Grand Canyon’s Top 12 Tourist Attractions

Top 12 Grand Canyon Tourist Attractions

Published: December 3, 2019

12 popular Grand Canyon attractions

If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to Grand Canyon National Park and don’t want to miss out on the best that the canyon has to offer, check out our list of the 12 most popular Grand Canyon Attractions.  From strolling along the scenic Rim Trail on the South Rim to walking on glass at the Skywalk in Grand Canyon West, our list of Grand Canyon’s top 12 tourist attractions will set you on the right path for an amazing experience when you visit the canyon!

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1. Grand Canyon Viewpoints and Scenic Drives

Grand Canyon truly has some of the most amazing scenic vistas in the world. The best access and some say the best views are from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Access to this part of the park is open year-round from the Desert View or Tusayan entrance stations. Famous views along the South Rim include Desert View, Grandview, Mather Point, Hopi Point and Pima Point.

If you prefer a little more solitude the North Rim is the place to be. There are incredible canyon viewpoints on both paved and 4x4 roads along the rim of the canyon. Open from mid-May through mid-October you can usually find a view to yourself. Famous views along the North Rim include easy to access spots like Bright Angel Point and Cape Royal, and much harder to access views like Point Imperial or Tuweep.

Feel like staying in your car?  Grand Canyon is full of opportunities for scenic drives. From the South Rim’s paved viewpoints along Desert View Drive, to jeep roads along the North Rim, to roads down to the Colorado River you can explore a lot of canyon from the comfort of your car.

2. The Rim Trail

This is a great mellow walk along the South Rim of Grand Canyon. The Rim Trail starts at the South Kaibab Trailhead and follows the rim for 13 miles to Hermits Rest with both paved and unpaved sections along the way. Since most people aren’t up for that long of a walk, all you need to do is hop on and off the free shuttles to hike small sections and take in the incredible views along the way. The sections along Hermit Road are some of the least-walked parts of the Rim Trail and it is here that you can truly escape the crowds of the South Rim while taking in some of the best views of the Colorado River at overlooks like Hopi Point and Pima Point.

3. Grand Canyon Skywalk

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is one of the newest areas for tourists to visit at Grand Canyon (it opened in 2007) but it is already one of the most famous attractions because of its unusual overlook. It’s also the easiest part of Grand Canyon to access if you’re staying in Vegas since the Skywalk is located at Grand Canyon West, a few hours’ drive from Las Vegas, NV. The Skywalk is a glass bottomed bridge that is suspended 70 feet out over the rim of the Grand Canyon, a dizzying 4,000 feet above the Colorado River below. You’ll have the opportunity to feel like you’re walking on air with the view of lifetime while you do it. While the Skywalk is the attraction that brings most people to Grand Canyon West, they usually end up spending the day there taking in native dance demonstrations (it is a part of the Hualapai Indian Reservation), taking the shuttle to other canyon overlooks, or perhaps indulging in a helicopter flight to get yet another incredible view of Grand Canyon from above. 

4. Grand Canyon IMAX

Nothing beats exploring Grand Canyon on your own two feet but there is something to be said about a good movie, and especially an IMAX since it is the only format that can begin to capture the grandeur of the largest canyon on Earth. The Grand Canyon IMAX is a great way to see all the things you didn't have a chance to see during your visit since in only 34 minutes you’ll get to fly over the canyon, raft the rapids and even go back in time. If the kids are tired of walking, it's a rainy day, or you just got back from a Rim to Rim hike or rafting the Grand, the IMAX is the perfect option to relax in comfort. The Grand Canyon IMAX is an easy five-minute drive from the south entrance to Grand Canyon National Park and is located in the gateway town of Tusayan, AZ.

5. Grand Canyon National Park Guided Ranger Talks

If you’re looking to learn more about the park, the National Park Service offers free guided park ranger walks and talks every day of the year. Park rangers are experts about the natural and cultural history of Grand Canyon who are ready to teach you all kinds of cool Grand Canyon facts. If you don’t feel comfortable hiking alone consider joining a ranger on a guided hike along the canyon rim, and at certain times of the year into the canyon too. Ranger programs are offered on both the North and South Rims and also include special Junior Ranger programs for the kids and their families.

6. Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower

Desert View watchtower sits off of Desert View Drive on the eastern end of the national park’s South Rim and is home to one of the canyon’s most photogenic and iconic buildings – the Desert View Watchtower. The Watchtower was designed by architect Mary Jane Colter in 1932 and captures the unique spirit of the Southwest among its three-story tower made of native Kaibab limestone and local wood beams. As you climb to the top of the tower you can take in incredible paintings by famed Hopi artist Fred Kabotie that share the story of the physical and spiritual origins of Hopi life. Windows throughout give you incredible views of this side of the canyon which features broad and sweeping vistas of the Colorado River below as well as the scenic Painted Desert to the east. The Watchtower frequently hosts native demonstrators who will not only show you how they make their art but will also give you the opportunity to buy artwork from some of the most renowned artists in the Southwest. Desert View is also, of course, a great place for a memorable sunrise or sunset.

7. North Rim Cape Royal Road

The North Rim of Grand Canyon is the quiet side of the canyon with far fewer visitors than the South Rim. Because it’s further away from civilization and has limited access from mid-May through mid-October, you can often find a scenic viewpoint to yourself, especially if you drive the scenic Cape Royal Road. After a stop at the North Rim Lodge and a quick hike to Bright Angel Point, hop in your car and start the 23-mile ride along this well-graded dirt road that features overlooks, picnic areas, and scenic trails. If you time it correctly you can take in sunset at Cape Royal where you’ll enjoy a sweeping canyon view that includes incredible nearby rock formations like Vishnu Temple and Wotans Throne. Stick around a little longer and when the stars come out, you’ll be able to see the lights of Grand Canyon Village twinkling across the canyon, 10 miles away as the California condor flies. 

8. Grand Canyon Wildlife

Speaking of California condors, Grand Canyon is a great place to see wildlife, no matter which part of the canyon you’re visiting. California condors are still one of the most endangered animals in the world and the largest birds in North America so there’s nothing quite like watching one soar over the canyon. Home to about 200 birds, look for condors perched on the canyon walls below Lookout Studio in Grand Canyon Village or below Navajo Bridge (near Lees Ferry), or just look up on any hot summer afternoon. The South Rim is home to large herds of huge Rocky Mountain elk that put on an incredible display during the fall mating season. The North Rim is home to an unusual bison/cattle hybrid as well as the black Kaibab squirrel which is only found here. Throughout the canyon, keep your eyes peeled for mule deer, coyotes, bighorn sheep, reptiles, and the impossible to miss rock squirrel. With over one million acres of rugged wilderness, Grand Canyon is full of wildlife.

9. Grand Canyon Sunrise and Sunset

You’d be surprised to see how few people take advantage of a Grand Canyon sunrise or sunset. With thousands of Grand Canyon Vistas to choose from, this is definitely the most amazing time to see the canyon in all its glory! If you are an early riser a Grand Canyon sunrise will reward you with a quiet and awe-inspiring way to start your day as the sun comes up over the distant rock walls and the canyon comes to life. Watch the soft glow of the rocks from either Mather Point or Yaki Point (South Rim) or Bright Angel Point (North Rim). If you’d rather spend your day exploring the canyon and enjoy a sunset to end your day of adventure, head out to Hopi Point or Lipan Point (South Rim) or Cape Royal (North Rim). If you plan to use the park’s free shuttle buses to get to one of the many incredible sunsets vistas along Hermit Road, make sure you get in line for the bus 1.5-2 hours beforehand so you get there in plenty of time to watch the canyon walls light up an then fade into night.

Guru Tip: While a photo of the sun right over Grand Canyon looks pretty cool, sunrise and sunset are actually the best time to photograph the canyon walls on the opposite side of the canyon from the sun since that is where the light creates incredible colors and shadows.

10. Grand Canyon Scenic Plane or Helicopter Flights

There’s nothing that really gives you a better perspective to appreciate the largest canyon in the world than soaring over it in a helicopter or airplane ride. There are many options for rides, and you can depart from the Grand Canyon Airport (near the national park’s south entrance), Grand Canyon West, or even Las Vegas, depending on how long you want to be in the air. Each air tour is designed to take you right over the edge of the canyon so you can see the earth suddenly drop down a mile below, and then you’ll get to enjoy endless views of the Colorado River and the multi-color canyon walls, buttes, monuments, and temples as your pilot regales you with tales of the canyon.

11. Grand Canyon Rafting

Even though the Colorado River carved Grand Canyon that you came to see, it is one of the hardest to reach parts of the canyon since it sits right at the bottom. You can settle for a glimpse of it from above as you take in the view from many of Grand Canyon’s overlooks, or you can ride the rapids to experience one of the most refreshing and exhilarating parts of the canyon!

Fortunately, you don’t have to commit to a multi-day whitewater rafting adventure in order to get on the water. A great fit for families or people who just prefer to take it easy is the one-day smoothwater float trip that departs from Page, AZ. This rafting trip starts with an unusual bus ride through the world-famous Glen Canyon Dam before you hop on the large motorized rafts. Your guides will take you to areas you can only access from the river and you’ll float through Horseshoe Bend before your trip ends at Lees Ferry. Want a little more adventure? Consider doing a one-day whitewater trip with the Hualapai River Runners from Peach Springs, AZ. Your bus will travel a rugged dirt road through Grand Canyon to take you to the banks of the Colorado River at Diamond Creek. Your Hualapai guides will tell you about the canyon’s first people, take you on a hike to a beautiful waterfall, and give you the thrill of a lifetime as you plunge through ice-cold rapids.

Want to experience the iconic Grand Canyon rafting trip? Then you need to sign up for a multi-day excursion that takes you through all or part of the canyon. Ranging from 4-14 days long, you’ll just need to choose whether you want a more mellow ride on a larger motorized boat or if you’d prefer to really feel the rapids in a smaller oar boat. Each part of the canyon is truly unique, and you can choose to raft the Upper (Lees Ferry to Phantom Ranch), the Lower (Phantom Ranch to Diamond Creek), or Diamond Down (Diamond Creek to Lake Mead). If you can’t choose and want the adventure of a lifetime, raft all 277 miles of the canyon on the full trip! Each multi-day rafting trip includes expert river guides, gourmet meals, incredible side hikes and adventures in some of the most remote places in the canyon, and perfect overnight accommodations as you sleep under the stars and are lulled to sleep by the rushing waters of the Colorado.

12. The Grand Canyon Railway

Go back in time and take a historic train into Grand Canyon Village. Visitors board the train at the Grand Canyon Railway Depot in downtown Williams, AZ and travel through the scenic high deserts on their way to the canyon. Keep an eye out for wandering coyotes or pronghorn antelope along the way. You know you’re getting close to the canyon when you enter the towering ponderosa pine forest that takes you right into the heart of Grand Canyon Village. Once you’re off the train you’re only a few minutes’ walk from the first canyon view, and you’ll have several hours to explore, take in the vistas, shop for souvenirs and even enjoy a gourmet meal with a view! Hop back on the train in the afternoon and listen to folk singers regale with you songs of the Wild West as you make your way back to Williams.

While the train ride is both historic and fun, it is also a great transportation option for maximizing your fun on a busy summer day. Without having to wait in line to enter the park and then fight for parking, you can save yourself a lot of stress and time by riding the train to Grand Canyon!

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