Visiting Grand Canyon National Park
A trip to the Grand Canyon is a trip of a lifetime. Spending time in the 1,900 square mile famous National Park that holds the 6,000 foot deep, 277-miles long, 18-miles wide Canyon is one of the most adventurous and rewarding trips a traveler can take.
There are many places to see within the vast National Park (if you drove from the North Rim to the South Rim it would take you more than 200 miles!) but Grand Canyon South Rim is by far the most popular spot and the hub to visit this natural treasure. Located in northern Arizona, South Rim is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and it is the activity, transportation, and accommodation hub of Grand Canyon National Park.
You can just about do it all at the Grand Canyon South Rim; hiking, camping, helicopter and airplane tours, mule rides and Hummer tours all while staying in a historic hotel directly on the Rim that offers fine dining!
At the South Rim, Grand Canyon Village houses many of the park’s most historic buildings and attractions, such as Bright Angel Lodge. This is also where you will find the majority of the Grand Canyon hotels, restaurants, and tour operators. It is also the terminus for the Grand Canyon Railway.
This is also where the Grand Canyon Visitors Center is located. This is a great place to start your trip once you arrive. The Center is open daily from 8 am to 4 pm daily and contains an abundance of trip planning, shuttle bus, ranger program, and hiking information.
How To Get to Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim is located 60 miles north of Williams, Arizona (via route 64 from Interstate 40) and 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff (via route 180).
If you are driving yourself, the south entrance station near the town of Tusayan, Arizona, receives the most traffic. Long lines are sometimes common.
Here are driving distances to the main entrance from other popular Southwest destinations:
- Sedona, AZ - 119 miles
- North Rim, Grand Canyon, AZ - 212 miles
- Phoenix, AZ - 231 miles
- Las Vegas, NV - 278 miles
For shorter wait times, and spectacular views of the Colorado River a mile below the Canyon, enter via Desert View Drive.
To get to Desert View Drive travelers who are driving to Grand Canyon South from the east on Interstate 40, or from Phoenix on Interstate 17, can take US 89 from Flagstaff, Arizona, north to Cameron, Arizona, then west on State Route 64, —to enter the park through this route.
As an alternative to driving, visitors can depart from Williams, Arizona, and ride Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim. This is a scenic 60 mile trip and you can avoid entrance wait lines and parking in the National Park.
Parking and Entrance Fees at Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Vehicles cost $35 to enter Grand Canyon National Park. Motorcycles cost $30, and entering the park on foot, bicycle, park shuttle bus, and private rafting trip costs $20 per person.
Admission to Grand Canyon National Park is for seven days and includes both the North Rim and South Rim.
Getting Around Grand Canyon South
Visitors can leave their cars at Visitor Center Plaza and this free hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus takes you to popular hiking trails as well. Popular trails in the area include the Rim Trail, a paved trail with minimal elevation change that offers beautiful views of the inner canyon, Bright Angel Trail, a steep, maintained dirt trail that offers wonderful, expansive views, and South Kaibab Trail, where hikers can experience the majesty of being in the recesses of the Canyon during a 1.5 mile, one-way day hike to Cedar Ridge.
Things To Do At Grand Canyon South Rim
There are a number of activities to choose from on your visit to Grand Canyon South Rim. Our Grand Canyon National Park Guide can help you decide what is right for you.
If you are short on time and want to see a lot of the Grand Canyon South Rim, a ground or air tour is the best way to spend your time. You’ll cover lots of the massive area (remember the Grand Canyon National Park is huge at 1.7 million acres) and have a chance to see the most photogenic viewpoints this beautiful destination offers.
Grand Canyon Hummer Tours
If you are looking to take in some of the most scenic points of the entire Grand Canyon South Rim and don’t want to deal with the hassle of driving into the park yourself, a Grand Canyon Hummer tour is for you!
Buck Wild Hummer Tours is an institution at the South Rim. The company uses custom built Humvee touring vehicles driven by experienced guides with knowledge of the region’s history, geology and wildlife. This family-owned business has more than 50 years of experience showing guests the most scenic spots the Grand Canyon has to offer!
On a typical tour, you’ll stop at three or four viewpoints. Popular viewpoints included on the itinerary include Yavapai Point & Geology Museum, Pipe Creek Vista, Duck on a Rock, Grandview Point, and Moran Point. You will have plenty of time for exploring the viewpoints and capturing photographs.Throughout the drive, your guide will provide interesting information and stories about the Grand Canyon.
The popular two-hour Signature Tour, which has multiple departures per day, costs $104 for ages 16+ and $94 for children 3-15, plus taxes and fees. Private, custom tours are also available.
Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours
The South Rim is also the jumping off point for aerial sightseeing tours. Grand Canyon South Rim helicopter tours depart from Papillon’s South Rim Terminal located at Grand Canyon National Park Airport. Other package tours combine air and ground, including exciting full day adventures such as Papillon’s Helicopter and Hummer Tour.
Grand Canyon Mule Ride
For an iconic American West experience, take a Grand Canyon mule ride at the South Rim into the depths of the Grand Canyon or along a scenic rim trail.
The Park offers two guided mule rides; you can choose from either a shorter two-hour Canyon Vista rim ride ($155 per person) or a 5.5 hour, 10.5 miles ride down the Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch where you will spend the night and enjoy a home cooked meal. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, return on the South Kaibab Trail. The cost for a one night ride to Phantom Ranch is $705 for the first person, or $1226 for two riders.
Grand Canyon South Rim Hotels
Visitors have many lodging options at the South Rim. The National Park itself manages six hotel properties that are situated directly within the Grand Canyon National Park. These diverse lodges, hotels, and remote outposts are an amazing assortment of accommodations and include:
- El Tovar Hotel- historic hotel operated since 1905 on the Grand Canyon rim has 78 rooms and no two rooms are alike. Considered the crown jewel of historic National Park Lodges due to its unique and historic charm. The fine dining room offers some of the best food in all of Grand Canyon South.
- Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins- another historic lodging option that contains a combination of 90 rooms and cabins. Designed in 1935 and a registered National Historic Landmark, this rustic lodge is full of charm.
- Kachina Lodge- the two-story Kachina Lodge offers standard hotel rooms directly on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The lodge’s central location is within walking distance to all of Grand Canyon Village’s restaurants, trailheads, and other attractions.
- Thunderbird Lodge- the most modern and up-to-date accommodations at the South Rim is Thunderbird Lodge. Located in the heart of Grand Canyon Village and the Historic District, many of the rooms offer canyon views.
- Maswik Lodge- Maswik Lodge is a 280-room lodging complex nestled within several acres of Ponderosa pine forest a quarter-mile walk or bus ride from the canyon’s edge. The building is housed in part of the original Grand Canyon Motor Lodge constructed in 1927 by the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad that brought early travelers to the remote canyon.
- Phantom Ranch- Phantom Ranch is the most unique lodging available at Grand Canyon South; rustic cabins tucked next to Bright Angel Creek at the bottom of Grand Canyon. This historic and natural oasis is the only lodging below the canyon rim. It is reached only by hiking, rafting, and via mule.
Grand Canyon South Rim Restaurants, Groceries, Supplies
There are a surprising number of great places to dine while visiting or staying at the Grand Canyon South Rim.
Here is a list of the best restaurants available at Grand Canyon South:
- El Tovar Dining Room - Located on the rim inside El Tovar hotel
- El Tovar Lounge - Inside El Tovar hotel
- Arizona Steakhouse -inside Bright Angel Lodge
- Fred Harvey Burger - inside Bright Angel Lodge
- Bright Angel Fountain canyon-side patio at Bright Angel Lodge
- Bright Angel Tavern - inside Bright Angel Lodge
- Maswik Food Court and Pizza Pub: Inside Maswik Lodge
Many other options for restaurants, groceries, and supplies are available in Tusayan seven miles south of Grand Canyon Village.
South Rim Grand Canyon Chamber and Visitors Bureau has compiled a great list of where to eat at the Grand Canyon to help you plan your next trip
Grand Canyon South Rim Sunset
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most popular destination within the National Park for watching sunsets. Sunset Tours are available.
Here are a number of popular vistas to check out the golden hour on your visit to Grand Canyon South Rim:
- Mather Point: Near Grand Canyon Village this spot offers sweeping views of Grand Canyon sunsets. Visitors can see up to 30 miles to the east and up to 60 miles to the west here. Phantom Ranch is also visible on the canyon floor. This point does get busy during sunset due to its close proximity to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
- Mohave and Pima Points: West of Grand Canyon Village these are quieter spots to enjoy the magic hour. Pima Point is one of the best places to see and hear the Colorado River, in particular Granite Rapids, below.
- Lipan Point: East of the Grand Canyon Village this quiet point offers expansive views all the way to the Vermillion Cliffs, 45 miles away. The canyon walls put on impressive light and shadow show during sunset here.
- Yavapai Point: The northernmost overlook at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, along Desert View Drive, has exceptional canyon and river views. It also gets busy here for sunset so plan accordingly.
Camping Near Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon National Park contains three campgrounds, two of which are located at the South Rim.
Here is an overview on those two campgrounds:
- Mather Campground - contains 327 sites, none of which provide RV hookups. Each includes a campfire ring/cooking grate, picnic table, parking space and room for up to six people and two vehicles. There are flush toilets, drinking water, and a free dump station.
- Desert View Campground- at the East Entrance to the South Rim. Much smaller campground (49 campsites) and more peaceful than the busier Mather Campground. Only tent campers and smaller RVs, (30 ft. total length) can stay here. Campsite reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance.
RV Parks Near Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon National Park operates a single RV campground at South Rim.
- Trailer Village RV Park has 123 RV only sites, 80 of which offer recreational vehicles full hookups (sewage, water, and 30 and 50 amp electrical) Trailer Village is open year round and can accommodate just about any RV (up to 50 feet long).
With an unlimited number of activities and vistas, we’ve assembled this Grand Canyon guide for both first-time visitors and returning adventurers alike to make the most of your time at America’s most majestic National Park.
Of all the bucket list items you can dream up, it’s pretty hard to beat a Grand Canyon sunset tour in a helicopter or airplane.