So, like millions of visitors, you have one day to explore the magnificent Grand Canyon and are wondering what are the best things to see and do? We’ve got you covered! Whether you’re planning on visiting the incredible South Rim or spending a long summer day at the North Rim, both parts of the Grand Canyon National Park, the easily accessible West Rim on the Hualapai Native American Reservation, or the lesser visited East Rim, you can follow our guide to exploring the Grand Canyon in one day!
The Grand Canyon
Located in Arizona, the Grand Canyon stretches across land owned by the Grand Canyon National Park, the Havasupai Indian Reservation, the Hualapai India Reservation, the Navajo Nation, the Kaibab National Forest, and the Grand Canyon–Parashant National Monument.
Most visitors to the Grand Canyon explore the South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park. The park’s North Rim is also popular, as is the West Rim which is easily accessible from Las Vegas.
The North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon are part of the Grand Canyon National Park, an area which covers almost 2,000 square miles. With visitor numbers reaching over 6 million in recent years, the Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in the US and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The West Rim of the Grand Canyon, where the Skywalk is located, is on the Hualapai Native American Reservation and is a popular day trip from Las Vegas. Much of the East Rim, close to Page and Horseshoe Bend, sits on Navajo lands and is the least visited rim.
One Day at the Grand Canyon: South Rim
The ever-popular South Rim attracts 90% of visitors who come to the Grand Canyon National Park. Spending one day at the Grand Canyon allows ample time to check out the South Rim highlights:
One day at the Grand Canyon tip: there are lots of things to do at the Grand Canyon South Rim making it impossible to see and experience everything in one day. However, it is most definitely possible to squeeze in many of the highlights of the South Rim, including the best viewpoints at the Grand Canyon, some short hikes and witness the magnificent beauty and vastness of the canyon.
Where to stay at the South Rim
- Best lodge in the park: we love all the in-park lodges but it can be hard to secure a reservation due to demand. Yavapi Lodge sometimes has closer availability and Bright Angel Lodge is another of our favorites and is very reasonably priced.
- Best Hotel near the park: our favorite outside the park, the Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn has fantastic facilities including a pool.
- Best for Families: Yavapi Lodge is a nice choice for families. Outside the park, the Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn is a great choice.
- Best for Luxury: the historic El Tovar Hotel located in Grand Canyon Village
- Best Budget: Holiday Inn Express Grand Canyon located in Tusayan
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!
1 | Watch the sunrise over the canyon
If you want to make the most of your day at the Grand Canyon then we recommend starting the day early and watching the sun rise over the Canyon. Mohave Point, on Hermit Road, and Mather Point, next to the Visitors Center, are two of our favorite sunrise spots at the South Rim.
One day at the Grand Canyon tip: The South Rim is open 24/7 so it is possible to arrive in time for sunrise if you are staying outside the park.
2 | Explore the Hermit Road Viewpoints
The viewpoints along Hermit Road offer some of the most magnificent views of the Grand Canyon. To explore the viewpoints you can hike, take the red shuttle bus (or drive in winter) or rent a bike and cycle along the rim.
Grand Canyon itinerary tip: Between March and November, the Hermit Road viewpoints are accessible only by the red shuttle bus or by hiking/biking the Rim Trail from Bring Angel Lodge. The shuttle loop takes around 80 to 90 minutes without allowing time for stops. If you are visiting the Grand Canyon in Winter private vehicles are typically permitted and limited parking is available at the viewpoints.
It takes around 2.5 hours to walk the 7 miles between the start and end of the route, Grand Canyon Village and Hermits Rest, but you can take the shuttle bus between stops or hike part of the way.
If you opt to rent bikes then the Hermit Road Greenway is our favorite spot for a bike ride: the 2.8mile 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.
3 | Stop for food at Hermit’s Rest or in the Village
There are lots of places to eat in the Grand Canyon Village or you can pack a picnic.
There’s a snack bar at Hermit’s Rest, a couple of food trucks in the village, and a casual cafe at Bright Angel Lodge. If you want to eat somewhere special then the historic El Tovar is a real treat with its fine dining and canyon views.
4 | Check out the Viewpoints East of Grand Canyon Village
There are some awesome viewpoints located to the east of the Grand Canyon Village. Mather Point is adjacent to the Vistors Center and has stunning views and Yavapi Point is also magnificent. The views from Yaki Point are quite different from other viewpoints at the South Rim with open views of the Canyon to the east.
Grand Canyon itinerary tip: If you are out along the Rim Trail you can take the red Hermit Road Shuttle over to the Village and then the blue village shuttle over to the Visitor’s Center. The orange Kaibab Rim shuttle bus stops at the Visitors Center and services the viewpoints. There is parking at the Visitors Center if you want to drive over and Desert Drive also has limited parking.
5 | Step Back in time at the Yavapi Museum and Walk the Trail of Time
If you want to learn more about the Grand Canyon then stop by the Yavapi Geology Museum. The museum is located on the edge of the canyon and has wonderful panoramic views. It also has some fantastic exhibitions explaining how the Grand Canyon was formed.
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.
The Trail of Time, where each meter walked represents 1 million years of history, is an almost 3 mile flat paved walk that begins at the Yavapi Geology Museum. It’s a fantastic visual representation of the formation of the Grand Canyon.
5 | Watch the sunset over the canyon
Yaki Point is a great option for sunset as it’s usually quiet. The colors are wonderful and the Desert View Watchtower is visible in the distance.
Grand Canyon itinerary tip: Yaki Point is one of the lesser visited viewpoints at the South Rim as there is no car access to the viewpoint. Visitors can only get to Yaki Point by parking on Desert View Drive and walking or by taking the free shuttle bus that runs east bound from the Grand Canyon Visitors Center.
Hopi Point, with its wide unobstructed views, is another sunset favorite as is the ever-popular Mather Point adjacent to the Visitors Center.
6 | Stargazing
If you are spending the night in one of the Grand Canyon lodges then make sure to pop outside and check out the night skies. The park is listed as an International Dark Sky Park and there are some great opportunities for stargazing. The stars are amazing from along the rim (obviously take extreme care in the dark). The viewpoints towards Desert View, which are away from much of the light pollution, are another awesome spot.
One Day at the Grand Canyon: West Rim
Located 125 miles from Las Vegas, the West Rim is the closest and most easily accessible part of the Grand Canyon for those wanting to make a day trip from Vegas. The West Rim is on the Hualapai Native American Reservation and is not part of the Grand Canyon National Park.
The Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge elevated over the canyon, is one of the West Rim highlights.
There are three options for visiting the West Rim from Las Vegas:
Rent a car: we usually book our Vegas rentals through RentalCars.com. We’ve always found a great price for an excellent car.
It’s an easy drive from Las Vegas and having you own car will give you the flexibility of following your own schedule. It means you can stop at the Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation just outside Las Vegas, and Hoover Dam.
If you want to make a few days of it, then consider trying to obtain a spot for the hike to Havasu Falls – it requires some good fortune to secure the required overnight reservation and accompanying permit.
Join a bus tour: many visitors join a bus tour from Las Vegas, most of which include a stop at Hoover Dam – check tour prices here!
Helicopter tour with a canyon landing: one of our favorite Las Vegas experiences! The helicopter tour from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon: soaring above the strip, Lake Mead and Hoover Dam before zooming over the Canyon and the Colorado River and landing at its base. Our tour included limos, lunch and a champagne toast – check helicopter tour prices here!
One Day at the Grand Canyon: North Rim
The remoteness and solitude of the North Rim offer a unique Grand Canyon Experience and there is plenty to see and do in one day.
One day at the Grand Canyon tip: at the North Rim, all facilities and lodgings shut down for winter and roads are closed to all vehicles between December 1st and May 15th.
Where to stay at the North Rim
- Grand Canyon Lodge: the historic lodge offers the only in park accommodation at the North Rim and has magnificent views.
- Jacob Lake Inn: all visitors to the North Rim pass through the town of Jacob Lake and the Inn, 45 minutes from the park entrance, is a great lower priced alternative to staying in the park.
1 | Watch the sunrise over the canyon
Sunrise at the North Rim is unmissable if you are staying at the Lodge – check out Bright Angel Point just below the lodge. If you don’t mind the drive, head over to Cape Royal for panoramic views at the most southerly point at the North Rim.
2 | North Rim Scenic Drive
This half day scenic drive is an excellent way to check out some of the best North Rim Viewpoints. It includes the aforementioned Cape Royal and Point Imperial, the highest viewpoint at the North Rim and which looks over the Painted Desert.
3 | Explore some North Rim trails
Both Bright Angel and the Transcept Trail are perfect for short hikes at the North Rim. Bright Angel Point is a short hike from the Lodge and the top-down view of the canyon is a highlight of the North Rim.
4 | Check out the lodge and Visitors Center
Stop by the Grand Canyon Lodge and enjoy the panoramic views from the viewing deck. Built in 1928, the lodge also offers a range of dining options.
The North Rim Visitor Center is located next to the lodge and hosts some interesting exhibits on the Grand Canyon.
5 | Watch the sunset at the North Rim
As with sunrise, our favorite spots are Bright Angel Point and Cape Royal.
One Day at the Grand Canyon: East Rim
The least visited of the Canyon rims, the East Rim has some beautiful viewpoints and is close to the popular Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona.
The East Rim is not a designated tourism site and is not even officially known as the East Rim, but it generally refers to the East portion of the Canyon. It’s a great option if you are in Flagstaff or Page and want to see a unique and lesser experience perspective of the Grand Canyon – it is also relatively easy to continue to the East Entrance of the South Rim.
If you are starting your adventures from Page, some of the one day East Rim highlights include:
1 | Marble Canyon and Navajo Bridge
Marble Canyon, where the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River meet, marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon. The historic Navajo Bridge is one of only 7 bridges which cross the Colorado River and, if you glance down, you can often see the river tours passing by on their rafts. Lee’s River is another popular stop and has river access.
2 | Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
If you have time, be sure to make the short detour to the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument – some areas of the park require a permit for access (the Wave, South Coyote Buttes and Paria Canyon) but Highway 89A is a scenic highway that follows the base of the brilliant Vermilion Cliffs and has stops for viewpoints.
3 | Cameron Trading Post
The historic Cameron trading post was founded in the early 1900s and was a meeting place for Navajo and Hopi locals to trade items like wool and livestock for dry goods. It now houses a Native American Fine Art Gallery, a traditional restaurant, a South West-style hotel, and a gift shop.
4 | Little Colorado River Gorge
The Little Colorado River is the largest tributary of the Colorado River and cut through to create a narrow gorge stretching almost 50 miles. The colorless walls of the Little Colorado River Gorge are in stark contrast to the deep reds visible in the rest of the Grand Canyon. The river itself is vibrant as it flows through the gorge and runs turquoise blue and deep red at different times of the year. There are two viewpoints over the gorge which are both within walking distance of the parking lot.
5 | Antelope Canyon
Exploring the East Rim can be combined with a tour of the magnificent Antelope Canyon. The Canyon was formed by a series of flash floods and hot dry temperatures which resulted in the erosion of the sandstone rock through which the canyon now cuts.
6 | Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is a picturesque bend, known as an entrenched meander, in the Colorado River. The viewpoint over Horseshoe Bend is accessible via a short hike from the parking lot below and the view over Horseshoe Bend is breathtaking.