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The Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints & Travel Guide to South Rim

How do I plan a perfect vacation in Grand Canyon National Park? What are the best Grand Canyon viewpoints from the South Rim? How to get to the Grand Canyon and how explore the Grand Canyon South Rim area? Where to stay, what to do, and what activities to choose when visiting the Grand Canyon South Rim? In this article, we share our experiences and tips from our few visits. We’ll show you the best Grand Canyon photo spots from the South Rim and help you plan your trip to experience the vastness of the Grand Canyon National Park and Colorado River.

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Chris, the co-founder of the Van Escape Blog is taking pictures of the abbys and Colorado River from one of the Grand Canyon viepoints in South Rim.
Table of Contents show

The Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints from South Rim – Our Experiences

The roar of the Colorado River could be heard. Sunset warmed the red cliffs of the Grand Canyon South Rim. Ravens flew over the rim. Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon for the first time, I saw the vastness of the canyon and the Colorado River flowing at the bottom. My knees were shaking.

Since then, Chris and I have returned to the Grand Canyon several times to learn more about its mysteries and majesty. In this post, we share our experiences planning the perfect vacation to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and tell you which are the best Grand Canyon viewpoints to take great photos and admire its beauty! Use the table of contents for easier navigation. All pictures presented in this article are ours.

Grand Canyon Facts

What makes the Grand Canyon Gorge so special are the rock layers and colors and its vastness over the Colorado River. Grand Canyon owes its distinctive shape to the different rock layers in the canyon walls. Each responds to erosion in a different way: some from slopes, some from cliffs, and some erode more quickly than others.

The vivid colors of many of these layers are due mainly to trace amounts of various minerals, which impart subtle hues of red, yellow, and green to the canyon walls. Sparse vegetation in the dry canyon climate makes it easy to see the rock layers. Below are the most fascinating facts and history about this natural landmark.

How deep and how long is the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in Arizona.

  • It is 277 miles (446 km) long, and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide.
  • Grand Canyon attains a depth of over a mile (6,093 feet / 1,857 meters).
  • The narrowest point of the Grand Canyon is 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) across.
  • The average distance across the canyon is only 10 miles (16 km).
  • However, it is a five-hour drive of 220 miles (354 km) between the park’s South Rim Village and the North Rim Village.
Grand Canyon Viewpoints from South Rim the Navajo Point.

How did the Grand Canyon come to be?

The Grand Canyon, including its extensive system of tributary canyons, is valued for its combination of size, depth, and exposed layers of colorful rocks dating back to Precambrian times. Grand Canyon owes its existence to the downcutting of the Colorado River.

The forces on the canyon walls that have shaped and continue to widen the canyon today – running water from rain, snowmelt, and tributary streams that enter the canyon throughout its length – are equally important.

Colorado and its tributaries worked to deepen and, with the aid of rain, ice, and gravity, widen the canyon to its present width. The Colorado River is one of the principal rivers (along with the Rio Grande) in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It is 1.450 miles long (2.330 km).

TRAVEL TIP: If you want to see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, check our pictures from the best viewpoints and tips on how to visit Nort Rim. If you dream of seeing stunning Toroweap formations – the most scenic Grand Canyon viewpoint, check our detailed post on how to get to the Toroweap Overlook.

Colorado River from Navajo Point during sunset.

How old is the Grand Canyon?

Grand Canyon tells two separate geologic stories. The older story is the one revealed in the rocks exposed in the walls of the canyon. These rocks provide a record of the Paleozoic Era (540-250 million years ago). At the bottom of the canyon, there are remnants of Precambrian foundations that are almost 2 billion years old.

The second geologic story concerns the origin of the Grand Canyon itself. The early history and evolution of the Colorado River is the most complex aspect of Grand Canyon geology. The erosion that shaped the canyon occurred only in the past 5 to 6 million years.

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon was officially designated a national park on February 26, 1919. It covers 1,217,262 acres (1,901.972 sq mi; 4,926.08 km2) and was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

The park celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019. If you are looking for the best of Grand Canyon Viewpoints, most of them you will find on the Grand Canyon South Rim, as its’ spectacular and vast part.

Sunset from Lipan Point.

Grand Canyon South Rim – Tips on How to Plan a Trip?

Open year-round; the South Rim is the most popular area of Grand Canyon National Park. The South Rim is more accessible than the North Rim, or Toroweap Overlook, and accounts for 90% of park visitation.

According to CNN, in 2022, Grand Canyon National Park was visited by 4.53 million people. Below we show you step-by-step how to plan a trip to South Rim.

Entrances to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

You can access South Rim from two entrances.

  • The South Entrance is on Arizona Highway 64, accessible from Flagstaff or Williams. The closest town to the South Entrance is Tusayan.
  • The East Entrance (with the famous Desert View) is on Arizona Highway 64 from U.S. Highway 89 at Cameron. The closest town to East Entrance and Desert View is Cameron.

Entrance Fee to the Grand Canyon National Park

The entrance fee (valid for 7 days) to the Park is $35 per vehicle, $30 for motorcyclists, and $20 for individuals. But the best idea is to buy America the Beautiful – National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass, which costs $80 for 12 months of unlimited visits to federal lands with no entrance fee.

It’s worth having it before your visit to National Parks, as the pass is valid for 1 year from the month of purchase.

South Rim is filled with diverse lodging, camping, and restaurant options. You will find here also a lot of adventure possibilities. Below we describe more details.

Winter in Grand Canyon.

Getting to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

Below you find all details on how to get to the Grand Canyon National Park by car, by train, by bus, and by airplane.

Getting to Grand Canyon South Rim by Car

The best option is getting to Grand Canyon by car. You may rent a car in Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Flagstaff. There are no rentals at Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan. Before you rent a car, compare prices.

Driving Direction to Grand Canyon National Park South Rim

  • From the west, you should take Highway 64 at Williams to the South Entrance (59 miles).
  • From the east, take I-40 to Highway 89, to Highway 64, and then proceed to the East Entrance.
  • If you are going from Flagstaff, take Highway 180 to Highway 64, and then continue to the park (79 miles).
  • From the northeast, take U.S. Highway 160 to Highway 89, then Highway 64, and then proceed to the East Entrance.
Grand canyon viewpoints from south rim during sunset with stunning view of the  Desert View Watchtower in sunlight.

Getting to Grand Canyon South Rim by Train

You can get to Grand Canyon South Rim by train from Williams and Flagstaff. You can take the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams. This vintage train offers five classes of service for this scenic over a 2-hour ride. It’s a great idea to take a Grand Canyon Railway Adventure Package tour.

You can travel the way people have since 1901 during this Grand Canyon Railway tour. Below you can check the availability and prices of this tour. If you plan your trip during high season (May-September) we recommend advanced booking, as it’s a popular tip to Grand Canyon.

Getting to Grand Canyon South Rim by Bus

Arizona Shuttle offers service from Flagstaff, Williams, and Phoenix to Grand Canyon. Check groometransportation.com/arizona for reservations.

Flagstaff Shuttle and Charter also operate from Flagstaff, Las Vegas, Sedona, and Phoenix. Check flagstaffshuttles.com for tickets.

Getting to Grand Canyon South Rim by Airplane

Grand Canyon and Scenic Airlines fly daily from the Las Vegas area to Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan, seven miles to Grand Canyon Village. US Airways flies into Flagstaff, Arizona. It is a fantastic experience to fly by plane over the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Railway in Grand Canyon Village.

The Best Grand Canyon National Park Maps

The Grand Canyon National Park is a vast area. If you intend to spend more than one day there to see the most beautiful and exciting places, it is worth taking a map. If you plan, a hiking map is a must-have for safety. Often there is no telephone coverage in many places. When you decide to go down to the Colorado River, there won’t be covered in most areas.

Grand Canyon National Park Map Pack Bundle

  • If you are planning a visit Grand Canyon for several days and you want to see all its parts and most exciting places, it pays to buy a set of 3 maps: Grand Canyon National Park Map Pack Bundle. National Geographic Trails Illustrated’s three-map collection provides a comprehensive overview of the entire park and its neighboring areas. The set includes Grand Canyon North and South Rims with enhanced detail maps around the central Grand Canyon, including Grand Canyon Village and the Bright Angel Trail. Moreover, you get the Grand Canyon East and Grand Canyon West map. We like this set of map because they have a good scale and they are waterproof and tear-resistant.

Trail Map of Grand Canyon

  • We also use Grand Canyon Trail Map. A new, more detailed 7th edition has been released in 2020, which is excellent. It’s worth buying it. Trails have trail ratings, text descriptions & statistics. It includes 100ft contours, shaded relief, a UTM grid for use with GPS, springs & drinking water, backcountry use zones, and much more. Very durable. Most importantly, very accurate. If you plan on doing any backpacking in the GC, this is the one to buy. It includes more detail, particularly if you want to get a little away from the regular routes.

Grand Canyon Complete Guides

  • We also like Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide. If you like guides, this one is exciting. It provides information to help you plan your trip—descriptions of routes, hiking trails, maps, attractions, and recommendations for accommodation.
View of the Colorado River from the abbys.

How to get from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon South Rim?

The easiest way to get from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon South Rim is by car. If you rent a car, we highly recommend Alamo. We have been using this rental company for years, and we are always satisfied. Make sure to add SOuth RIm to your Arizona road trip itinerary.

Directions from Las Vegas

From Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Village is about 280 miles (4 – 4,5 hours driving). Take U.S. Highway 93 South and then in Kingman take I-40 East to Williams. From Williams take Highway 64 at Williams to the South Entrance (59 miles). From Kingman, you can also take Historic Rute 66. It will be longer, but you can see Huckberry town and Peach Spring. Check also the best Route 66 towns in Arizona.

Tours from Las Vegas

It’s also a great idea to consider Grand Canyon South Rim Tours, too. From Las Vegas, you can take a Grand Canyon Day Trip. You can choose a helicopter tour (which is a fantastic adventure) or a trip by car or bus. Or you can take an unforgettable and breathtaking helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon, which is a fantastic experience. Check out the best day trips from Las Vegas.

Getting Around Grand Canyon South Rim

By car

You have a variety of activities at the Grand Canyon South Rim. A driving tour, which is 35 miles (56 km) along the South Rim is split into two segments. The western drive to Hermit’s Point is 8 miles (13 km), with several overlooks along the way, including Mohave Point, Hopi Point, and the Powell Memorial.

From March to December, access to Hermit’s Rest is restricted to the free shuttle provided by the Park Service. The eastern part of Desert View is 25 miles (40 km) and is open to private vehicles year-round.

But the parking lot is limited, especially during the peak and holiday season. You might have a huge problem finding a parking spot. It’s a great idea to use the free shuttle. So as you see, many of the accessible vistas at the Grand Canyon are quite spread out, and driving from one area to another takes time, so if your time for the visit is limited, read our advice below to prepare well for your trip.

Grand Canyon South Rim – Free Shuttle Bus

There is Free Shuttle Bus Service in Grand Canyon. Shuttles arrive every 10 to 15 minutes on most routes and stop at concession Facilities, visitor centers, parking areas, and scenic overlooks. You can hop on and hop off at any of the shuttle stops and use the shuttle bus service as many times as you need. There are four lines of Free Shuttle Bus:

  • Village Route (Blue) is open year-round
  • Kaibab/Rim Route (Orange) is open year-round
  • Hermits Rest Route (Red) is open from March 1 to November 30
  • Tusayan Route (Purple) is open from early spring to fall.
  • There is also Hiker’s Express Shuttle, which is an early morning bus with service to South Kaibab Trailhead.

Trip Tip: We highly recommend that you take advantage of the Grand Canyon shuttle bus service, especially during peak season. It will save you time, money, and gas. You’ll be able to focus on enjoying the views of the Grand Canyon instead of losing your nerves looking for a parking space.

Grand Canyon South Rim to North Rim Shuttle

Between mid-May and mid-October, Trans Canyon Shuttle rups a daily five-hour rim-to-rim shuttle. Check trans-canyonshuttle.com for reservations. More info about North Rim you can find in our separate article. But it’s not a good idea to do South Rim and North Rim in one day. Most of the time you spend driving.

Grand Canyon Viewpoints from South Rim: Colorado River and orange rocks.

Grand Canyon South Rim Weather – When is the best time for a trip?

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is located in an exposed high-desert region renowned for temperature extremes, and the weather can change abruptly. It’s much warmer than in North Rim. Summers are warm and dry but prone to thunderstorms and quick temperature drops. Winters bring freezing temperatures and snowstorms, so check the weather before you go.

The 5000-foot elevation change between the top and bottom means, in summer, rim temperatures in the 70s to 80s (21°C to 32°C) average can mean temperatures exceeding 100°F (43°C) at the bottom. Spring and fall are pleasant and warm. But always wear layers.

The Grand Canyon South Rim is open year-round, but during the winter, check the weather and news on the Park’s website, because some roads after a snowstorm may be closed.

Where to stay in Grand Canyon South Rim?

Unlike the North Rim on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you have a much more extensive selection of lodging. It all depends on your budget and your travel style. We share our choices of the best campgrounds and hotels. We prefer Tusayan as they have a wide selection of accommodations, so check the best options on the map below.


Grand Canyon Village accommodation

Grand Canyon Hotels on the South Rim

If you want to spend the night or nights in a Grand Canyon Village, which is ideal, as it’s inside the park, you need to book accommodation several months in advance. But lodging within the park can be costly, especially during peak seasons.

The Grand Canyon Village is very popular. It is a beautiful area. Hotels have great reviews. So, it’s a great idea to stay inside the Park in the Grand Canyon Village. We have three suggestions for you. They have high reviews among visitors. They are:

  • Bright Angel Lodge – it’s a historic lodge with 3 restaurants, with excellent food, great for families, near Hopi House.
  • El Tovar Hotel– with stylish interiors; historic hotel with a restaurant, near Hopi House, too.
  • Maswik Lodge, it’s a good hotel with a restaurant, near Bright Angel Lodge.
  • But, as we mentioned above, Grand Canyon Village is trendy. Million of tourists visit the village throughout the year. Even during the winter, it is difficult to reserve a room. So it’s worth planning your stay and making a reservation in advance. The number of recreational visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park reached a total of 6.38 million in 2018.
Grand Canyon Hotels: the view of the cliff and Bright Angel Lodge next to cliff.

Grand Canyon RV Parks & Campgrounds

If you prefer campgrounds, you have two NPS campgrounds inside the Park and one operated by Delaware North Parks. Outside the Park, you have even more options.

Desert View Campground is located at the east entrance to the park (25 miles/ 41km east of Grand Canyon Village). It’s closed for winter. It’s open from mid-April to mid-October only. There are no reservations – First-come first served only. There are NO RV hook-ups. It’s very popular, so it usually fills by noon each day.

Mather Campground is located in Grand Canyon Village. It’s open year-round, and it is operated by NPS. It offers tent and RV camping. 30-foot maximum total length, including trailer or RV. There are no RV hook-ups, too.

Reservations may be made through the National Recreation Reservation Service by calling 1-877-444-6777 or online at https://www.recreation.gov/. During the winter months of December, January, and February, the campground office is closed, and online reservations are not available. Registration is first come first serve using the self-pay machine.

Trailer Village RV Park with Full Hook-ups is located in Grand Canyon Village, too. You can make a reservation here.
You can find more information about campgrounds on the NPS website.

If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the South Rim, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center.

canyon and abbys.

Hotels near Grand Canyon South Rim Outside the Park

Tusayan Hotels

Tusayan is our choice as it offers the best deals. You can find a lot of excellent places to stay in the Grand Canyon South Rim outside of the National Park. The great idea is to stay in one of the Tusayan hotels. The town is located outside the Park, but only a few minutes from the park gate. Prices are more affordable than inside the park. You have a wide selection of hotels and restaurants. The town has its charm. Check the best deals below.


Lodging in Cameron, Flagstaff, or Williams – on famous Route 66

If you’re coming from the East side of the park it’s worth stopping in Cameron. It’s a small town, but great if you want to start from the East. The entrance is located on Arizona Highway 64 from U.S. Highway 89 at Cameron. If you stay in Cameron it’s worth visiting Cameron Trading Post.

They have a great selection of high-quality souvenirs and great restaurants. We love their breakfasts, too.
Another option is staying in Flagstaff. In this city, we stayed in Motel 6. It is cheaper, but still good quality. It is a town on Historic Route 66. And it’s a great idea to visit downtown.

Finally, our favorite town on Historic Route 66 – Williams. The town has amazing charm and atmosphere. You travel to the 60s and 70s. In Williams, we stayed in Canyon Motel & RV Park. There is also a great Grand Canyon Railway RV Park.

If you prefer hotels, we stayed in the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, which is great, but there are a lot of lodging possibilities with excellent reviews. From Williams, you can travel by train taking the Grand Canyon Railway tour.

Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon South Rim

Grand Canyon Day Hikes from South Rim with the best viewpoints

Rim Trail

The Rim Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Grand Canyon and one of the best ways to see the South Rim’s most popular attractions and viewpoints. This fairly easy walking path traces the canyon’s edge, stopping off at popular lookout points like Maricopa Point and Hopi Point. Hikes can begin almost anywhere along this trail, and a shuttle can return hikers to their point of origin.

Park’s free shuttle bus runs along a paved road along the trail, allowing for easy access to the village and points along the way. Take a lot of water with you. Remember to stay hydrated. It’s a good idea to start walking from Mather Point. This hike offers one of the best Grand Canyon Viewpoints from the South Rim.

Trip Tip: Check the detailed and free map of this hike from the official NPS website. Download it before a trip.

Stopping points at Rim Trail

The total distance of Rim Trail is 12.8 miles (20.6 km) one-way, but you can choose a short section or a few sections of the trail to discover the beauty of the Grand Canyon viewpoints.

Stopping points are:

  • South Kaibab Trailhead to Pipe Creek Vista – 0.9 mi (1.4 km) one-way
  • Pipe Creek Vista to Mather Point – 1.4 mi (2.3 km) one-way
  • Mather Point to Yavapai Point – 0.7 mi (1.1 km) one-way
  • Yavapai Point to Verkamp’s – 1.4 mi (2.3 km) one-way
  • Verkamp’s to Bright Angel Trailhead – 0.5 mi (0.8 km) one-way
  • Bright Angel Trailhead to Trailview Overlook – 0.5 mi (0.8 km) one-way
  • Trailview Overlook to Maricopa Point – 0.7 mi (1.1 km) one-way
  • Maricopa Point to Powell Point – 0.5 mi (0.8 km) one-way
  • Powell Point to Hopi Point – 0.3 mi (0.5 km) one-way
  • Hopi Point to Mohave Point – 1.0 mi (1.6 km) one-way
  • Mohave Point to the Abbys – 1.1 mi (1.8 km) one-way
  • The Abbys to Monument Creek Vista – 1.0 mi (1.6 km) one-way
  • Monument Creek Vista to Pima Point – 1.8 mi (2.9 km) one-way
  • Pima Point to Hermits Rest – 1.0 mi (1.6 km) one way.
people on the Rim Trail in Grand Canyon.

Bright Angel Trail

Bright Angel Trail is an excellent choice if you have never hiked in the Grand Canyon before. The trail is easy and very well maintained. There are drinking water and rest areas along the way. The Grand Canyon views are breathtaking. Bright Angel Trail is 6.1 mi one-way. But you can take some part of the trail.

Trip Tip: Check the detailed and free map and tips for this hike from the official NPS website. Download it before a trip.

Stopping Points at Bright Angel Trail

There are five stopping points:

  • Bright Angel Trailhead to Lower Tunnel – 0.9 mi one-way
  • Lower Tunnel to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse – 0.6 mi one-way
  • Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse to Three-Mile Resthouse – 1.5 mi one-way
  • Three Mile-Resthouse to Indian Garden Campground – 1.5 mi one-way
  • Indian Garden Campground to Plateau Point – 1.6 mi one way.
Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon during winter, the path is covered by snow.

South Kaibab Trail

South Kaibab Trail offers spectacular views along a ridgeline. It’s worth taking this hike. If you don’t have enough time to make all trails, go to the first stopping point, which is Ooh-Aah Point. It’s only 0.9 miles one way. From Ooh-Aah Point to Cedar Ridge is 0.6 miles, and from Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point – is 1.5 miles. You have a lot of photo opportunities on this trail. Take a lot of water and snacks for your hike. More tips you will find on the NPS website.

What to see in Grand Canyon South Rim in one day?

Take a Scenic Flight over Grand Canyon South Rim

If you have only one day in Grand Canyon South Rim, it’s a great idea to start in the morning with a short scenic flight over the Grand Canyon South Rim from Tusayan. It takes only 40 minutes, but the impressions are fantastic. You will feel the power and majesty of the Grand Canyon.

And, what’s important, the price is affordable. Book the scenic flight in advance, especially if you are going during the peak seasons, between May-September. Another option is to combine the Helicopter Ride and Hummer Tour.

Admire the Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints from South Rim by using the free shuttle

Then, after the scenic flight, if you can drive in your car or take a shuttle to the South Rim. If you are in high season, it is better to take a free shuttle; otherwise, you will lose a lot of time parking the car. So instead of wasting time trying to find a parking spot, we recommend that you park near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and take a shuttle.

You can get off at any stop. Use our best viewpoints on the South Rim list below to know, where it’s worth getting off from the shuttle. Please visit Desert View Watchtower and go to the top. The panorama view is perfect from the tower.

Visit the Village Historic District

It’s worth seeing The Village Historic District. It is the heart of development on the South Rim, constructed mostly by the Santa Fe Railroad during the first half of the 20th Century. If you have enough time, take a short hike from our list. You will see the beauty of the Grand Canyon South Rim from another perspective.

It’s great to stop by the rustic Grand Canyon Railway Depot, which welcomes Grand Canyon Railway passengers to the village. In Grand Canyon Village you also have an extensive selection of gift shops.

Other posts about Arizona with tons of tips and exciting information you will find in our Arizona PhotoTravel Guide.

Rim Trail and Colorado River.

The Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints from South Rim

Grand Canyon South Rim is probably one of the most spectacular sights in the world, that people have tried to capture. There are endless fantastic photographic opportunities at the Grand Canyon, but it’s essential to plan your photo visit. So we share our experience.

There are dozens of viewpoints along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Over 20 are easily accessible by vehicle; six require a certain amount of hiking. Some of them are jaw-dropping, epic, and breathtaking. Others are not very impressive.

One is better for sunset, the other for sunrise. Some are great for both: sunset and sunrise. Finally, some of them are crowded, others not. The best idea to choose the most spectacular is to see all of them. But if you don’t have enough time, we share our experience of which Grand Canyon viewpoints of South Rim are the best and why.

The Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints South Rim for Sunrise

For sunrise photography of the Grand Canyon South Rim try:

  • Mother Point,
  • Lipan Point,
  • Navajo Point,
  • Yavapai Point,
  • Hopi Point.

The Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints South Rim for Sunset

For sunset photos of the Grand Canyon South Rim try:

  • Lipan Point,
  • Navajo Point,
  • Yavapai Point,
  • Mather Point,
  • Pima Point,
  • Hopi Point,
  • Grandview Point.

Desert View Drive Points

Desert View Drive extends east out of the South Entrance Road and continues for 22 miles (35,4 km) all the way to the Desert View Watchtower. Below you find our favorite Grand Canyon viewpoints of the South Rim from this road.

Desert View & the Desert View Watchtower

We start from the iconic Desert View Watchtower at the eastern-most point of Desert View Drive, because we love these sweeping views. It’s one of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints from South Rim. And it’s located 26 miles/ 41 km east of Grand Canyon Village, on the East Entrance Station closest access to/from the Cameron.

It’s also known as the Indian Watchtower at Desert View, is a 70-foot (21 m)-high stone building, completed in 1932. American architect Mary Colter designed the Desert View Watchtower. The interior contains murals by Fred Kabotie. You can climb 85 steps to the top of the watchtower for 360° views.

It is a unique perspective for photos from the tower. Desert View is the highest viewpoint on the Grand Canyon South Rim with an elevation of 7,438 feet (2,267 meters).

ornaments inside Desert View Watchtower in Grand Canyon.
Desert View Watchtower next to the abbys: one of the best Grand Canyon Viewpoints.

Navajo Point

It’s a grand vista for sunset and sunrise too. You have a full perspective of the canyon and Colorado River. We love the river from this point. Desert View Watchtower is also visible from this Grand Canyon viewpoint.

sunset view from Navajo Point in the Grand Canyon with the watchtower in the backdrop.
Colorado River sunset view from Navajo Point.

Lipan Point

We choose this Grand Canyon viewpoint for sunset photos, and it was a great idea. The canyon looks broader and more open here. At the bottom of the canyon, you can see the winding Colorado River. Photos can be taken from several different places on edge so that you can have various shots.

sunset over Lipan Point, Grand Canyon South Rim.

Grandview Point

It’s a broad and beautiful vista. From this Grand Canyon Viewpoint, you also have different options to take photos. From this point begins Grandview Trail, which leads to Horseshoe Mesa. Grandview Point elevation is 7,100 feet, so it is one of the highest viewpoints in South Rim. Besides, it is the southernmost point on the Grand Canyon.

Grandview Point in Grand Canyon.
Grandview Trail in South Rim covered by snow.

Visitor Center Viewpoints

Below are two great Grand Canyon Viewpoints from South Rim located near Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

It’s the most popular Grand Canyon viewpoint from South Rim. In the picture below, you can see how it looks at the sunrise, and it’s much worse during the day. It’s crowded. But there are several nearby points where you have a much better view without the crowd. The good idea is to walk along the rim to choose spots less crowded.

We choose Mather Point for the sunrise having the most popular platform on the left. And we focused on the canyon, not people. We like this perspective. From Mather Point, the Colorado River is practically below your feet, but in our opinion, it’s not as spectacular as on the Toroweap Overlook. To the west is Bright Angel Trail, to the east is the South Kaibab Trail, and straight ahead is the North Rim. 

people staying at the Mather Point, and admiring the abbys of the Grand Canyon.

Yavapai Point

For us, the Yavapai point may provide one of the best panoramas of the inner canyon, the Colorado River, and Bright Angel Canyon. It offers sweeping Grand Canyon views to the east and west. It’s less crowded than Mother Point, and the pictures are spectacular. There is also Yavapai Geology Museum, where you can learn about Grand Canyon geology and history.

Yavapai Point in Grand Canyon South Rim.
Yavapai Point in Grand Canyon South Rim.

Hermit Road Viewpoints

Below you find our favorite Grand Canyon vistas on Hermit Road. Remember that between March 1 to November 30, Hermit Road is accessible via a shuttle bus only. But it’s worth taking a free shuttle bus to see this part of South Rim.

From December 1 to February 28, the road is open for private vehicles, and you need to drive or walk to get between the viewpoints.
Hermit Road is 7 miles long. It starts near the Grand Canyon Village and ends at Hermit’s Rest.

Trailview Overlook

We like this Grand Canyon South Rim viewpoint because it’s a great view of Bright Angel Trailhead. You can see the winding trail going down the Grand Canyon.

Bright Angel Trail, Trailview Overlook

Powell Point

This point has great eastern exposure, making it an excellent spot for sunrise. Vista is named after John Wesley Powell, the first man to successfully run the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. There is a monument to this historic achievement on Powell Point.

Powell Point view

Hopi Point – one of the best Grand Canyon South Rim vistas

For us, it’s one of the best of Grand Canyon viewpoints from the South Rim. The Hopi Point offers terrific views to the east and west, too. The vista is similar to the Powell Point from here, but the Colorado River looks much better from Hopi Point for us.

Hopi Point offers excellent views of the stone temples (rock formations) rising from the depths of the Canyon. So, it’s an excellent spot for both sunrise and sunset.

Hopi Point during sunset with stunning Colorado River view.

The Abyss

The Abyss Point is located on the very edge of the rim and gives you an almost vertical look down into the canyon below. It offers a wide-ranging view. It’s also one of our favorites Grand Canyon viewpoints of South Rim.

The Abbys Point at the Grand Canyon.

Pima Point

We like Pima Point because it offers a beautiful Colorado River view from this part of South Rim, too. Besides, the views to the east are stunning.

Colorado River from Pima Point.

Grand Canyon Viewpoints Photography Tips & Photo Gear

Arrive Early & Plan Your Photo Visit Ahead

To take good pictures, arrive way before sunrise or sunset (minimum one hour) to find the right spot. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is extremely crowded, especially in the peak season. Great if you visit all Grand Canyon viewpoints of South Rim earlier to choose the vista that suits you best. You don’t have to stay at the major viewpoints. For us, the best options are to walk between the views and along the edge to find the best vista. It’s good to plan what is most important for you too.

It’s essential to prepare for Grand Canyon Photography. But if you don’t have time for it, use our hints above and see which spots are the best on South Rim. Get to the Park as early as possible, because parking is limited, and there may be traffic jams at the park entrance.

Light and Time of Day is Important

Light is a crucial element in photography. It’s very common to photograph at sunrise or sunset. The best time of the day is called the golden hour – it is just the first hour of light after sunrise and the last hour of light before sunset.

Another best time for photography is called the blue hour. It occurs just before sunrise and after sunset when the sky has a deep blue hue, saturated colors, and cold temperature.

Find Perspective & Use a Strong Foreground

First of all, perspective is essential. The Grand Canyon South Rim is vast, and getting a sense of scale can be a challenge. So it’s a great idea to find a spot with the first plan on it. Your foreground might be a branch, tree or trees, rock, people, etc. It’s good to have a wide lens for these photos. You can get perspective by including people in your compositions, so you capture the size of the Grand Canyon this way.

Other posts about Arizona with tons of tips and exciting information you will find in our Arizona PhotoTravel Guide or in our 14 days Arizona road trip itinerary.

people on the Mather Point.

Use a Telephoto Lens

Grand Canyon photography might be a bit challenging. It is difficult to depict this space, power and extends in the picture, so zoom it. One of the ideas to take a great picture of the Grand Canyon is to use a telephoto lens. Then you can zoom the Colorado River, rocks, zoom in on overlapping layers, canyon. This way, it’s possible to show the power and majesty of this place. So look for details and focus on specific details, as rocks’ colors and layers, their textures, and patterns.

sunset sky in orange colors from the Lipan Point in Grand Canyon SOuth Rim.

Check the Weather before you visit Grand Canyon South Rim

The weather can be favorable for photography. It is worth checking the weather before pictures. Maybe there will be fog over the canyon, clouds, or storms. Last time we got some snow, which also added a different atmosphere to the photos.

Change Your Perspective & Take a Helicopter Tour or Go For a Hike

If you have time, it’s a great idea to change your vantage point. Even a short hike 0,5 – 1 mile down into the canyon gives you different compositions and perspectives. Or you can take a hike along the rim, to change the point of view.
Most of all, if you can take a helicopter flight you can get an amazing vista and great photo opportunity, too. A helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon is an unforgettable adventure.

Use a Tripod

Before sunrise and after sunset the landscape is darker, so the best idea is to use a tripod.

Dress in Layers when visiting Grand Canyon South Rim

The weather changes quickly, especially at sunrise, which can be chilly. So dress in layers. We’ve prepared a complex packing list for camping in the Grand Canyon. The list is called Havasupai Packing List, but it contains necessary camping gear throughout the Grand Canyon National Park and Southwest in general.

Including camping gear, cooking equipment, clothes, safety, and photo gear. So check it, please, our list helps you prepare appropriately for your adventure.

Photo Gear for photographing Grand Canyon South Rim Viewpoints

Camera and Lenses

Camera. If you read our earlier articles you know that we use Canon and Nikon. Agnes uses Nikon D750, and Chris Canon EOS R. Both cameras were ideal for Grand Canyon National Park due to their quality and flexibility. They are light enough as well to pack into a camping backpack.
Lenses. Above all, for photos of the Grand Canyon National Park, it’s best to have a wide lens and a telephoto lens. Take the widest (ultra-wide recommended) and fastest aperture lens you have (good options are Canon 16-35/2.8 or Nikon 14-24/2.8).

This time at the Grand Canyon South Rim Chris used also Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and telephoto lens Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II and Agnes used also Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G and Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR.  

Tripod and Remote Control Shutter Release

Finally, a tripod is a must-have, too. Tripod is necessary for landscapes for sunrise and sunset. We recommend a stable tripod because you will take photos over the rim. Don’t take too lightly tripod; the wind can be intense. We have been using Sirui for years, they are reliable and durable tripods.

Do not forget also Remote Control Shutter Release. It is much safer to use it over the abyss, and you don’t lose your balance using it. So you do not have to lean too often over the tripod. Our choice is Camera Remote Wireless Shutter Release Intervalometer which is perfect also for night photos – milky way and stars. You’ll be over the gulf when it’s dark, therefore take also a headlamp and gloves. They are essential for your comfort, too.

Memory Cards and Filters

With memory cards, it is easy. You always should buy the fastest and most reliable ones. For years we were using SanDisk and Lexar CF and SD cards for the reason that we never had any issues with them. This is why we can recommend them to you.

Finally Filters:
Minimum: Circular polarizing filter. Please make sure it fits your lens diameter. We recommend Heliopan or B+W filters.
Optimum: Circular polarizing filter, and ND grad filters (we suggest Lee soft edge 0.9 and Lee reverse ND grad to begin with). In the case of ND grads, you will need a holder as well.
Finally, Maximum: Circular polarizing filter, ND grad filters (minimum Lee soft edge 0.9, Lee reverse ND grad and a holder) and full ND (Lee Big Stopper or Little Stopper).


  1. We did love our visit to the Grand Canyon south rim.  We were glad we had our car so we could stop at the different viewpoints outside of the village.  But we did park on our second day and used the shuttle bus for a few stops.  You got some beautiful pictures.  I am sure that being there with snow is a totally different experience.  We would definitely want to try a helicopter ride on our next visit.  

  2. Ah man, your photos are amazing! I havent reached the grand canyon yet but do plan to spend some time here and check out (hopefully) all of the best viewpoints on the North and South Rim. Thanks for sharing your spots, have made a note as I am hoping to be doing this in 2020.

  3. Wow, what lovely pictures! I did recently visit the Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan and they mentioned it was the second biggest after the US. I have not been to the Grand Canyon but putting the two together, I can wholly agree how wondrous and massive this place. I am sure the US is far more different and I would love to visit this place some day!

  4. Navajo Point is incredible and is somewhere I’d not like to photograph from, but also see the sunrise and sunset. I forgot how large Grand Canyon National Park is. That said, it’s good to know there’s a free shuttle bus service to get around. I also didn’t realise you can visit here from Las Vegas. Something to bear in mind the next time I visit!

  5. Your images are gorgeous!  Great information about the shuttle service. I
    have been to the Grand Canyon several times and would love to return in the winter
    to stay at one of the lodges and see the red rocks against the snow. I think it
    would be FREEZING out there though!

  6. Whenever I read about Grand Canyon, it always makes me want to go there. I find it mysterious. The pictures are always so inspiring and you have got some amazing ones. Thank you for sharing all those important points and also the photography tips. Telephoto lens sounds like a cool idea. I am gonna prepare and go for it. 

  7. It’s been over 40 years since I last visited the Grand Canyon, your photos, especially Lipan and Yavapai Point, make more realize I need to make time and plan a trip. I’ll have to make sure to include a visit to the Watchtower to check out those murals. Nice reminder about bringing a tripod, I tend to leave mine at home and then am bummed when I really need it.

  8. Great content!! I love the picture that you mentioned in your post. I visited the Grand Canyon many years ago hence I don’t have vivid memories and I would love to visit it again. I would love to try all the tips you mentioned and taking a helicopter ride is so epic!!! 

  9. I love the way you have shared tips in your guide. From where the best viewpoints are to how to get there and what to expect and even photography tips – you have covered them all. Have not yet been to that part of the world but when I do, Grand Canyon is gonna be high on my list and your post a perfect guide for it. 

  10. We were so glad we visited the Grand Canyon South Rim.  Although we found the North Rim a little steeper.  Those broad views and colours drew us to the viewpoints on the South Rim though.  But I sure imagine the view in the winter with snow is quite fascinating.  When we visited we used a combination of car and shuttle bus.  But we did visit when it was not super busy.  I did not know there was a rim to rim shuttle.  But agree with you that to try to do them both in one day is not advisable.  

  11. Grand Canyons are treat to the eyes, I always wondered about the different colors. The article mentioned well the reasons behind the changing colors. But I believe it is huge and one needs to have the stamina to cover it all.

  12. I’ve not visited the famous Grand Canyon. It’s likely one of those places where the photography never really captures the real awe-inspiring views. Great to hear about the rim to rim shuttle, and the amount of time you need to be able to visit some of these best viewpoints.

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