Spend One Day at Grand Canyon South Rim

Visiting the Grand Canyon is a magical experience. Grand is an understatement for its magnificence. You don’t have to spend a lot of time to appreciate it, though. This article details how to see the South Rim in one day! Stop and spend one day at the Grand Canyon South Rim while adventuring through the Southwest! Let us help you plan your Grand Canyon road trip stop.

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Grand Canyon South Rim overlook

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How to Spend One Day at South Rim Grand Canyon

So, you’ve added the Grand Canyon to your vacation bucket list?! Right on!

It is easy to see the Grand Canyon in one day! When we visited the South Rim, located in Arizona, we paired it with a road trip from Sedona.

While visiting the South Rim, which we explored in a day, we spent the afternoon hiking a smaller section of the Bright Angel Trail along with driving the scenic route and stopping for photos along the lookouts. You can do the same thing!

Getting to the Grand Canyon South Rim

Below are estimated times and distances to plan a road trip to the South Rim.

  • Distance from Flagstaff – 81 miles
  • Distance from Sedona119 miles
  • Distance from Las Vegas – 278 miles
  • Distance from Phoenix – 231 miles
  • Distance from Williams, Arizona (nearest town) – 63 miles

National Parks Near Grand Canyon

A few other National Parks near the Grand Canyon’s South Rim to easily pair during a road trip are below.

  • Distance from the North Rim214 miles (roughly 4-hour drive)
  • Distance from Zion National Park230 miles (approximately 4-hour drive)
  • Distance from Bryce Canyon – 276 miles (approximately 5-hour drive)
  • Distance from Glen Canyon National Park125 miles (approximately 2-hour drive)

Grand Canyon Entrance Fee

There is an entrance fee to enter the park.

As of 2021, the costs are:

Scenic overlook along Desert View Drive to east entrance

Grand Canyon Itinerary

Are you ready to plan your visit to the Grand Canyon? Below are the main activities to do in one day.

Grand Canyon Village – South Rim Grand Canyon

Once you get into the Park, you’ll likely head over to the Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Village. There are a few buildings and museums to check out, including:

  • Yavapai Museum of Geology, which has Grand Canyon geology exhibits and a bookstore
  • Verkamp’s Visitor Center
  • Kolb Studio, which initially was a family home built in 1905

You can skip the Grand Canyon Village and Visitor Center if you are just there to hike and already know what you’d like to see and do.

Bright Angel Trail South Rim

Grand Canyon hiking is incredible! If you have time, we highly recommend hiking a section of the Bright Angel Trail.

How you get to the trailhead depends on the crowds and parking situation. If you are visiting during the off-season, you can likely find parking near the trailhead. If you visit during the busy season, score parking where you can, find a shuttle stop, and take the shuttle to the Bright Angel Trailhead.

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Bright Angel Trailhead marker

Once you get to the trailhead, you can’t miss where the trail starts! Bright Angel Trail is easy to spot with a large sandstone rock. This is one of the best Grand Canyon South Rim hikes to do if you only have one day to explore.

How to Hike Bright Angel Trail South Rim

Without a permit, you can easily hike Bright Angel Trail to the 3-mile rest house.

Hiking from the top of the canyon down to the 3-mile rest house and back is a 6-mile trip. There are a few places to get water along the trail. Bring a reusable water bottle.

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The hike from the canyon rim to the 3-mile rest house makes for the perfect stop on your Southwest road trip! You can do this hike in a few hours.

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Hiking along Bright Angel Trail

You can hike further along the trail to Phantom Ranch but need to plan. This trail goes all the way to the Colorado River, and a permit is required to go further or connect to the North Rim.

Walk the Trail of Time

If you aren’t too tired from hiking a section of Bright Angel Trail, head back along the rim and walk the Trail of Time.

The route is 2.83 miles, takes a little over an hour, is paved, and takes visitors through the geologic history of the Grand Canyon. It is really neat!

Did you know the Grand Canyon is over 2 billion years old!

Sightsee Along the Grand Canyon South Rim Desert View Drive

After spending the morning hiking and walking, head back to the car, drive towards the east entrance to exit, and go on with your road trip.

Grand Canyon views

While driving along Desert View Drive to the east entrance, stop to view the magnificent overlooks. This is another excellent opportunity for epic vistas, photos, and having a picnic. You might enjoy stopping at the Tusayan Museum and Ruin as well as the Desert View Watchtower closer to the east entrance.

When to Visit the Grand Canyon

The best time of year to visit the Grand Canyon is spring and fall. Summers can be hot, and it does get snow in the winter occasionally.

We have visited in the late spring – early summer, and temperatures were cooler during the mornings, warmer during the day, and cooler again at night. Outside of the primary summer season and holiday breaks are also excellent times of year to visit the Grand Canyon.

The elevation at the South Rim is around 7,000 feet. Overall, making it a place of extremes, so be sure to pack enough clothing, food, and water to enjoy an adventure.

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Where to Stay

Camping at the Grand Canyon South Rim

There are two (2) campgrounds plus the Trailer Village. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time at recreation.gov to secure a spot!

  • Mather Campground – no RV hook-ups
  • Trailer Village – has RV hook-ups
  • Desert View Campground (east entrance) – no RV hook-ups

Lodging at the Grand Canyon South Rim

As with camping, be sure to make reservations way in advance (like months in advance). There are a few lodges to stay in at the South Rim.

  • El Tovar Hotel
  • Kachina Lodge
  • Bright Angel Lodge
  • Thunderbird Lodge
  • Maswik Lodge

If you have trouble finding reservations, check out the hotels in Williams, AZ. That is one of the nearest towns by the South Rim entrance.

Things to Know Before Visiting

We wanted to share a few things to know before planning a one day visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

  • Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails below the rim
  • Dog are allowed above the rim on a leash
  • Temperatures can get scorching hot, and it is a dry heat
  • There is not much shade
  • It is literally in the middle of nowhere, so be sure to bring plenty of water and food
  • COVID update – plan before you go to see what is open at the Grand Canyon

Get Hiking Gear!

Below are our recommendations for hiking gear while you explore the Grand Canyon.

Day Pack – we love this Osprey pack

Water bottles – 1 gallon per person per day in the desert (depending on how far you plan to hike)

Comfortable hiking shoes or boots

Women’s Oboz brand 

Men’s Merrell hiking shoes

Trekking poles – I use these Leki carbon poles and have had them for over ten years!

Grand Canyon Map

Visit Grand Canyon National Park (to the NPS website) to download a free South Rim pocket map and services guide to help plan your trip.

Summary of How to Spend 1 Day at the Grand Canyon

  • Check out the Grand Canyon Village and Visitor Center
  • Hike a section of the Bright Angel Trail – excellent Grand Canyon day hike
  • Walk the Trail of Time
  • Drive the Desert View scenic drive towards the east entrance, stop at the overlooks to take photos, and have a picnic

Thanks for reading.

Ashlee & Pablo


You might also enjoy

Are you coming from the Sedona area? Or are you interested in also visiting the North Rim? Are you planning to visit Glen Canyon (Lake Powell)? You might also enjoy our other articles.

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We would love to hear from you!

When are you planning to visit the South Rim? Drop us a comment if you have any questions! We would be happy to help.

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Ashlee Fechino

I’m an outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness. My goal is to help people live their best life by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. I’m married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, and hiking.

12 Comments

  1. Cristina Sala on April 19, 2021 at 4:08 pm

    Maravillada con esta visita al Gran Cañon.
    Me encantaria ver el Museo de Geologia.
    Bright Angel Trailhead me parecio facinante
    Que historia geologica guarda el Gran Cañon



    • Ashlee Fechino on April 20, 2021 at 12:05 pm

      ¡Hola Cristina! Gracias por leer. Quizás algún día podamos llevarte aquí 🙂 ¡Te ENCANTARÁ! Te amamos.



  2. Chelsea on April 21, 2021 at 10:56 am

    This is the perfect itinerary for the Grand Canyon! I love all your tips including where to stay and the gear you will need too. Definitely saving this for the future!



    • Ashlee Fechino on April 21, 2021 at 11:02 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Chelsea! Hope you have a great trip!



  3. Shafinah on April 21, 2021 at 11:07 am

    this is so beautiful! never met a grand canyon post i didnt drool over !



    • Ashlee Fechino on April 21, 2021 at 11:09 am

      Hi Shafinah! Thanks for the hilarious comment! We totally agree – the Grand Canyon is incredible!



  4. Lynda on April 21, 2021 at 11:50 am

    I definitely need to make a trip out to the Grand Canyon. I would like to walk the Trail of Time.



    • Ashlee Fechino on April 21, 2021 at 12:11 pm

      Lynda – the Trail through Time is awesome! You will love it. Hope you can make it in the near future.



  5. Alisha Mansfield on April 22, 2021 at 9:57 am

    I visited the Grand Canyon years ago and it was so amazing. We didn’t have a ton of time when we were there, but I would love to go back and do the Trail through Time. Also, a great recommendation to pair the Grand Canyon with a Sedona road trip (another incredible location).



    • Ashlee Fechino on April 22, 2021 at 6:24 pm

      Hi Alisha! Thanks for reading. Hope you can make it back to walk the Trail through Time. Such a great road trip to pair Sedona and the South Rim!



  6. Ildiko on April 22, 2021 at 7:39 pm

    I have been to the Grand Canyon South Rim, but sadly did not have time to do too much hiking. We did go down Bright Angel Trail for a short bit, then turned back. I would love to hike the Trail of Times. That sounds so interesting.



    • Ashlee Fechino on April 23, 2021 at 10:48 am

      Hi Ildiko! So cool you got to hike some of Bright Angel Trail. The views! Hope when you make it back you get to walk the Trail through Time. Such a great National Park!