Grand Canyon Village & Vicinity

Grand Canyon Village is the first stop for the vast majority of the more than five million people who visit the Grand Canyon every year. It’s by far the most crowded area in the park, but it also has the most visitor services, overlooks, and historic buildings. As you enter the park through the south entrance, your first unforgettable gasp-inducing glimpse of the canyon is usually at Mather Point, down a short paved path from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

Continuing west toward the village proper, you next come to Yavapai Point, which has the best view in the Grand Canyon Village vicinity. (If you can bring yourself to drive past Mather Point and delay your initial glimpse for a few minutes, Yavapai Point actually makes a better first view of the canyon, although parking spaces here are limited.) From Yavapai you can see the Bright Angel Trail, Indian Gardens, Phantom Ranch, the Colorado River, and even the suspension bridge that hikers and mule riders use to cross the river to Phantom Ranch. This is the only bridge across the Colorado for 340 miles, between Hoover Dam downstream and the Navajo Bridge upstream near Lees Ferry. At Yavapai you’ll also find the historic Yavapai Museum of Geology (open daily 8am–8pm in summer, shorter hours other months), which has big glass walls to take in the extraordinary vistas. Don’t miss the geology displays here; they’re the park’s best introduction to the forces that created the Grand Canyon. Yavapai Point is a particularly good spot for sunrise and sunset photos. From here, the paved Grand Canyon Greenway extends 3.5 miles east to the South Kaibab trail head and 3 miles west through Grand Canyon Village.

Continuing west from Yavapai Point, you’ll come to Grand Canyon Village proper, with its parking lots and park headquarters (a side road leads to the Market Plaza). The paved pathway along the rim here provides lots of good (though crowded) spots for taking pictures. Step inside the historic El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge to take in the wilderness-lodge ambience of their lobbies. Inside Bright Angel Lodge, the Bright Angel History Room has displays on architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, who is responsible for much of the park’s historic architecture, and the Harvey Girls. Notice this room’s fireplace—it’s designed to replicate all the geologic layers that appear in the canyon. Adjacent to El Tovar, the Hopi House, an historic souvenir-and-curio shop resembling a Hopi pueblo, was built in 1905 as a place for Hopi artisans to work and sell their crafts; this was the first shop inside the park. Today, it’s full of Native American arts and crafts, including expensive kachina dolls, rugs, jewelry, and pottery. This shop is open daily; hours vary seasonally.

To the west of Bright Angel Lodge, two buildings cling precariously to the rim of the canyon. These are the Kolb and Lookout studios, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kolb Studio is named for Ellsworth and Emory Kolb, two brothers who set up a photographic studio here on the rim in 1904. The construction of this studio generated one of the Grand Canyon’s first controversies—over whether buildings should be allowed on the canyon rim. The Kolbs had friends in high places, however, and their sprawling studio and movie theater remained. Emory Kolb lived here until his death in 1976. It now serves as a bookstore, while the auditorium houses special exhibits. Lookout Studio, built in 1914 from a design by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, was the Fred Harvey Company’s answer to the Kolb brothers’ studio. Note how it incorporates architectural styles of the Hopi and the Ancestral Puebloans, using native limestone and an uneven roofline to blend in with the canyon walls. It now houses a souvenir store and two lookout points. Both the Kolb and Lookout studios are open daily; hours vary seasonally.

Hermit Road

Leading 8 miles west from Grand Canyon Village to Hermit’s Rest, Hermit Road has, mile for mile, the greatest concentration of breathtaking viewpoints in the park. Closed to private vehicles March through November, it’s one of the most pleasant places for canyon viewing or easy hiking during the busiest times of year: no traffic jams, no parking problems, and plenty of free shuttle buses along the route. Westbound Red buses stop at eight overlooks (Trailview, Maricopa Point, Powell Point, Hopi Point, Mohave Point, the Abyss, Pima Point, and Hermit’s Rest); eastbound buses stop at only Pima, Mohave, and Powell points. December through February, you can drive your own vehicle here, but keep in mind that winters usually mean ice and snow; the road is sometimes closed due to hazardous driving conditions.

You probably won’t want to stop at every viewpoint, so here are some tips to maximize your excursion. First: The earlier you catch a shuttle bus, the more likely you’ll avoid crowds (buses start 1 hour before sunrise, so photographers can get good shots of the canyon in dawn light). Second: The closer you are to Grand Canyon Village, the larger the crowds will be. It’s best to head out early and get a couple of miles between you and the village before getting off the shuttle bus.

The first two stops are Trailview Overlook and Maricopa Point, both on the paved section of the Rim Trail, within 1 1/2 miles of the village. If you just want a short, easy walk on pavement, get out at Maricopa Point and walk back to the village. From either overlook, you can see Bright Angel Trail winding down into the canyon from Grand Canyon Village. As the trail heads for the bottom of the canyon, it crosses the Tonto Plateau, about 3,000 feet below the rim. This is the site of Indian Garden, where there’s a campground in a grove of cottonwood trees. The views from these two overlooks are not significantly different from those in the village, so if you’ve already had a look from that vantage point, you can safely skip them.

Powell Point, the third stop, is the site of a memorial to John Wesley Powell, who, in 1869 with a party of nine men, became the first person to navigate the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. There’s a spectacular view here of Point Imperial and other North Rim landmarks. Also visible at Powell Point are the fenced-off remains of the Orphan Mine, a copper mine that began operation in 1893. For a while it went out of business (it was too expensive to transport the copper to a city to sell it), though it re-opened after uranium was discovered in 1951. The mine was shut down in 1969; the area is still closed for ongoing testing for residual contamination.

The next stop, Hopi Point, is one of the three best stops along this route. From here you can see a long section of the Colorado River far, far below, looking like a tiny, quiet stream; in reality the section you see is more than 100 yards wide and races through Granite Rapids. Hopi Point juts into the canyon, making it one of the best spots in the park for sunrise and sunset photos (shuttle buses run from 1 hour before sunrise to 1 hour after sunset).

The view is even more spectacular at the next stop, Mohave Point. Here you can see the river in two directions. Three rapids are visible; on a quiet day, you can sometimes even hear Hermit Rapids. Like almost all rapids in the Canyon, Hermit Rapids are at the mouth of a side canyon where boulders, loosened by storms and tumbled along flooded streams, get piled up. Don’t miss this stop; it’s got the best view on Hermit Road.

Next you come to the Abyss, the aptly named 3,000-foot drop created by the Great Mojave Wall. This vertiginous view is one of the park’s most dramatic. The Abyss’ walls are red sandstone, which resists erosion more than the soft shale does in the layer below. You can also see some free-standing sandstone pillars (the largest of them is called the Monument). For a good road hike, get out here and walk westward to either Pima Point (3 miles) or Hermit’s Rest (4 miles).

The Pima Point overlook, set back from the road, is another good place to get off the bus. From here, the Greenway Trail leads through the forest near the canyon rim, providing good views undisturbed by Hermit Road traffic. From Pima Point, you can see the remains of Hermit Camp, which the Santa Fe Railroad built down on the Tonto Plateau. Open from 1911 to 1930, this was developed as a luxury destination, where guests slept in canvas-sided cabins, an early version of today’s “glamping.”

The final stop on Hermit Road is Hermit’s Rest, named for Louis Boucher, a prospector who came to the canyon in the 1890s and was known as the Hermit. Built in 1914 as a stagecoach stop, the log-and-stone Hermit’s Rest building, designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, is on the National Register of Historic Places; it’s one of the most fascinating structures in the park. There’s a snack bar here, making it a great place to linger while you soak up a bit of park history. The steep Hermit Trail, which leads down into the canyon, begins just past Hermit’s Rest.

Desert View Drive

While the vast majority of visitors to the Grand Canyon enter through the south entrance and head straight for crowded, congested Grand Canyon Village, you can have a much more enjoyable experience if you take the east entrance instead. From Flagstaff, take U.S. 89 north to Ariz. 64 in Cameron (be sure to stop at the Cameron Trading Post) and then head west. Following this route, you’ll get great canyon views sooner—even before you enter the park, you can stop at viewpoints on the Navajo Reservation for vistas of the canyon of the Little Colorado River. At every stop you can also shop for Native American crafts and souvenirs at numerous vendors’ stalls.

Desert View Drive, the park’s only scenic road open to cars year-round, extends for 25 miles between Desert View, just inside the park’s east entrance, and Grand Canyon Village. Along Desert View Drive, you’ll find not only good viewpoints, but also several picnic areas. Much of this drive is through forests, and canyon views are limited; but where there are viewpoints, they are among the best and least crowded in the park.

Desert View is the first stop on this scenic drive, and with its historic watchtower, general store, snack bar, service station, information center, bookstore, and big parking lot, it is better designed for handling large numbers of tourists than Grand Canyon Village. There’s never a wait here, unlike at the south entrance to the park. From anywhere at Desert View, the scenery is breathtaking, but the very best perspective here is from atop the Desert View Watchtower. Although the watchtower looks as though it was built centuries ago, it actually dates from 1932, designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter to resemble the prehistoric towers that dot the southwestern landscape. Built as an observation tower and tourist rest stop, the watchtower incorporates Native American designs. The curio shop on the ground floor is a replica of a kiva (sacred ceremonial chamber); the second floor features work by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie and carvings by another Hopi artist, Chester Dennis, with pictographs on the walls that incorporate traditional designs; and the upper two floors’ walls and ceiling feature images by artist Fred Geary, reproductions of petroglyphs from throughout the Southwest. From the roof—at 7,522 feet above sea level, it’s the highest point on the South Rim—you can see the Colorado River, the Painted Desert to the northeast, the San Francisco Peaks to the south, and Marble Canyon to the north. Several black-mirror “reflectoscopes” provide interesting darkened views of some of the most spectacular sections of the canyon.

A few minutes’ drive west, at Navajo Point, the Colorado River and Escalante Butte are both visible; there’s also a good view of the Desert View Watchtower. Lipan Point, the next stop, offers the South Rim’s best views of the Colorado River. You can see several stretches of the river from here, including a couple of major rapids. You can also view the Grand Canyon supergroup: several strata of rock tilted at an angle to the other layers of rock in the canyon, indicating an earlier period of mountain building. Its red, white, and black rocks, composed of sedimentary rock and layers of lava, pre-date the canyon’s main layers of sandstone, limestone, and shale. One of the park’s best-kept secrets, a little-known though very rugged trail, begins here at Lipan Point.

The next stop along Desert View Drive is the small Tusayan Museum (daily 9am–5pm), dedicated to the Hopi tribe and the Ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the region 800 years ago. Outside the museum, there are ruins of an Ancestral Puebloan village, and inside the museum, artfully displayed exhibits explain various aspects of life in the village. A short self-guided trail leads through the ruins. Free guided tours are available.

Next along the drive is Moran Point, where you can see a layer of red shale in the canyon walls and the ancient Vishnu Schist formation at the bottom. This point is named for 19th-century landscape painter Thomas Moran, known for his Grand Canyon works.

The next stop, Grandview Point, affords a view of Horseshoe Mesa, another interesting feature of the canyon landscape. In the early 1890s, the mesa was the site of the Last Chance Copper Mine; later that same decade, the Grandview Hotel was built here and served canyon visitors until it closed in 1908. The steep, unmaintained Grandview Trail, which leads down to Horseshoe Mesa, makes a good less-traveled alternative to the South Kaibab Trail, although it is considerably more challenging.

The last stop along Desert View Drive is Yaki Point. It’s not open to private vehicles—the park service would prefer you park your car in Grand Canyon Village and take the Kaibab Trail Route (Orange) shuttle bus from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to Yaki Point. The reality is that people passing by in cars want to see what this viewpoint is all about, and now park their cars along the main road and walk up the Yaki Point access road. The spectacular view from here encompasses a wide section of the central canyon. The large, flat-topped butte to the northeast is Wotan’s Throne, one of the canyon’s most recognizable features. You’ll see a lot of hikers at Yaki Point, since it’s also the trail head for the South Kaibab Trail, the preferred downhill hiking route to Phantom Ranch. It’s a more scenic route than the Bright Angel Trail—if you’re planning a day hike into the canyon, this should be your number-one choice. Be sure to bring plenty of water.

Festivals & Special Events

The Grand Canyon Music Festival (; tel. 800/997-8285 or 928/638-9215), which primarily features chamber music and musicals, takes place in late August and early September. Performances ($15 adults, $10 children) are held indoors at the Shrine of the Ages in Grand Canyon Village. Season tickets for all six performances ($90) are available online.

Attractions Outside the Canyon

In Tusayan, outside the south entrance to the park, the National Geographic Visitor Center, 450 Ariz. 64 (; tel. 928/638-2468) shows a 34-minute IMAX film covering the history and geology of the canyon throughout the day on a six-story screen. Admission is $13.59, $12.50 seniors and military, and $10.33 for children. March to October, there are shows daily 8:30am to 8:30pm; November to February, shows are daily between 10:30am and 6:30pm. The visitor center also has interactive exhibits and a cafe.

Outside the east entrance to the park, the Cameron Trading Post (; tel. 800/338-7385 or 928/679-2231), at the crossroads where Ariz. 64 branches off U.S. 89, is one of the best trading posts in the state. The original stone trading post, a historic building, now houses a gallery of Indian artifacts, clothing, and jewelry. This gallery sells museum-quality pieces, but even if you don’t have $10,000 to drop on a rug or basket, you can still look around. The more modern main trading post is the largest trading post in northern Arizona. Don’t miss the beautiful terraced gardens in back of the original trading post.

If you aren’t completely beat at the end of the day, check the entertainment schedule at Tusayan’s Grand Hotel (tel. 928/638-3333). Cowboy singers, country bands, and Native American dancers all perform here regularly.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.