South Rim Desert View Travel Guide

Desert View Grand Canyon

Desert View at Grand Canyon national Park is the location of both a scenic overlook and services, as well as the Desert View Watchtower. Desert View Drive is the road from Grand Canyon Village to Desert View. Desert View is appealing if you would prefer to skip the park’s free shuttle buses since this is the only scenic road on the South Rim that is open to private vehicles. Large RVs and buses are prohibited at several of the smaller overlook parking lots. There is generally enough parking as you drive from scenic point to scenic point, but early morning is usually the least crowded time of day. Overlook can become crowded right before sunset, especially at Lipan Point and Desert View. Desert View Drive entrance station is much less crowded than the South Entrance station, making it an ideal option for those coming from the east to get into the park faster. Read the guide below to learn more or check out our South Rim map to see all the Desert View Drive and South Rim attractions and destinations.

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Learn more about Desert View

Desert View Watchtower

The most famous draw for park visitors at Desert View is the structure that rises 70 feet above the canyon rim, offering incredible 100-mile views in every direction: the Desert View Watchtower. One of architect Mary Jane Colter’s many structures on the South Rim, the Desert View Watchtower was built in 1932 and is unique in that its design was based on the architecture of the ancestral puebloan people who lived throughout the Colorado Plateau area. Designed to both blend into the environment, yet stand out at the same time, the Watchtower is a must see for photographers. As you enter the building and ascend the stairs, you will find incredible 360 degree views from the windows on each level, but the intricate paintings on the Watchtower’s interior can easily compete with the beauty of the canyon. Painted by Fred Kabotie, a Hopi from nearby second Mesa, the colorful paintings represent the physical and spiritual origins of Hopi Life.

Desert View Drive

Desert View Drive Grand Canyon

Despite its misleading name, this scenic drive offers unparalleled view of Grand Canyon rather than generic views of the surrounding deserts. Desert View Drive is a beautiful winding road that takes you along 25 miles (40km) of Grand Canyon’s South Rim, offering great views and access to some iconic hiking trails. The road weaves through ponderosa pines forests with stunning peek-a-boo views along the way. The best views, however, are at the signed overlooks which require you to turn off the main road and park along the canyon’s rim. At the overlooks you can to take in large-scale views of the canyon including the various rock layers and much better views of the Colorado River than you will find in the Grand Canyon Village area. As you head further east along the road the canyon becomes shallower and wider, revealing broad expanses of the river by the time you’re at the Desert View Watchtower.

Desert View Drive is also home to several trailheads for more adventurous Grand Canyon hikers. In general, these trails are steep, hot in the summer and icy in the winter, and don’t have water access until you reach the bottom of the canyon but the payoff is the quiet solitude and sweeping views along the way. Grandview Trail, New Hance Trail and Tanner Trail are all accessed along Desert View Drive. Leave early in the morning and bring plenty of water and sunscreen to make the most of these beautiful trails.

Guru Tips for Exploring Desert View

Located east of Grand Canyon Village, Desert View has some of the South Rim's best views along with multiple trailheads and attractions. Below you'll find a couple tips to help you explore Desert View Drive.

Book a tour or ticket before you get to the canyon

  • A guided tour is a great way to really experience the Grand Canyon and having a reservation means you won't have to worry about finding activities when your on vacation. 
  • Learn more about tours with our complete list of Grand Canyon Guided Tours.

Get geared up

  • Make sure you have the right gear for your trip before you travel since there’s not a ton of options at the park.
  • We’re definitely gear junkies here at the Grand Canyon Guru. Check out our recommended gear for our favorite canyon-ready clothing, travel bags and outdoor gear as well as rental options to outfit your trip.

More tips for Desert View Drive

  • It always a good idea to have travel insurance for your trip. Check out rates and get travel insurance before you head to the canyon.
  • If you need more booking options for hotels, rental cars, flights, tours and tickets just check out our Grand Canyon reservations page.
  • Take a look at our featured tour and activity below to help plan your adventure.
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