The Grand Canyon is a truly unique and awe inspiring sight. Its deep red walls were carved over millions of years by the Colorado River and the size and scale of the canyon are impossible to put into words. We had an amazing time exploring the South Rim during our most recent visit and wanted to share all our favorite things to do at the Grand Canyon.
From rim hikes to bike rides and magnificent sunrises there are lots of fun things to do at the Grand Canyon alongside its panoramic viewpoints.
Our 13 Best Things to Do at the Grand Canyon
We’ve included all of our favorite things to do a the Grand Canyon South Rim.
1 | Spend the night at the Grand Canyon
Spending the night at the Grand Canyon is a wonderful experience and allows for time to appreciate it at its quietest and most magical.
On our most recent visit we spent three nights in a cabin at Bright Angel Lodge and it was really amazing to have the canyon rim just a few feet from our doorstep. We’ve stayed in the park on our last couple of visits and love the benefits staying overnight in the park brings:
- catch a Grand Canyon sunrise with a short walk to the rim from your accommodation. We woke up to two epic sunrises during our time at Bright Angel Lodge and it’s one of our favorite memories of our visit.
- The accommodation is well serviced by the Grand Canyon shuttle bus which connects them to the trial heads.
- maximize your time at the Grand Canyon by avoiding driving in and out of the park
Things to do at the Grand Canyon tip: the Grand Canyon attracts almost 6 million visitors each year so demand for accommodation at the Grand Canyon can be very high during peak travel times. We recommend booking your accommodation well in advance if you are set on staying in the park.
There are a number of accommodation options in Grand Canyon Village, the center hub of the South Rim:
- Bright Angel Lodge: we stayed at Bright Angel during our most recent visit to the Grand Canyon and had a fantastic stay. The lodge offers rooms and cabins and is located on the rim at the top of the Bright Angel trailhead. Bright Angel is often one of the cheapest options within the park – check prices now!
- Yavapi Lodge: located a short walk from the South Rim, Yavapi Lodge is a large property and can sometimes have later availability than the other lodges due to having 358 rooms. Some families prefer Yavapi as it’s located further back from the rim than the other lodges – check prices now!
- El Tovar Hotel: the South Rim’s premium accommodation option, the elegant El Tovar is a National Historic Landmark with 78 unique rooms and a fine dining restaurant – check prices now!
- Kachina Lodge: for those seeking regular style hotel rooms Kachina is a good option with clean and comfortable rooms. The lodge sits directly on the rim of the canyon and the views are incredible – check prices now!
- Thunderbird Lodge: situated between Bright Angel and Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge is also located directly on the canyon rim and many of the rooms offer partial views of the canyon – check prices now!
- Maswik Lodge: located in a wooded area near the rim of the Canyon, Maswik Lodge has 280 rooms across 12 buildings. The lodge has more of a contemporary style and rooms accessed via outside walkways. It’s a quick shuttle ride or quarter-mile walk from the lodge to the rim – check prices now!
National Parks Pass America The Beautiful
If you’re planning to visit a couple of the US National Parks we highly recommend purchasing an America The Beautiful pass. The pass grants you access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites across the US, including all the National Parks. We purchased a pass before we began our trip across the US and it’s one of the best value tickets out there! – check prices now!
2 | Take in the Best Viewpoints
There are over 18 incredible viewpoints at the Grand Canyon South Rim where visitors can gaze upon the Grand Canyon.
The viewpoints at the South Rim are located in 3 main areas:
- Hermit Road Viewpoints: a series of viewpoints located along the west of the South Rim between Grand Canyon Village and Hermits Rest.
- Grand Canyon Visitors Center/Kaibab Viewpoints: these viewpoints are located to east of the historic Grand Canyon Village.
- Desert View Drive Viewpoints: these lesser visited viewpoints are located along the east of the south rim between Grand Canyon Village and the East entrance.
Our favorite viewpoints are:
- Mohave Point: located on Hermit Road, Mohave Point has some of the best panoramic view of the canyon from the South Rim
- Ooh Aah Point: You’ll see why they call it Ooh Aah Point once you get there – the views are spectacular!
- Mather Point: located close to the visitors center and its dedicated parking lot, Mather Point is one of the most easily accessible Grand Canyon viewpoints.
3 | Take a Helicopter tour into the Grand Canyon
What better way to experience the Grand Canyon than from above? A helicopter tour is one of the best things to do at the Grand Canyon. We’d already done a helicopter ride from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon West Rim and it was an incredible experience. We will never forget soaring over the magnificent Grand Canyon.
Helicopter tours at the South Rim depart from the Grand Canyon South Rim airport located a short drive south of the Grand Canyon South Rim Visitors Centre, just outside the town of Tusayan. One of the best tours available the Spirit Helicopter Tour is provided by Maverick Tours. This is one of the best ways to experience the Grand Canyon and in our opinion is definitely worth the money. – check prices now!
The helicopter tour heads north over the south rim and takes in all of the main sights of the canyon as it climbs above the North Rim.
If you’re not sure about a helicopter there are also fantastic airplane tours – check prices now!
4 | Watch the Sunset at Hopi Point
Sunset is one of the most magical times at the Grand Canyon.
Hopi Point is our favorite spot to experience sunset at the Grand Canyon. There are wide unobstructed views of the canyon and a large panoramic viewing area to watch from.
Hopi Point is located around halfway along Hermit Road and is most easily accessed via the shuttle bus or bike ride from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
5 | Hike part of the rim trail
The Rim Trail is a 13 mile trail that follows the rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail runs broadly from Yaki Point on Desert View Drive to Hermits Rest at the end of Hermit Road.
It’s possible to hike all or parts of the Rim Trail with the help of the Grand Canyon shuttle bus service. We’ve hiked various parts of the Rim Trail and love the views, the ranger talks and the wildlife spotting – we’ve even spotted families of elks as we hiked the trail! One of our favorite parts is the portion from Bright Angel Lodge to Maricopa Point
6 | Watch the Sunrise from Mohave Point
Sunrise is another magical time at the Grand Canyon. We’ve had three epic sunrises that stand out from our visits to the South Rim: walking along the rim trail, at Ooh Aah Point and at Mohave Point.
The South Rim is open 24/7 so it is possible for anyone to visit for sunrise. It’s definitely easier if you are staying in Grand Canyon Village but it’s still doable from outside the park.
7 | Hike below the rim
Descending below the rim of the Grand Canyon allows you to experience the Grand Canyon from an entirely unique perspective.
The two most popular trails are the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails and it is possible to hike a portion of the trail – remember, you need to save some energy for the climb back out of the canyon. It’s the hardest part!
South Kaibab Trail: the South Kaibab Trail follows a ridgeline down into the Canyon and the views are spectacular but it’s a steeper hike up to the rim. There are lots of viewpoints along the South Kaibab Trail – our favorite short hike is the 1.8 mile trail to Ooh Aah Point but you don’t have to go the full way. The trail head for the South Kaibab trail is located on the shuttle bus route close to Yaki Point.
Bright Angel Trail: The Bright Angel trail head is located at the rim beside Bright Angel Lodge and it follows a fault into the canyon via a series of steep switchbacks. There shorter hiking options – the easiest is 1.5 Mile Resthouse.
It’s also possible to hike between the north and south rim:
Rim to Rim: it is It is possible to hike Rim to Rim descending from the Bright Angel or South Kaibab trail on the South Rim and ascending to the North Rim via the North Kaibab trail. Visitors typically spend a night at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. This is an extremely challenging hike and one which only a small number of visitors undertake.
Things to do in the Grand Canyon tip: Hiking down into the Grand Canyon is a long, strenuous and difficult undertaking and should only be attempted once you have researched the trails and prepared adequately. Exhaustion and dehydration are two major issues faced by hikers and there are many sign warning of the dangers along the trails. The elevation change from the south rim to the Colorado River is just over 4,000 feet so anyone planning to hike should be extremely well prepared.
8 | Take a Private Guided Tour
One of the more popular tours at the grand canyon is the Pink Jeep Tour.
9 | Step back in time at the Yavapai Geology Museum
We stumbled upon the Yavapai Geology Museum by accident when visiting Yavapai Viewpoint. The museum is located right on the edge of the canyon and has huge panoramic windows with great views of the canyon.
One of the highlights of the museum is the large relief map that shows all of the features of the Grand Canyon on a small scale.
10 | Hire bikes and cycle Hermit Road
A really popular activity at the Grand Canyon is to rent bikes and cycle along the rim. Visitors can hire bikes from Bright Angel Bicycles and cycle along either Hermit Road or Desert View Drive.
The Grand Canyon is perfect for exploring by bicycle as the roads are flat and smooth and there are lots of stunning viewpoints to visit. The Hermit Road Greenway is one of our favorite places for a bike ride: the 2.8 mile trail between Monument Creek Vista and Hermit Rest is packed with viewpoints and it is separate from the road so there are no vehicles to contend with.
It is also possible to take bike tours with Bright Angel Cycles where tour guides take visitors around the main viewpoints via the bike routes.
Things to do in Grand Canyon tip: we recommend Hermit Road as it is only open to shuttle buses and is therefore lot quieter for cycling. Another benefit of Hermit Road is that there are more viewpoints packed into a smaller area when compared to Desert View Drive.
11 | Spot the local wildlife
Despite the harsh conditions there is loads wildlife to spot throughout the park. Elk and mule deer are plentiful throughout the park and can usually be spotted along Hermit Road. Turkey buzzards and squirrels are also pretty common and we’ve also seen California Condor.
Things to do in Grand Canyon tip: Remember, the wildlife at the Grand Canyon is precisely that – wild! Do not try to touch, feed or interact with the wildlife at the Grand Canyon. Elk are extremely large and dangerous animals, especially when they fear for their offspring. So enjoy looking at the animals but don’t get too close to them!
12 | Take a Mule Ride into the Canyon
For a truly unique experience at the Grand Canyon, visitors can take a mule ride down into the Canyon. Mules have been used at the Grand Canyon since the late 1800’s and are still used today to ferry visitors and supplies in and out of the canyon. Mules rides should be booked in advance and can be arranged by contacting the Grand Canyon Lodges here.
Mule rides range from the 2-hour Canyon Vistas Rim Ride to overnight mule rides to Phantom Ranch located at the base of the Grand Canyon.
13 | Ride the historic Grand Canyon Railway
The historic Grand Canyon Railway is a unique and fun way to arrive at the Grand Canyon if you are traveling from Flagstaff, Sedona or Williams in Arizona. The train departs from Williams, Arizona and you can ride there and back in one day with 3 hours to explore the Grand Canyon in between.
There’s a pre-departure show, a singing cowboy and even a train robbery to contend with as you return to the days of the old Wild West during the 2 hour 15 minute train ride there and back – check prices now!