The Grand Canyon, Trip Planning Resources

What to See at the Grand Canyon in One Day

woman staring at grand canyon in awe

The Grand Canyon is renowned for its expansive largeness—its grandness, if you will—so fitting everything into one day is an impossible task. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to see everything in one area, let alone the entire canyon. So, if you only have a single day to spend visiting the Grand Canyon, you will have to make some decisions about what to do and see.

As you research, keep in mind that there is no “best” place to see the Grand Canyon. Each region offers a variety of viewpoints and activities, as well as shopping and dining options to suit every kind of visitor. For single day trips to the Grand Canyon, the section you see will depend on what type of activities you are interested in, the type of experience you want, the time of year it is, and your proximity to the canyon.

The first thing you’ll have to decide is which area of the Grand Canyon you’re going to visit. You have three options:

  1. Grand Canyon West
  2. Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
  3. Grand Canyon National Park North Rim

NOTE: There may be public health measures, modified operations, capacity limits, or closures at the West Rim, South Rim, and North Rim due to the pandemic. Visit this NPS page or this Grand Canyon West Rim FAQ page for the current information regarding masking requirements, what is open and closed, and hours of operation.

Whether you plan to take a guided tour or drive yourself, here’s what to see in the Grand Canyon in one day at each of these locations.

eagle point grand canyon west

Grand Canyon West

The “West Rim” of the canyon, officially referred to as “Grand Canyon West”, is the closest Grand Canyon destination to Las Vegas (approximately 2.5-3 hours drive each way), and as a result offers the easiest access for single day trips from Vegas.

Open year-round, this region offers a wide range of guided tour and activity offerings for visitors of all ages. Located on the Hualapai Indian Reserve, Grand Canyon West is operated by the Hualapai Tribal Nation and offers its own iconic views of the canyon and unique activities—keep reading to learn more.

Things to Do at the West Rim in One Day

Grand Canyon West is an excellent option for people and families short on time who still want to enjoy the majesty of the Grand Canyon. Guided tours are often recommended, but it’s also possible to drive yourself. Many of the destinations in the park are walkable, with shuttle service to take you between viewpoints like Eagle Point, Guano Point, and the Hualapai Village. Grand Canyon West also offers a range of activities and impressive viewpoints for you to enjoy within the confines of one day.

Grand Canyon West Viewpoints

  • Guano Point
  • Eagle Point

Learn more about viewpoints at Grand Canyon West.

Things to See & Activities

  • Skywalk: Step over the side of the Grand Canyon onto a walkway elevated 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. See our Skywalk tours.
  • Main terminal exhibits: Learn all about the land and the bands who inhabit it now and in the past.
  • Zipline: Fly 500 feet over the canyon on a zipline.
  • Outdoor Amphitheater: “Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (10:00am – 3:00pm). . . enjoy the musical sounds and magical dances of the Hualapai Tribe.”
  • Native American Village: Explore traditionally built structures and learn more about “local and regional tribal heritage and tradition” on a self-guided tour.
  • Helicopter flights and floor landings: Many guided West Rim tours include helicopter flights over—or even to the bottom of—the Grand Canyon. Lunch on the Canyon floor may also be included.
  • Boat rides: Some guided tours feature a leisurely Colorado River cruise on a pontoon boat.
  • White water rafting: Grand Canyon West is home to the only single-day white water rafting tour of the Grand Canyon.

Shopping

  • Skywalk Main Terminal: Featuring “Grand Canyon West, Sky Walk and Route 66 memorabilia, including t-shirts, coffee mugs and postcards”
  • Native American Flea Market at Guano Point: “Offering handcrafted creations sold directly by local Hualapai and other Native American artisans”
  • Creations by Native Hands Gift Shop at the Indian Village at Eagle Point: “Offers a variety of souvenirs from t-shirts and hats to handcrafted jewelry and weavings made by the Hualapai, Hopi and Mojave tribes”

Dining Options

  • Sky View Restaurant

Grand Canyon West is ideal for:

  • Families
  • Guests staying in Las Vegas
  • Those who want lots of activities and short travel time
  • Experiencing the Skywalk

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

Grand Canyon South Rim

One of the National Park Service’s crown jewels, the South Rim is usually what people think of when they imagine the Grand Canyon. It’s within driving distance of several cities, including Las Vegas and Phoenix (approximately 4.5-5 hours drive each way).

The South Rim offers one of the most accessible experiences of the canyon, with a number of different tour options and a wide range of NPS activities at the park. Like the West Rim, the South Rim remains open year-round.

Things to Do at the South Rim in One Day

If you want the classic Grand Canyon experience or you are travelling with children, your best bet is to head to the South Rim.

If you are driving there yourself, your primary method of getting around the park will be a combination of walking and shuttles. Many of the destinations are within walking distance of each other, but not everything can be visited in one day on foot. We recommend using the shuttles in order to see everything you want and avoid overheating in the summer.

Viewpoints easily accessed from Grand Canyon Village:

The South Rim offers the largest collection of viewpoints at the Grand Canyon. If you only have a single day, you may want to focus on seeing the most accessible viewpoints located in the Grand Canyon Village:

  • Mather Point
  • Yaki Point
  • Ooh Aah Point

NOTE: It is an approximately one hour hike from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to Yaki Point. If you would prefer not to hike, the Kaibab Rim Route (Orange) Shuttle Bus has stops that include Mather Point, the visitor center, and Yaki Point. Ooh Aah Point is a further 45 minute hike from Yaki Point.

There are also numerous viewpoints located outside the village via Hermit Road and Desert View Road. If you prefer to experience the natural beauty of the Canyon without stopping in the Village, we recommend exploring the viewpoints along either Hermit Road or Desert View—they both offer many stunning vistas, but you won’t have time to do both in just one day.

Viewpoints accessible via Hermit Road:

  • Maricopa Point
  • Powell Point
  • Hopi Point
  • Mohave Point
  • The Abyss
  • Pima Point

NOTE: The Hermit Road Shuttle Bus (Red Route) runs between March 1 and November 30, but it is open to personal vehicles between November and March. It is approximately a 2.5 hour hike from Kolb Studio in the Village to Pima Point, so if you plan to hike, we recommend taking a shuttle bus one way in order to get in everything you want to see.

Viewpoints accessible via Desert View Drive:

  • Pipe Creek Vista
  • Shoshone Point
  • Duck on a Rock Viewpoint
  • Grandview Point
  • Moran Point
  • Lipan Point
  • Navajo Point
  • Desert View

NOTE: There is currently no shuttle bus route between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View Watchtower, and the distances between these viewpoints are significantly further apart—a hike between Yaki Point and Navajo Point is approximately 7 hours. A private vehicle is required to explore both Grand Canyon Village or Hermit Road and reach the viewpoints beyond Duck on a Rock Viewpoint in a single day.

Things to See & Activities

  • Grand Canyon Visitor Center & Theater: Home to a range of indoor and outdoor exhibits, as well as a 20 minute movie Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder.
  • Yavapai Point & Geology Museum: Offers geology exhibits (including a large topographic relief map), park ranger programs, and an incredible view of the Canyon through picture windows. Learn more.
  • Trail of Time: From the NPS: “Along the timeline trail are a series of rocks and exhibits that explain how Grand Canyon and its rock formed. Each meter walked on the timeline trail signifies one million years of the canyon’s geologic history.” Learn more.
  • Shrine of the Ages: Here you’ll find ranger programs and special activities that change periodically, including lectures, concerts, and demonstrations. Learn more.
  • Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery: For those with an interest in history or the macabre, there’s the pioneer cemetery—the final resting place to many historically significant figures, including one of the Kolb brothers.
  • Verkamp’s Visitor Center: Ranger-led history walks and historical exhibits.
  • Hopi House: One of many structures designed by Mary Colter, Hopi House is “modeled after the 1,000 year-old pueblo dwellings of the Hopi village in Old Oraibi”.
  • Lookout Studio: Another structure designed by Mary Colter, Lookout Studio was built in 1914 to act as a perfect lookout spot for visitors to view and photograph the canyon.
  • Kolb Studio: Be sure to check out the historic Kolb Studio, built in 1906 by the Kolb brothers. While here, visit the history and art exhibits. Some exhibits change periodically—check the NPS website to see what’s on now.
  • Hiking: There are five day-hiking trails at the South Rim that range in difficulty from easy (Rim Trail) to difficult (Hermit or Grandview Trail). Keep in mind that many of these hikes (with the exception of Rim Trail, where you can easily exit) will use up a significant portion of the day.
  • Airplane or helicopter flights: Some guided South Rim tours include airplane or helicopter flights over the Grand Canyon.

Shopping

  • Grand Canyon Conservancy Park Store: The park’s largest gift shop and bookstore.
  • Bright Angel Bicycles: Limited hiking supplies.
  • Yavapai Geology Museum: A bookstore and gift shop.
  • Yavapai Lodge Gift Shop: A selection of clothing, books, postcards and southwest gift items
  • Kolb Studio: A bookstore and gift shop.
  • Lookout Studio: Photography, postcards, rocks and minerals, jewelry and souvenirs.
  • Bright Angel Lodge: Gift store with hiking supplies.
  • El Tovar Hotel: Clothing, jewelry, and fine gifts.
  • Hopi House: Offers a large selection of authentic Native American Handicraft items.
  • Maswik Lodge: Books, postcards, t-shirts, Native American jewelry and gift items.

Learn more about the best Grand Canyon hotels.

Dining Options

  • Yavapai Lodge Restaurant
  • Yavapai Lodge Coffee Shop
  • Yavapai Lodge Tavern
  • El Tovar Dining Room
  • El Tovar Lounge
  • El Tovar Food Truck
  • Bright Angel Bicycle Rental and Cafe

  • Canyon Village Market
  • Arizona Steakhouse
  • Fred Harvey Burger
  • Bright Angel Fountain
  • Bright Angel Tavern
  • Maswik Food Court and Pizza Pub

The South Rim is ideal for:

  • Families
  • Guests staying in Las Vegas
  • Those who want lots of activities and don’t mind a slightly longer travel time
  • Souvenir collectors—the South Rim has the largest number of gift shops of any destination.

grand canyon hotels north rim lodge
Image Source: PDTillman via Wikimedia Commons.

The Grand Canyon North Rim

While the drive to the North Rim from Las Vegas is not significantly longer than the South Rim, it is considered one of the most remote parts of the Grand Canyon, and few people visit for just one day. The roads leading to the North Rim are less developed and become inaccessible in the winter months and, subsequently, the park only operates at full service (such as for day trips) between May 15 and October 15.

The North Rim offers fewer services and activities than the South Rim, but it boasts fewer guests—“only 10% of all Grand Canyon visitors”, according to NPS—and is therefore a less busy experience than other areas of the canyon. Thanks to its remoteness, The North Rim is often considered a premiere destination for experienced hikers.

Things to Do at the North Rim in One Day

The North Rim is more secluded than the South or West Rims of the Grand Canyon, offering a rustic, hands-off experience with fewer amenities and smaller crowds. It is the ideal part of the canyon for those with a serious interest in things like the outdoors, nature, birding, and hiking, and those who aren’t as interested in guided tours or prepared activities. The primary mode of transportation at the North Rim is walking or driving, so it is best suited to visitors who are interested in spending the day hiking and those travelling without small children.

Grand Canyon North Rim Viewpoints

  • Bright Angel Point
  • Point Imperial
  • Cape Royal
  • Roosevelt Point
  • Vista Encantada
  • Walhalla Overlook

Learn more about Grand Canyon North Rim viewpoints.

While they will make your drive slightly longer, there are also some impressive sights to see on the drive in. Check out:

  • Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
  • Kaibab National Forest
  • Kaibab Plateau High Point

Things to See & Activities

  • Visitor Center: Offers daily ranger programs and exhibits.
  • Hiking: There are several day-hiking trails available at the North Rim, including some around or under half an hour (such as Roosevelt Point Trail, Cape Royal Trail, and Bright Angel Point Trail).

Shopping

  • GC Conservancy Park Store: Offers a range of books, maps, DVDs, and gifts.
  • Grand Canyon Lodge Gift Shop: Grand Canyon souvenirs, clothes and accessories.

Dining Options

  • The Lodge Dining Room
  • The Deli in the Pines
  • The Rough Rider Saloon

The North Rim is ideal for:

  • Experienced hikers
  • Families with older children
  • Visitors staying in Arizona, or visitors staying in Las Vegas who enjoy road trips
  • Those interested in nature and the outdoors

Conclusion

If you can only spend a single day at the Grand Canyon, don’t worry—regardless of which part of the Grand Canyon you end up visiting, it will be beautiful and awe-inspiring. The Grand Canyon doesn’t have bad angles and every Rim and viewpoint is worth seeing, no matter which one it is nor how short the visit.

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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.

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