When you picture the Grand Canyon, views of the many scenic overlooks on the South Rim, or perhaps even the rugged North Rim or growing Grand Canyon West region, are often the first that spring to mind.
Unlike the South Rim, North Rim, and Grand Canyon West, there is no officially designated tourist area on the eastern rim of the Grand Canyon. Locals use the term “Grand Canyon East” to describe an area where there are a number of famous sites and views of the Grand Canyon, but it is not an official designation used by the National Park Service; some of the “east rim” is located on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands, but the majority of the sites are encompassed by and accessible from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It may not be an official tourist area, but the east rim is home to several prominent Grand Canyon overlooks that are well worth a visit, including:
- Little Colorado River Gorge
- Historic Cameron Trading Post
- Marble Canyon
- Navajo Bridge
- Horseshoe Bend
- Antelope Canyon
- Rainbow Bridge
- Tower Butte
- Park of Lake Powell
- A stretch of the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry
You may recognize names of popular overlooks like Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, but there’s more to the east rim than these two beloved sights. So what exactly makes the east rim so special? Let’s find out.
Why visit the east rim?
There are many reasons to visit the Grand Canyon East region:
- Viewpoints: The east rim offers viewpoints and activities to satisfy travellers of every age and inclination, including two of the most recognizable Grand Canyon viewpoints: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.
- South Rim Access: If you’re driving yourself to the Grand Canyon,the Grand Canyon East region is easily accessible from the South Rim National Park, with famous east rim attractions like the Cameron Trading Post just 30 miles from Desert View Watchtower (located just inside the east entrance to the South Rim National Park).
- Road Trips: Its proximity to the South Rim makes the Grand Canyon East region an easy stop for east-west (and vice versa) Grand Canyon road trips.
- River Access: Lee’s Ferry, where many Grand Canyon river trips originate, is easily accessible from the east rim.
10 east rim viewpoints and experiences
There are many viewpoints and vistas to explore on the east rim, as well as numerous adventurous experiences for travellers of any age. Here are 10 of the most popular spots:
1. Little Colorado River Gorge
Image Credit: Ken Lund via Flickr.
Located on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands just outside the east entrance to the South Rim National Park, the Little Colorado River Gorge is one of the largest tributaries of the Colorado River, forming a narrow gorge that stretches for about 45 miles before opening up near Cameron, AZ.
Visitors expecting to see more of the red layers of the Grand Canyon may be surprised by the striking difference in geology: the Little Colorado River Gorge is comprised of mostly black and gray limestone, with smooth, colorless gray sandstone towards the canyon floor. The river offers more colorful views—thanks to the mineral content in the water, the Colorado River turns a bright robin’s egg blue during the summer months. At other times of year, the river can appear almost blood red.
There are two viewing areas between Cameron and the edge of the Coconino Plateau. One has rails, but requires a minimal entry fee. The second viewpoint has no safety rails, but no entrance fee.
2. Cameron Trading Post
Image Credit: Don Graham via Flickr.
Located in the town of Cameron on the junction of State Route 64 and US 89, the historic Cameron Trading Post dates back to 1915 when local traders opened the post to stimulate commerce in the area.
Peruse the many Native American crafts for sale, including jewelry, rugs, pottery, and paintings, and grab a bite to eat before you hit the road—try the famous Navajo taco. If you’re looking for a place to stay overnight, there is also lodging and an RV park.
3. Page, AZ
Located less than 10 miles from Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, the town of Page, AZ is a great home base for your Grand Canyon East explorations.
In addition to exploring the many east rim viewpoints worth visiting, Page is home to a number of hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, sports, and shopping opportunities.
4. Navajo Bridge and Marble Canyon
Named for its colorful rocks and cliffs, Marble Canyon marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon at its westernmost point. Navajo Bridge—actually a pair of bridges—spans Marble Canyon, serving as one of only seven land crossings of the Colorado River. The first bridge was opened in 1929. At the time, it was the highest steel bridge in the world, but at only 18 feet wide with a 40 ton limit, it could not keep up with ever-increasing motor vehicle traffic, and a new bridge was opened in 1995. Now, the historic bridge is a pedestrian-only walkway.
If you are visiting Lee’s Ferry—a common launching point for rafting trips and other river journeys, and home to some of the best trout fishing in the country—from Phoenix or other eastern origins, you will drive across the newer twin bridge; if you are visiting from Las Vegas and want to drive or walk across Navajo bridge, you’ll have to make a special trip.
4. Horseshoe Bend
Located approximately 4 miles from Page, Horseshoe Bend is one of the most iconic Grand Canyon viewpoints. This horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River is accessible via a short hike (about ¾ mile), and offers some of the most picturesque, well-known views of the Grand Canyon. The hike is relatively easy and most people have no trouble reaching the viewpoint, but there are some challenging inclines and sandy spots, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear.
Be careful—there are no safety rails and it’s a 1,000 foot drop to the Colorado River below, so don’t get too close to the edge. Be especially cautious if you are visiting with young children.
6. Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is another iconic Grand Canyon site, known for its distinctive smooth, curved orange walls and those ethereal photos featuring sunbeams streaming to the Canyon floor.
Antelope Canyon is a narrow slow canyon divided into two sections: Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. Both sections are only accessible via guided tour, and both are very popular destinations, so it’s a good idea to book your tour as far in advance as possible. If you want to get photos without anyone else in the frame or you are carrying a tripod, you’ll need to take a special photography tour.
What’s the difference between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon?
Upper Antelope Canyon
- The only place to snap one of those famous sunbeam pics.
- Wider at the bottom and narrower at the top than Lower Antelope Canyon, like an inverted “V” shape.
- Easier to walk through, with more space to explore.
Lower Antelope Canyon
- Narrower at the bottom and wider at the top, like a “V” shape.
- More ladders to climb and narrow passageways to squeeze through—great for those who want a more active or adventurous experience.
VISIT ANTELOPE CANYON
7. Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Over 290 feet tall and 270 feet across, this sandstone arch is one of the largest natural bridges in the world, formed as the sandstone was eroded by water flowing from Navajo Mountain towards the Colorado River. It’s considered sacred by the Navajo culture, and is regarded as a symbol of the deities responsible for creating clouds, rainbows, and rain—the essence of desert life.
Located on the edge of Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge National Monument is one of the smallest outposts of the National Park Service, encompassing just 160 square acres of land. The only way to see Rainbow Bridge up close is via guided tour. Spot it on a boat tour of Lake Powell, or by air from tours departing from the Page Municipal Airport.
8. Tower Butte
Image Credit: Pierre André via Wikimedia Commons.
This solitary hill stretches 5,000 feet above sea level, with sheer sides and a flat top. The only way to access it is by helicopter tour—depart from Page, AZ, and land on the top of Tower Butte for 360 degree views of the surrounding desert.
9. Lake Powell
Rent a power boat (or even a houseboat for longer visits), camp out on the beaches, and hike or explore the many back canyons that surround Lake Powell. If you’re looking for a guided tour, check out the boat tours to Antelope Canyon or Rainbow Bridge.
10. Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry
Hop on a relaxing float trip down the Colorado River, complete with a leisurely meander through Horseshoe Bend.
The Grand Canyon East region is home to many famous viewpoints, including Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and Marble Canyon. It’s easy to access from the South Rim National Park, and is a great addition to any Grand Canyon road trip. While you’re there, check out:
- The Little Colorado River Gorge
- Cameron Trading Post
- Page, AZ
- Navajo Bridge
- Rainbow Bridge
- Tower Butte
If you’re visiting Las Vegas, take a look at our East Rim tour: