In this guide, you’ll find a Grand Canyon one day itinerary and the tried and tested tips for visiting Grand Canyon for a day.
We explored Grand Canyon National Park on the American Southwest road trip. It, however, also is one of the best day trips from Las Vegas. So, if you don’t plan on exploring the entire Southwest USA, you can take a Grand Canyon day trip from Las Vegas.
One of the most beautiful 7 natural wonders of the world, Grand Canyon National Park is not only one of the best national parks in the USA but also one of the best national parks in the world. Do we need to say more?
Located in Arizona, USA, Grand Canyon is a masterpiece of nature. A tectonic uplift lifted the red rocks forming a plateau through which the Colorado River could find its way. It took millions of years to carve a canyon you see today.
Grand Canyon isn’t only about nature and its magic but carries a rich history too. Overall, a visit to Grand Canyon is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Grand Canyon can be experienced at 4 rims: the South Rim, the North Rim, the Grand Canyon West, and the Grand Canyon East. Each one of the rims has its own charm. As a matter of fact, all of them are strikingly different than each other.
A 277-mile long (446 km) and 1 mile-deep (1.6 km) canyon bisects the park into South and North Rims. It takes about 5 hours to travel between both the rims. Thus, you’ll have to choose any one rim if you are visiting the park for a day. With two days in hand, you can cover both the rims.
Further west of both the rims is the west rim, Grand Canyon West, owned by Hualapai Indians and not the NPS. If you are coming from Las Vegas, the west rim (128 miles) is the closest.
Along the Colorado River to the north and east of the South Rim is the Grand Canyon East. The area includes Little Colorado River Tribal Park, Horseshoe Bend, Cameron Trading Post, Marble Canyon & Lee’s Ferry, Tower Butte, Navajo Bridge, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, and Rainbow Bridge.
Located between Grand Canyon West and Grand Canyon South Rim, Havasu Canyon is home to Havasupai Indians and is known for its gushing waterfalls, Havasu Falls being the most popular. Other falls are New Navajo Falls, Rock Falls, Mooney Falls, and Beaver Falls. You can access the canyon by hiking, on a horseback, or on a helicopter tour. It, of course, needs an extra day.
You’d surely want to visit the best rim. But, as I mentioned, each rim has its own quirks and charms.
If you are a first-time visitor and just have one day at Grand Canyon, we recommend you visit the quintessential South Rim. When travelers talk about the Grand Canyon they usually (by default) talk about the South Rim. In fact, with gorgeous far-reaching views, it’s considered to be the “true Grand Canyon.”
It’s recommended you rent a car to enjoy a stunning Grand Canyon road trip. However, you can also join one of the many guided Grand Canyon day tours.
You can easily get to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix and Las Vegas.
The South Rim is 3.5 hours drive from Phoenix via I-17N. From Flagstaff, take US-80N to the rim’s South Entrance (South Rim Visitor Center) or take US-89 or AZ-64N to the East Entrance of the South Rim.
The South Rim is 4.5 hours drive from Las Vegas via US-95S or US-93, I-40E, and AZ-64N or US-180N. You can stop by and marvel at Hoover Dam on the way.
Alternatively, you can board an Amtrak train from Flagstaff to Williams and then, the historic Grand Canyon Railway from Williams to the South Rim.
There are quite a few parking areas at the South Rim.
There are 4 parking lots at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center where Lot 1 has pull-through spaces for RVs and vehicles with trailers. There are 4 parking lots at the Grand Canyon Village Historic District and Market Plaza.
TM Tip: Park your car and use the free shuttles for sightseeing. It’s not recommended to drive the rim as viewpoints have limited parking. You can invest your time in sightseeing rather than trying to find parking at each lookout point.
You can download a Grand Canyon Parking Map from the official website of NPS.
From campgrounds to lodges to hotels, there are many accommodation options in and around Grand Canyon National Park. We’d recommend staying near the South Rim so, hotels and lodges at the Grand Canyon Village are perfect. Yavapai Lodge, El Tover Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, and Maswik Lodge are to name a few.
You can also choose to stay at Tusayan, just a mile from the south entrance. Red Feather Lodge, Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn, Holiday Inn Express Grand Canyon, The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon, and Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel are some of the best hotels in Tusayan.
The towns of Williams (59 miles) and Flagstaff (79 miles) are also pretty popular places among travelers who wish to explore the Grand Canyon National Park. Both the towns have amazing accommodation options ranging from budget to luxury to family-friendly.
Best Western Plus Inn Of Williams, Ramada by Wyndham Williams/Grand Canyon Area, Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, Quality Inn Near Grand Canyon, and La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Williams-Grand Canyon Area are excellent hotels in Williams.
For Flagstaff, we recommend Little America Hotel Flagstaff, La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Flagstaff, Drury Inn & Suites Flagstaff, Fairfield Inn & Suites Flagstaff East, Residence Inn Flagstaff, and Hampton Inn & Suites Flagstaff East.
With just one day, it’s super important to craft a well-laid itinerary to save time and hassle. Remember, every second count here. Keep a map of the Grand Canyon handy.
You have to start your day with a sunrise at Grand Canyon! There’s no getting away from it. It is by far one of the most impressive things to do at the Grand Canyon.
Catch the first rays of sun coloring the horizon as well as the walls of the canyon in shades of their love. You can’t have a better start to your day. Isn’t it the most breathtaking way to unfold your journey to the most beautiful places on Earth?
Mather Point, Hopi Point, Maricopa Point, and Point Imperial are some of the best spots to see a sunrise in Grand Canyon.
Biking is another fun way to explore the canyon. You can rent a bike from Bright Angel Bicycles & Mather Point Café.
They have a Hermit Shuttle Package where you can bike the entire length of Hermit Road and come back to the Village Route Station by shuttle so, you don’t need to cycle the route in its entirety.
The Rim Trail is a 12 miles flat trail that connects Grand Canyon Village with Hermits Rest Point.
You can hike for a while to enjoy the panoramic views of Grand Canyon and Colorado River and then hop on the shuttle, and then get down and hike some more. Meaning, you can customize the hike as per time and energy.
Of course, you’d want to check the canyon from different perspectives. Now that you already have enjoyed the canyon from above, hike below the rim to witness the canyon from another perspective.
You can choose one of the two trails or both the trails – Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail. Both the trails start at Grand Canyon Village.
A 12 miles desert trail, Bright Angel is strenuous yet beautiful. There are quite a few rest houses and switchbacks every mile or so for you to turn around whenever you feel tired. The trail begins west of Bright Angel Lodge and ends at Plateau Point. It’s a well-maintained dirt trail and provides some shade.
South Kaibab (6 miles) is steeper than Bright Angel. Plus, it has very little shade and no water. Despite the trail being harsh, the Ooh-Aah Point makes it all worth the effort. You can choose to hike up to Ooh-Aah Point (1.8 miles roundtrip) or Cedar Ridge (3 miles roundtrip) and then turn around. The trail begins south of Yaki Point and ends at Skeleton Point. Please note that the access to South Kaibab Trail is by shuttle bus only.
It’s time to visit the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to gather some more information about the national park. You can enjoy the interactive exhibits and buy Grand Canyon souvenirs from the park store.
Have lunch at Explorer’s Café before you head out to explore more of canyon.
Guided tours and hikes by park rangers are a great way to explore Grand Canyon and its wildlife. Junior Ranger Program is great for kids. Let them join a ranger-led tour and dive into the history and culture lessons out of the classroom. It’s fun! Plus, kids adore the Junior Ranger Badges.
Now, walk the Trail of Time. Part of the South Rim Trail, flat and paved (2.83 miles), the Trail of Time is a geological timeline. It extends from Verkamp’s Visitor Center to Yavapai Geology Museum.
Each meter you cover on the trail indicates one million years (marked by bronze markers) of the geologic history of the Grand Canyon. Isn’t it a fun way for kids to learn about the genesis of the Grand Canyon?
Visit the National Geographic Visitor Center located in Tusayan to watch the 34-minute Grand Canyon IMAX Movie – “Over the Rim and Beyond, Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets” that narrates the story behind the canyon and its first inhabitants.
Drive the beautiful Desert View Drive that starts at Grand Canyon Village and ends at Desert View Watch Tower.
This 25-mile drive is dotted with stunning lookout points. A little ahead of the watch tower, Cameron Trading Point (a mile north of AZ-64) and Tuba City Junction (5 miles east of US-160) are worth a visit.
Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour is the best way to appreciate another perspective of Grand Canyon. You see the Grand side of Grand Canyon what you can’t see from the viewpoints.
Make sure you lock down a helicopter tour no less than a week in advance.
It’s time to witness how oranges, yellows, goldens, pinks, and purples of sunset adorn the canyon. The best lookout points in Grand Canyon to enjoy a majestic sunset are Navajo, Desert View, Lipan, Hopi Point, Mohave Point, Pima Point, and Yavapai.
Have you dinner at one of the best places to eat in and around Grand Canyon.
Choose one of our recommendations: El Tover Lodge Dining Room, Yavapai Tavern, Harvey House Cafe, Maswik Pizza Pub, Arizona Room, Cameron Trading Post Restaurant.
A designated International Dark Sky Park, Grand Canyon is one of the best places in the USA for stargazing.
Hope our guide to one day at Grand Canyon itinerary helps you make the most of your time at this exquisite natural wonder.