A sturdy pair of boots, plenty of water and sense of adventure is all you need to explore one of the world’s most iconic natural wonders on foot. A five-million-year-old canyon bursting with magnificent views and scenic trails, exploring the Grand Canyon South Rim is like walking through an outdoor museum.
With over 300 million visitors per year to HotelsCombined, we’ve done the legwork for you and have scouted the top five trails worth trekking to in the South Rim. These Grand Canyon’s trails extend from the South Rim down to the Colorado River, where you can choose your adventure based on your skill level, from an easy walk along the popular Bright Angel Trail to rewarding vistas along the more challenging Grandview Trail. Want to experience the full splendour of the canyon’s beauty? We’ve also listed some of the best lookout points in Grand Canyon South Rim where you’ll find iconic panoramic views during your hike, including a few unobstructed spots that are perfect for capturing a sunset.
While you can book a hotel directly on the South Rim, we also suggest considering the small resort town Tusayan where the Grand Canyon National Park Airport is located or the family-friendly Grand Canyon Village only three kilometres from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
Popular South Rim Day Hikes
Extending from the Kolb Studio in the Grand Canyon Village to Hermits Rest, the Rim Trail stretches nearly 20 kilometres. Don’t stress, as you won’t have to hike the whole trail to reap its rewards because the entire trail boasts some of the best panoramas in the park. Shuttles are also available along the way for when you’re ready for a break.
Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail is popular for its easy accessibility and low level of difficulty, making it the perfect exploration route for first-timers. We recommend taking a hike to the first rest house at 2.5 kilometres in to get a feel for what hiking is like in the Grand Canyon, before taking on the more challenging Indian Garden at 7.2 kilometres.
South Kaibab Trail
Steeper than the Bright Angel Trail, the South Kaibab Trail offers the best views for a short hike. Here you can choose from a range of day hikes, from a strenuous 20-kilometre round trip journey to a shorter 2.5-kilometre hike to Ooh Aah Point. Cedar Ridge is further down and perfect for a snack break.
Tougher than the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trail, Hermit Trail is ideal for hikers with prior Grand Canyon or desert hiking experience, or a guide. Hike along the rugged pathway to reach the Santa Maria Spring in four kilometres, and if you’re up for a challenge, hike to Dripping Springs in 5.6 kilometres but be careful as this trail is narrow and rocky.
One of the steepest and most exposed trails in the Grand Canyon, Grandview Trail is not for the faint-hearted. Hike to Coconino Saddle one kilometre down or make it to Horseshoe Mesa five kilometres in and find an 800-metre change in elevation from the rim to the mesa.
Top Grand Canyon Lookout Points
As the name suggests, Grandview Point is a must-see lookout with fantastic views of Horseshoe Mesa. It is the highest viewpoint along the South Rim at 2,300 metres in elevation and takes a journey through a narrow and steep trail to reach, but it’s worth it to soak in the views of prominent buttes, including Rama Shrine and Krishna Shrine.
Yaki Point is the perfect spot to catch a sunrise. Named after the Yaqui Indian tribe, here you’ll see panoramic views of Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail. The last stop along Desert View Drive, savvy sightseers can also spot Wotan’s Throne, one of the canyon’s most recognisable features.
Built right into the edge of the Grand Canyon, Lookout Studio not only provides spectacular views but also contains a quaint souvenir shop. Blending into the landscape with the use of limestone and an uneven roofline, Lookout Studio has the feel of an old ruin.
Offering the best view from anywhere near the Grand Canyon Village, Yavapai Point is an ideal lookout point to start your adventure. It’s the best place to see just how deep the inner Canyon is as it snakes down to Phantom Ranch and the Colorado River. Be sure to enjoy the 3D displays provided by the Yavapai Observation Station.
Another great lookout point for first-time visitors, Mather Point allows you to get that initial awe-inspiring glimpse of well over half of the canyon. Sunsets here are particularly spectacular, as you’ll find an expansive overlook perfect for watching the warm colours of the rock pinnacles highlight the Vishnu Temple and Temple of Zoroaster.
Layers of vibrant red canyon walls glow at Moran Point, where you’ll see three of the Canyon’s main rock groups. A handy tip, come during the Golden Hour to soak in striking scenery of contrasting rock colours when the sun sets. Sunset viewing is particularly popular here not only for its beauty but because of a “Sinking Ship” illusion.
Desert View Drive and Desert View Watchtower
Starting at the Grand Canyon Village, Desert View Drive extends 40 kilometres to the Desert View Watchtower. Combining Native American designs and art, the Watchtower has a shop with souvenirs, local crafts and books. Climb up the watchtower to reach the highest point on the South Rim.
One of the park’s best-kept secrets, head to Lipan Point for a peek at the Grand Canyon Supergroup of sedimentary rock formations. Here you’ll find a vantage point of the inner gorge and the Colorado River winding its way through the Canyon hundreds of metres below.
What is your favourite thing to do in the Grand Canyon South Rim?
Creating quite the scene, the Grand Canyon’s South Rim offers numerous vantage points and trails that are suitable for a variety of skill levels. An awestruck experience even for the most intrepid traveller, the Grand Canyon is a natural wonder that you simply have to see in order to believe.
At HotelsCombined, we find a lot of travellers opting for activities in the Grand Canyon South Rim that combine rewarding hikes and memorable sights. It’s here that you’ll feel like a small speck in the world as you soak in panoramic views of the massive expanse of rock formations.
What is your favourite thing to do in the Grand Canyon South Rim? Let us know if you’ve been to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and which hiking trail or lookout point you think is the best.