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What to See in One Day at Grand Canyon National Park

By Tim Hull, author of Moon Grand Canyon

You can sample much of what Grand Canyon National Park has to offer in one day on the South Rim. Here’s what to see and do if your time is limited.

tourists standing on mather point in grand canyon national park
Mather Point. Photo © Winnietam/Dreamstime.

Best for First-Time Visitors

See the canyon from Mather Point, which is a short walk from Grand Canyon Visitor Center, and Yavapai Point, 0.7 mile (1.1 km) west of Mather Point on the Rim Trail.

Walk around Grand Canyon Village exploring the historic lodges, gift shops, and viewpoints.

Take the free shuttle bus (Mar.-Nov.) to Hermit’s Rest, stopping at the viewpoints along the way.

Best for Families

Walk along the Rim Trail between Mather Point and Grand Canyon Village.

Join the Junior Rangers at Grand Canyon Visitor Center–it’s a fun and educational way to get kids engaged with nature.

Attend free ranger programs about canyon animals and geology.

Best for Hikers

Walk the Rim Trail from Grand Canyon Village west to Hermit’s Rest.

Take the Bright Angel Trail into the canyon, turning around at Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse, Three-Mile Resthouse, or Indian Garden.

Best for Return Visitors

Hike into the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail.

Take the scenic Desert View Drive to Desert View Watchtower.

Book a mule ride along the South Rim.

mules walking on a trail in the grand canyon
Mule pack train on the South Rim’s Kaibab Trail. Photo © Studiobarcelona/Dreamstime.

Park Fees and Passes

The entrance fee for Grand Canyon National park is $35 for a private vehicle with up to 15 people. The pass is good on both the South and North Rims for seven consecutive days. Motorcyclists pay $30 to enter, and those walking, cycling, or riding the free Purple Route shuttle bus from Tusayan or the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams, or who are part of a tour group, pay $20.

You can purchase a digital entrance pass at www.recreation.gov and https://yourpassnow.com, or pick one up on your way to the park at the Williams-Kaibab National Forest Visitor Center (200 W. Railroad Ave., Williams, 928/635-1418 or 800/863-0546, 8am-6:30pm daily spring-summer, 8am-5pm daily fall-winter), the Flagstaff Visitor Center (1 E. Route 66, Flagstaff, 928/774-9541 or 800/379-0065, 8am-5pm Mon.-Sat., 9am-4pm Sun.), the Chevron Travel Stop in Valle (through a machine that only takes credit cards), or the Grand Canyon Visitor Center (Rte. 64, Tusayan, 928/638-2468, 8am-10pm daily Mar.-Oct., 10am-8pm daily Nov.-Feb.).

If you plan to visit more than two national parks in one year (or one park more than twice), purchase an $80 America the Beautiful Pass, which allows unlimited visits to any federal park or forest for one year. The pass is free to active military personnel and their dependents, and to all U.S. citizens or permanent residents 62 years old or older.


About the Author

A resident of Arizona for more than 40 years, Tim Hull has hiked its trails and driven its backroads from the deserts to the mountains to the wondrous depths of the Grand Canyon. As a news reporter and freelance writer for the past 20 years, Hull has written about the history, politics, environment and culture of Arizona and the Southwest for newspapers, magazines and websites. His family’s roots in the state run deep, beginning in the 1870s when his maternal great-great-grandfather opened a doctor’s office in Prescott, a mountain town in the state’s central pinelands. In his spare time Hull travels the world with his wife and writes fiction. He is also the author of Moon Arizona & the Grand Canyon, Moon Tucson, and Moon Southwest Road Trip.


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