The Grand Canyon is one of America’s most famous and awe-inspiring natural attractions. It has been a road-tripping destination for generations. Your travel planning can be hassle-free if you pick the best places in Grand Canyon.
First-time visitors most frequently choose the Grand Canyon South Rim area for its beautiful views, the abundance of visitor services, and family-oriented activities. The South Rim is open year-round.
If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to Grand Canyon National Park and don’t want to miss out on the best the canyon offers, check out our list of the best places in Grand Canyon Attractions. While visiting the places, you must visit the best restaurants in Grand Canyon.
From strolling along the scenic Rim Trail on the South Rim to walking on glass at the Skywalk in Grand Canyon West, our list of the best places in Grand Canyon will set you on the right path for a fantastic experience when visiting the canyon!
The top attractions of Grand Canyon listed below are all found on the South Rim, the Skywalk at Eagle Point, and others:
- Grand Canyon Village
- Grand Canyon South Rim
- Mather Point
- Rim Trail
- Bright Angel Trail
- Desert View Drive
- South Kaibab Trail
- Desert View Watchtower
- North Rim
- North Kaibab Trail
- Horseshoe Bend
- Colorado River Rafting
- Antelope Canyon
- Havasu Falls
1. Grand Canyon Village
This Village is close to the national park’s most famous south entrance, on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Grand Canyon Village is divided into three districts: the Market Plaza, the primary Visitor Center and parking lots, and the Historic District. It is one of the best places in Grand Canyon.
Day-trippers can spend at least half a day visiting the village’s sights. Stop by the historic Grand Canyon Railway Depot. This log cabin-style working depot still welcomes Grand Canyon Railway passengers to the village.
Recent visitors appreciated the convenience of Grand Canyon Village. They highlighted its amenities, such as gift shops, restaurants, markets, and the free Grand Canyon Shuttle stop.
You’ll find restaurants and cafes inside Grand Canyon Village’s hotels, El Tovar, and Bright Angel Lodge. Bright Angel Lodge houses a steakhouse, a burger joint, a coffee shop, and a tavern. El Tovar offers a dining room, a lounge, and a food truck at the train depot.
2. Grand Canyon South Rim
South Rim is the most popular rim in Grand Canyon National Park. The South Rim offers the National Park experience with convenient visitor services like a hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus service, concierge and food services, and a wide range of hotel options within minutes of the park entrance gate.
It is open year-round and hosts free Ranger Talks, museums, shops, geological and historical information, the Grand Canyon IMAX Experience, the Grand Canyon Railway, and much more.
Travelers can explore scenic areas and hiking trails on the south side of the canyon on foot or take guided tours. Campsites are located at Mather Point in Market Plaza and Desert View, 23 miles from Grand Canyon Village. An RV park is also equipped with grills, laundry facilities, and picnic tables near Mather Campground.
The South Rim offers two entrances: the south entrance near Tusayan and the east entrance in the Desert View Area, both open 24 hours a day. Drivers will find four parking lots at the primary Grand Canyon Visitor Center and the leading South Rim shuttle stop. There are restaurants, cafes, and even a food truck on this side of the park.
3. Mather Point
Mather Point is a place where you can get your first glimpse of the amazing Grand Canyon. It’s just a short walk from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Parking Lots 1-4. At Mather Point, you can enjoy a wide and open view of the canyon. When you look down into the canyon, you can see a few small sections of the Colorado River.
You can also see Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon, and numerous trails crisscross the landscape. Mather Point is also popular to watch the sun rise and set over the canyon. It was named after the first National Park Service director, Stephen Tyng Mather.
The visitor center is intended to be the northern terminus of a mass transit system, transporting people from large carparks in the village of Tusayan. However, it is several years away.
Mather Point has a large viewing area with two narrow overlooks built on rocks that stick out, and there are also other viewpoints along the rim in both directions and towards the west. If you walk along the Rim Trail, you can enjoy more scenic views as you make your way to the next point called Yavapai.
4. Rim Trail
The Rim Trail connects the South Kaibab Trailhead to Hermits Rest, passing Grand Canyon Village. The Rim Trail is one of the national park’s most popular and easy trails. This is because it offers the best view of the South Rim’s most acclaimed attractions and viewpoints.
Another highlight along the Rim Trail is the section between the Yavapai Museum of Geology and Verkamp’s Visitor Center. This section features the interpretive Trail of Time. This approximately 3-mile-long paved route incorporates a collection of rocks. It exhibits that explain how the Grand Canyon and its rocks formed.
Using the park’s free shuttle bus, hikers can start at either end or any shuttle stop along the Rim Trail. It depends on their interest. The Rim Trail is paved mainly and accessible in many sections (consult a park map for accessibility information).
5. Bright Angel Trail
The Bright Angel Trail is the Grand Canyon’s most popular hiking trail. It allows hikers to follow the same path as the canyon’s Indigenous Peoples, miners, and early tourists. The trail goes down into the deep parts of the canyon and provides fantastic views.
It offers shade in the morning and afternoon, resthouses for resting, vault toilets, and drinking water during the summer. This trail is a great choice for anyone looking to explore the canyon for the first time.
This can be a blessing or a curse. Expansive views of the inner canyon and distant formations often distract hikers from how far down the trail they’ve walked. The return hike back up and out of the canyon is far more challenging and requires much more effort. Plan for at least twice as much time back up as it takes to go down.
For the ultimate Grand Canyon experience, consider traveling the Bright Angel Trail by mule. Riders are taken to Phantom Ranch overnight, with a lunch break at Havasupai Gardens. While a mule ride may seem like the “easy” way to traverse the trail, those not used to spending hours in a saddle may find the trip grueling.
6. Desert View Drive
Desert View Drive Grand Canyon follows the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s natural wonders. You will find incredible vistas from several overlooks and scenic viewpoints. It begins about one mile east of Grand Canyon Village and ends near the park’s eastern entrance in Desert View.
Many recent visitors suggested taking Desert View Drive to the Desert View Watchtower. Most enjoyed the building architecture and appreciated the services in the area. Several visitors suggested accessing the national park through the Desert View area (commonly referred to as the east entrance), as it’s much quieter than the south entrance and the Grand Canyon Village area but with the same spectacular views.
Several viewpoints, such as Yaki Point and Grandview Point, offer restrooms. Remember that Grand Canyon shuttle buses do not travel on Desert View Drive, so you must drive yourself. The closest shuttle bus stop is the first canyon viewpoint along Desert View Drive – Pipe Creek Vista.
7. South Kaibab Trail
South Kaibab Trail starts at the South Rim and ventures into the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River. Hikers will find the trailhead near Yaki Point, accessible via the free park shuttle.
The South Kaibab Trail offers wonderful views, making it very easy to lose track of how far down you have traveled. Additionally, the trail steepness is very misleading on the way down. Plan on taking twice as long to hike up as down. Cedar Ridge has breathtaking views and is an excellent day hike. Cedar Ridge has restrooms.
Everyone needs water! Common mistakes include not watering or not having enough water. When hiking in a group, each person should carry water. Remember to eat and drink while hiking. You need to use a lot of energy hiking the canyon. Sunscreen and sunhats are also advisable, as this trail has limited shade.
8. Desert View Watchtower
The Desert View Watchtower is 23 miles east of Grand Canyon Village via Desert View Drive. It is the easternmost developed area on the South Rim of the park. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
The view from the Watchtower provides a unique perspective of the eastern Grand Canyon. Looking to the northeast, you can see a distant glimpse of the Colorado River’s transition from the relatively narrow Marble Canyon to the north. This transition leads to the wider, broader expanse of the Grand Canyon.
Inside the Watchtower View Room, views of the canyon, through the different windows are enhanced by looking through reflectoscopes. These viewing instruments use polished black glass mirrors to cut through the haze and glare of bright sunlight and highlight the canyon’s multi-colored layers.
9. North Rim
Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim has opened with limited visitor services. A landslide caused by winter storms destroyed over 300 feet of the pipeline. It is one of the best places in Grand Canyon National Park.
The North Rim offers a peaceful and captivating experience. It is less crowded and developed compared to the South Rim, so it attracts fewer tourists. The viewpoints at the North Rim are especially stunning because they are situated at a higher elevation.
It fits nicely into a multi-park tour that also includes Zion, Bryce, and Lake Powell. It forms the edge of the Kaibab Plateau, with elevations ranging from 8,000-8,800 feet above sea level. The drive is beautiful even before you reach the national park. Your first stop should be at the visitor center. Here, you can orient yourself and enjoy one of the most spectacular views in the world.
The North Rim is officially open from mid-May through mid-October. The lodge and campgrounds are usually full during the summer; reservations are needed and should be booked as far in advance as possible.
10. North Kaibab Trail
The North Kaibab trailhead is located 41 miles south of Jacob Lake on Highway 67. For travelers on the North Rim, the North Kaibab Trail is the area’s only maintained canyon hike.
The North Kaibab Trail is the least visited but the most challenging among the three maintained trails in Grand Canyon National Park. It starts at a higher elevation than the trails on the South Rim, almost a thousand feet higher. Hikers on the North Kaibab Trail get to experience and pass through different ecosystems found between Canada and Mexico.
When hikers begin their journey at the rim, they will catch a glimpse of the expansive Bright Angel Canyon. As they descend, they will pass through beautiful fir trees, aspen, ferns, and colorful wildflowers. The trail takes them through the Redwall Limestone, where sections of the trail are actually carved into the solid rock, creating a half-tunnel-like path.
Travelers who hiked the North Kaibab Trail reported extraordinary views. Favorite spots to stop include Ribbon Falls, the Coconino Overlook, and the Pumphouse Residence (former home of artist and park worker Bruce Aiken). Some travelers described the route as strenuous (especially on the way back), and one hiker commented that it was tough on the knees. However, most agree that the views are worthwhile.
During peak season (June to mid-October), Grand Canyon Lodge Hiker Shuttles run twice daily between the South and North Rims. There are two campgrounds along the trail: Cottonwood and Bright Angel. The National Park Service suggests breaking up the trip into two days and setting up a tent at one of the campgrounds.
11. Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is one of the most recognizable places in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The Colorado River created the roughly 1,000-foot deep, 270-degree horseshoe-shaped bend that visitors hike a 1.5-mile hard-packed, accessible trail to see.
Recent visitors loved the views and said the hiking trail to the overlook was well-maintained. Many said it was a must-visit, especially since parking costs $10 per car. Sunset viewers warned others: it will be crowded, and you’ll want to arrive early for the experience. Some travelers suggested booking a Colorado River kayak tour if they wanted a different perspective of the landmark.
Travelers from the South and North Rim visitor centers should expect to drive about two hours to reach Page. This is where Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is located. Horseshoe Bend is accessible from sunrise to sunset. Park rangers advise the trail offers no shade and summertime visitors need water.
The viewpoint offers protective fencing, though the trail does not, so use caution if visiting with small children. The City of Page manages the parking lot, charging $10 for vehicles and RVs ($5 for motorcycles). Many travelers choose to visit Horseshoe Bend with a tour of Antelope Canyon as the two sites are located within 10 miles of each other.
12. Colorado River Rafting
After admiring the Grand Canyon from the hiking trails (or even from the air on a helicopter tour), enjoy the vantage point on a Colorado River rafting tour. There are a variety of one- and two-day whitewater rafting trips available at Grand Canyon West, including a family-friendly half-day trip with Wilderness River Adventures.
OARS, Canyon Explorations/Expeditions, and Outdoors Unlimited all offer traveler-approved multi-day rafting trips. Age restrictions and rafting or paddling skills are needed for these tours, which range from three days to more than two weeks.
No matter the trip, rafters need clothes, water, and sunscreen. Schedules and prices depend on the company and the type of rafting experience selected. Most rafting trips are offered from March through October. Keep in mind that no matter when you go, the river water temperature is 45 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
13. Antelope Canyon
It is located in Northern Arizona near Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, a few hours’ drive from Grand Canyon National Park. This makes it a great one-day or overnight road trip. It is the area’s second most popular tourist destination next to Lake Powell.
Antelope Canyon is known for its swirling sandstone and shafts of light when the sun is overhead. It is two different slot canyons. Upper Antelope Canyon is the most visited, mainly because it is a short and easy walk along the sandy canyon floor. Lower Antelope Canyon is nearby, but the walk is more physically demanding. Visiting Antelope Canyon is a great addition if you’re traveling to the Grand Canyon.
While hiking through Antelope Canyon is the main activity, Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend are nearby. Photography is also trendy here, and tours are designed specifically for photographers.
14. Havasu Falls
One of the most famous Waterfalls in Havasupai is Havasu Falls, which spills over travertine cliffs over an oasis of stunning beauty. Havasu Canyon’s desert landscape contrasts starkly with lush tropical vegetation near the water. It is one of the best places in Grand Canyon.
There are five Havasupai Falls: Navajo Falls, Falls, Havasu Falls, Fifty Foot, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls. They are located on the side canyon of the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon waterfalls are like no other in the world; visiting them is a lifetime opportunity. Swimming is allowed at Havasu Falls and is a popular activity for trek travelers. The water maintains a pleasant temperature of 70 degrees year-round.
From Grand Canyon Village to the Hualapai Hilltop, drive about four hours. Facilities are scarce, with just a large parking area and portable toilets. Travelers can stop in Peach Springs, Arizona for more facilities and services. Once hikers arrive at Hualapai Hilltop, they must trek 10 miles to the waterfalls.
In conclusion, the Grand Canyon offers many remarkable places to explore. The South Rim boasts iconic viewpoints like Mather Point and Desert View. No matter your preference, the Grand Canyon is a captivating destination with something to offer everyone.
Ultimately, the best places in the Grand Canyon are subjective and depend on individual preferences and interests. Whether you prefer panoramic viewpoints, remote trails, hidden waterfalls, or exhilarating river journeys, the Grand Canyon’s diverse landscapes and natural wonders provide unforgettable experiences for visitors of all ages.