The Grand Canyon is a major destination, and you can vacation there for days, easily. But what if you really only have one day for the perfect Grand Canyon vacation? Never fear. We’re here to help you make the most of a single day visit to the Grand Canyon—specifically, the South Rim, which is the most visited area of the national park.
Here are some of our very favorite South Rim destinations:
Visit Desert View Watchtower for Amazing Photo Ops
One of the most popular places to visit at the South Rim is the Desert View Watchtower. This spot gives you a glimpse of the history and culture of the Grand Canyon, not to mention some pretty amazing photo ops! Opened in 1932 and designed by architect Mary Coulter, this iconic, 70-foot high tower is modeled after ancient Puebloan towers. Check out the Kiva Room, the art gallery with murals done by Fred Kabotie, and of course the observation deck, which gives you panoramic Grand Canyon views that will take your breath away!
Grand Canyon Jeep Tours
Grand Canyon Jeep tours are the ultimate way to see the best the South Rim has to offer. You’ll also enjoy the company of a tour guide, who can take you to all the best lookout spots (including some lesser-known ones), while sharing the history of the canyon. They’ll also answer questions, and even act as your personal photographer. There are a few great tour options, including a two-hour Grand Canyon Tour with a short walk. Take the Grand Finale Deluxe tour for an incredible sunset experience. No matter what you choose, it’ll be the ride of your life!
Take a (short) hike.
Hiking is one of the things the Grand Canyon is most famous for, but if you don’t have much time, you probably won’t be able to do any of the full trails. Instead, wander a little way along Bright Angel Trail, which is one of the canyon’s most popular trails, or take a walk along the Rim Trail, a fairly easy walk along a paved road. Either of these will give you a good way to stretch your legs and take in the iconic scenery of the canyon.
For a more “all-inclusive” trail experience, choose the Grand Canyon’s Trail of Time. It’s only a 3-mile hike, but you’ll travel back millions of years! You’ll see some of the canyon’s most ancient rocks and algal reefs, examine a fossil and learn about the fascinating geologic history of the canyon—all with the benefit of a dedicated tour guide (who can also double as your photographer).
Bring out your inner artist at Kolb Studio
You won’t want to miss the historic Kolb Studio at the Grand Canyon. Perched on the edge of the canyon, the 1904 studio displays artwork and photography centered around the Kolb Brothers, Emery and Ellsworth. The brothers not only worked at the studio, they also lived there, capturing the scenes of the Grand Canyon through photography and videography. Since the studio is located right next to the Bright Angel trailhead, it’s easy to squeeze in a visit to both.
Kick your feet up at the Bright Angel Lodge
Brimming with history, the Bright Angel Lodge is a great stop for those looking to experience the South Rim. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and home to the oldest standing structure on the South Rim (the Buckey O’Neill cabin), the lodge offers stunning views of the canyon. There are also a few dining options, making this a great stop for lunch or dinner during your stay.
If you only have one day to visit the South Rim, you probably won’t be able to see it all. But if you plan carefully and prioritize well, you can still get a great taste of the history and scenery that this one-of-a-kind destination has to offer. See you at the Rim!
Note: This post has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.