Day Guide to the Grand Canyon South Rim

Day Guide to the Grand Canyon South Rim

We stayed in Flagstaff, Arizona at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Flagstaff East. It was a few minutes from downtown Flagstaff and conveniently located on I-40 which made it easy to get around. We set our alarms for 6 a.m., had breakfast at the hotel, filled out water bottles, and hit the road to the Grand Canyon. Note: It took about 1.5 hours to get to the entrance from the hotel.

| Driving Directions |

Flagstaff, AZ - 81 miles / 130 kilometers - there are three possible ways to go:

  1. Take I-40 west to Williams, AZ. From Williams, take Highway 64 north to the South Rim.

  2. Take Highway 180 west to Valle, AZ. From Valle, take Highway 64 north to the South Rim.

  3. Take Highway 89 north to Cameron, AZ. From Cameron, take Highway 64 west to the East Entrance on the South Rim - known as Desert View.

We took I-40 to Williams and then Highway 64 to the South Rim. It’s a straight, easy, and rather boring drive. Once you go through Tusayan, you’ll follow the road to to the entrance station. It’s a $35 entrance fee per car (an increase from the usual $30). They’ll hand you a map and a guide to the South Rim so make sure you hold onto that.

You have TWO options for seeing the South Rim: drive first, then ride the shuttle bus. Or shuttle bus first, and shuttles second. We opted to drive first towards the Desert View and then backtrack and take the shuttle bus towards Hermits Rest.

Once we got into the park we stopped at the Visitor Center to stop off at the bathroom and top up our water bottles. Then we took off on the Desert View drive. We got there so early that it was pretty quiet and empty which was super fun. Along the way to Desert View we stopped at some of the viewpoints:

  • Grandview Point

  • Moran Point

  • Lipan Point

  • Navajo Point

Grandview Point


Moran Point


Navajo Point


Finally we ended up at Desert View Watchtower. Talk about an incredible spot! Make sure you go up in the Watchtower, it’s a great higher up view than you get on the rim. There are bathrooms and a market for food if you need to stop here for refreshments.

Desert View Point

Next we backtracked and went back towards the Visitor Center and the Village. We enjoyed the leisurely windy drive back along the rim and continued on to the Village where there are several of the iconic hotels such as Bright Angel and El Tovar, as well as the Hopi House Native American artistry and the Kolb Studio. It was around 1:00 p.m. when we arrive so parking was rather hard to come by. We circled a few times before sliding into a spot, so just be patient and keep circling.

We walked along the Rim Trail to El Tovar hotel and had lunch in the Dining Room of the lodge. The dining room was adorned with dark wood, windowpane windows with views of the canyon, and of course a crackling fire in the fireplace. ***They have gluten free options including gluten free bread, a flourless dessert, salads, soup and a few main entrees.

Following our wonderful, warm and cozy lunch we explored the Hopi House which was full of Native American art and books. Then we kept on the Rim Trail to catch the Bright Angel Trailhead to catch the red shuttle to Hermit's Rest (cars are not allowed). However when we got to the shuttle spot, the line was so long that we approximated it would be another hour before we even got on the shuttle, so we opted to skip the Hermits Rest pathway. If you do go towards Hermit Rest, you’ll want to stop at some of the following stops:

  • Hopi Point

  • Mohave Point

  • The Abyss

  • Pima Point

Since we were not up for waiting and taking the shuttle, we decided to head to Market Plaza. They have a post office here so grab a postcard, write a note, and send someone a little love from the Grand Canyon (you even get a Grand Canyon stamp on it). Here you can also do a little shopping for gifts and souvenirs too, which honestly had the largest selection of gifts and items compared to the Visitor Center!

Though this doesn’t sound like much, we spent almost 7 hours here in the park and at this point we were exhausted and still had an hour drive home, so we made our way out of the park…but not before stopping at the Grand Canyon sign!

Here is a link to the map of the South Rim that you can download and put on your phone under iBooks.


I also wanted to include a few things that I brought that were really helpful on our day trip to the Grand Canyon:

  1. Refillable water bottle - I use a Swell and love it .

  2. Portable phone charger - Uou won’t have much signal up there, but if you take a lot of photos on your phone you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of charge. Here’s a similar one I use.

  3. Snacks - Popcorn, trail mix, jerky, dried fruit etc.

  4. Cash/Money - You’ll want to bring some cash or a card for snacks and souvenirs as well as entry fee

  5. Sunscreen - Don’t forget to put on your sunscreen, even if it’s a hazy day! I like Sunbum or more ‘clean’ options.

  6. Layers/Jacket - The temperature and weather was all over the place in our day there - sunshine, clouds, wind, heat, cold … just be prepared and bring a few layers!