Things to See at Grand Canyon: Desert View Watchtower

One of the best parts about visiting the Grand Canyon National Park is not just the natural beauty, but also the history surrounding it. Known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, the Grand Canyon is filled with history and architecture, drawing millions of tourists from around the world.

Desert View Watchtower History

One of the best things to see at the Grand Canyon is Desert View Watchtower. This piece of hand-built art that is also a building that was designed by architect Mary Colter in the 1930s. The watchtower was meant to provide the widest possible view of the canyon. But the main goal of the structure was to blend in with the surroundings as much as possible, especially the rock walls inside the canyon.

Those involved in the construction of the watchtower took this job very seriously, being scrutinized under the eye of Colter. A facade made entirely of handpicked stones and manual labor, the tower had to serve as not only a feat of architectural beauty, but also of historic accuracy.

Desert View Watchtower Construction


The use of hand-picked stone is the centerpiece of the watchtower's construction, giving way to a great variety of patterns and surfaces on the exterior. From a distance the watchtower takes on a column-like shape but up close the artistry and depth of detail employed by Colter are revealed.

The structure has multiple rooms, each with their own history. For example, the largest room is called the Kiva Room and has an open circular design. The room itself is constructed from various elements of the canyon's history, such as the ceiling made from logs that were once part of the old Grand View Hotel on Horseshoe Mesa.

Desert View Watchtower Kiva Room

The tower was inspired by and built to resemble Native American designs from the Colorado Plateau, which Colter studied extensively. Possibly the most impressive part of the watchtower is the inside, with wall paintings done by the Hopi artist Fred Kabotie depicting Hopi mythology, and ceiling images painted by Fred Geary.

How to See Desert View Watchtower at Grand Canyon

To see Desert View Watchtower, one adventurous and entertaining way to get there is with Pink® Jeep Tours who have been in business over 58 years. Tours are given in a unique open-air Jeep with great views, by a professional guide who will share the history and facts of the Grand Canyon that visitors might not discover on their own.

View from Desert View Watchtower at Grand Canyon

Starting at the National Geographic Visitor Center in Tusayan, AZ, the Desert View Tour visits both the South Rim and East Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, including Desert View Watchtower.

This is a great opportunity to see the Colorado River, churning through the rapids below as towering rock spires push against the sky, with the Painted Desert stretched out to the east for nearly 100 miles. You'll also get to see an IMAX movie called Grand Canyon: Hidden Secrets and park admission are included.

To get unforgettable canyon views, plan to stick around for the sunset. If the weather conditions are just right, the light of the setting sun will dance across the canyon walls as the shadows grow deeper and the sky gets dark.

Grand Canyon Sunset Tour - Desert View 

The guides at Pink Jeep Tours know the best spots for viewing the sunset. The Grand Canyon Sunset Tour - Desert View includes all of the great stops and photo ops of the daytime tour, plus includes a stop just to watch the sun set over the canyon. An experience you don't wan to miss.

Grand Canyon Sunset View

Spending time at the Desert View Watchtower is a must-do for anyone visiting the Grand Canyon National Park. The architecture, the history, the artwork and the views are all worth seeing.

Consider booking a guided Grand Canyon tour with Pink Jeep Tours. Don’t miss out on any of the overlooks, stories, and facts that make a tour unique and memorable. A local, certified guide can help make the most of any visit and truly bring the canyon to life. 

If you plan on bringing kids, check out Taking a Jeep Tour with Kids: 5 Things You Need to Know.