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Grand Canyon South Rim: Best Viewpoints and Scenic Roads

December 1, 2020 /
things to do at Grand Canyon South Rim

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

The Grand Canyon is the most famous and photographed National Park in the United States and with over six million visitors each year is second only to the Great Smoky Mountains, which stretch between North Carolina and Tennessee. It is so massive that, in fact, there are three entrances from which to observe this natural wonder: the North Rim, the West Rim and the South Rim.

Of the three entrances, the South Rim is definitely the one that attracts the most tourists, both for its convenience (it can be easily inserted in most routes) and for the number of accommodations both inside and outside the park. In other words, it is the most equipped side to meet the needs of tourists. So let’s see what to do at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and how to organize a visit.

Where is the South Rim of the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon is located in the state of Arizona, which makes no secret of being particularly proud of this fact, so much so that it has chosen the phrase “The Grand Canyon State” as its motto.

Entering the Grand Canyon costs $35 per car or $20 per person if you travel by bus, train or shuttle service. If you have the America the Beautiful Annual Pass, entry is included.

Driving Directions

Grand Canyon South Rim things to doThere are two entrances to the South Rim, namely, the south entrance leading to Grand Canyon Village and the east entrance leading to Desert View Watchtower. Choosing which of the two entrances is best used depends essentially on your itinerary.

  • If you are coming from the north (e.g. Kanab or Page) and the next leg of your route takes you to Flagstaff or Williams, then it is best to use the east entrance to Desert View Watchtower.
  • If you are coming from the south (e.g. Williams or Flagstaff) and your next stop is north of the Grand Canyon (e.g. Monument Valley), then you should use the south entrance to Grand Canyon Village.

Either way, you will be already heading in the direction of your next destination after visiting the national park. Obviously, these tips won’t be as useful if, once you arrive, you decide to park your car to use the various Grand Canyon shuttle service, since you will have to depart from your point of arrival, thus missing the advantage of being already on your way to your next destination.

Other Transportation Options to the South Rim

Grand Canyon south rim directionsIf you want to leave your rental car parked for the day, know that you will have many choices to visit the Grand Canyon anyway.

  • Train: Yes, if you find yourself passing by Williams, one of the best choices is the Grand Canyon train ride. While also giving you the opportunity to visit a historic city on Route 66 in Arizona, this train ride will allow you to take a real leap back in time thanks to the western reenactments that will accompany you along the way.
  • Bus: Bus services are available in all major cities near the Grand Canyon. Some tours also depart from Las Vegas. However, consider that with this option you will have to spend a lot of time on the bus (especially if you are departing from Las Vegas). As for shuttle services from nearby cities, please read the section on tips to avoid traffic.
  • Airplane or helicopter tours: These are certainly the most fascinating ways to visit the national park and for this reason, they are also the most popular. Therefore, given the abundance of air tour options that a tourist must evaluate, we thought to dedicate a guide on how to choose a helicopter or airplane tour on the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon South Rim Map

Grand Canyon South Rim Self-Guided Tour

If you want to visit the Grand Canyon on your own, here are all the things to see at the South Rim.

Drive along Desert View Drive

Grand Canyon South Rim mapDesert View Drive is a scenic road about 25 miles long that connects the Desert View Watchtower to the Grand Canyon Village area. Along the road, you will encounter six scenic rest stops, four picnic areas and the Tusayan Ruin and Museum.

If you are planning to visit the Grand Canyon without your car, be careful because the shuttle buses do not run on Desert View Drive; it only goes as far as Yaki Point.

As you travel from west to east, these are the main attractions you will encounter:

Desert View Watchtower

south rim grand canyon what to seeFor those who have chosen to enter the Grand Canyon from the east entrance, this is the first building they will see inside the park. I advise you not to skip this and go visit it inside.

What at first glance may seem like an ancient building is actually constructed in 1932 by the architect Mary Colter, who wanted to recreate the typical structure of the Pueblo people who lived in these areas. Inside you can see numerous paintings that are inspired by Native American cultures. You should climb the 85 steps of the tower to see from the top the spectacle of the Grand Canyon that expands as far as the eye can see below you.

But keep in mind the hours of operation! You can climb to the top of the tower from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm.

Tusayan Ruin and Museum

This is not a viewpoint. To get here, you have to make a small detour from Desert View Drive. Here you can see the remains of what was once an ancient Pueblo village. You can then visit a small museum and follow a short path around the ruins.

Viewpoints

In this case, pictures are worth more than words. While stopping at each of the panoramic rest stops, prepare to be amazed by what you will see. The beauty of the Grand Canyon awaits you.

  • Navajo Point
  • Lipan Point
  • Moran Point
  • Grandview Point
  • Yaki Point (Reachable only by shuttle bus)
  • Pipe Creek Vista

Grand Canyon Village

Grand Canyon South Rim entrance feeAlmost a real city within the Grand Canyon. This is the first experience you can have of the park if you choose to use the south entrance. This is where you’ll find the Visitor center, Market Plaza, train station, hotels, and starting points for special tours such as horseback riding and helicopter tours.

The Village is also the starting point of some of the most popular hikes, including the Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, Rim Trail and Hermit Trail.

Main Viewpoints

things to do at Grand Canyon South Rim
Yavapai Point

There are also overlooks from which you can admire the Grand Canyon in all its glory.

  • Yavapai Point
  • Mather Point
  • Yavapai Geology Museum

Hermit Road

Grand Canyon South Rim viewpoints
Hermits Rest

This is another scenic road (“only” 7 miles long) that may be even more popular than the previous one. It is important to mention that you can only travel this road with your own vehicle during the winter, in December, January and February. Throughout the rest of the year, you can access Hermit Road through the shuttle service inside the park, on foot, by bike and on private tours.

Grand Canyon South Rim shuttle service
Maricopa Point

There are nine scenic overlooks along the way.

  • Trailview Overlook
  • Maricopa Point
  • Powell Point
  • Hopi Point
  • Mohave Point
  • The Abyss
  • Monument Creek Vista
  • Pima Point
  • Hermits Rest

Grand Canyon South Rim Hikes

Grand Canyon South Rim hikesSpeaking of hiking, do you have more than a day to spend at the Grand Canyon and want to know about the most beautiful trails? Or do you have limited time available and you are wondering if it is possible to do some hiking? Then you can read our in-depth guide on the best trails of the Grand Canyon by clicking on the link below.

Guide to the most beautiful hikes of the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Tours

grand canyon south rim toursIf you prefer a structured and guided tour for your visit to the Grand Canyon, you will have more than enough choices. All you have to do is to decide on the means of transportation, where to start and how much time to spend on the tour. To help you evaluate the different tour options, I would like to highlight our in-depth guide of the best organized excursions of the park.

Grand Canyon Tours Guide

Tips for How to Avoid Traffic and Find Parking

Grand Canyon South Rim parkingThe South Rim is the area of the Grand Canyon most frequented by tourists, especially in the high season, when there is an increase in traffic, thus inconveniencing tourists, who are sometimes forced to wait very long to enter and find parking. So let’s try to present you with useful advice so that your trip does not get ruined by “rush hour” traffic.

Tusayan Route Shuttle Bus (Seasonal)

Also known as the Purple Line, this is the free shuttle service that connects the city of Tusayan to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. There are four stops in Tusayan (as you can see from the map) before continuing directly to the park. The service runs from March to the end of September. The shuttle bus comes every 20 minutes from 8:00 am to 9:30 pm.

Grand Canyon South Rim tusayan routeHowever, this service is recommended only for those who want to access the park from the south entrance. You should also know that in order to use the shuttle service, you will need a Grand Canyon entrance ticket or the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. To find out where to buy tickets in Tusayan, read the official website of the park, that also has a webcam that shows the traffic conditions in real time.

Parking at the Grand Canyon

If you want to make sure you find parking in the Grand Canyon Village, try to plan to enter the park before 9:00 am. That way, you will have a much better chance of finding a convenient parking space (areas 1,2,3 and 4) and to take your time as you explore the viewpoints in the area.

Grand Canyon South Rim getting aroundWhen the parking lot at the Visitor Center is full, the cars are diverted to the parking lots indicated by the letters A, B, C and D. From there you will have to continue on foot to reach the main panoramic viewpoints in the Village area or take the shuttle service.

How to Get Around Using the Park’s Shuttle BusGrand Canyon South Rim guide

If you prefer not to drive inside the Grand Canyon, you can ride on the Grand Canyon shuttle bus. Here are the details:

From the Grand Canyon Village, there are 3 free shuttle buses that will take you along the scenic roads of the canyon. Whether you have reached the Visitor center by car, or you have used the bus, this service will be very useful. The frequency varies depending on the time of day, but at the peak times there is a ride every 15 minutes. Keep in mind, however, that no shuttle bus will travel the entire Desert View Drive. So consider carefully the pros and cons of this choice.

  • Blue Route: This route connects all the most important points only and exclusively within the Grand Canyon Village.
  • Orange Route (Kaibab Rim Route Shuttle Bus): The line that connects the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to 5 viewpoints: Mather Point, Pipe Creek Vista, Yaki Point, South Kaibab and Yavapai Point. To get an idea of how much time you need to complete this route, consider that it would take about 50 minutes to complete this tour without ever getting off the bus.
  • Red Route (Hermit Road Shuttle Bus): This shuttle departs from the Grand Canyon Village to the spectacular Hermits Rest. On the way to Hermits Rest, there will be nine stops with viewpoints, while on the return journey there will be only three. Travel time to complete this tour without ever getting off is 80 minutes. Please note: as mentioned above this service is not active in December, January and February, the only months when the road is open to private cars.
  • Hikers’ Express Shuttle Bus: Those whose goal is to arrive early in the morning at the South Kaibab Trailhead (the end of the line) can opt for the express shuttle bus that leaves from Bright Angel Lodge and stops only at the Backcountry Information Center and the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

Where to Stay Inside and Outside the Grand Canyon

When organizing a visit to the Grand Canyon you are inevitably faced with the decision of where to seek accommodations. Many factors come into play in this choice, the first being your itinerary. Having another destination to reach and a schedule to follow is no small thing. It is just as important to find a place with a beautiful view or that it is easy to reach after a long day.

To evaluate all the pros and cons of the options you will face, you can read our guide to where to stay at the Grand Canyon by clicking on the button below.

Tips for finding accommodations at the Grand Canyon


Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Filippo Nardelli

I have a degree in History of North America and have always been fascinated by the United States.

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