Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best places to go on a Southwest USA road trip for so many reasons like incredible hiking, mind-blowing views, and a surprising history. This 2 day Grand Canyon itinerary will help you make the most of your time in the park while seeing as much as you can, but still having time to hike into the canyon of one of the best national parks in the US. These Grand Canyon South Rim Tips will help you plan the best trip possible.
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Is the Grand Canyon Worth it?
Yes! The Grand Canyon is one of the most famous and most visited (second after Great Smoky Mountains National Park) US national parks for a reason. The Park does not actually include the entire Grand Canyon, which is bigger than the state of Rhode Island, but there is still plenty of opportunity to enjoy its scenery.
Why is the Grand Canyon Famous?
The Grand Canyon has a whopping six million years of natural and human history that you can learn about and experience here. It is most famous for, not just its vast size, but rafting trips on the Colorado River, mule rides into the canyon, and rim to rim hiking. The views here are breathtaking and it’s absolutely a bucket list worthy destination for everyone to visit.
Is 2 Days Enough for the Grand Canyon?
There is no such thing as enough time for the Grand Canyon but you can see quite a bit in two days. You will be able to visit almost all of the famous views and do a few shorter hikes. It would be very difficult to visit the North and South Rims in two days though because they are so far apart. It would be better to spend two days at the South Rim instead of driving between the two, unless you have additional time.
Directions to South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon covers 1,904 sq miles (4,931 sq km) of northwest Arizona. It is remote, but the South Rim is much easier to get to than the North Rim and can even be visited easily as a day trip or tour from Las Vegas.
Las Vegas to South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
From the Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, it is a four hour and fifteen-minute, 277 mile (445 km) drive to the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. It is an easy drive, partially on highways and back roads and partially on the Interstate when leaving Las Vegas. There are tons of car rentals and even Grand Canyon tours available from Las Vegas.
Page, Arizona to South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
The drive from Page, Arizona to Grand Canyon Village is 2.5 hours and 133 miles (214 km) of beautiful state highways. It is almost the exact same distance from Page to the North and South Rims. Car rentals are more limited in Page, but are still available if you happen to be there without your own vehicle.
Grand Canyon South Rim Shuttle
Grand Canyon National Park receives so many visitors that they need to utilize bus shuttle service in certain areas of the park to reduce the number of cars on the road. In addition, the bus shuttle services allow you to easily visit the Grand Canyon without a vehicle of your own, and to more easily complete one-way hikes.
All fees for the shuttles in the Grand Canyon are included in the park entrance fee so once you are in, it is free. There are five shuttle routes in the park: Hiker’s Express, Village Route, Kaibab Rim Route, Hermit Road, and Tusayan. During the busier seasons and times of day, there may be lines for the shuttles but they usually come by every 15-30 minutes.
The Hikers Express Shuttle runs three times a morning taking hikers from the Bright Angel Lodge, the Backcountry Information Center, and the Visitor Center shuttle bus terminal to the South Kaibab Trailhead. The Hikers Express Shuttle operates year-round.
The Village Route is blue and travels between the Visitor Center Plaza, lodges, restaurants, campgrounds, the Backcountry Information Center, and the Market Plaza. The Train Depot, Bright Angel Lodge, and Hermit Road Transfer Station are all great Grand Canyon South Rim viewpoints along this route. It runs from 4:30 AM to 10:00 PM. The Village Route operates year-round.
The Kaibab Rim Route is orange and runs from 4:30 AM to one hour after sunset. Its route includes the Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal, South Kaibab Trailhead, Yaki Point, Pipe Creek Overlook, Mather Point, and the Yavapai Geology Museum. A shuttle is needed to reach Yaki Point and South Kaibab Trailhead since the entrance road is closed to private vehicles. You may also get there by foot or bicycle. The Kaibab Rim Route operates year-round.
The Hermit Road Route is red and also runs from 4:30 AM to one hour after sunset from March 1 to November 30, starting at the Hermit Road Interchange. It connects Grand Canyon Village to Hermits Rest with stops at 9 amazing overlooks on the seven-mile road. Hermit Road is only open to private vehicles in December, January, and February.
The Tusayan Route is purple and connects the park to Tusayan, the gateway town outside of the park It makes four stops in Tusayan and runs from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM, running every twenty minutes. The Tusayan Route operates during the peak summer period, allowing people to visit the park from their hotels in Tusayan without using their own vehicles.
Ultimate 2 Day Grand Canyon Itinerary
This Grand Canyon 2 day itinerary will take you to the best views of the South Rim and show you some of the best hikes in the park. It will be a busy two days but it will be worth every second. Plus, you will get to see so much of the park and even be able to hike below the rim, which less than one percent of the park’s five million visitors do!
Day 1 of 2 Day Grand Canyon Itinerary
On day one of your two days in the Grand Canyon, you will drive the famous Desert View Drive along the South Rim, stopping at all the best South Rim viewpoints. All of the stops are listed from West to East, beginning at the Visitor Center.
Visit the Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor Center
The Visitor Center is always the best place to start a national park trip and this 2 day Grand Canyon itinerary is no different. You definitely want to get here early because the four parking lots here will fill by 10:00 AM in the summer, over spring break, and on fall weekends.
This is a great place to start learning about the park and get your first glimpse of what you are really here for: the Grand Canyon. The Rim Trail and Mather Point are a short walk from the parking area here. If you are renting bikes to get around the park or to bike the Rim Trail, you can do that here.
Mather Point is one of the best places in the park to enjoy sunrise so try to get here early enough for that if you can. From Mather Point, you can see 30 miles (48 km) to the east and 60 miles (96 km) to the west on a clear day. In the canyon you get glimpses of the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch as well as a few trails. The Yavapai Geology Museum can also be accessed from here.
Location on Google Maps: Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor Center
Facilities: Visitor Center, bike rentals, cafe, bathrooms, water, picnic area
What to Bring: Anything you want with you if you are taking one of the shuttles from here, which you will need to do for the next stop on this Grand Canyon 2 day itinerary.
Helpful Tips: Be sure to get here early, especially if you are visiting in the summer or on a holiday weekend. The orange, blue, and purple shuttles all start here, so that is just one more reason to start your day here.
Check out Yaki Point
After hopping on the orange shuttle, you will be going out to Yaki Point, one of the more famous Grand Canyon views. This is another great overlook for sunrise and sunset because of the wide views both east and west and it is usually quieter than other points. Alternatively, you can also drive to the beginning of the entrance road to Yaki Point, however you would have to park here and walk approximately 20 minutes to actually reach Yaki Point.
Location on Google Maps: Yaki Point
Facilities: Picnic areas, bathrooms
What to Bring: Anything you may need with you since it is only accessible via shuttle bus.
Helpful Tips: If you want to enjoy sunrise or sunset without the crowds, Yaki Point is a great alternative to nearby Mather Point. It is much less busy because private vehicles can’t go here.
Looking for adventure? Try a Grand Canyon Hummer Tour!
Visit Shoshone Point
Shoshone Point is accessed by a 2 mile (3.2 km) round-trip hike on an old dirt road through a ponderosa forest leading to the canyon rim. This is the only place in the park that can be reserved for private events, so if the gate blocking the road/trail is open or unlocked, reconsider visiting the site. The parking area is just an unmarked dirt area on the side of the Desert View Drive but it is very easy to find.
This is an easy hike and a great way to get away from crowds at other viewpoints since you have to hike to get here. It is all above the rim and most of the walk is shady. This is a wonderful spot to enjoy a picnic lunch and there are even grills if you want to make a hot lunch!
Location on Google Maps: Shoshone Point Trailhead
Facilities: Bathroom, picnic area with grills
Helpful Tips: If the gate is open or unlocked, there is likely an event going on. Consider saving this for day 2 on your Grand Canyon itinerary instead. Enjoy a picnic lunch here with a view that is hard to beat.
Impressive Grandview Point
The Grandview Point is the southernmost point on the South Rim and the point furthest from the Colorado River. It can be accessed from a short side road about halfway between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View. There are a few hiking trails that can be accessed from here and the canyon descent is not as steep as others in the park, but hiking back out can still be very strenuous. The river cannot be accessed from here and most of the hiking from here is recommended only for experienced hikers.
Location on Google Maps: Grandview Point
Facilities: Picnic area, bathrooms
Helpful Tips: If you want to hike below the rim, the 2.2 mile (3.6 km) round-trip trail to the Coconino Saddle is the best option. It is the shortest with the least amount of elevation change 1,000 feet (305 m). Be sure to bring and drink plenty of water if you hike below the rim.
Next Stop: Moran Point
Moran Point is one of the best views, and most visited, on the South Rim, named after Thomas Moran, a landscape painter known for his works of the western US. This viewpoint is special because you can see all three of the main rock groups of the Grand Canyon from here: the Layered Paleozoic Rocks, the Grand Canyon Supergroup, and the Basement Rocks. Moran Point is also just 8 miles (13 km) across the Canyon from Cape Royal on the North Rim. In addition to the three rock groups, you can see Coronado Butte to the west and Red Canyon directly below.
Location on Google Maps: Moran Point
Helpful Tips: Moran Point is a great view but it is also a quick stop. Other than enjoying the view, there is not much else at this stop but it is still definitely worth seeing. On a day without wind, you can even hear the river rushing below.
Lipan Point View
Lipan Point is one of the best places for a wide, expansive view of the Grand Canyon and the longest perspective of the Colorado River below. On a clear day, you can even see the Vermillion Cliffs 45 miles (72 km) away in the northeast. You can even hear Hance Rapid almost 4 miles (6.4 km) away. The Unkar Delta, where ancient Puebloan people cultivated beans, corn, and squash, is also visible from here.
Location on Google Maps: Lipan Point
Helpful Tips: This is a great spot for bird watchers as it is part of an important migration route for hawks and other raptors. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!
Navajo Point is the highest viewpoint on south rim at nearly 7,500 feet (2,275 m) not far from the Desert View Watchtower. You get the canyon to the west and the Colorado River to the north. Sometimes you can even see people rafting way down on the Colorado River below.
Location on Google Maps: Navajo Point
Helpful Tips: This is a popular place to enjoy the sunset but parking is pretty limited here so if this is where you decide to enjoy it, get there early.
Desert View Watchtower
You may not be able to go to the top of the Desert View Watchtower, but the views behind it at the Desert View Point are still incredible and you can even see the river below plunging in to Granite Gorge to the west. On the main floor of the watchtower is a small gift shop.
The Desert View Watchtower is a national historic landmark that was built in 1932 and designed by Mary Colter, based on Ancestral Puebloan architecture around the southwest, specifically at Hovenweep and the Round Tower of Mesa Verde. There is a memorial behind the watchtower commemorating the tragic Grand Canyon TWA-United Airlines Aviation accident that occurred here on June 30, 1956.
This area is where you will find the most services on the east side of the park, outside of the main visitor center and Grand Canyon Village. This is one of the best views on the South Rim and a little different than on the west side. The view of the river here is beautiful and you can also see Marble Canyon to the north.
Location on Google Maps: Desert View Watchtower
Facilities: Food, camping, gas, visitor center, picnic area, gift shop, water, small market
Helpful Tips: The Desert View area is just inside of the park, near the east entrance. If you are coming from Page, this is likely where you will enter the park so you can always complete Day 1 of this 2 Day Grand Canyon itinerary in reverse, beginning with the Desert View Watchtower. There are no shuttles that reach this part of the park.
Yavapai Point for Sunset
To finish up day one in the Grand Canyon, head back down Desert View Drive to Yavapai Point to enjoy the beautiful views for sunset. You can either walk over here from Mather Point, hop on the orange shuttle, or try and get a spot in the limited parking. It is a popular place for sunset so walking over may be easiest.
Yavapai Point is not just the most northern point on the South Rim, but also the point closest to the Colorado River offering unobstructed panoramic views. West of here, you can see Plateau Point which is reachable via the Bright Angel Trail on the North Rim.
Location on Google Maps: Yavapai Point and Geology Museum
What to Bring: Nothing particular unless you want to enjoy a picnic dinner at Mather Point before or after sunset.
Day 2 of 2 Day Grand Canyon Itinerary
Day two is going to be more about hiking than checking out all of the viewpoints. Yaki Point, South Kaibab Trail, and Hermits Road are all on the slate for day two and these Grand Canyon South Rim tips will ensure your trips ends on a high note.
Return for Sunrise
Get started on day 2 of the 2 day Grand Canyon Itinerary nice and early by enjoying sunrise at Mather Point or Yaki Point before hiking the South Kaibab Trail. Which location you go to will probably depend on how much hiking you want to do on the South Kaibab Trail. You can take the orange shuttle between all three of these points, but Yaki Point is closer to the trailhead.
It is a 2.3 mile (3.7 km) walk from Mather Point to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Yaki Point is just 0.9 miles (1.4 km) from the trailhead. Whichever you choose, your sunrise view will be amazing.
Ready for a thrill? Try a Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour!
Hike the South Kaibab Trail
The best way to experience the Grand Canyon is to get below the rim and the South Kaibab Trail is one of the best ways to do that on the South Rim. The Chimney is a steep and narrow section of switchbacks at the beginning of the trail. You can go as far as you feel comfortable, but do not forget the hike back out will all be uphill and much more difficult. Keep that in mind when deciding how far to hike below the rim.
It is not recommended by National Park Service to hike past Skeleton Point as a day hike and even that should be confirmed with a ranger before attempting. Ooh Aah Point and Cedar Ridge are better day hike options. Ooh Aah Point is 1.8 miles (2.9 km) round-trip with 790 feet (230 m) of elevation gain and Cedar Ridge is 3 miles (4.8 km) round-trip with 1,120 feet (340 m) of elevation gain. Skeleton Point is much more difficult at 6 miles (9.6 km) round trip with 2,040 feet (620 m) of elevation gain. Almost all elevation gain is on the hike out of the canyon.
This trail can experience extreme heat in the summer and gets very little shade It also has very little protection from passing storms. If you do hike this, no matter how far you go, bring and drink plenty of water. If you are visiting in the summer, doing this first thing in the morning is the best, and really the only way to beat the heat. There is no drinking water along the trail. Mules frequently use this trail and they should be given the right of way if you encounter them along your hike. It is not recommended at all by NPS to hike to the river and back out in one day.
Location on Google Maps: South Kaibab Trailhead
What to Bring: Snacks, sunscreen, lots of water
Optional: See the Western Viewpoints
Going out to the viewpoints on Hermits Road mostly depends on how far you hike on South Kaibab Trail. If you are back in Grand Canyon Village by early afternoon, you can hop on the red shuttle out to Hermits Rest enjoying the incredible views along the way, particularly Maricopa Point, Hopi Point, and Mohave Point. This is a nice, relaxing way to spend the afternoon after the difficult South Kaibab Trail.
Facilities: Bathrooms (water, gift shop, picnic area, and food at Hermits Rest)
What to Bring: Water and anything else you will need with you since it is only accessible by shuttle.
Return to Grand Canyon Village for Dinner
After a long day of hiking, reward yourself with a delicious meal and drink at the Yavapai Tavern. This is a great way to end your Grand Canyon 2 day itinerary before moving on to your next adventure.
Location on Google Maps: Yavapai Tavern
Facilities: At Yavapai Lodge
Best Time to Visit the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
Most people visit the Grand Canyon in the summer, but that does not necessarily mean it is the best time to visit, especially if you want to hike a lot. If you are just stopping at overlooks and doing short walks, there is no bad time to go.
Winter in South Rim Grand Canyon National Park
Visiting the Grand Canyon South Rim in winter is the best way to have a quiet experience. It is open year-round but access and services may be limited in winter. The winter season is usually December through February. Trails can be snowy and icy in the winter so microspikes are a good thing to bring with if you plan to hike at all. Visiting over winter holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years can be very busy.
Spring in South Rim Grand Canyon National Park
In the spring months access is still limited, but the weather is very pleasant making hiking much more enjoyable. Spring hours are usually in effect from March 1 to May 27 (around Memorial Day Weekend). If you plan to visit over spring break, be prepared for crowds.
Summer in South Rim Grand Canyon National Park
Summer is the busiest and hottest time of year at Grand Canyon National Park and we do not recommend visiting during this time. The heat is intense and can be very dangerous, especially on long hikes and below the rim. The visitor numbers are also highest during the summer meaning it will be very busy almost everywhere on the South Rim. The summer season is usually May 28 to September 29. Visits over holidays like Memorial Weekend, Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekend can also be very busy and are not recommended. Always remember, if it is hot at the rim, it will be even hotter below the rim.
Fall in South Rim Grand Canyon National Park
Fall is probably the best time to visit the Grand Canyon on either rim. The weather is perfect and visitor numbers are lower than in the summer. Services will start to be more limited, but not like during the winter. This is a great time for hiking in the Grand Canyon and you may get to see the leaves changing, too!
Best Place to Stay Near the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
There are plenty of places to choose from when it comes to staying at or near the Grand Canyon South Rim. Options in the park are great for spending a night or two disconnected from the outside world. but outside of the park is better for budget-travelers. Either way, there is somewhere for you.
Hotels at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
There are quite a few lodges and cabins at the South Rim inside of the park. These are more expensive than outside of the park and most of them have little phone reception and little to no Wi-Fi. But for being able to stay in the park, it is worth it. It will also allow you to really take advantage of 2 days in Grand Canyon National Park. You will need to book rooms way in advance, up to a year in advance, or call for cancellations if you aren’t able to plan that far ahead. There is lodging available year-round.
At the Market Plaza near the Visitor Center is the Yavapai Lodge. In the Historic District of Grand Canyon Village you can find the Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Hotel, Thunderbird Lodge, and Maswik Lodge. The Bright Angel Lodge is the best for a more budget-friendly option and the Thunderbird Lodge is a good mid-range choice, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Hotels Nearby the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Tusayan is the closest town outside of the South Rim and is great if you want to be close to the park but not in it. The Red Feather Lodge is the best choice for a more budget option and the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Square Inn is a good mid-range choice. Tusayan may be outside of the park but prices are similar to in the park so if you can get in the park, that is the best option.
Williams is the best place to stay if you are really on a budget. It is also the best place to stay if you plan on riding the Grand Canyon Railway. The Grand Canyon Hotel is a great budget-option right in town and the La Quinta Hotel Williams is a wonderful mid-range choice also right in town.
Grand Canyon South Rim Camping
There are three campgrounds in the Grand Canyon at the South Rim with a total of 499 sites. The Mather Campground is the largest with 327 sites, none with electric hookups, and open year-round. It is in the Grand Canyon Village and has flush toilets and potable water. Hot showers, laundry, firewood, ice, and the camp store are also available all year. Reservations are highly recommended here.
Reservations are also recommended, especially from May to October, at the Trailer Village RV Park’s 123 sites. This is the only campground in the park with full hookups. It is open year-round and has potable water, flush toilets, hot showers, ice, laundry, and a camp store. Trailer Village is located near the Yavapai Lodge.
Finally, the 49-site Desert View Campground is at the east entrance of the park and requires reservations which can be made six months in advance. It is only open from April 15 to October 16. This campground has a camp store, firewood, ice, potable water, and flush toilets when it is open. There are no showers here.
The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a 2 Day Grand Canyon Itinerary
The Grand Canyon can be an overwhelming park to visit since it is so large, there are so many trails, and there are three areas to choose from when visiting. But these Grand Canyon South Rim tips will help you make the most of your time in the park so you have a safe and memorable experience.
Start Your Day Early
Grand Canyon South Rim is extremely popular and will always have a lot of visitors, no matter the time of year. Getting started early will not only help you beat the crowds, but you will beat that mid-day heat as well. This is especially important to keep in mind during a summer visit since it is the hottest and busiest time of year.
Research the shuttle times for the Western Viewpoints
The shuttle schedules can be limited depending on the time of year you are visiting, so be sure to double check availability, dates, and time before you arrive. Knowing any shuttle limitations ahead of time can help you plan your Grand Canyon 2 day itinerary that much better.
Be aware of signs of heat stroke
This Grand Canyon South Rim tip is particularly important for a summer visit. Know the signs of heatstroke, how to avoid it, and what to do if it happens. Heatstroke is caused by excessive heat and rising body temperature. It can be fatal and even very experienced hikers can suffer from it.
Signs of heat stroke include a high body temperature, red, damp, dry, or hot skin, strong and fast pulse, headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, confusion, lack of or excessive sweat, and muscle cramps.
If you or someone you are with is experiencing heat stroke, try to find a shady area, remove unnecessary clothing generating additional heat, avoid drinking anything as it may spike the body’s response, and wet the skin. Lowering the body temperature is the primary goal as you wait for medical assistance.
The risk of heat stroke increases above 90 F (32 C) but there are ways to avoid it. Try not to hike in the peak heat of the day (morning is best for hiking in lower temperatures), stay hydrated with water and sports drinks or something with a lot of electrolytes, take advantage of indoor activities or short walks to overlooks instead of hikes during peak heat, try to stay in the shade, and wear light-colored, loose-fitting, moisture-absorbent clothing.
Bring food and snacks from outside the park to save
Food in the park is going to be limited and more expensive than outside the park. To save some time and money, consider bringing all the food and snacks you would want while you are out hiking and enjoy the park during the day.
Plan to Watch at Least 1 Sunrise and 1 Sunset
Golden hour in the Grand Canyon is magical and you should plan to watch at least one sunrise and one sunset on your 2 day Grand Canyon itinerary. Mather Point and Yaki Point are two great choices for this but it is hard to find an overlook that is bad for watching the sunrise or sunset.
Grand Canyon 2 Day Itinerary Summary
You are now all ready to visit the Grand Canyon on an amazing 2 day itinerary! The park has so many amazing viewpoints, hikes, and things to do that you are sure to have a great time visiting this world wonder!
Have you been to the Grand Canyon? Did we miss your favorite spot? Let us know in the comments! If you haven’t been yet, be sure to pin this post to your Southwest United States Pinterest board so that you have the ultimate two day Grand Canyon itinerary ready to go!