A day at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers awe-inspiring views, outdoor activities, and a chance to experience the grandeur of one of the world's most famous natural wonders.
As someone who has done two trips to different sections of the Grand Canyon, I can tell you that the South Rim is the place to go! Here's your Grand Canyon itinerary: one day.
Need to Know for your Grand Canyon Itinerary: One Day
Which Section Should You Visit?
If you're trying to decide which section of the Grand Canyon to visit for just one day, I'd recommend the South Rim. It's got the most to do and plenty of places for hiking, eating, and learning the history of the Grand Canyon. I've also been to the Western Rim on an Arizona road trip, and while I did love it, it was more expensive and had less to do.
The glass bridge is cool at the Western Rim, but honestly, other than that, I think the South Rim is better!
Beyond the West and South Rim, I'd also recommend hiking to Havasu Falls. There's nothing quite as special as that multi-day hike to the bright blue waters in Havasupai Indian Reservation!
The South Rim is one of the most visited sections of the Grand Canyon National Park, and getting there early can ensure you aren't stuck in a line or looking for parking for a long period of your short trip.
Tips for Visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Shuttle Service: The Grand Canyon Village Shuttle operates within the village area, making it easy to get around without needing a car.
Weather: Be prepared for varying weather conditions. The South Rim is high, so temperatures can change, even during the day. Layers and plenty of water are needed!
Park Entrance Fee: The Grand Canyon National Park has an entrance fee. Check the official National Park Service website for the latest fee information.
Where to Stay
If you can't get one of the lodges or camp at the Grand Canyon Village, I'd recommend staying in either Flagstaff or Sedona. Sedona makes a great weekend trip, and Flagstaff is less than two hours from the Grand Canyon but has plenty to do!
Do you need a tour?
This is an easy day trip to do on your own, but you'll find a lot of different options for guided trips from cities around Arizona. Below are a few options if you don't want to do this trip on your own.
Sunrise at Mather Point
Start your day early and head to Mather Point for a spectacular sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Mather Point is easily accessible from the visitor center right after you enter the park.
After seeing your first views of the Grand Canyon, stop at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to gather information. You can obtain maps, information about ranger-led programs, and learn about the geology and history of the Grand Canyon through exhibits.
Plus, there are plenty of bathrooms and spots to fill up on water before heading out from here.
Hike Part of Bright Angel Trail
Hiking part of the Bright Angel Trail is a fantastic way to experience the Grand Canyon's beauty up close. The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most popular trails on the South Rim, offering various options for hikers of different skill levels. This trail lets hikers walk in the footsteps of the canyon's Indigenous Peoples, miners, and early tourists as they descend into the canyon's depths.
The trailhead for the Bright Angel Trail is located near the Grand Canyon Village. You can reach it from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center or the Bright Angel Lodge.
While the entire trail is 12 miles, you don't have to hike the full thing. For a shorter hike on your day trip, hike to the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse, which is approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead. This section offers excellent views of the canyon too, before heading back up.
Grand Canyon Village is the main hub for services, accommodations, and dining. It's a charming area with shops, restaurants, and historic structures. However, the South Rim Grand Canyon has several different places to eat. Here's a complete list of options.
We chose to bring our own food instead to save time and money. I tend to find National Park's serve food that isn't great and takes a very long time. Ever since Glacier National Park, we've always packed our own food!
Hermit's Road and Rim Trail
Hermit Road is a scenic route along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, providing breathtaking views of the canyon's beauty. It's a popular location for visitors who want to experience the grandeur of the Grand Canyon.
Scenic Hermit Road begins on the west side of the Village Historic District. The road follows the canyon rim for 7 miles (11 km) to Hermits Rest and the Hermit Trailhead.
Hermit Road is closed to private vehicles between March 1 and November 30. During this 9 month period, most visitors access the road via the free Hermit Road (Red) Route) shuttle bus.
Along the canyon rim are 9 designated viewpoints. They all have shuttle bus stops. The Canyon Rim Trail also follows the rim of the canyon for 7.8 miles (12.6 km) alongside Hermit Road and offers the opportunity for short or long walks between viewpoints — on both paved and dirt trails.
We chose to take the shuttle to several different stops and hike a portion of the Rim Trail between Powell and Mohave Point. The hike was along the rim and offered gorgeous views at a leisurely pace. While walking, we saw elk, deer, and mountain goats!
This was my favorite part of our day; all the animals combined with the views, it was just stunning! You'll be stopping every few minutes to take photos because of how beautiful it is. Hermit Road provides an unforgettable journey along the South Rim, offering some of the best panoramic views of the Grand Canyon.
Yavapai Point and Geology Museum
Yavapai Point and Geology Museum to learn about the geological features of the Grand Canyon.
The Yavapai Geology Museum features exhibits and displays that delve into the geological history of the Grand Canyon. Interactive exhibits help visitors understand the processes that shaped the canyon over millions of years.
One of the highlights of the museum is a topographical model of the Grand Canyon that provides a three-dimensional perspective, allowing visitors to visualize the canyon's depth and complexity.
The museum often hosts ranger-led programs, talks, and presentations. Check the schedule for any educational opportunities that may enhance your understanding of the canyon.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a wealth of experiences, from scenic viewpoints to hiking trails, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.
Head Back to Home Base for Your Trip
With such an early morning, you'll have explored a lot of the South Rim by 3-4 pm, and it's time to head back! I recommend staying in Sedona if you're going to do a day trip to the South Rim. You'll want to take the two hour drive back to Sedona with plenty of light left to enjoy the beautiful scenic drive, especially if you started early before sunrise.
I hope you enjoy your one day at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon using this itinerary!