Top Tourist Attractions in Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited and spectacular natural tourist attractions in America. It has been one of the favourite destinations for road trips. People from all over the country (read all over the world) consider this as one of their favourite vacation spots. There are two Rims to visit in the Grand Canyon National Park – the North Rim and the South Rim. Most of the people visit the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. While the South Rim is open all throughout the year, the North Rim is closed during the winter season. If you are heading to the Canyon from places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Williams or Sedona, the South Rim is easily accessible. The main access point in the South Rim is the South Entrance, where there is a visitor center. Also there is an entrance via the east (the Desert View Entrance) , but it is less convinient.
If you are planning to explore the park by road, there are two options from the South Entrance Visitor center. There is this Hermit road – which is open from Dec 1 to Feb end and is open to private vehicles. Apart from the mentioned dates, you have to use the shuttle bus. Other option is the Desert View Drive – which is also open to private vehicles. Both the drives provides you excellent and entirely different views of the Canyon. We suggest you to use own vehicle/car if you want to spend a lot of time inside the park and to explore it to heart’s content. If you don’t have a car, you are all good to use the shuttle buses.
Also you can try out river rafting tour or a helicopter tour from the nearby cities like Las Vegas to the Canyon, if you don’t want the conventional way.Outside the South Entrance, there is the small town of Tusayan, where you can find many restaurants, hotels etc where you can grab a bite to eat.
The top 10 tourist attractions of the Grand Canyon are descibed below.
1. Visitor Center and Mather Point Overlook
If you are entering the park via the South Entrance, head directly to the Visitor Center. You will be provided with a few information about the park and its history. There are various displays for this purpose. The staff are all ready to answer your questions about the roads, hikes and other information about the park which you may have.
image: A view from Mather Point Overlook
From the Visitor Center, its a small walk to Mather Point Overlook, where you can really enjoy the breathtaking view of the Canyon. The landscape here is just unbelievable. Experience it yourself!
2. Rim Trail
From South Kaibab Trailhead (Visitor Center’s east) to Hermit’s Rest, there is this rim of walk way around the Canyon’s rim. A walk through this rim gives you one of the most scenic views you will have in the Canyon. You can get to this rim either from the Mather Point or from any stopping point along the Hermit Road. If you are interested in taking a short walk and enjoy the view, you could give this a try. You won’t be disappointed and this is highly recommended!
Image: A view from a journey through the Grand Canyon’s Rim Trail
3. Geological Museum
Geological Museum in the Canyon is one of the most informative spots the place have. The location of this museum was zeroed-in in the year 1920 by some of the top notch Geologists as the place describes the Geology of the Canyon the best. You can view the rock-layers and the landscape from this museum and it attracts thousands of visitors evey day. There are diagrams and dispalys which show sthe landscape of the canyon, the rock layers and the erosion happened to the canyon due to the water running down. From the windows of the Geological museum, you can see the way to the Plateau Point, a path to the Colorado River and the Bright Angel Trail.
Image: A view from a lookout window of the Geological Museum
4. Hermit Road Drive
Hermit Road Drive is 7 miles long. Not just a road, Hermit Road Drive gives you a scenic view of the Canyon; just like any other viewspots in the Canyon gives you 😉 You can drive your private vehicles on Hermit Road Drive if you are visiting from December 1 to end of February. If you are visiting on any other dates/months, you will have to take the shuttle buses to travel along the Hermit Road. Hopi Point, The Abyss, Maricopa Point and Pima Point are few of the best view points on this stretch.
Image: A view of the landscape from Hermit Road Drive
5. Bright Angel Hiking Trail
Are you a hiking freak? Bright Angel Hiking Trail in the Grand Canyon National Park is the most visited hiking spots in the Canyon. The hiking starts from the village where the shuttle bus to Hermit’s Rest begins. Most of the visitors/hikers just take a short hike here as the complete hike would take around two whole days to complete, as it is around 19 miles. If you really want to hike, you could choose the path to Indian Garden Campground, the route is a 9 mile stretch. But please be aware that this hike route includes a 3,000 feet elevated hike. This can be strainful and be prepared. Or for a shorter hike, you could take the route to Upper Tunnel, the round trip is just 0.4 miles and takes just around 30 minutes.
Image: Hikers on Bright Angel Hiking Trail
There is another hiking route which is to the Lower Tunnel, the round trip is around 1.7 miles and would take you one to two hours. Hiking the canyons would require serious efforts as you might encounter real steep cliffs. It is not really suitable for those who have fear of heights. The places may be covered with snow during winters. If you really like hiking and want to try out the adventure, go for the whole stretch!
6. Desert View Drive
If you ask us which road is more scenic and stunning – the Hermit Road or the Desert View, there won’t be a precise answer. The Desert View Drive, which is of 22 miles, is equally scenic and stunning just like the Hermit Road. The main difference is that the Colorado River is much more visible from the Desert Drive. There are less number of view points on this route but all of them gives you equally stunning views.
Grand View Point is the highest view points in the Canyon’s South Rim. People stop here to hike; but there are very steep climbings and the landscape is more tougher than Bright Angel. The terrain can be slippery as well in the spring and are hot during the summer season.
Lipan Point is one – which has an excellent viewpoint and is one of the most visited view point by bird enthusiasts (and others as well!). You can easily spot a lot of migrating birds here.
Moran Point is another viewpoint where you can get a beautiful view of the Colorado River.
Navajo Point is the last stop before the Desert View watch tower. People often stop here to take photographs, as there is a watch tower visible on the right side of the stop and gives you a good view.
Desert View is the last stoppage point which gives you a good view, with the view to the watch tower nearby on the cliff. Tusayan Museum and Ruin is also found along the Desert View Drive. The museum is pretty small but gives you a good insight about the area and people who inhabited here.
Image: A stunning view from the Desert View Drive
7. Desert View Watchtower
If you are entering through the Desert View entrance, this is the first stop, with a watch tower on the cliff. This is one of the most stopped view point, where you would find many stores, restaurants, camping spots etc. Though the watch tower might look pretty old, it actually isn’t. It was built in the year 1932 by Mary Jane Colter and is one of the four major sructures in Grand Canyon National Park. The watch tower is built in such a way that it blends to the colors outside. The reddish texture of the walls of the tower makes it so beautiful when you see it in real. The texture of the wall is uneven, and is made of concrete and steel inside but the exterior is mad eof stone. People often stop here for refreshments as there are a handful of stores at this point. Also, it gives a good photographic views and photography enthusiasts are too keen to stop here as the watch tower makes the photos stand out.
Image: The Desert View Watchtower
8. Wildlife Viewing
The Grand Canyon National Park is not an attraction which people visit to spot the wildlife. But it is highly likely that you will encounter some animals while you drive through. The most common one which you might encounter while driving through the Rim Trail is the “Elk”. Mountain lions also live in the forest; though it is highly unlikely to see them. You might also see hog-nosed skunk, mule deer, Arizona’s state mammal, the ringtail, bighorn sheep and some other smaller critters like Kaibab squirrel. But don’t expect that you would definitely spot them in your drive.
9. Lookout Studio and the Kolb Gallery
Both the Lookout Studio and the Kolb Gallery are located on the Canyon Wall. the Lookout Studio is housed on one of the Mary Jane Colter Buildings which are found all through the park. The buildings are stone-built and resembles a ruin. The studio mainly sells souvenirs. But also has some outdoor viewwing windows where you can capture some real great views of the Canyon. The building was built is 1905 and was built by two of the earlier adventurers who visited the place – the Kolb brothers. As of today, the building is a gallery, which sells souvenirs, exhibits, books etc. The Bright Angel Trail starts near the Kolb Gallery.
10. IMAX Movie at the National Geographic Visitor Center
Outside the South entrance, in the town of Tusayan, exists one of the oldest IMAX theaters. People coming here are very keen to watch a movie here. Who wouldn’t like to watch a movie in one of the oldest IMAX theaters in the world?! You don’t have to be a movie buff to fancy that! In fact the movie shown here is Grand Canyon: The Movie (Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets) which is a 34 minutes long movie and starts every half-hour. Apart from watching the movie, you can grab something to eat here as well as there are food outlets.
Also, don’t forget to visit the Little Colorado River Overlook if you are visiting the Grand Canyon National Park, and you have some time to spare.This river overlook is outside the park, on the South Rim’s east, through desert view entrance. You can see the Colorado river here. There is a parking area, and it is on the Navajo land. The Navajo artists sell jewelleries – take a look at them! But be aware that you will only have a distant view of Colorado River from this spot.
Image: A distant view of the Colorado River from the lookout point
Where to stay
If you are planning to stay inside the Grand Canyon National Park, there are four main hotels in the village, and can be booked only via the concessioner of the park. If you are not staying here, there are hotels in Tusayan, the South Entrance. There are many eateries and restaurants as well in the town of Tusayan. A few of the main hotels in Tusayan are listed below:
1. Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon
2. Holiday Inn Express
3. Red Feather Lodge
4. Canyon Plaza Resort