10 of The Best Attractions in The Grand Canyon

grand canyon national park - awe-inspiring landscape

Carved by the Colorado River over millions of years, the Grand Canyon is an iconic natural landmark of Arizona. Grand Canyon National Park is huge and encompasses 1,904 square miles on the Colorado Plateau. The park is well-known for its extraordinary landscapes and rocks from different eras of geological time. If you are looking for the best attractions in the Grand Canyon, then you have come to the right place.

To help you plan your itinerary, we have listed down some of the amazing Grand Canyon attractions that you shouldn’t miss. Scroll down to know what awaits you in this land of natural marvels.

Grand Canyon National Park is divided into two major areas: the South Rim and the North Rim. Both areas are managed by the National Park Service.

The South Rim is more popular and is open year-round. However, the North Rim is open for a short period typically from May 15 to October 15 each year. So, plan your visit accordingly.

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A Quick Glance Through

Fast Facts

  • The Grand Canyon was established as a national park on February 26, 1919
  • The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide (rim to rim), and a mile deep.
  • Spread over an area of 1904 square miles, Grand Canyon National Park is bigger than the state of Rhode Island.
  • Grand Canyon National Park features among the 10 most-visited national parks in the USA. It received 4.5 million visitors in 2021.
  • Despite its inhospitable landscapes, a great variety of wildlife survives in the Grand Canyon. The park is home to 450 species of birds, 91 species of mammals, 58 species of reptiles, and 18 species of fish.

Where To Stay

The best place to stay inside the park is the Grand Canyon Village. There are 5 options to choose from – Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Maswik Lodge, Kachina Lodge, and Thunderbird Lodge. If in-park lodging is not available, look for hotels in Tusayan, just 6 miles south of the park’s South Entrance Station.

Best Tusayan Hotels

Upper Mid-range:

The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon

Lower Mid-range:

Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn

Holiday Inn Express Grand Canyon, an IHG Hotel

Budget:

Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel

List of Attractions

South Rim

1. Mather Point

Mather Point is one of the most popular overlooks on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is located within walking distance of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center parking area.

The overlook is accessible by shuttle bus too. You can hop on the Kaibab Rim Route (Orange) bus to get here from Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

mather point - one of the best attractions in grand canyon
Mather Point Overlook | Amazing Attractions in The Grand Canyon South Rim

Mather Point provides visitors with sweeping views of the canyon, stretching along as far as your eyes can see. Furthermore, it is a great spot to watch the heavenly sunrise and sunset at the Grand Canyon.

This viewpoint is named after Stephen Tyng Mather, a well-known conservationist and the first director of the National Park Service.

2. Yavapai Geology Museum

Yavapai Geology Museum is set on the edge of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim at Yavapai Point. It is just 0.7-mile west of Mather Point.

To get here, take the Orange Shuttle Bus from Grand Canyon Visitor Center or from Mather Point.

It is an amazing place to gain insights into the history of the Grand Canyon and the geological processes that shaped it over the years.

yavapai geology museum
Image: Grand Canyon NPS

This museum was designed by architect Herbert C. Maier and was first dedicated in July 1928.

On display, there is a remarkable collection of exhibits to help visitors understand the intriguing geology of the area.

Besides discovering the exhibits, you can take in the fantastic views through the museum’s large-sized glass windows.

3. Ooh Aah Point Hike (South Kaibab Trail)

Ooh Aah Point is the first stopping point on the South Kaibab Trail. This 1.8-mile roundtrip trail starts just near Yaki Point and brings hikers to a dramatic observation point affording majestic views of the Grand Canyon’s rugged landscape.

ooh aah point - one of the must-visit attractions in grand canyon national park
Ooh Aah Point Overlook | Best Attractions in The Grand Canyon South Rim

The hike is steep and there are several switchbacks as you walk downhill from the rim. So, attempt it only if you are an experienced hiker.

Make sure to carry plenty of water and snacks for your hiking trip. You won’t find drinking water along this trail.

The South Kaibab Trailhead cannot be accessed by private vehicle. The best way to get to the trailhead is by taking the shuttle bus (eastbound Orange Route) from Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

The Hikers Express Shuttle Bus also go there but it has limited hours of operation.

4. Trail of Time

trail of time - grand Canyon
Image: Grand Canyon NPS

The Trail of Time is a 2.8-mile paved trail that starts just west of the Yavapai Geology Museum. The well-maintained, paved route makes it one of the most accessible attractions in the Grand Canyon.

This walking trail is designed to serve as a geologic timeline of the Grand Canyon. Along the trail, each meter is equivalent to a million years of Grand Canyon’s geologic history.

It features numerous rocks and exhibits to illustrate the formation of the canyon.

5. Desert View Drive

desert view watchtower
Desert View Watchtower | Best Attractions in The Grand Canyon South Rim

Stretching 25 miles from the Grand Canyon Village area to the park’s east entrance, Desert View Drive is a part of Arizona Highway 64.

The best thing about this drive is that you can explore this portion of the park in your own vehicle.

Some of the notable viewpoints along this route are Grandview Point, Moran Point, Lipan Point, Navajo Point, and Desert View.

If you enter the park via the east entrance, the Desert View is the first vantage point you come across.

Another major tourist draw is the iconic Desert View Watchtower. Built in 1932, it is recognized as a National Historic Landmark. From here, you can catch a glimpse of the Colorado River meandering to the west.

6. Bright Angel Trail

bright angel trail - one of the best attractions in the grand canyon

The Bright Angel Trail is a popular hike in the Grand Canyon. The trailhead is located right in the Grand Canyon Village, just west of Bright Angel Lodge. There are several hiking options along this trail.

  • 1.5-mile Resthouse: 3 miles roundtrip, elevation change: 1,120 feet
  • 3-mile Resthouse: 6 miles roundtrip, elevation change: 2,120 feet
  • Indian Garden: 9 miles roundtrip, elevation change: 3,040 feet
  • Plateau Point: 12 miles roundtrip, elevation change: 3,080 feet

The farthest point on this trail is Phantom Ranch which is 19.6 miles roundtrip. Hiking the entire distance on a day trip can be quite exhausting. The National Park Service doesn’t recommend day hikes from the rim to the Colorado River.

Although there are water stations on this route, it is still essential to carry your own water. You will want to stay as hydrated as possible during the hike.

7. Hermit Road Drive

Hugging the canyon rim for 7 miles, the Hermit Road begins just west of Grand Canyon Village and ends at Hermits Rest.

From March to November, this route is accessible by the free Hermit Road shuttle (red route).

The shuttle service is unavailable in winter between December 1 and February 28. So, you can drive your personal vehicle on Hermit Road during these 3 months.

view from hopi point
View From Hopi Point

Along this scenic road, you have got 9 overlooks to take in the awe-inspiring views of the Grand Canyon. Without any doubt, it is one of the best attractions in the Grand Canyon that shouldn’t be missed.

The westbound shuttle bus starts at the Hermit Road Transfer Station and stops at all these viewpoints.

(1) Trailview Overlook, (2) Maricopa Point, (3) Powell Point, (4) Hopi Point, (5) Mohave Point, (6) The Abyss, (7) Monument Creek Vista, (8) Pima Point, (9) Hermits Rest

For the return journey, the bus stops only at Hermits Rest, Pima Point, Mohave Point, and Powell Point.

Hermits Rest is a historic site, commissioned in 1914. It was built by the Fred Harvey Company as a rest area for tourists.

North Rim – Attractions in The Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Point

Bright Angel Point is one of the finest viewpoints at the Grand Canyon North Rim.

It can be accessed via a short 0.5-mile trail that starts near Grand Canyon Lodge. The trail is paved but steep at a few places.

bright angel point - one of the best attractions in the grand canyon north rim

From this viewpoint, there are breathtaking views over Bright Angel Canyon. You can see beautiful vistas of Brahma and Zoroaster Temples as well.

The South Rim, which is just about 10 miles across from this point, is visible too. Bright Angel Point is also a great place to catch the quintessential North Rim sunset.

Point Imperial

Point Imperial is the northernmost viewpoint within Grand Canyon National Park. It is found 11-mile northeast of Bright Angel Point. You can reach here via North Rim Scenic Drive.

At an altitude of 8,803 feet, Point Imperial is the highest point on either rim.

point imperial - grand canyon north rim
Point Imperial | Incredible Attractions in The Grand Canyon North Rim

Here, you are rewarded with glorious views of the Painted Desert and Marble Canyon. The narrow walls of Marble Canyon open up to become strikingly large near this point.

Mount Hayden is also visible in the distance.

Another highlight is the layers of red and black Precambrian rocks which cannot be spotted from other North Rim overlooks.

Cape Royal

Cape Royal sits at the very end of Cape Royal Road on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.

A 23-mile-drive from North Rim Visitor Center leads to the Cape Royal parking area. From here, follow a 1-mile out and back, paved trail to Cape Royal Point. Along the way, there are interpretive signs to explain the rich history of the area.

cape royal - north rim
Image: Matt Ward

This overlook provides spectacular vistas of Wotans Throne, Unkar Creek, and the Colorado River. Freya Castle is also visible from this point. Cape Royal is definitely one of the must-visit attractions in the Grand Canyon Northern Rim.

Another famous point near Cape Royal is Angel’s Window, a natural arch formed due to rock erosion. You can even hike a paved side trail to get to Angel’s Window viewing area.

How To Get There

Grand Canyon South Rim is open all year. You can choose to fly into several airports: Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), and McCarran International Airport (LAS).

However, Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) is the closest to the South Rim, just 90 miles away.

Grand Canyon National Park is also a popular destination on southwest USA road trip. So, many people visit here by personal vehicle.

Approximate driving distance and time taken from:

  • Zion National Park: 238 miles, 4 hr 15 min
  • Bryce Canyon National Park: 273 miles, 4 hr 40 min
  • Monument Valley: 176 miles, 3 hr
  • Flagstaff: 90 miles, 1 hr 45 min
  • Phoenix: 236 miles, 3 hr 40 min
  • Las Vegas: 290 miles, 4 hr 30 min

The Grand Canyon’s North Rim is approximately 215 miles drive from the South Rim and it can take up to 5 hours.

Shuttle Bus Route – South Rim

shuttle bus route - grand canyon south rim
Image Courtesy: National Park Service (Visit the NPS website for more details)

Apart from these, there are a few more South Rim shuttle routes.

Tusayan Route (Purple Route): Tusayan Route buses run only in summer and provide transportation between Tusayan and Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

Hikers’ Express Shuttle: Early morning shuttle service to the South Kaibab Trailhead from Bright Angel Lodge.

Further Reading

For more USA travel inspiration, please read some of these posts.

10 Attractions in Yosemite National Park You Must See.

Southern California’s 3 Best National Parks.

10 Unmissable Attractions in Joshua Tree National Park.

12 Attractions in Yellowstone National Park You Shouldn’t Miss.

10 Absolute Best Things To See in Zion National Park.

12 Most Amazing Places To Visit in California.

Over To You Now…

This concludes our list of the best attractions in the Grand Canyon. No matter which rim you decide to visit, you will be rewarded with jaw-dropping views.

What are your favorite sights and attractions in the park? Let us know in the comments below.

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