Route (blue line) and Kaibab Trail Route (orange line). When you enter the Grand Canyon they will give you a newspaper called "The Guide" that will explain when and where to catch the shuttle bus.
While it seems close, the North Rim is a five hour drive from the South Rim.