Some people see the Grand Canyon as a “drive-by” destination, a place where you hop out of the car for a few minutes to get a great picture, and then jump back in and be on your way.
I hate to break it to you, but if this is your idea of “seeing” the Grand Canyon, you’re missing out. A lot.
The Grand Canyon is a major destination in and of itself, and can be a multiple-day trip, easily. But what if you really only have one day to spare? Never fear. We’re here to help you make the most of a single day visit to the Grand Canyon—specifically, the majestic South Rim, which is the most visited area of the national park.
Here are some of our very favorite South Rim destinations. Pick and choose your favorites to craft a perfect day at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Get jaw-dropping views from the Desert View Watchtower
One of the most recognized destinations at the South Rim, the Desert View Watchtower gives you a glimpse of the history and culture of the Grand Canyon area, not to mention some pretty amazing “glimpses” of the canyon itself! Opened in 1932 and designed by architect Mary Coulter, this iconic, 70-foot high tower is modeled after ancestral Puebloan towers. Check out the Kiva Room, the art gallery with murals done by Fred Kabotie, and of course, the observation deck, which gives you panoramic views that will take your breath away!
Rumble along the rim on a thrilling Jeep tour
Ready to let someone else do the driving? Jeep tours are the ultimate way to see the best the South Rim has to offer. You’ll also enjoy the company of a private tour guide, who can take you to all the best lookout spots (including some lesser known ones), while sharing the fascinating history of the canyon. They’ll also be able to answer any questions you have, not to mention act as your personal photographer. There are a few great tour options, including this Grand Entrance tour for the perfect overview of the South Rim, or the Grand Finale Deluxe tour for an incredible sunset experience. No matter what you choose, it’ll be the ride of your life!
Take a (short) hike.
Hiking is one of the things the Grand Canyon is most famous for, but if you don’t have a lot of time, you probably won’t be able to do any of the full trails. Instead, wander a little ways along Bright Angel Trail, which is one of the canyon’s most popular, or take a walk along the Rim Trail, a fairly easy walk along a paved road. Either of these will give you a good way to stretch your legs and really take in the iconic scenery of the canyon.
For a more “all-inclusive” experience, check out this , which gives you a guided tour along the Grand Canyon’s Trail of Time. It’s only a 3-mile hike, but you’ll travel back millions of years! You’ll see some of the canyon’s most ancient rocks and algal reefs, examine a fossil, and learn about the fascinating geologic history of the canyon—all with the benefit of a dedicated tour guide (who can also double as your personal photographer).
Bring out your inner artist at Kolb Studio
If you’re interested in art or photography, you won’t want to miss the historic Kolb Studio. Perched on the edge of the canyon, the 1904 studio displays artwork and photography centered around the Kolb Brothers, Emery and Ellsworth. The brothers not only worked at the studio, they lived there, capturing the scenes of the Grand Canyon through photography and videography. Since the studio is located right next to the Bright Angel trailhead, it’s easy to squeeze in a visit to both.
Kick your feet up at the Bright Angel Lodge
Brimming with history, the Bright Angel Lodge is a great stop for those looking to experience the South Rim. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and home to the oldest standing structure on the South Rim (the Buckey O’Neill cabin), the lodge offers stunning views of the canyon. There’s also a few dining options, making this a great stop for lunch or dinner during your stay.
If you only have one day to visit the South Rim, you probably won’t be able to see it all. But if you plan carefully and prioritize well, you can still get a great taste of the history and scenery this one-of-a-kind destination has to offer. See you at the Rim!