Rim Guides, The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Activities – What To Do At The Grand Canyon South Rim

The Grand Canyon’s South Rim is often the go-to destination for first-time explorers—and for good reason. Home to the most developed region of the Grand Canyon National Park, the South Rim is the most accessible spot to visit the Grand Canyon, with the largest concentration of activities and amenities to explore.

From gentle walks and below-the-Rim hikes to educational Ranger Programs and the dozens of stunning viewpoints waiting around every corner, the South Rim offers a multitude of can’t-miss activities that (almost) rivals just about any Vegas buffet in splendor and enjoyment. In fact, there are so many activities to do and sights to explore that you may have trouble deciding what exactly to do with your time during your visit.

What to do at the Grand Canyon South Rim ultimately depends on your interests and how much time you have to visit. To help you figure out which activities appeal to you most, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of our favorite Grand Canyon activities at the South Rim, including:

  1. Viewpoints to explore
  2. Easy walks for the whole family
  3. Harder hikes for adventurous travelers
  4. Catch the sunrise or sunset
  5. Renting a bike
  6. Taking to the skies in an airplane or helicopter tour
  7. Travel through geological history
  8. Exploring the unique architecture of Mary Colter
  9. Participating in Ranger Programs
  10. Shopping

Let’s get started.

1. Viewpoints to explore

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • Sightseeing

  • Photography

  • Gentle walking

  • All ages

The South Rim is certainly not short of breathtaking views and vistas, and simply taking time to explore the area’s many viewpoints is the ultimate can’t-miss Grand Canyon activity.

As the most developed region of the Grand Canyon, the South Rim contains a higher concentration of viewpoints than any other Grand Canyon tourism area, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see several of them even if you only have a day or less to explore. Many viewpoints are accessible via flat, paved pathways, making them ideal for families with young children or those with accessibility concerns.

At the South Rim, viewpoints are divided into three main sections:

  1. Hermit Road (aka the West Rim Drive)
  2. The Grand Canyon Village
  3. Desert View Drive (aka the East Rim Drive)

Some viewpoints offer panoramic vistas, others are less busy, while others are ideal for sunrise or sunset viewing. Here are some highlights to consider:

Grand Canyon Mohave Point

Hermit Road

Hermit Road culminates at Hermit’s Rest. Powell Point, Mohave Point, and Pima Point are popular stops along the way. All viewpoints on Hermit Road are accessible via the red shuttle bus, and you can also walk or bike between viewpoints.

Mather Point - Grand Canyon South Rim

The Grand Canyon Village

The Grand Canyon Village is home to Mather Point (pronounced Mah-ther, not May-ther), the South Rim’s most popular viewpoint, as well as other scenic vistas and activities such as Ranger Programs, history and geology exhibits, shopping, dining, and bike rentals.

desert view watchtower grand canyon south
Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.

Desert View Drive

Desert View Drive culminates at Desert View and the Desert View Watchtower. Shoshone Point, Grandview Point, and Lipan Point are popular stops along the way. There is no shuttle on Desert View Drive, so you’ll need a car or bike to explore these viewpoints. If you have a car, we recommend driving out to Desert View Watchtower and stopping at the viewpoints of your choice on your way back to the Village.

Discover more iconic South Rim vistas in our guide to the most breathtaking South Rim viewpoints:

2. Easy walks for the whole family

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • Sightseeing

  • Photography

  • Gentle walking

  • All ages

The South Rim Trail is the perfect path if you’re looking for a relaxing stroll along the Rim. The trail stretches a total of 12.7 miles, extending from the Grand Canyon Village all the way to Hermit’s Rest, with numerous views of the inner Canyon to enjoy along the way. The trail is also paved with plenty of shade with a mere 200 feet of elevation gain, making it perfect for a gentle bike ride or easy day hike, even if you’re pushing a stroller.

You can catch the trail from any viewpoint in the Village or along Hermit Road. If a 12.7 mile walk is beyond your abilities or interest, hop on the red shuttle bus line to get to the more distant viewpoints (or avoid a tired toddler tantrum) and enjoy the walk between the vistas of your choosing.

TRAVEL TIP: If you’re looking for a shorter walk along the South Rim Trail, the 1-mile walk between The Abyss and Mohave Point is highly recommended.

For an easy stroll on Desert View Drive, try the Shoshone Point Trail. This trail is 2.1 miles long round trip with an elevation gain of 154 feet. It’s stroller accessible, and it ends at a picnic spot.

3. Harder hikes for adventurous travelers

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • Active travelers

  • Adults and experienced hikers

  • Sightseeing

  • Longer visits

Hiking below the Rim is a popular Grand Canyon activity at the South Rim. If you’re keen on a harder hike than the Rim Trail, there are two trails you can take below the Rim into the Canyon:

grand canyon hiking clothes what to wear
Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.

Bright Angel Trail

Bright Angel Trail is 8 miles long with 4,380 feet of elevation each way. This trail offers narrower views of the Canyon than the South Kaibab Trail, but is shaded in the morning and afternoon. The trailhead is also easier to access, located closer to the Visitor Center.

There are numerous rest stops along the way. If you only have one day to explore the South Rim, it’s strongly recommended that you turn around at either the 1.5 or 3 mile resthouse—the return to the Rim can grueling after a deceptively easy descent, and it’s not uncommon for unprepared hikers to be caught unaware and require rescue during their ascent to the Rim. The 1.5 and 3 mile resthouses offer clean, potable drinking water, so be sure to refill your water supply when you turn around.

Ooh Aah Point. Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.

South Kaibab Trail

The South Kaibab Trail is 7.1 miles long with over 4,500 feet in elevation gain. It offers more dramatic views of the Canyon, with a steeper descent (and ascent). There are no water stations on the South Kaibab Trail, so be sure to bring enough water for your entire hike. Pack more than you think you’ll need, especially on sunny days.

If you want a more challenging hike than the Rim Trail but don’t want to descend too deep into the Canyon, take the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point. It’s just 0.9 miles down the trail, roughly 600 feet below the Rim. The trail to the point can be steep, but the view is worth the effort.

Other hikes

If you’re an experienced desert hiker looking for a steeper or even more challenging day hike with rougher trail conditions than the Bright Angel or South Kaibab Trails, try Hermit Trail (up to 7 miles round trip) or Grandview Trail (up to 6.4 miles round trip).

4. Catch the sunrise or sunset

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • Sightseeing

  • Adults and couples

  • Photography

  • Short visits

If you’re able, watching the sun rise or set over the rocky walls and spires of the Grand Canyon is one Grand Canyon activity you truly shouldn’t skip. Keep your camera ready—you’re sure to see some of the most stunning Canyon views as the sun casts angled shadows over the Canyon’s craggy outcrops.

TRAVEL TIP: Sunset viewing is a very popular Grand Canyon activity. To avoid the crowds, plan to arrive at your viewpoint of choice at least 30 minutes before sunset—or, even better, catch the sunrise instead.

Hopi, Yavapai, and Mohave Points are all popular for sunset viewing. For a slightly less crowded show, try Shoshone Point—it takes a short hike to get to this viewpoint, which tends to thin out the crowd a bit.

If you only have a day to explore and don’t want drive yourself, hop on a guided Grand Canyon sunset tour.

Read our guide to Grand Canyon sunset times:

View sunset tours:

Grand Canyon Exclusive Floor Landing Helicopter Sunset Tour

$629

Land on the Canyon floor 4,000 feet below the Rim and enjoy a sunset tour over the Las Vegas Strip on your return flight. Airport & processing fees are included in the price of your tour.

Reserve Tour Now

5. Rent a bike

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • Active travelers

  • All ages

  • Sightseeing

  • Longer visits

The entire South Rim Trail is easily cyclable. If you have the entire day (or longer) at the Grand Canyon, this is one of the best ways to explore the South Rim. If you aren’t traveling with your own bike, bicycles are available to rent in the Grand Canyon Village.

Try biking out to Hermit’s Rest, then catch the shuttle bus back to the Village—the buses have mounting racks for bikes. You can also book a shuttle package when you rent a bike, allowing you to bike along Hermit Road and hop into a dedicated shuttle for the journey back to the Village.

Desert View Road is also cyclable if you’re curious to check out the East Rim Road viewpoints.

6. Take to the skies on an airplane or helicopter tour

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • Couples and adults

  • Adventurous travelers

  • Short visits

For a truly unique perspective of the Grand Canyon, hop aboard an airplane or helicopter tour to get a bird’s eye view. Air tours depart directly from the South Rim, as well as from Las Vegas and other surrounding cities. Some tours simply fly over the Canyon, while others include floor landings, time to explore the Village, and other amenities like lunch or a champagne toast.

View air tours that depart directly from the Grand Canyon Village:

View air tours that depart from Las Vegas:

7. Travel through (geological) history

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • All ages

  • Educational activities

  • Short visits

  • Geology and history buffs

The South Rim is home to miles of walking and hiking trails that showcase the Canyon’s unique geological history, but geology enthusiasts may find the most to appreciate along the Trail of Time. The Trail of Time is a short 1.7 mile walk along a portion of the Rim Trail, starting at Vercamp’s Visitor Center and ending at the Yavapai Geological Museum. There are information panels along the trail where you can learn all about the geological history of the Grand Canyon.

The Yavapai Geological Museum is another key Grand Canyon activity for geology lovers. Here, you can learn about the history and formation of the Grand Canyon, enjoy stunning Canyon views from large picture windows, and—perhaps most enticingly—escape into an air-conditioned room.

Learn more about the geology of the Grand Canyon:

8. Explore the unique architecture of Mary Colter

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • All ages

  • Short visits

  • Geology and history buffs

  • Shopping

Mary Colter was one of only 22 female architects working in the United States in the early 20th century, and was among the first American architects to give her buildings a site-specific sense of place. Her unique style allows her structures to blend in with the natural features of the surrounding landscape by incorporating local materials and other elements of the area’s native tribes, such as murals and pictographs.

As the chief architect for the Fred Harvey Company, Mary Colter is the creative inspiration behind many of the South Rim’s most interesting and iconic buildings, including:

  • Desert View Watchtower
  • Lookout Studio
  • Hermit’s Rest
  • Phantom Ranch
  • Bright Angel Lodge
  • Hopi House

Learn more about Mary Colter’s iconic Grand Canyon buildings:

9. Participate in Ranger Programs

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • All ages

  • Educational activities

  • Sightseeing

  • Longer visits

The Grand Canyon National Park offers a variety of ever-changing Ranger Programs you can participate in when you visit the South (or North) Rim, including guided walking tours, stargazing events, coffee with a Ranger, and talks and demonstrations. Learn more about South Rim Ranger Programs currently being offered.

10. Shopping

This Grand Canyon activity is ideal for:

  • All ages

  • Short visits

  • Souvenirs and memorabilia

Grand Canyon Hopi House

Hopi House

Designed by Mary Colter in the style of a Hopi pueblo, Hopi House offers authentic American Indian arts and crafts, as well as other items. Hopi House is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

lookout studio grand canyon national park south rim view points
Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Wikimedia Commons.

Lookout Studio

Another Mary Colter creation, Lookout Studio is built right into the side of the Canyon and is (in classic Mary Colter fashion) inspired by the natural forms of the landscape. Today, Lookout Studio operates as a gift and souvenir shop with multiple terraces where you can view the Canyon. Lookout Studio is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Kolb Studio

Originally a family home and photography studio, the Kolb Studio is one of the earliest tourist destinations on the South Rim. It has since been restored and now operates as a curio and book store. Kolb Studio is open daily from 8 AM to 6 PM.

Grand Canyon Village Market Plaza. Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.

Grand Canyon Village Market Plaza

The Village Market Plaza is the spot for groceries, outdoor gear, and souvenirs. It’s open daily from 7 AM to 8 PM.

What To Do At The Grand Canyon South Rim

The South Rim is the most popular Grand Canyon destination, and with a plethora of entertaining and educational activities and amenities on offer, it’s easy to understand why.

If you’re planning a trip to the Grand Canyon and are looking for ideas about what to do in the Grand Canyon South Rim, start with these 10 Grand Canyon activities:

  1. Viewpoints to explore
  2. Easy walks for the whole family
  3. Harder hikes for adventurous travelers
  4. Catch the sunrise or sunset
  5. Renting a bike
  6. Taking to the skies in an airplane or helicopter tour
  7. Travel through geological history
  8. Exploring the unique architecture of Mary Colter
  9. Participating in Ranger Programs
  10. Shopping

Learn more about the Grand Canyon South Rim:

Discover the South Rim on one of our guided Grand Canyon South Rim tours:

Grand Canyon South Rim Bus Tour

$85

Grand Canyon South Rim Deluxe Upgrade with IMAX

$92

Grand Canyon Discovery Air Tour

$179

Grand Canyon South Rim Signature Hummer Tour

$114

Featured Image Source: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr. 

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About Ria Borja

Ria is a Customer Experience Manager at Canyon Tours and an avid lover of the outdoors. When she isn't helping other travelers check destinations and dream vacations off their bucket lists, she's busy exploring the Southwest. Her favorite place to visit is (unsurprisingly!) the Grand Canyon.