Most visitors to the Grand Canyon will spend a mere few hours in the National Park and will be content to view the massive chasm from one of the scenic viewpoints provided. If your time is short, the park has made it possible to get not only a great view of the canyon, but many of them. You can do a scenic drive along the South Rim and take in as many as you have time for. Which is best? You'll have to decide that for yourself. The truth is, they are all great and to really appreciate all of them in the best light would take a few days in itself. The key is to be there very early morning or evening to see the canyon when it turns fiery hues of red. Plan on coming mid-day for just an hour or so en route to some place else? Don't. You'll be cheating yourself out of a beautiful sight.
It is worth the trip to drive the 23 mile length of Desert View Drive east from Grand Canyon Village to Desert View. Along the road you will pass several excellent viewpoints including Grandview Point, Moran Point and Lipan Point, pictured here.
At Grandview Point you can view the canyon as the Spanish first did in 1540 from the highest point on the south rim at 7400 feet. You can also stretch your legs for awhile and walk a portion of the Grandview Trail which begins here.
There are several picnic areas along Desert View Drive and you can visit Tusayan Ruin which is a small 12th century pueblo. There is a museum here displaying Anasazi artifacts.
Yavapai Point is close to the main tourist centre on the South Rim at Grand Canyon Village. From here you can stare down 4500 feet to the Colorado River snaking its way along the bottom of canyon. The North Rim visitor centre is almost directly across the 10-mile wide canyon at this point. The North Rim is actually higher with a 5400 foot drop to the river, giving the Grand Canyon an average depth of almost 1-mile. It sure makes for some great views. As the sun was setting in the west, most of our evening pictures were taken looking eastward along the Canyon.
It takes some effort to get to Yaki Point since it is only accessible by shuttle bus. We first drove to Mather Point, parked there and then walked to the Visitor's Center where we caught the shuttle to Yaki Point.
There are great views here to the east of Vishnu's Temple and Wotan's Throne and also a good view looking down onto the South Kaibab Trail and the Tonto Trail.
Two miles into your hike along the Hermits Rest Route, you will come to Powell Point. There are spectacular views here as well as a memorial to John Wesley Powell.
In 1869, Powell led the first expedition to explore the length of the canyon along with nine boatmen. They travelled in wooden boats over raging rapids, capsizing often and losing much of their food rations along the way. Powell emerged at the Virgin River over three months later and minus three men whose lives were lost during the ordeal. Powell provided invaluable information about one of the last uncharted areas of the US.
This is one of the more far reaching views along the east end of the south rim; like in you can see about 15 miles in panorama. The point is named after landscape painter, Thomas Moran, who first came here is 1873, and led to the more famed beauty of the canyon. The Coronado Butte is the white limestone rock in the front ridge ,and it covers some of the view area with its impressive eroded formations. The canyon below is called Red Canyon because of the deep red/orange layers of rick in the tributary are seen at the bottom.
It is the first view of the canyon coming form the east, and 4 miles from the park entrance. This is a different scene that some other overlooks along the way. It is more of the desert scene, and called painted desert. A good portion of the panorama is on a Painted Desert view on the east side. The Desert View area has a gas station, bookstore, shop, restaurant, campground, and ranger station, all close to the Watchtower monument.
This used to be the first place to be developed for tourists back in 1895, and even then had a hotel. The overlook is one mile down a road, and is the highest point on the South Rim at 7,399 feet. The horseshoe shaped mesa sticking out with scrub trees and shrubs is between two creeks that feed into the Colorado, which is 4 miles away form the viewing point.
While there isn't much at this location except a wide spot in the road and a stone wall, it does mark the beginning of the paved section of the Rim Trail.
There are no restrooms here.
Shuttle buses stop at this location only going westbound.
While the view from here of the Canyon is impressive, it's also about the same as just about any other location on the south rim of the canyon.
As with many locations, you will find that there are signs indicating the names of the various significant canyon features.
From here you can see the South Kaibob Trail headed down the side of the canyon near Yaki Point, and the various rock formations on Yaki Point. You have to look closely though and somewhat know what you are looking for. There are some places where the trail blends in with the side of the canyon fairly well.
One of the problems with this location is that it is located at the edge of the canyon on a recessed spot rather than on one of the points that sticks out into the canyon. This means that a lot of a potentially spectacular view is blocked by Mather Point to the west and Yaki Point to the east.
One of the few enclosed platforms overlooking the canyon is located at Yavapi Point, and it is also the location of a small museum with a number of exhibits giving a very brief glimpse of the history of the area and what is known about the Canyon.
To the east of the overlook, there is a walkway down to a rough overlook that is outdoors.
Restroom facilities and a small bookstore are also located at this facility.
Parking is extremely limited here, so I would suggest either taking the shuttle bus to get here, or walking along the rim trail from Mather Point or from the Park Headquarters area.
THE GRAND CANYON VILLAGE: 2091 m (6860 ft).
Begin at the YAVAPAI POINT about a mile from the visitor center for a classic panoramic view into the heart of the Grand Canyon. Great solitary buttes rise from narrow ridges reaching out from the distant North Rim.
A shuttle service runs along the south rim to the various overlooks, where the view of the Canyon is but the same as your last view. Individual structures within the park are generally identified on park literature or within the overlooks themselves, but they tend to offer no fascination when the surrounding structures are so little fascinating.
Without actually getting into the Canyon, the views from the overlooks sometimes surround you with the impression that you are out WITHIN the Canyon. Some of the overlooks are encrusted with shrubs while others are as bare as the Canyon itself.
Careful of your footing! The Canyon claims 10 lives a year due to errant steps on the edges.
The furthest east you can go on the Canyon South Rim and still be within easy shuttle bus reach of the main center of activity at Grand Canyon Village and the rest of the crowded attractions is Yaki Point.
There are no trail heads here, and the only two ways to access the spot are by walking in (I did along the road) and the shuttle bus system (I used that to get back to the Grand Canyon Railway station).
As you would expect, there is an overlook here, with a sign indicating the various major named features of the Canyon within view of Yaki Point.
One great thing about this spot is that because you must either take the shuttle bus to it or walk in, there are fewer people here than at some of the other locations. The bad news is that it is still a very busy view point. I happened to get very lucky and there were only three other people around - but that was a Sunday in early November, and the next shuttle bus brought a substantial crowd of people.
While the maps show there is a restroom here, it does not have running water. It is a simple pit toilet. There are also several picnic tables near the toilet.
Our group on this trip included my husband, my children and my children's friend Charlie. We took a jeep tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. Most of the pictures I have are of us posing in front of the Canyon or pretending to fall or climb up. There was a ledge below where we were that we were standing on, of course. Most of the photos were taken by my husband.