Are you short on time and you’re wondering what to see at the Grand Canyon in one day? Let me show you a quick itinerary, full of interesting things to do, that includes the best viewpoints along the south rim. With updated info and lots of insider tips!
So much to do, and so little time. You only have one day in the Grand Canyon. Will it be enough? Let me show you how to make the most out of your Arizona road trip with a useful mini itinerary. You can visit the best things also on a day trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim!
Recognized as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon National Park is probably Arizona’s most distinguishable landmark.
277 miles (124 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and over a mile deep… it can be a bit overwhelming! Especially if you want to explore the south rim in one day!
One day in the Grand Canyon: is it enough?
The Grand Canyon National Park is the one place where we always wanted to go.
We got there on our very first trip to the U.S.A…. we were quite young and inexperienced.
Because there was so much to see and do, we could only add a day trip to the Grand Canyon to our itinerary.
At night, that same day, we realized that we’d have to get back for more.
Aldo even made sure to see the best viewpoints to take tons of pictures of the Grand Canyon: we felt blessed.
This is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and it looks even more impressive up close!
While there are many things to do at Grand Canyon South Rim, you just have one day.
That means being super selective… and honest with yourself.
Hiking on long trails might not be an option, but you can sneak in a shorter hike if you get there early in the morning.
The one thing you definitely won’t be able to visit is Havasu Falls. There’s just not enough time.
To visit the Grand Canyon N. P. in 1 day you’ll have to stick to the South Rim.
Note down all the things you absolutely want to do and make sure you add a realistic estimate of how long it’d take you.
Planning a day trip from Las Vegas is entirely possible, but there’s an over 4 hours drive you’ll have to deal with. That means having even less time to hike and hit all the best viewpoints.
On the contrary, a Sedona to Grand Canyon day trip is entirely possible, because you’ll only have to drive for a couple of hours.
In this case, I suggest this guide to a Grand Canyon road trip for a complete itinerary.
Grand Canyon Tickets and Passes 2023
To visit the park you need to buy a Grand Canyon National Park Vehicle Permit for 35$.
It is valid for one vehicle and its passengers for seven days, and includes the North Rim, the South Rim, the West Rim and of course the Grand Canyon east.
If you are a biker, a Grand Canyon Motorcycle permit will cost you 30$. While if you are hitchhikking, using a shuttle bus, the train or your bycicle, you will be able to buy a Grand Canyon National Park Individual permit for 20$.
In case the Grand Canyon is part of a larger USA road trip, then there’s an easy way to save some money.
Buying America the Beautiful, an annual pass that will cost you 80$, is the best way to visit many USA National and State parks for less.
Make a list of all the places you want to see and check if they have been included in this useful list.
Generally speaking if you’re planning to visit more than 3 National Parks covered by the annual pass in one year, it’s worth buying one.
You can buy your America the Beautiful pass at the south entrance, or online.
Renting an expensive 4×4 Jeep is not mandatory: the roads are paved and it’s easy to drive inside the Grand Canyon National Park.
We have used this online dealer as the prices were way lower than all the others we checked out.
Click here to see how much renting a car would cost you: the final price might surprise you!
You might also like:
– The best Arizona road trip itinerary
– Utah road trip: the Mighty 5
– Epic road trip from Miami to Key West (Florida)
– Amalfi Coast Road Trip info (Italy)
– Road to Hana stops for a Maui road trip (Hawaii)
– The Devil’s Tower travel guide
– Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon: how to choose
– Fun Joshua Tree Day Trip Itinerary (California)
– Guide to Sleeping In Your Car on a Road Trip
– How to visit the Grand Canyon in one day
Grand Canyon Park Pass – Free Entrance Days for 2023
There are 5 days in 2023 when all National Park Service sites will offer free admission to everyone!
It’s the perfect excuse to plan an easy Grand Canyon itinerary on a budget!
Mark your calendar for the following entrance fee-free dates for 2023:
- January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- April 15: National Park Week
- August 4: Great American Outdoors Act
- September 24: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
How to easily visit the South Rim: Desert View Drive
Those planning a quick one day Grand Canyon itinerary should take advantage of the Desert View Drive. That’s one of the best ways to get around and see some of the top panoramic views of the Grand Canyon south rim.
If you’re looking for great instagrammable spots, head over to where Vermillion Cliffs, the San Francisco Peaks, the Painted Desert and the Colorado River come into view.
Yet there are many more.
South rim is in fact the best when it comes to gorgeous viewpoints!
This 25 miles (40,23 km) drive is accessible with private vehicles. You will find six developed viewpoints, five unmarked pullouts, camping areas and four picnic points.
Everything you need to spend one day in Grand Canyon!
Trail of time – Top Section of the South Rim
Visiting the Trail of Time at the Grand Canyon South Rim is an amazing experience.
It is a two-mile long (3 km) path that winds along the South Rim and highlights the different layers of geologic history in the canyon, from its creation to present day.
Along the trail you will find 18 interactive exhibits with educational information about the geology and ecology of the canyon as well as interpretive signs that explain each layer of rock.
The Trail of Time is a great way to learn more about the Grand Canyon’s history and appreciate its beauty up close.
You can take your time exploring each layer of rock, or walk quickly along it for a deeper appreciation of its scale.
The trail also has several benches where you can sit and admire the views, or even catch a glimpse of some wildlife living in this beautiful environment.
This fully accessible 1 hour walking trip provides breath taking vistas of Grand Canyon and allows you to ponder and understand the depths of geologic space and time.
It’s one of the places you can’t miss if you have one day at Grand Canyon and you’re looking for an educational experience. With a view!
The Best Views Along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Yaki Point – Unforgettable Grand Canyon Sunset!
You can reach the area also using the free Kaibab Rim Route shuttle bus (Orange line), departing from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
The only point that isn’t accessible with a private vehicle is Yaki Point, that can be reached only using the Orange shuttle bus.
Yaki Point is a particularly quiet viewpoint during the day, yet it gets pretty crowded at sunset, because it’s popular among the photography enthusiasts.
Unfortunately this also means that you might have to wait in line for quite some time when you need get back!
The free Grand Canyon shuttle bus is usually full to the brim!
That’s yet another thing you should consider when planning a Grand Canyon day trip: avoid the crowded viewpoints!
We have visited the Grand Canyon often and we believe Yaki Point is definitely worth the trip.
It’s one of the best views of the Grand Canyon on the Desert View Drive, and in fact it is also known as the Zabriskie Point of the Grand Canyon.
That’s why you should either go there before sunset or right after, when everyone else is leaving.
Moran Point – Best Grand Canyon Rocks Viewpoint
Keep driving on the Desert View Road to get to Moran Point.
It’s one of the areas where you can clearly see the three main rock groups in the Grand Canyon.
The first group is the Layered Paleozoic Rocks, sedimentary rocks that make most of the canyon’s depth.
The second one is the Grand Canyon Supergroup, the most significant geologic record, visible only in a few spots along the rim.
This group of rocks is like an history book on the Grand Canyon: the scientists gathered so much information by studying it!
The third group is the Vishnu Basement Rocks, the oldest rock formations in the canyon.
Moran Point is due south of Cape Royal on the North Rim, just 8 miles (12,87 km) away in a straight line, but a whopping 215 miles (346 km) if you’re planning to drive there.
It is named after the painter Thomas Moran, who got there in 1873 and spread the word about the Grand Canyon, helping it to become a National Park (in 1919).
Would’ve you ever guessed that there was an influencer even before Instagram?
Lipan Point – Great entryway to the Tanner Trail
Lipan Point is another beautiful viewpoint you can enjoy if you’re planning to spend a long day in Grand Canyon National Park.
Located half a mile (about 1 km) north on the main scenic drive, it’s the starting point of a few very interesting hikes.
A few steps away from the parking lot you’ll find the entrance to the Tanner Trail.
This mile long trail (1.6 km) is a great Grand Canyon hike. It overlooks the Seventyfive Mile Creek and the Escalante butte!
As you hike South of the Seventyfive Mile Creek, you’ll be surprised by an amazing postcard-view of the cliffs below Pinal Point.
At the end of Unkar Creek you will reach the Unkar Delta.
The Tanner Trail hike will take a minimum of 5 hours. Maybe more, if you’re planning to spend one day at the Grand Canyon in the summertime.
Of course, you’ll have to focus on the Tanner Trail hike, avoiding most of the things you’ve read in this article, if you really want to go.
The whole area is quite different from the Grand Canyon landscape you’ve come to expect. That’s because the sandstone erosion turned the landscape into rounded hills. You’ll find amazing photo spots everywhere!
As I mentioned at the very beginning, some things just don’t fit in a one day itinerary.
If you’ve never visited the Grand Canyon, I’d encourage you to make the most out of this day trip by hitting the best viewpoints.
On the contrary if you’ve been there before, you can avoid most of the photo opportunities on the main roads and spend the day hiking. It’s up to you!
Hermit Road: Use the Shuttle Bus to Make the Most Out of Your Day Trip
Between March 1st and November 30, Hermit Road can only be accessed by the free Grand Canyon shuttle bus (Red).
The one that provides transportation between the Village Route Transfer Station and Hermits Rest.
The bus ride is 7 miles (11,26 km) long with 9 stops on panoramic viewpoints.
The round trip lasts 75 minutes and you can still take decent pictures from the bus.
One of the Grand Canyon itinerary ideas for those who just don’t feel like hiking, or who are visiting with younger kids, is to just enjoy the ride.
It won’t be the best thing ever, yet you’ll get to see a lot also without having to walk around!
Hopi Point – Get the Grand Canyon Perspective
The fourth stop on Hermit Road deserves attention.
It’s the first viewpoint offering a better perspective of the Grand Canyon.
According to Aldo, it looks like some celestial being has split the Earth in two with a huge axe.
That’s exactly how he usually describes the Grand Canyon!
From Hopi Point you can see all the way to Havasupai Point and the Great Scenic Divide. Even the Grand Canyon classic tour always includes this place!
This viewpoint in fact has a fenced viewing area that overlooks the Dana Butte, a flat mesa 2000 feet below the overlook.
While planning your Grand Canyon day trip itinerary, add a note at this point.
If Yaki Point is too crowded at sunset, you have a great alternative!
Head over at Hopi Point: it’s usually way more quiet, so you will be able to just sit down and enjoy the view!
Hermits Rest – Relax After a Busy 1 Day Grand Canyon Itinerary
Hermits Rest is located a few stops after Hopi Point, right before the road turns back to the Village Route Transfer.
(Note that on the return trip the Red Shuttle Bus stops only at Pima Point, Mohave Point and Powell Point!).
You can add this stop at the end of your Grand Canyon South Rim itinerary.
Kids and adults will love the small stone structure nestled into a mound of earth that opens onto the canyon.
While it looks like an old miner’s cabin, this structure has been built by Mary Colter, one of the Grand Canyon’ most famous architects, in 1914.
The details are perfect, you will find a huge fireplace and a front porch.
Inside there’s a gift shop where you can buy canyon souvenirs from the park, and a small snack bar.
The rangers told us that in winter the weary hikers sit down beside the huge fireplace to warm up. Almost like modern pioneers.
Not sure about you, but we think visiting the Grand Canyon in winter sounds super romantic!
If you are dessert girls like me, you’ll also appreciate their cookies.
They’re freshly baked and delicious.
You can buy some here and bring them along with you ask you keep exploring the Grand Canyon!
Best South Rim Hikes in 1 day
Rim Trail – Easy
Along Hermit Road you can begin hiking the South Rim Trail (8 miles – 12 km). It goes from the village to Hermits Rest.
Expect a mix of paved and dirt trail that you can hike in a few hours.
The hike is super easy and offers nice views of the canyon floor.
In case you don’t have a lot of time, use the shuttle buses to customize your hike!
The Canyon rim trail also offers the chance to explore by using your mountain bike.
There’s in fact also a nice paved greenway!
Bright Angel Trail – Moderately difficult
The Bright Angel Trail begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge. It’s about 12 miles long (19 km) and offers some shade.
Beware: the upper portion of the trail may be extremely icy in winter or early spring.
Hermit Trail – Moderately difficult
The Hermit Trail offers the chance to hike to Santa Maria Spring (5 miles – 6 km), and Dripping Springs (7 miles – 11 km).
The trail conditions are tougher than the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails.
You absolutely must watch your step and be vigilant at all times.
Hermit trail starts 500 feet west of Hermits Rest.
It’s considerate moderately difficult and you should wear hiking boots if you’re planning to give this a try.
Grandview Trail – Very difficult
The Grandview Trail will give you the chance to hike to Coconino Saddle (4.4 miles – 7 km), and Horseshoe Mesa (12.8 miles – 20 km).
This is an unmantained and very steep trail.
While some add it to their itinerary on a day visit to the Grand Canyon, I suggest you only attempt this if you’re an experienced hiker.
Also, you absolutely need a good pair of hiking boots.
The trailhead is on the canyon side of retaining wall at Grandview Point on Desert View Drive.
At about 12 miles (19 km) east of the village.
Grand Canyon South Rim Itinerary Ideas
- See the sun rise at Mather Point
- Explore the main Visitor Center
- Get around the south rim on the free Grand Canyon shuttle bus
- Take a short hike
- Attend a ranger-led program
- Experience going below the rim
- Enjoy a romantic sunset
- Plan photo sessions at the most instagrammable spots
South Kaibab Trail: Should you go?
Hiking the South Kaibab Trail on the Grand Canyon South Rim can be a great adventure for anyone looking for a scenic trek.
However, it’s important to note that this is an extremely long trail and should not be attempted if you only have a few hours to visit this part of the South Rim.
The South Kaibab trailhead is located near Yaki Point.
Because it is closed to private vehicles, you will have to hop on a shuttle bus from the Grand Canyon village.
Park your car at the nearby Backcountry Information Center!
The trail is 6 miles (9 km) in length and can take anywhere from 4-7 hours to complete, depending on your skill level and pace.
While it offers breathtaking views of the canyon, it also requires excellent physical conditioning due to its steep inclines.
Water is scarce along this route so you must come prepared with enough drinking water!
Due to the elevation change, sun exposure and the challenging route, the park rangers recommend stopping at Skeleton Point if you plan to hike South Kaibab Trail in one day.
My opinion on the matter is that, if you only have one day, there are shorter trails available.
Whether you’ve already been at the Grand Canyon or not.
Hit the Bright Angel Trail or Hermit Trail for example.
You’ll still get treated to unique sights, to make your visit unforgettable. Yet it won’t be super tiring and rushed.
Note: Always plan ahead before heading out on any hike at the Grand Canyon!
Grand Canyon: South Rim or North Rim
Many wonder which side of the Grand Canyon is best to visit.
The Grand Canyon South Rim is most frequently chosen by first-time visitors.
It is in fact popular thanks to the abundance of visitor services, family-oriented activities and great views.
Another thing you should consider is that the South Rim is open year-round.
The Grand Canyon North Rim is only open mid-May through mid-October.
This side of the canyon is thus closed on some of the best seasons: fall, winter and spring!
The North Rim also has a much more remote feel to it, if compared to the South Rim.
It’s rarely crowded and “less touristy” if you want to put it that way.
There are a lot of great viewpoints, yet almost all of the iconic postcard views can be found along the South Rim.
When is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon?
While the Grand Canyon National Park is absolutely wonderful in every season, I’m sure you want to avoid the huge crowds and the overwhelming heat, right?
In our experience the best time to visit the Grand Canyon is spring, followed right after by autumn.
While the North Rim is open only from mid-May to mid-October, the Grand Canyon South Rim is open year round!
Some locals claim that winter is an awesome time to visit the Grand Canyon because when it snows, this National park is stunning.
We have visited in mid September and actually liked it very much. It was still pretty warm but not crowded so even in future, we’d definitely try another a fall trip.
Our one and only visit in July was way too hot, crowded and overall… a bit of a disaster.
We weren’t exactly disappointed but we Grand Canyon is never at its best when it’s full of tourists!
If you can’t avoid the warmer months, try to plan your day trip in the middle of the week.
It’s also very important to stay hydrated, wear a hat and apply lots of sunscreen.
Summer in Arizona can be brutal!
The Best Grand Canyon Hotels: When You’re Too Tired
In case you decided visit the Grand Canyon in one day but you feel too tired to drive back to Las Vegas, book a hotel inside the Grand Canyon National Park.
Why? Well because the next morning you might have some more time to explore, especially early in the morning!
Some prefer to find a budget hotel in Williams, and you might definitely do so if you are traveling on a tight budget.
As for us, when we are too tired we just want to park the car, walk to the nearest restaurant, take a shower and crash in a comfy bed.
Besides, lodging inside the National Park allows you to enjoy romantic sunsets and a gorgeous Grand Canyon sunrise!
One of our favorite hotels at the Grand Canyon National Park is Yavapai Lodge.
The lodge is located in the pinyon and juniper woodlands between Yavapai Point and El Tovar, only minutes away from the canyon rim.
Click here to find the best Yavapai Lodge rates!
Not far from the Yavapai Lodge you will find a general store. Here found the delicious Desert Tea, organic, low sugar and caffeine free: the perfect drink if you’re planning to hike!
There are also a bank and a post office.
The main lodge has been recently refurbished, so you will find cozy seating areas and a lovely outdoor patio.
Staying at Yavapai Lodge is also great for those who are too tired to drive around in search of something to eat.
Forget about your car and just rest.
You can dine at the Yavapai Lodge Restaurant, inside the Grand Canyon National Park.
They serve hearty Southwestern dishes!
To make sure you find a table, book one as soon as you check in!
The Best Grand Canyon Tours
What if you don’t have a car? Or if you just don’t feel like driving all the way to the Grand Canyon National Park?
Should you give up on visiting?
Of course not!
Let me show you the very best Grand Canyon tours: one day of fun and adventure… no driving involved!
All the tours mentioned here have a free cancellation policy and have been tested from us, or family or our friends.
Grand Canyon Tours From Las Vegas
Classic Grand Canyon South Rim Tour from Vegas
This tour includes transportation, hotel pickup from Las Vegas, and even breakfast snacks.
You’ll get to take pictures as you road trip along Route 66, then the two main stops are Mather Point and Bright Angel, where you can also visit the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center.
The stops will be long enough to allow you to hike.
Bottled water and lunch are also included!
Romantic Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour (Champagne included!)
Are you planning to propose? Is it a birthday surprise? Or maybe you want to celebrate a special anniversary?
An helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas is the very best romantic date idea ever!
The helicopter will land at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, giving you 30 minutes on the floor.
The perfect moment to propose or to profess your undying love!
The tour also includes hotel pickup and drop-off, as well as flying over Lake Mead, having the experience narrated by a professional guide.
While flying, you’ll be served light snacks and champagne.
It’s the ultimate romantic experience!
Full Day Tour – Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
This semi-private full day tour from Las Vegas includes a professional guide and a driver for the day.
You’ll get to journey into the great American Southwest.
The full day experience includes a stop at Antelope Canyon, where you’ll explore with a Navajo guide.
Then you’ll get to visit Horseshoe bend.
Last but not least, the Grand Canyon National Park!
All entrance fees and lunch are included in the final price!
Click here to check out rates and availability.
Grand Canyon Tour From Flagstaff (AZ)
If you’re planning to spend a few days in Flagstaff, Arizona, this tour is perfect for you.
Sit back and enjoy the trip as your guide will show you around. From a road trip along the mighty Colorado River, to Tusayan and the Desert View Watchtower, this tour includes just about everything!
Picnic lunch, snacks, water and all entrance fees are provided.
Click here to check out rates and availability.
Grand Canyon Tour From Sedona (AZ)
Sedona is definitely one of our favorite places to go in Arizona!
If you have a few days, we recommend this Grand Canyon tour. It’s fab!
The 5 stars tour includes hotel pick up and drop off, the help of a professional guide, all fees and admissions, and bottled water.
You will get to spend the day at the Grand Canyon, where you’ll be able to climb to the top of the Watchtower Observatory.
The guide will show you the Ponderosa Pines of Flagstaff, the San Francisco Peaks, the Painted Desert, the Little Colorado River Gorge and a Navajo Reservation. They’re all along the way!
Grand Canyon Train Trip from Williams (AZ)
This is possibly one of the most amazing Grand Canyon experiences ever!
You’ll hop aboard the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, and you’ll relax while passing by the most beautiful scenery, for 64 miles!
This century-old historic railroad will let you journey back to the Old West days, with the help of authentic characters.
They’ll narrate stories and sing old country songs along the way.
The railway tour includes the Grand Canyon National Park entrance fee, as well as the roundtrip train ride.
You might also like:
Plan the perfect Utah road rip – Itinerary & tips
How to visit the Grand Canyon in one day
Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon (which one is better?)
Things to do in Las Vegas which aren’t gambling
Road trip from Miami to Key West – dream big!
USA Babymoon Ideas on a Budget
Arizona Road Trip Itinerary: The Bucket List Spots!
Weekend in Palm Springs: Itinerary + Tips
26 Best Day Trips from Las Vegas
Pin it for later!
This post is also available in: Italiano