5 Best Things to Do at the South Rim When You Only Have One Day


Visiting the Grand Canyon is a magical experience. Grand is seriously an understatement for its magnificence. You don’t have to spend a lot of time to appreciate it, though. This article details exactly how to see the South Rim in one day! We share how to get there, what to do, and where to stay. It is easy to stop and spend one day while you’re adventuring through the Southwest. Let us help you plan your next road trip stop.

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Guide to Spending One Day at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim

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, which is located in Arizona, we paired it with a road trip from Sedona.

While visiting the South Rim, 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 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

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

National Parks Near Grand Canyon

A few other National Parks are 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:

Scenic overlook along Desert View Drive to east entrance

5 Best Things to Do at the South Rim

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

1. Grand Canyon Village

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 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.

2. Bright Angel Trail South Rim

Hiking in the Grand Canyon 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 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 fast during the busy season. Get more information on the free shuttle here.

Bright Angel Trailhead marker

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

3. How to Hike Bright Angel Trail at the 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.


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 this hike in a few hours.

Hiking along Bright Angel Trail

You can hike further along the trail to Phantom Ranch, but you 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.

4. 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 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?

5. Sightsee Along the Desert View Drive

After spending time 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 insanely hot, and it does get snow in the winter occasionally.

We 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 summer season and holiday breaks are also excellent times of year to visit the Grand Canyon because there are fewer crowds.

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 your adventure.

Road Trip Travel Tip: Protect your road trip with traveler insurance. Whenever we road trip more than 100 miles from home, we always purchase cancel for any reason travel insurance. We like to use Travel Insurance Master. You can select the exact coverage you need.


Where to Stay

Camping at the Grand Canyon South Rim

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

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

Lodging at the Grand Canyon South Rim

As with camping, you’ll want 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
  • Dogs 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.
  • Plan before you go to see what is open

Shop Hiking Gear

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

Day Pack – we love this Osprey pack!

Water bottles – Don’t forget to pack one 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

Grand Canyon 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. With plenty of activities and viewpoints to explore, you can easily spend a day here and take in some of the most stunning views nature has to offer. Just be sure to plan ahead so you can make the most of your visit.

Thanks for reading.

Ashlee & Pablo

Where Are You Heading Next?

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 want to hear about your South Rim adventure!

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.