There are many things you need to consider when planning a first visit to Grand Canyon South Rim including fees, entrances, hikes, photo spots, activities and itinerary ideas. South Rim is the best area to visit in Grand Canyon National Park and it’s open year round. Admission costs between $20 and $35, and can only be paid with a debit or credit card.
In this first time visitor travel guide, we explain everything you need to know about visiting Grand Canyon South Rim.
Our Grand Canyon Experience
Over the course of two separate visits to South Rim we’ve hiked rim-to-river on both Bright Angel and South Kaibab, seen the canyon from all major viewpoints along Hermit’s Rest and Desert View Drive, photographed sunrises and sunsets, and stayed at one park lodge and at hotels in every nearby town.
Our first visit was a 3 day trip in October 2019 and we returned for another 3 days in December 2021. We’ve experienced sun, rain and snow in the canyon, so we know a thing or two about what it’s really like to visit South Rim!
After years of non-stop traveling around the world, we can honestly count the amount of genuine jaw-dropping moments we’ve had on two hands. The first time we saw the Grand Canyon was one of those rare moments.
South Rim Information
- National Park: Grand Canyon
- State: Arizona
- Address: S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023
- Telephone: (928) 638-7888
- Campgrounds: Desert View, Trailer Village, Mather
- Area: 1,218,375 acres
- Things to do: Hiking, photography, rafting, backpacking
- Major trails: Bright Angel, South Kaibab
- Open: All year
- Annual visitors: ~ 4.7 million (2022)
Grand Canyon Fees
You must pay to enter Grand Canyon North and South Rim. Here’s how much it will cost you:
- Vehicle: $35 – up to 15 passengers in one vehicle for 7 consecutive days
- Motorcycle: $30 – one motorcycle, driver and passenger for 7 consecutive days
- Individual: $20 – entering by foot, bicycle, park shuttle or private rafting trip
Important – Cash is not accepted at Grand Canyon South Rim entrance stations. You must pay with a credit or debit card. One entrance fee is good for both South Rim and North Rim within 7 days.
Travel Tip: Planning to visit more than 3 or 4 National Parks in the next year? You can save money with an annual US national parks pass called America the Beautiful Pass.
South Rim Entrances
Grand Canyon South Rim has two entrance stations:
- Main entrance
- East entrance
Main entrance is located 5 miles to the south of Grand Canyon Visitor Center. This entrance is accessed by I-40 and AZ-64 from places like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Sedona.
East entrance is located 22.5 miles to the east of Grand Canyon Visitor Center. This entrance is accessed by Desert View Drive from places like Page, Kanab, Moab, Zion and Grand Canyon North Rim.
Are you thinking about visiting North Rim? It’s 200 miles to drive between South and North Rim, which takes around 4 hours 30 minutes.
Driving Distances To South Rim
Let’s take a quick look at distances and drive times from nearby attractions and cities you might also be visiting on the same trip.
- Sedona – 111 miles (2h 00m)
- Petrified Forest NP – 200 miles (3h 00m)
- Las Vegas – 280 miles (4h 15m)
- Page – 109 miles (1h 45m)
- Moab (Arches) – 320 miles (6h 00m)
- Zion – 336 miles (5h 50m)
Travel Tip: Between March and November you must use a shuttle bus to access Hermit Road viewpoints along the South Rim. But you can drive your own vehicle up Hermit Road in December, January and February.
Next, let’s take a quick look at the closest airports to Grand Canyon South Rim:
- Flagstaff Pulliam – 90 miles (1h 30m)
- Phoenix Sky Harbor – 232 miles (3h 30m)
- Las Vegas Harry Reid – 278 miles (4h 15m)
Las Vegas is the most commonly used airport for visiting Grand Canyon because it’s the best transport hub for driving a loop including the likes of Zion, Bryce Canyon and Antelope Canyon. You’re likely to find more flight options and lower prices if you use Las Vegas airport.
However, you should look at prices for flying into either Flagstaff or Phoenix if you’d rather visit Sedona in the same trip as Grand Canyon South Rim.
Further Reading: 5 closest airports to Grand Canyon South Rim
Best Grand Canyon South Rim Hikes
The Grand Canyon is a magnificent landscape to gaze upon from the rim, but hiking into the canyon is a once in a lifetime experience we think every visitor should consider.
Even if you’re not a strong or confident hiker, you can still easily walk a short way down one of the two major trails called Bright Angel and South Kaibab to appreciate the vastness of the canyon from an entirely new perspective.
The strongest hikers can spend one full day hiking the amazing rim to river trail from South Kaibab to Bright Angel via Phantom Ranch. We took on this legendary trail in December 2021 and it’s one of our favorite hikes to date.
Caution: Do not hike far down into the canyon between May and September when temperatures are too extreme for hiking. There are many fatalities each year caused by heat exhaustion.
Here are the South Rim trails you should consider hiking:
- South Rim Trail
- Shoshone Point Trail
- South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Ahh Point
- South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point
- Bright Angel Trail to 3 Mile Resthouse
- Rim to River (South Kaibab, Phantom Ranch, Bright Angel)
- Rim to Rim (South to North with bus back)
Further Reading: 17 amazing Grand Canyon South Rim hikes
Best South Rim Photo Spots
Not everyone will hike at the Grand Canyon, but it’s safe to say that everyone will take home plenty of photos from the various amazing viewpoints along South Rim. From our experience, we can tell you that views into the Grand Canyon never get old. Each vantage point offers a new perspective.
Gaping ravines and unique rock formations are common around the US southwest national park circuit, but you haven’t seen anything quite like the Grand Canyon before. The scale, depth and remoteness of this grandest of Grand Canyons is immense.
Here are the viewpoints you should prioritize:
- Mather Point (sunrise)
- Hopi Point (sunset)
- Mohave Point
- Grandview Point
- Moran Point
- Desert View Watchtower
Further Reading: Best Grand Canyon viewpoints
Best Things To Do At Grand Canyon South Rim
So what are the most unmissable things to do when you visit South Rim?
Here are the three things you should prioritize:
- Sunrises and sunsets
It sounds obvious, but these simple and free activities are exactly what you should focus on with just one or two days at Grand Canyon South Rim.
Later in the guide we’ll take a quick look at other things you can do with more time. But for now, let’s take a deep dive into the top 8 things we think should be on every first time Grand Canyon South Rim itinerary.
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1. Watch Sunrise At Mather Point
Sunrise is the most magical time of the day at Grand Canyon National Park. It’s peaceful, calm and spectacularly colorful if you get lucky with the clouds. Mather Point is the most popular place to watch the sunrise over South Rim because it’s easy to access and has stunning east facing views.
We watched a wonderful sunrise from the famous Mather Point vista but it was busy, so the next morning we walked a few minutes east around the rim and found a secluded rocky outcrop which we had to ourselves. It’s one of our favorite places in the world to see the sun rising at dawn.
Further Reading: Best Grand Canyon South Rim sunrise and sunset spots
2. Hike South Kaibab Trail
South Kaibab Trail is the steeper, shorter and more direct of the 2 famous hikes into Grand Canyon South Rim. The views are extraordinary as you descend into the canyon on South Kaibab no matter how far you go down.
Here are the 5 natural South Kaibab turnaround points on the way to the canyon floor with roundtrip hiking distances:
- Ooh Ahh Point – 1.8 miles
- Cedar Ridge – 3 miles
- Skeleton Point – 6 miles
- The Tipoff – 9 miles
- Phantom Ranch – 14.6 miles
It’s well worth hiking down as far as Ooh Ahh Point even if you only have one day at Grand Canyon South Rim. The vista is easy to reach and the trail itself is fun to hike.
Continue further if you have plenty of time, you’re a strong hiker and it’s not too hot. There’s no potable water on South Kaibab Trail so you need to take plenty of water in your backpack, especially on hotter days.
Further Reading: How to hike South Kaibab Trail
3. Hike Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail is the most popular trail to day hike into the Grand Canyon because it’s closer to the visitor center, easier to access and less steep than South Kaibab. The views are remarkable and the further you go, the more the terrain changes.
Here are the 5 natural Bright Angel turnaround points on the way to the canyon floor with roundtrip hiking distances:
- 1.5 mile resthouse – 3 miles
- 3 mile resthouse – 6 miles
- Indian Garden – 9 miles
- River Resthouse – 15.6 miles
- Phantom Ranch – 19.6 miles
In our opinion, South Kaibab has slightly better views than Bright Angel. This is especially true if you only plan to hike a few miles in and out of the canyon. It’s still an amazing trail, but we think Bright Angel is best from Indian Garden down to the Colorado River.
However, you’ll be able to fill water bottles with clean water at each stop on Bright Angel Trail, which makes it a safer choice on hotter days. And because the gradient is more gradual, Bright Angel might suit beginner hikers better.
Further Reading: How to hike Bright Angel Trail
4. Go To Desert View Watchtower
Desert View Watchtower is a 70-ft tall cylindrical stone structure constructed at the easternmost point of the national park boundary along South Rim. It was designed by architect Mary Colter and built in 1932 using locally sourced rocks.
You’ll find informative exhibits, indigenous murals and a 360 degree view room inside the watchtower. In the view room you can look through reflectoscopes to see the Grand Canyon from a new perspective.
Both times we went to Desert View Watchtower we grabbed a quick lunch at the canteen style restaurant, before enjoying superb north facing views overlooking the Colorado River from the tower.
5. Stop At The Viewpoints On Desert View Drive
Half of the best Grand Canyon South Rim viewpoints are found along Desert View Drive. This is the portion of South Rim that doesn’t make use of the shuttle, so you must drive your own vehicle.
The easiest way to stop at the viewpoints is on the way back to Grand Canyon Village from Desert View Watchtower because the viewpoints will all be on your side of the road.
Here are the best viewpoints on Desert View Drive:
- Navajo Point
- Lipan Point
- Moran Point
- Grandview Point
- Shoshone Point (short hike)
It’s important to know that you can’t drive to Yaki Point. You’ll either have to hike 1 mile from a roadside parking area on Desert View Drive or you’ll need to take the orange Kaibab shuttle to reach the viewpoint.
One thing to be aware of is deep and far reaching shadows casting across the inner canyon during the morning and late afternoon. Midday is the best time for photography along Desert View Drive because the sun is highest in the sky.
6. Take The Shuttle To Hermits Rest
Hermits Rest is at the end of Hermit Road, which is the western half of Grand Canyon South Rim that can only be accessed by shuttle bus between March and November. Remember, you can drive to Hermits Rest in the winter months.
You’ll find a historic stone structure that served as a resting place between Grand Canyon Village and the Hermit Trail, which is where many backcountry hiking trails begin on the west side of South Rim.
On site there’s a gift shop, a coffee and snack bar, a huge fireplace and the westernmost views you can see into Grand Canyon. We bought hot chocolates at Hermits Rest and walked the Rim Trail all the way to Hopi Point during our first visit to South Rim.
Travel Tip: Hermits Rest is accessed by the red shuttle line which begins and ends near Bright Angel Trailhead. Parking is limited, so your best bet is to park at the visitor center and walk the rim trail or take the blue shuttle to Hermits Rest Route Transfer.
7. Walk South Rim Trail From The Abyss To Hopi Point
The flat and paved Grand Canyon South Rim Trail stretches 13 miles from Hermits Rest to South Kaibab Trailhead. Hiking the whole thing would take a long time, but you don’t have to hike the entire trail. The beauty of the Rim Trail is that you can hike smaller sections and then hop on a shuttle bus.
We highly recommend the 2 hour hike from Hermits Rest to Hopi Point. But if you’re short on time or you don’t want to hike for so long, take the shuttle from Hermits Rest and get off at The Abyss. From here you can walk to Mohave Point and Hopi Point, which will only take you 1 hour.
You can’t walk between viewpoints on the eastern side of South Rim, so this is your chance to really soak up the best views into Grand Canyon. Walking portions of the Rim Trail is something we will do on every single visit to South Rim.
Travel Tip: A few hours before sunset is the best time of day to hike South Rim Trail between Hermits Rest and Hopi Point. You want to arrive at Hopi Point not long before the sun sets.
8. Watch Sunset At Hopi Point
You can watch the sunset at Grand Canyon South Rim from various awesome viewpoints, but Hopi Point is the most popular and we personally think it’s the overall best spot. The problem is that most others agree and that means Hopi Point is heavily crowded each evening.
What sets Hopi Point apart is that you get dramatic canyon views, jagged rock formations, a clear view of the sunset and you can just about see the Colorado River. This is the time to pull out a handy bottle of wine, sit back and enjoy what has to be one of the most iconic sunset spots in the world.
We’ve watched the sunset from Hopi Point twice. Both were stunning spectacles, but there was a noticeable difference in crowds between October and December. Our advice is to find a secluded spot a few minutes walk to the south of Hopi Point, not at the actual point itself.
Things To Do With More Time
What else can you do if you’ve got 3 or 4 days at South Rim, you want a unique experience or you’re not keen on hiking?
Here are more activities you can consider:
- Helicopter Tour – One of the most unique ways to see the Grand Canyon is to take a helicopter tour. This top rated tour flies over South Rim and North Rim.
- Rafting – You can book various rafting tours on the Colorado River. Each tour is different so shop around.
- Mule Ride – You can book various mule riding tours along the rim or down into the canyon.
- Rim to Rim – If you’re a very strong hiker and you have plenty of time, you might want to consider hiking the challenging Rim to Rim Trail.
- Havasu Falls – You can win a permit to hike and stay at the base of Havasu Falls but it’s a long way from Grand Canyon Village.
- Grand Canyon Skywalk – This is also a long way out, it’s the West Rim (not South Rim), you can’t take photos and it’s really expensive. Personally, we don’t think the Skywalk is worth it.
Now, let’s take a look at itineraries!
Grand Canyon South Rim One Day Itinerary
One day might not sound like a lot of time to see one of the most popular US national parks, but trust us, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to see the highlights of Grand Canyon South Rim.
Here’s how to spend an action packed day at South Rim:
- 5:00am-7:30am – Watch sunrise from the rim near Mather Point (depending on sunrise time).
- 8:00am-9:30am – Hike South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Ahh Point and back.
- 10:00am-11.30am – Hike Bright Angel Trail to 1.5 mile resthouse and back.
- 12:00pm-12:30pm – Drive to Desert View Watchtower without stopping.
- 12:30pm-1:00pm – Lunch at Desert View.
- 1:00pm-2:30pm – Stop at the viewpoints along Desert View Drive.
- 3:00pm-3:30pm – Shuttle to Hermits Rest.
- 3:30pm-5:00pm – Walk sections of South Rim Trail to Hopi Point.
- 5:00pm-8:00pm – Watch sunset from Hopi Point (depending on sunset time).
This itinerary is packed full from start to finish but there’s several ways you could adapt it to suit your goals.
For instance, you could cut one of the hikes to instead spend an hour looking through Yavapai Point Museum of Geology and enjoying the expansive views from Yavapai Point. Or you could even watch the sunrise from Ooh Ahh Point on South Kaibab Trail which would free up more time during the day.
One Day Itinerary Map
Here’s a map showing our one day Grand Canyon South Rim itinerary.
Click or touch the map to activate. Follow the stops in the exact order listed for the most efficient Grand Canyon South Rim day trip.
Grand Canyon South Rim Two Days Itinerary
Are you planning to spend a night near Grand Canyon South Rim?
Let’s walk through an example of how you could spend two action packed days at Grand Canyon South Rim if you want to see and do as much as possible.
It’s important to note that our day 2 is the full Rim-to-River hike. Only attempt this if you are a very strong hiker. You can adapt this day by hiking as far as you feel comfortable down South Kaibab Trail before returning to the rim.
Travel Tip: Keep a close eye on the weather so you know which will be the better day for hiking and the better day for photography.
Two Days South Rim Itinerary – Day 1
- 5:00am-7:30am – Watch sunrise from Mather Point or Yavapai Point.
- 8:00am-9:00am – Grab breakfast and a coffee at Bright Angel Cafe.
- 9:00am-10.00am – Drive to Desert View Watchtower without stopping.
- 10:00pm-12:30pm – Stop at the viewpoints along Desert View Drive.
- 12:30pm-1:30pm – Lunch at Yavapai Lodge.
- 1:30pm-2:00pm – Shuttle to Hermits Rest.
- 2:00pm-5:00pm – Walk South Rim Trail to Hopi Point.
- 5:00pm-8:00pm – Watch sunset from Hopi Point (depending on sunset time).
Two Days South Rim Itinerary – Day 2
- 7:00am – Hop on the earliest hikers express shuttle (varies by month 4:00am-8:00am).
- 7:15am – Begin hiking down South Kaibab Trail.
- 7.30am – Reach Ooh Ahh Point as the sun is rising.
- 8:00am – Arrive at Cedar Ridge.
- 8:45am – Reach Skeleton Point.
- 9:30am – Make it to The Tipoff.
- 10:30am – Cross Black Bridge over the Colorado River.
- 10:45am – Walk into Phantom Ranch and have lunch.
- 11:30am – Cross Bright Angel Bridge.
- 12:00pm – Pass by River Resthouse and begin the ascent.
- 1:30pm – Make it to Indian Garden.
- 2:30pm – Reach 3 Mile Resthouse.
- 3:15pm – Arrive at 1.5 Mile Resthouse.
- 4:00pm – Summit back at Bright Angel Trailhead.
This itinerary follows exactly how we hiked Rim-to-River during our visit to Grand Canyon South Rim in December. The weather was cool and clear, conditions were perfect and we were in good shape. Even so, we still found it to be a challenging hike.
Two Days Itinerary Map
Here’s a map showing our two days Grand Canyon South Rim itinerary.
Click or touch the map to activate. Follow the stops in the exact order listed for the most efficient way to spend 2 days at Grand Canyon South Rim.
Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon South Rim
Early spring and late fall are the best times of year to visit Grand Canyon South Rim because they have the perfect blend of comfortable hiking conditions, fewer crowds and cheaper hotel rooms with more availability.
The Grand Canyon is hot, busy and expensive in summer months. Despite it being cold, the Grand Canyon in winter is very quiet and cheap which makes it another great time to visit.
We’ve been to South Rim in October and December. In October the weather was warm but it was busy. In December we had one cool day perfect for hiking to the river and the next day we had a snowstorm which was an unexpected surprise.
Further Reading: Best time to visit Grand Canyon by month
Where To Eat
After two visits to South Rim we can tell you that restaurant selection and quality is surprisingly lacking. And that’s not just our opinion, it’s what you’ll find if you look at reviews on Google Maps.
Most of the park run lodges have a restaurant or bar with snacks on offer but they’re overpriced and not great. We actually preferred the lunch at Desert View snack bar (see the photo above).
The nearest town to South Rim is Tusayan. However, you won’t find any outstanding restaurants or highly rated eateries there either. It won’t matter too much if you’re only planning a one or two day trip, but any longer and you’ll be ready for a quality meal.
The good news is Williams and Flagstaff have plenty of excellent places to eat if you’re heading south after leaving the park. There’s also a few places to eat in Cameron if you head east instead.
Where To Stay Near Grand Canyon South Rim
Hotel options at Grand Canyon South Rim are definitely more extensive than food options! You can stay at park run lodges within Grand Canyon Village or you can stay at hotels, motels and unique lodgings in one of the nearby towns.
The park lodges fill quickly in peak season, so book in advance as soon as you know your dates of travel. Alternatively, book a hotel in Tusayan, Valle or Williams because they’re typically cheaper.
So far we’ve stayed at Bright Angel Lodge on the rim, Best Western in Tusayan, Grand Canyon Inn in Valle and Best Western Plus in Williams. Each area has it’s pros and cons like price, convenience and quality of amenities.
Our guide to the best places to stay near Grand Canyon South Rim will help you choose which area to book. Or you can read our guide to the 10 best hotels near Grand Canyon South Rim on our sister site Best Hotels Anywhere for a closer look at the top rated lodging options.
Further Reading: How to book cheap hotels
Would you prefer to camp on the rim instead of paying for a hotel?
Here are the 3 Grand Canyon South Rim campgrounds (book well in advance):
- Mather Campground – 327 sites at $18 per night.
- Trailer Village – 123 RV only sites at various prices.
- Desert View – 49 sites at $18 per night.
Our Grand Canyon South Rim eBook
Want all of the information in this guide plus much more downloaded to your smartphone to use for planning and throughout your visit to South Rim?
Our popular 30+ page Grand Canyon South Rim eBook is filled with only the most important information you need, links to key resources and so much more. Plus, it’s ad-free. Enjoy!
Grand Canyon South Rim is one of the most popular vacation spots in the US for domestic and international travelers. You can easily see the best scenic views in one day, but you should plan for at least a 2 day itinerary if you want to hike down into the canyon.
As hikers and travel photographers, it doesn’t get much better than Grand Canyon South Rim for us. The rim-to-river hike is one of our favorites and watching sunrises burst into the canyon never gets old. Grand Canyon South Rim is a place everyone should visit at least once!
More Grand Canyon
- Amazing Grand Canyon South Rim viewpoints
- Best day hikes at Grand Canyon South Rim
- Best season to visit the Grand Canyon
- Closest airports to Grand Canyon National Park
- How to hike Bright Angel Trail
- How to hike South Kaibab Trail
- Key things to know about South Rim in winter
- South Kaibab to Bright Angel hiking guide
- Sunrise and Sunset spots at the Grand Canyon
- Where to stay at Grand Canyon South Rim
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Want more Arizona content? Head over to our Arizona Travel Guides to explore the best of Grand Canyon, Sedona and beyond.
We hope our ultimate guide to visiting Grand Canyon South Rim helped you plan your trip to northern Arizona!
Please let us know if you have any questions or need help planning your visit in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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Mark and Kristen Morgan are travel, hiking and photography experts. Over the last 6 years traveling full time, they have explored more than 40 countries and 30 US states.
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