If you want to become one of the five million people who visit the Grand Canyon each year, but only have a day or two to do it in, it would be best to pick one section of the canyon to explore and enjoy. Your individual interest, the time you have available and the weather and/or time of year will all influence your visit.
The Canyon actually has three distinct and separate areas – the South Rim, the North Rim and the Inner Canyon. The South Rim is only open seasonally, usually May to October, the North Rim is open year round, and the Inner Canyon is inclusive of everything below the rim and is visited primarily by mule riders, river rafters and hikers.
The South Rim is 220 miles by vehicle from the North Rim or 21 miles if you are up for the hike across the canyon – which, even for the most fit of hikers takes at least 2 days. Therefore, this suggested itinerary will focus on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The South Rim is open year round, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This includes all visitor services. Regardless of the time of year that you intend to visit, if you intend to stay at any of the lodging facilities, including campgrounds, it is strongly recommended that you make reservations well in advance of your arrival.
A free shuttle bus system operates at the South Rim in the Grand Canyon Village area. This is an excellent way to make your visit easier and more enjoyable. Simply park your car and use the shuttle to get to all the sites. There are three shuttle routes operating at the South Rim. All routes interconnect. All routes are free. All buses have a bicycle rack so if you are so inclined, you can bike part of a route and r part of a route.
East Entrance to the Park
The East Rim Drive or Desert View Drive is readily accessible as you enter the Park at the east entrance. The scenic drive follows the south rim of the canyon for 26 miles.
- Desert View Watchtower – This replica of a prehistoric Indian tower was constructed in 1932. The highest point on the South Rim, this seventy-foot high tower offers vast panoramic views of the Canyon.
- Tusayan Ruin and Museum - While you are in the area don't miss seeing what the life of a Pueblo Indian was like some 800 years ago. Located only three miles west of Desert View, it is easy to include in your itinerary.
Must See Places at the South Rim
- Grand Canyon Village - Park your car at the Grand Canyon Village on the south side of the Canyon. This is the center for the majority of the activity and serves as the center for transportation for the South Rim.
- Market Plaza – This is the commercial center of the Village. This is the location of amenities that include a general store and deli, a post office, the bank and cafeteria at the Yavapai Lodge. The best part is that the Market Plaza has a large parking lot, centrally located. This makes it an ideal place to park your car and hop on one of the park's free shuttle busses.
- Historic District – Before boarding the shuttle bus, take the time to explore the Historic District located in the Village. The Santé Fe Railroad once serviced this side of the Canyon and the Train Deport still stands. You can take a walking tour here and walk in the footsteps of individuals of the past including President Teddy Roosevelt.
- Verkamps Curio Shop – Started by an early day pioneer, John Verkamp, who saw the profitability of selling curios to the visitors who came to the South Rim, this structure was purchased by the park service in 2008. Once a family-run business, 1906 to 2008, the structure is now owned by the Park Service and houses a Visitor Center, Bookstore, and small Historical museum.
- Kolb Studio – This unusual structure appears to cascade down the canyon wall. It was the home and business of the Kolb brothers who were the first photographers and filmmakers at the Grand Canyon. The structure was built in 1905 and has been completed restored.
- Yavapaqi Observation Station – This is an easy walk if you'd like to stretch your legs a little. Go just one mile east of Market Plaza and you will find the Yavapai Observation Station. Here you will enjoy a spectacular view of the Grand Canyon and have the opportunity to learn and understand the geology of this magnificent area.
This very popular scenic drive runs along the end of Grand Canyon Village on the south rim and ends at Hermits Rest. The route is approximately 7 miles long. You can travel this route taking the free park shuttle bus, walking, bicycling, or via commercial bus tour most of the year, with private vehicles allowed only during winter months. Along the rim are nine designated viewpoints where the free Hermits Rest Route shuttle bus stops – great places to get a really good view. These viewpoints also offer a chance for short or long walks between the viewpoints on both paved and dirt trails.
Once you visit the Grand Canyon, you will understand why it is included as one of the seven natural wonders of the United States. It is one of the world's most perfect examples of the natural beauty that can be the result of erosion. Although actually void of land – being a big, very big hole in the landscape of Northern Arizona - the Grand Canyon has become a tangible place that fills individuals with wonder and awe and the inkling to explore.
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