Visiting the Grand Canyon (South Rim) in 1 Day

After our time Sedona, Arizona, Teddy and I traveled north to the Grand Canyon South Rim as the next step on our desert southwest road trip. It is about 2 hours from one to the another, so not a bad drive at all.

If you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, it is truly a marvel. This trip was my third time visiting and I truly appreciate it so much every time I’m able to see it.

The Grand Canyon was formed was carved over a few million years. At the widest, the canyon spans 18 miles, and is about 1 mile deep and 277 miles long.

Some people visiting spend 20 minutes viewing the canyon from an overlook and others can spend a week or more here taking various hikes around or down into the canyon. If you have only one day in the area like we did, below you’ll find some tips on how to make the most of your time.

Where to Stay:

We visited in the offseason, so we were able to snag a room at the Bright Angel Lodge right on the rim of the canyon in Grand Canyon Village. There’s a few hotel options in the village including El Tovar, Bright Angel, Kachina, Thunderbird, and the Maswik Lodge. Staying inside the park saves so much time if you can swing it. A lot less driving and you can access food and trails in the area.

If these options are booked, you can stay in the town south of the village called Tusayan. There’s a few more hotels as well as additional amenities in this area. Since it is outside of the park, so you’ll have to show your America the Beautiful pass or pay to enter at the entrance center. We highly recommend investing in the pass – while $80 for the year, if you go to 3 parks or more it pays for itself. It can be used at a variety of other recreation facilities in the US as well.

Sunset & Dinner

Our room was inside a little cabin that was so well updated and quaint. The cabin itself was split into two separate cabins, each with a separate entrance. The side we were on was a great size for just two people.

It’s also near the canyon rim, which made it super easy to change into warmer clothing and venture out and walk the rim at sunrise. We grabbed hot chocolate at a little stand on the rim side of the Bright Angel Lodge and walked out to check out the sunset coloring into the canyon.

After sunset, since there’s dining on site in the lodge, we walked back to the hotel and put in our name for dinner. The menu was pretty simple but it was good and very convenient that we still didn’t have to get in our car and go anywhere.

Sunrise

There’s so many different lookouts where you can view sunrise. We decided that instead of staying by the rim near our hotel, we would venture out toward Maricopa point. The view from this point faces directly toward sunrise and allows you to see more than you would if you had stayed by the hotel. There were only a few people in the area so we walked the path until we found a bench that allowed for great views. While it was around 30 or so degrees out, we had a magnificent time watching the canyon light up in the morning light.

Park History

Right behind Bright Angel Lodge on the rim is the Kolb Studio. I had picked up a book in the gift shop the night we got in and read all about the Ellsworth and Emery Kolb who arrived at the Grand Canyon Rim in the early 1900s. At that time there weren’t any buildings on the rim like there are now. The two brothers had permission from the owner of the Bright Angel Trailhead, Ralph Cameron, to set up their photography business on the rim. They explored the Canyon and documented those explorations with photographs while also photographing the mules that took people including John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and others into the canyon to explore. They built the Kolb Studio on the edge of the rim in 1906.

Seeing how successful the brothers were sharing this Grand Canyon via photography with travelers, Fred Harvey who was a businessman desiring to make a profit in the area. For many years there were tensions as both the Fred Harvey Company and the Kolb brothers operated their businesses.

In the Kolb Studio which is still on the canyon rim, you can learn all about these tensions and what ultimately happened with the brothers relationship and their relationship with the Fred Harvey company. Even thought I’d been to the Grand Canyon before, I had no idea how influential the brothers were in the area and the impact their legacy still has on the canyon.

Browsing the studio is a short stop and you can decide which signs and pictures you’d like to look at. It’s quick, especially if you’re staying at the lodge.

Hiking

We visited in the winter, so hiking the Bright Angel Trailhead wasn’t an option for us. There was a good amount of ice, and while we had spikes, neither of us were too keen on trekking down there after watching someone slide on the ice and fall. We decided to go down as far as we felt comfortable, and we were able to see a mule team pass us on the way down carrying supplies down into the camp at the bottom of the canyon called Phantom Ranch. It was a highlight of the trip watching them go down the narrow trail into the canyon.

When we come back again in likely the fall or spring, we plan to do a few miles of hiking down into the canyon when ice conditions aren’t there.

Other Tips:

  • Go to a few of the overlooks while driving the rim. They each give you a different perspective of the canyon and how vast it is.
  • Pets are allowed on the rim of the canyon, but aren’ allowed down into the canyon. Abide by pet information while in the area. There is also a kennel in Grand Canyon village if you need a place to keep your pet while hiking or exploring.
  • During busy season, the lines to get into the South Rim can be miles long. Getting into the park early helps save time so you don’t have to sit in line.
  • While there’s food options in Grand Canyon Village, there’s not a huge amount, so if may be helpful to pack some food like snacks and drinks to come into the canyon for any hiking or exploring.
  • The south rim tends to be the most popular part of the canyon and is open in the winter. The northern rim closes in the winter, so be aware of where you plan to spend time. Another area you can visit is the western rim of the canyon. This is where the glass skywalk is located.
  • If you’re interested in Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, this is a lottery system. Because they are doing some updates to the area, reservations in 2022-2023 and potentially into 2024 are more limited than normal.
  • The Grand Canyon doesn’t follow daylight savings time, so it may be a different time in Arizona than it is in bordering states.

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