1-Day Grand Canyon South Rim Travel Guide


This article details how to see the South Rim in one day. We share how to get there, what to do, and where to stay.

Visiting the Grand Canyon is a magical experience. You don’t have to spend a lot of time to appreciate it, though.

When we visited the South Rim in Arizona, we paired it with a road trip from Sedona.

While visiting, we spent the afternoon hiking a smaller section of the Bright Angel Trail, driving the scenic route, and stopping for photos along the lookouts. You can do the same thing.

Getting to the South Rim

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

  • Distance from Flagstaff – 81 miles
  • Distance from Sedona – 119 miles
  • Distance from Las Vegas – 278 miles
  • Distance from Phoenix – 231 miles
  • Distance from Williams, Arizona (nearest town) – 63 miles

Are you coming from Las Vegas? Check out things to do at the West Rim.

Other National Parks Nearby

A few other National Parks are kind of close to the South Rim and are easy to add to a road trip:

Grand Canyon Entrance Fee

There is an entrance fee to enter the park.

The costs are:

  • $35 per private vehicle;
  • $30 per motorcycle;
  • $20 per person on foot (or bicycle).

The America the Beautiful Annual Pass is accepted.

Grand Canyon South Rim Overlook
Grand Canyon South Rim scenic overlook.

How To Spend the Day at the South Rim

Below are the main activities to see and do when you have a day to visit:

  • Explore the Village
  • Hike Bright Angel Trail
  • Walk the Trail of Time
  • Do the scenic drive

Explore the Grand Canyon Village

Once you enter the park, head to the Visitor Center and the Grand Canyon Village. There are a few buildings and museums to check out, including:

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

Hike the Bright Angel Trail

Hiking in the Grand Canyon is incredible. If you have time, we highly recommend walking 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 find parking near the trailhead.

If you visit during the busy season, park where you can, find a shuttle stop, and take the shuttle to the Bright Angel Trailhead.

The parking lots can fill up quickly during the busy season. For more information on the free shuttle, visit the National Park Service website.

Bright Angel Trailhead sign
Pablo looking out over the Bright Angel Trailhead.

Once you get to the trailhead, you can’t miss seeing where the trail starts. There is a large sandstone rock indicating the location of the trail. This is one of the best hikes to do if you’re crunched on time, and it’s easy to access.

How to Hike Bright Angel Trail Without a Permit

You can easily hike the Bright Angel Trail to the 3-mile rest house without a permit.

Hiking from the top of the canyon down to the 3-mile rest house and back is a 6-mile trip. Along the trail, there are a few places to get water (as long as the water system is working). You should bring your own water just in case.

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

Walking along the South Rim
Me walking down the Bright Angel Trail.

When a Permit Is Required

You can hike further along the trail to Phantom Ranch, but you need to plan. The NPS doesn’t recommend hiking to the river and back on the same day. There is a lottery system in place for staying at Phantom Ranch.

The Bright Angel 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 Trail of Time is 2.83 miles long, paved, and takes a little over an hour to walk. You can learn about the geologic history of the Grand Canyon, which is over 2 billion years old.

Sightsee Along the Desert View Drive

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

South Rim Grand Canyon Scenic View
South Rim scenic view.

While driving along the Desert View Drive to the east entrance, stop to view the overlooks. 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 best time of year to visit the Grand Canyon is spring and fall. Summers can be insanely hot, and it does get snow in the winter occasionally.

We visited in the early summer (the first week of June), and temperatures were cooler in the mornings, warmer during the day, and cooler again at night.

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

Where To Stay


There are two campgrounds and the Trailer Village. To secure a spot, be sure to make reservations ahead of time at recreation.gov.

  • Mather Campground – no RV hookups
  • Trailer Village – has RV hookups
  • Desert View Campground (east entrance) – no RV hookups


As with camping, you’ll want to make reservations far in advance (like months in advance). There are a few lodges 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 cities by the South Rim entrance, and it’s not that big, either.

Things To Know Before Visiting

  • Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails below the rim.
  • Dogs are allowed above the rim on a leash.
  • Temperatures can get scorching hot during the summer, 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.
  • Plan before you go to see what is open.
  • Make reservations way in advance if you want to spend the night here.

Need a Map?

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

Final Thoughts

If you want to visit the Grand Canyon but don’t have time for a multi-day trip, the South Rim is definitely still worth your time.

You can easily spend a day here and enjoy the stunning landscape with the above activities.

Ashlee & Pablo

Guides For Destinations Nearby:

If you’re road-tripping to the South Rim, you might find these other guides helpful:

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.


  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.