For millions of years, the Colorado River has carved its way through the Colorado Plateau, forming this expansive, awe-inspiring landscape that we call the Grand Canyon. And it certainly is grand. Words cannot describe what it is like to gaze across the Grand Canyon for the first time.
On a visit to the Grand Canyon, there is more to do than just look out over the canyon from the Visitor Center. Walk along the rim, watch the sunrise, take a helicopter flight, tour the viewpoints by bicycle, or hike below the rim.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most accessible and most popular section of the canyon to visit. This article focuses on the best things to do in the Grand Canyon on the South Rim. At the end of the article, we give you itinerary ideas and tips to help you have the best experience.
While in Grand Canyon National Park, please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
Facts About the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long. It is estimated that the Colorado River has been at work for 5 to 6 million years, carving out the canyon.
The Grand Canyon officially became a national park on February 26, 1919.
In 2022, the Grand Canyon was the 4th most visited park in the United States, with 4.1 million visitors. In the past, it usually came in second place, but parks like Zion and Rocky Mountain National Park are now drawing more visitors.
The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Best Things to do in the Grand Canyon
Here are some of the best ways to experience the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
1. Visit the South Rim Viewpoints
There are dozens of viewpoints along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Each one of these viewpoints offers a spectacular view, but some viewpoints are just better than others. Some offer panoramic vistas, some are less crowded, and some make fantastic sunrise and sunset destinations.
There are three sections to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon: Desert View Drive, Grand Canyon Village, and Hermit Road. Each of these sections offers a slightly different experience, and if you have the time, it is worth it to visit each spot.
Near Grand Canyon Village
To get between these viewpoints, you can walk the Rim Trail or take the shuttle (Kaibab Rim Route, orange line).
- Mather Point – most popular viewpoint on the South Rim; expect huge crowds and decent views
- Yavapai Point – panoramic views with less crowds than Mather Point
- Yaki Point – Stunning views of the Grand Canyon and you can see the South Kaibab Trail weaving its way to the Colorado River
- Ooh Aah Point – located on the South Kaibab Trail and it is one of our favorite viewpoints of the Grand Canyon
Yavapai Point | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
Yaki Point | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
Along Hermit Road
Hermit Road is 7 miles long. From March 1 to November 30 you must take the Grand Canyon Shuttle (red line). During the winter months, you can drive to the viewpoints but parking can be limited.
- Powell Point – jaw-dropping views with outcroppings of rock that make great photo spots
- Mohave Point – more amazing views; there are several different photo spots that offer slightly different views
- Pima Point – another great location for panoramic views of the Grand Canyon
Mohave Point | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
Along Desert View Drive
The Grand Canyon Shuttle does not travel to these viewpoints so you will need a car. This road is 25 miles long. If you are entering or leaving the Grand Canyon through the east entrance (for example, if you are also visiting Page, Arizona or Monument Valley), you can visit these viewpoints as you drive to/from Grand Canyon Village.
- Shoshone Point – Great spot to leave the crowds behind; short hike to the viewpoint
- Grand View Point – The name says it all
- Moran Point – Explore the rocky outcroppings to find your favorite photo spot
- Desert View Point – Easternmost viewpoint on the South Rim; climb the watchtower for 360° views
Moran Point | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
For a full list of the viewpoints, and ideas on how to plan your time, don’t miss our article: 17 Amazing South Rim Viewpoints.
2. Bike Along Hermit Road
Hermit Road is 7 miles long. It starts at the Grand Canyon Village and ends at Hermit’s Rest.
You can visit the viewpoints along Hermit Road by shuttle (from March 1 to November 30), by car (only between December 1 and February 28), by foot, or by bike.
Out of these options, touring Hermit Road by bicycle sounds like the most fun. Plus, this is one of the best family friendly things to do in the Grand Canyon. You can visit the viewpoints on your own schedule, without hopping from shuttle from shuttle or dealing with finding a parking spot. And it’s much quicker than walking the entire 7 miles.
Bright Angel Bicycles has a package where you can rent bicycles for one day. With their Hermit Shuttle Package, you cycle from Hopi Point to Hermit’s Rest. A shuttle transports you back to the Grand Canyon Village so you do not have to bike 14 miles round trip. This is a great option for families with kids and those who do not want a long bike trip.
3. Walk the South Rim Trail
The South Rim trail is a flat, mostly paved trail that heads along the edge of the rim. It is 13 miles (21 km) long, stretching from Hermit’s Rest to the South Kaibab trailhead.
Of course, you don’t have to walk all 13 miles. You can pick a small section of the trail to walk, using the Grand Canyon shuttle to hop your way along the South Rim Trail.
Learn more here.
4. Hike Below the Rim
One of the best ways to experience the Grand Canyon is to hike below the rim. There are several options to do this from the South Rim.
Bright Angel Trail
The Bright Angel Trail is a very popular trail. It’s easily accessible, starting right in the Grand Canyon Village. This trail starts on the rim and ends at the Bright Angel Campground near the Colorado River. It is 9.5 miles long and descends 4380 feet.
The view from the Bright Angel Trail | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
Switchbacks on the Bright Angel Trail | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
The National Park service discourages people from hiking from the rim to the Colorado River and back to the rim in one day. Over 200 people are rescued every year due to fatigue and heat exhaustion.
You can hike a portion of the Bright Angel Trail and still have a great experience. Here are 4 day hike options.
1.5 Mile Resthouse: Distance: 3 miles round-trip. You will rapidly descend from the rim on a switchback trail. The view is good, but honestly, it’s not spectacular. Much of the Bright Angel Trail descends through a canyon, so you don’t get those sweeping views like you get from the rim. This hike is more about the experience going below the rim than having a stunning view.
3 Mile Resthouse: 6 miles round-trip. Descend further into the canyon. The views do not change much from the 1.5 Mile Resthouse hike.
Indian Garden: 9 miles round-trip. Just past 3 Mile Resthouse, the trail “levels out.” You are still walking downhill, but at a lower grade than on the first part of this hike. Indian Garden is a small campground with water. The NPS website recommends going no farther than this point in the summer. We hiked up the Bright Angel Trail in June as part of our rim-to-rim hike. At 1 pm, the thermometer read 98 degrees at Indian Garden and temperatures got even hotter the closer you got to the Colorado River.
Plateau Point: 12 miles round-trip. At Indian Garden, you can take the trail to Plateau Point for a stunning view over the Colorado River.
Visit the National Park Service website for more information on these hikes.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Hiking down the Bright Angel Trail is going to be a lot faster and a lot easier than hiking back up. Make sure you start early in the day, bring plenty of salty food and water, and plan to give yourself plenty of time for the return hike back up to the rim. If this is your first time hiking, especially during the summer months, consider turning around at 1.5 Mile Resthouse or 3 Mile Resthouse.
South Kaibab Trail
The South Kaibab Trail also starts on the rim and ends at the Colorado River. It is shorter and steeper than the Bright Angel Trail (it’s 7 miles long with 4800 feet of elevation loss). It is also more spectacular, in my opinion. There is a lot more exposure on the trail, which gives you expansive, jaw-dropping views of the Grand Canyon.
To get here, you will need to take the Grand Canyon shuttle or walk the rim trail to the South Kaibab trailhead.
Here are day hike ideas for the South Kaibab Trail.
Ooh Aah Point: 1.8 miles round trip. Amazing viewpoint! Tyler and I were here at sunrise and this is one of my favorite spots in the Grand Canyon. It’s a very steep descent to get here (and a hefty climb back up to the rim later in the day) but it’s worth it for this view.
Ooh Aah Point | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
View from Ooh Aah Point | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
Cedar Ridge: 3 miles round-trip. Enjoy more everchanging views as you descend farther into the canyon.
Skeleton Point: 6 miles round trip. Just past Skeleton Point you get your first view of the Colorado River. The NPS website recommends going no farther than this point as a day hike. From here, it’s still a very long ways to go until you reach the Colorado River.
Visit the National Park Service website for more information on these hikes.
Bright Angel or South Kaibab? If you only have time for one trail, without a doubt, the winner is the South Kaibab. The views are much better and this trail tends to be a little bit less crowded, since you have to take a shuttle bus to get here. For most of the hike on the Bright Angel Trail you are in a canyon, so you don’t get the same expansive views like you do on the South Kaibab Trail.
South Rim to Colorado River to South Rim
In Two Days
You can connect the Bright Angel Trail and the South Kaibab Trail into one epic hike. Most people will hike down one trail to the Colorado River, spend the night at Phantom Ranch or camp at Bright Angel Campground, and hike up the other trail on day two. In order to do this, you need two days and a permit to camp or very good luck (and advance planning) to get a reservation at Phantom Ranch.
South Kaibab Trail | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
Colorado River | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
In One Day
Even though the National Park Service discourages it, it is possible to hike from the South Rim to the South Rim in one day. But this is not a decision to be made lightly.
The entire round-trip hike is 16.5 miles with a massive descent at the beginning and nearly a mile of elevation gain at the end. This is a long hike with a huge amount of elevation changes. During the summer months, this becomes a very dangerous hike.
Tyler and I did this hike in December. It was a very pleasant 52°F, perfect weather for hiking. We did not have to battle soaring temperatures which made this much more enjoyable.
I would only attempt this hike if you are very fit and have lots of hiking experience. This is not a hike for newbie hikers and weekend warriors. You should be able to easily walk 10 miles while wearing a backpack, preferably in very hilly terrain.
5. Ride a Mule into the Grand Canyon
If hiking is not your thing, you can ride a mule into the canyon. Xanterra offers mule trips on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This is an extremely popular thing to do and tickets are offered by lottery. Learn more here.
6. Watch the Grand Canyon IMAX Movie
This is a great, low-key activity to add to your list of things to do. In the IMAX theater in the Visitor Center, you can watch 34-minute movie about the Grand Canyon. It’s not quite as thrilling as seeing the Grand Canyon from the viewpoints or hiking below the rim, but this makes a great midday activity to do during the summer, since you can escape the heat in the air-conditioned theater.
Learn more here.
7. Take a Helicopter Flight Over the Grand Canyon
A Grand Canyon helicopter tour can be a thrilling way to experience the awe-inspiring views and stunning beauty that the Grand Canyon has to offer. This allows you to see parts of the Grand Canyon that you cannot see from the South Rim viewpoints.
Helicopter Flight in the Grand Canyon | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
You can take your pick from several flight options that leave right from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
8. Yavapai Museum of Geology
Learn about the history and formation of the Grand Canyon in this museum which is located in the historic Yavapai Observation Station. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter, so it makes a nice activity to do midday. Plus, you can enjoy another stunning view across the Grand Canyon from the large picture windows.
9. Walk the Trail of Time
The Trail of Time is a short walk (1.7 miles) that is actually a portion of the Rim Trail. It starts at the Verkamp’s Visitor Center and ends at the Yavapai Geological Museum. Along the way are 13 information panels that explain the geological history of the Grand Canyon.
10. Watch Sunrise and Sunset over the Grand Canyon
From one of many viewpoints, watch as the sun rises over the Grand Canyon, lighting it up in warm hues of reds, pinks, and oranges. Or, at the end of the day, behold the view as the sun descends toward the horizon, washing the canyon in warm light and making it glow just before nightfall.
It may be tough to roll out of bed early, but you will share the view with just a handful of other visitors. At sunset, expect to share the view with large crowds of people.
Hopi Viewpoint | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
Shoshone Viewpoint | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
Mohave Point | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
As far as picking the best viewpoints, they are all wonderful. We drove along Hermit Road at sunrise and all of the viewpoints were phenomenal.
Hopi Point, Yavapai Point, Mather Point, and Mohave Point are all popular. I think that Ooh Aah Point is gorgeous at sunrise. At sunset, if you want to get away from the crowds, try Shoshone Point (the view may not be quite as stunning as Yavapai or Hopi but the hike to get here will keep the viewpoint quiet) or one of the other viewpoints on Desert View Road.
Take a look at our post on the Grand Canyon viewpoints for more ideas.
11. Take a Ranger Guided Tour
Ranger guided tours are offered daily on the South Rim. Get a geology lesson or learn about the animals that call the Grand Canyon home. This is a great activity if you will be visiting the Grand Canyon with kids. Learn more about the ranger guided programs here.
Grand Canyon Itinerary
Grand Canyon on a Day Trip
If you just have a few hours to spend in the Grand Canyon (for example, if you are visiting the canyon on road trip from Page, Arizona to Las Vegas), you can see a few viewpoints and do a short hike.
If you will be driving down Desert View Road, it’s worth making a stop at several of these viewpoints. Desert View and Grand View Point are wonderful. Park in the Visitor Center and use the shuttle to get around. From here, you can either walk part of the South Rim Trail or hike below the rim. I recommend the 2-mile round trip hike to Ooh Aah Point.
One Day in the Grand Canyon
If you only have one day in the Grand Canyon, roll out of bed early, take the shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead, and hike out to Ooh Aah Point. Go at sunrise or a little later. Having some daylight will make it safer to hike down the trail (bring a headlamp if you want to get to Ooh Aah Point right at sunrise). By doing this first thing in the day, you can hike with low traffic on the trail and before it really starts to heat up. Turn around at Ooh Aah Point or keep going until you reach Cedar Point or Skeleton Point.
With the rest of your time in the morning (if you only hiked to Ooh Aah Point), visit the viewpoints near the Grand Canyon Village. Have lunch in the Village. Spend the afternoon cycling along the viewpoints on Hermit Road, or watch the IMAX movie and visit the Geology Museum. Have dinner in the Village. End with sunset views over the Grand Canyon.
One Day Tours of the Grand Canyon
If you will be in Sedona, Flagstaff, or Las Vegas, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon makes a great day trip destination. Here are several highly rated tours to consider.
2 Days in the Grand Canyon
Follow our 1 day in the Grand Canyon. On your second day, you can visit the viewpoints along Desert View Road, hike part of the Bright Angel Trail, and/or take a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon.
For an epic 2-day adventure, hike the Grand Canyon South Rim to South Rim. On day 1, hike the South Kaibab trail to the Bright Angel Campground. Camp here overnight (a permit is required) or stay at the Phantom Ranch Lodge (reservations need to be made well in advance). On day 2, hike up the Bright Angel Trail.
Or, if you are super fit, have lots of hiking experience, and like the idea of doing it all in one day, hike both trails in one day. This is best done from October through April, when temperatures in the canyon aren’t sweltering.
3 Days in the Grand Canyon
With 3 days in the Grand Canyon, you can do almost everything on this list. Take your time, savor the views, and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Yaki Point | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
How to Get to the South Rim
You can get to the South Rim by car, bus, train, plane, helicopter, or on a tour.
Most people get to the Grand Canyon by car, usually on a road trip through the American Southwest. Here are the driving distances and times from nearby destinations:
- Phoenix: 230 miles, 3.5 hours
- Las Vegas: 280 miles, 4.5 hours
- Page, Arizona: 133 miles, 2.5 hours
- Flagstaff, Arizona: 80 miles, 1.5 hours
- Monument Valley: 176 miles, 3 hours
- Zion National Park: 240 miles, 4.25 hours
By plane or helicopter, you can fly into Tusayan airport. Tusayan is a small town that is located 15 minutes south of the Grand Canyon Village by car. It is possible to book a tour from Las Vegas where you fly into Tusayan and then tour the Grand Canyon on foot or by helicopter.
There are options to take a bus or a train to the Grand Canyon. Click here to learn more.
Map of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon can be visited year round. Peak season is during the summer months and during the holiday seasons of Easter and Christmas. During these times, expect large crowds, traffic jams to enter the park, and hotels booked to capacity.
Spring and fall are great times to visit the park. The weather is pleasant and the park isn’t overly crowded.
From June through September, expect hot conditions and large crowds.
Winter is the off-season. Crowds will be low, but so will the temperatures. Snow is a possibility, but that will only make the Grand Canyon look more magical.
Desert View Point | Best Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
Park Fees and Hours of Operation
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open 24 hours 365 days a year.
The entrance fee is $35 and is valid for 7 days. This fee also includes the visit to the North Rim.
If you plan to visit the North Rim, you should be aware that it is only open from mid-May through mid-October. The road to the North Rim is closed in the winter due to snow. You can check conditions on the official National Park Service website. If you plan to drive from the South Rim to the North Rim, it takes roughly 4 to 5 hours.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Check for trail closures, road closures, and get important updates before your visit on the official National Park Service website.
Where to Stay
There are five hotels located in the Grand Canyon Village (El Tovar, Thunderbird Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, Kachina Lodge, and Maswick Lodge). Staying here gives you the advantage of easy access to the shuttles, short walks to several of the viewpoints, and no hassles driving into and out the park every day. However, the hotels get mediocre reviews and many people say they are expensive for what you get.
Click here to view the lodges and get updated pricing. These hotels fill up very far in advance. Make your reservations 4 – 6 months in advance.
You also have the option to stay in Tusayan. From Tusayan, it is a 15-minute drive into the park. There are several hotels to choose from as well as some restaurants.
We stayed at The Grand Hotel in Tusayan. It is the highest rated hotel in the area. The hotel looks impressive from the outside and the lobby is very nice but the rooms are nothing special. On Booking.com it is listed as a 5-star hotel but it looks and feels a lot more like a 3 to 4 star hotel. However, the rooms are clean and quiet and fit our needs.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you stay in Tusayan, plan to arrive at the Grand Canyon Village no later than 8 am so that you do not get stuck in traffic jams to enter the park, and to make sure you get a parking spot. Or, during the summer months, take the shuttle that runs between Tusayan and the Grand Canyon Village.
Frquently Asked Questions
Where should I go on my first visit to the Grand Canyon?
On your first visit to the Grand Canyon, we recommend visiting the South Rim. With its breathtaking views, an assortment of hiking trails, lots of cool activities to keep kids happy, and a large number of hotels and restaurants to choose from, it’s hard to beat the South Rim.
Skip Grand Canyon West and its overpriced Skywalk, skip Grand Canyon East because you won’t get the iconic canyon views, and only visit the North Rim if you will be out that way during the summer months.
What are the best views on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon?
The best views from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon are Powell Point, Mohave Point, and Pima Point (along Hermit Road), Yavapai Point and Yaki Point (near Canyon Village), Moran Point and Desert View Point (on Desert View Road). If you want to leave the crowds behind, go to Shoshone Point and hike a portion of the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point.
How much time should you spend at the Grand Canyon?
Two days allows you to see most, if not all, of the viewpoints from the South Rim, to hike a portion of the South Kaibab or Bright Angel Trails, to watch the IMAX movie, take a ranger guided tour, walk part of the Rim Trail, and even take a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. If you also want to visit the other rims of the Grand Canyon (there are four: north, south, east, and west), add at least one day for each of these rims.
Which rim is best, the North Rim or the South Rim?
The South Rim is the busiest part of the Grand Canyon to visit. A network of roads, hiking trails, and shuttle routes connect the main viewpoints at this section of the Grand Canyon. There are also numerous hotels and restaurants on the South Rim. The South Rim is open all year, making this the best rim to visit between mid-October and mid-May. However, the North Rim is more remote, less crowded, and the views are some of the best of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim is only open from mid-May through mid-October, so there is a narrow window of time that you can visit this side of the Grand Canyon.
More Information about the Grand Canyon
Here are the links to our other articles about the Grand Canyon, plus a few ideas on how to include the Grand Canyon on a road trip through the American Southwest.
GRAND CANYON: Check out our Grand Canyon National Park Travel Guide for important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.
GRAND CANYON: Check out our guides about how to spend one perfect day in the Grand Canyon and which South Rim viewpoints are the best ones to visit. For amazing views of the Grand Canyon, check out our guide to the Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours.
HIKES IN THE GRAND CANYON: If you are up for a hiking adventure, learn how to hike the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails in one day. And for something even more extreme, learn what it is like to hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim and how to plan a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike.
GRAND CANYON SKYWALK: Are you wondering in the Grand Canyon Skywalk is worth it? We let you know what to expect and give our opinion in our article Is the Grand Canyon Skywalk Worth It?
GRAND CANYON ROAD TRIP: If the Grand Canyon is on your to do list, learn how to combine it with other places in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah with our Grand Canyon Road Trip Ideas.
If you have any questions about the best things to do in the Grand Canyon, comment below!
More Information for Your Trip to the American Southwest
SEDONA: Get links to all of our articles in our Sedona Travel Guide. To help you plan your visit, we also have guides to the best things to do in Sedona, the best hikes in Sedona, and how to plan the perfect Sedona itinerary. Learn where to stay in our Sedona Hotel Guide.
UTAH’S MIGHTY 5: Utah’s Mighty 5 is a collection of five national parks in Utah. Learn more about the parks and how to plan your visit in our Guide to Utah’s Mighty 5.
MONUMENT VALLEY: Learn what there is to do and how to plan your visit in our Guide to Monument Valley. We also have articles on what to expect on a Monument Valley Sunrise Tour and what it is like to hike to Teardrop Arch.
LAS VEGAS: For information on how to visit Las Vegas, read our article Best Things to Do in Las Vegas, which also has advice on where to stay, where to eat, and how to plan your time. If you are visiting with kids or teenagers, don’t miss our article Best Things to Do in Las Vegas with Teenagers.
NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries.
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