Planning a trip to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim? The South Rim is the most popular part of the Grand Canyon. Here, you can see sweeping views of the most iconic canyon in the world and step into the past at Grand Canyon Village. This guide will help point you toward some of the park’s best trails and attractions, as well as nearby places to eat and stay.
The Grand Canyon has a $35 admission fee per vehicle. The admission gives you a 7-day pass into the park, and the money helps to maintain the park for years to come. You can buy your pass here or at the park. If you’re a big national park fan, buy the $80 America the Beautiful Annual Pass here or at the park. The pass gives you access to all US national parks, and if you visit 3 or more parks over the course of a year, you’ll save money by using it.
The Grand Canyon receives about 6 million visitors each year, and most of them visit the South Rim. As you might expect, it can be difficult to find a place to park. Try getting an early start each day in order to ensure that you’ll find a good parking space. This park also encourages people to make use of its shuttles, so there are large parking lots near the visitor center shuttle stop and the shuttle stop to access Hermit Road.
While the Grand Canyon is full of gorgeous views, here are a few of the must-sees.
Mather Point – This is the view of the Grand Canyon. While the Grand Canyon is stunning from all sides, this is the overlook that’s right next to the visitor center, so it happens to be the first one that people visit. And the first view of something as vast as the Grand Canyon is truly an unforgettable experience.
Desert View Watchtower – This beautiful watchtower was designed by the famous architect Mary Colter. The building itself is inspired by Ancestral Puebloan towers, and inside, there are murals done by the Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. Of course, as you might expect from a watchtower, the upper level offers a stunning view of the eastern side of the canyon.
Grandview Point – This lookout fits its name to a T. The Grand Canyon stretches out before you from east to west, and you can see some of the Colorado River. The view is so stunning, it has become a favorite for many visitors.
Where to Stay
There are multiple places to stay right in the park itself! These accommodations are rustic and don’t offer much more than the basics, but you’ll be able to beat the crowds in the morning with a nice, early start. But since a lot of guests want to stay in the park, if you’re booking your room only a few months before your trip, you’ll have better luck finding a room in the nearby city of Williams.
Here are some of the best places to stay in and near the Grand Canyon.
Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins: This rustic lodge sits in the park right next to the canyon itself! The lodge was designed by the famous architect Mary Colter in 1935. A couple of its surrounding cabins are also culturally significant. The Buckey O’Neill Cabin was home to one of President Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and the Red Horse Cabin served as a post office. While the lodge and cabins’ location can’t be beaten, just know that some of the rooms have shared bathrooms and no TV and that none of the rooms have air conditioning. The parking situation here can be challenging as well, as it’s first-come, first-serve, and there are no designated spaces for anyone staying the night. Rates vary from around $100 to over $300 depending on the room and day. If you want to stay here, book ahead as soon as possible. You can check the availability here.
Phantom Ranch – This collection of cabins is the only lodging option below the rim of the Grand Canyon. This rustic option offers you a chance to get away from the rest of the world in a beautiful oasis surrounded by the towering walls of the canyon. It’s only reachable by mule, hiking, or rafting. There’s no cell phone service, no internet, and no TV, so you can truly slip away from the hustle of the modern world. Meals down at Phantom Ranch are limited to what is brought down by the ranch’s staff each day. However, the staff will try to accommodate dietary restrictions like allergies when notified at the time of booking. Prices for rooms range from $62 per person in the dorms to $332 for a group cabin. Each meal costs $26 – $52. Phantom Ranch is so popular that beds are generally chosen by a lottery system. You can enter the lottery and check for availability here.
Best Western Plus Inn of Williams – Located an hour away from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, this hotel in Williams offers a great alternative to staying within the park. Your stay comes with a complimentary breakfast, meaning that you can quickly fuel up before driving out to hit some Grand Canyon trails. Rooms go from the low to mid $200’s per night. You can book your room right here.
Where to Eat
El Tovar – The El Tovar dining hall offers one of the best sit-down meals in the park. While you can expect steep menu prices, the restaurant has great canyon views and is conveniently located right in the park’s village. The menu has vegetarian and gluten-free options. Just note that while El Tovar is considered to be the most upscale restaurant in the park, the food itself isn’t upscale. Prices range from $9 Flapjacks to a $50 Bone-in Blackened Beef Ribeye. Reservations are necessary, and you can make them up to 30 days in advance. You can check out the menu and make a reservation here.
Canyon Village Market and Deli: Looking for a bite to eat on the go? This market has sandwiches and drinks that you can carry in your backpack. While the food here won’t win any awards, this market is located right in the park, so its convenience can’t be beat. The market is open from 7 to 8 and the deli is open from 7 to 5. You can learn more about the Canyon Village Market and Deli here.
In comparison to other national parks, the Grand Canyon doesn’t have as many popular trails to offer. However, here are a couple that you won’t want to miss!
Rim Trail: This easy, 13-mile point-to-point trail takes you along the rim of the Grand Canyon. Here, you can walk from the overlook to overlook, and if you ever get tired, you can hop on the park shuttle when it’s running.
South Kaibab Trail: This is one of the main trails that take you down into the canyon itself. It offers the best panoramic views of all the park’s trails, and even a short hike along it will help you gain a stronger appreciation of how large the canyon really is. This trail doesn’t have much shade and has no water, making it dangerous to hike in the heat of the summer. The hike is a strenuous, 7-mile point-to-point hike, and it’s recommended that you stay the night at the bottom of the canyon before you ascend back up to the South Rim on this trail or on the easier, but less stunning, Bright Angel Trail.
The Best Way to See Grand Canyon’s, South Rim
There are all kinds of ways to explore the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. But tours are often expensive and inflexible and exploring on your own means that you’ll often not know the full story behind the sights that you’re seeing. However, Action Tour Guide offers an inexpensive self-guided tour that downloads straight to your phone. The tour uses GPS technology to trigger its narration, so the audio always plays when you arrive at each stop. This means that you get to tour the park at your own pace. You’ll learn about the stories behind the Grand Canyon and about the Hopi people who have strong ties to this beautiful area.
What makes this tour extra special is that you get to experience different parts of the South Rim. You’ll drive along its roads, walk through the Grand Canyon Village, and, depending on the time of year, take the park shuttle to the famous Hermits Rest.
So don’t wait! Start your Grand Canyon vacation today by downloading Action Tour Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim Tour from the App Store or Google Play.