The Perfect Day Trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim
GRAND CANYON RESEARCH & PREPARATION for a Day Trip
The Grand Canyon is one of America’s geological gems and is a must-see destination. Spanning 277 river miles, approximately 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, there is a lot to explore. Given its immense size and the overwhelming choices of activities and things to do and see, it can be hard to narrow down your choices, especially if you only have 4 hours to taken in this natural spectacle. This is why it’s important to research and determine before you arrive which area you want to explore, like the Grand Canyon South Rim.
Peter and I had never been to the Grand Canyon before, and we only had a 4-hour time period to spend exploring, so we set about to find an itinerary that would allow us to take in as much as possible. We checked out our Grand Canyon choices, looking at the South Rim, North Rim and West Rim. Each is unique in their own way but the North Rim is closed for winter, the West Rim had a Skywalk that we didn’t feel like doing, so we decided the Grand Canyon South Rim as our best option.
Having narrowed down the scope of our day trip to the Grand Canyon, we concentrated on hikes in the South Rim. We researched hikes and views, particularly for photography. We discovered that the South Kaibab Trail in the South Rim would give us the best views, less people, and awesome photography opportunities. Perfect!! I think this plan can work for everyone, South Rim veterans to newbies alike. It also isn’t too strenuous, so even inexperienced hikers can easily do it. (Just remember water and snacks, not to mention good shoes!)
Our jumping off point was Lake Havasu, Arizona, about 4 hours drive away from the Grand Canyon South Rim. You can also reach the South Rim in about 4 hours from Las Vegas, 3 hours from Phoenix, 2 hours from Sedona, or about 1 ½ hours from Flagstaff. All will allow you to spend 4-6 hours at the rim on a day trip to the Grand Canyon.
It’s always a good idea to check the weather prior to heading to the canyon, as that can alter your plans, depending on the rain or fog. Both weather conditions can impact trails, clothing, and your views of the canyon itself. No sense going if you can’t see anything or get to a place where you can shoot some great photos!
We selected the appropriate clothes, packed up our cameras, and headed down the road. We first stopped at the shopping and hotel area near the park entrance to pick up some food and to search for a much-needed hat. The Grand Canyon Trading Post has a wide selection of Grand Canyon memorabilia as well as necessities for a trip into the canyon (sunscreen, bug repellent, maps, etc.) Lucky for me, they had a nice selection of hats to choose from and I found a stylish Stetson, the perfect accessory to my daytrip clothing. Then it was off to the park.
GRAND CANYON SOUTH RIM
Entering the Grand Canyon South Rim entrance, we were required to pay a fee. Technically called a vehicle permit, the cost was $30. If you are only going for a day or are staying in the park for several days without leaving, this is the best option. If you want to be able to go in and out of the park over a period of time, you are better off purchasing their annual pass, which is $60 and allows unlimited visits for a full year.
Once we entered the park gates we turned right and headed to Grandview Point, the southernmost point in the canyon. This vantage point gives you the first panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. I can say that this was my favorite part, taking in the immensity and the beauty of the canyon for the first time.
Your first view of the Grand Canyon is just like you imagined, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, really…something otherworldly. The vastness and grandness of it all is pretty overwhelming. You can’t help but take a ton of photos hoping that one captured the vastness of it all. I could’ve sat there for hours taking it all in, but we needed to move on, given our time frame. Our goals was to go below the rim, not just stay above it.
We parked at the South Rim Visitor Center and took the free shuttle to the start of the South Kaibab Trail. (Access to this trailhead is by shuttle only, no personal vehicles allowed.) The South Kaibab Trail a well-maintained dirt trail that runs along an exposed ridgeline with some moderate elevation change. This trail has great views going down the canyon, it’s easy and is less traveled (although you may have to share the trail with mule riders!). This made South Kaibab Trail perfect for us because we wanted to walk along a path with less people and capture some great shots.
We hiked down to Ooh Aah Point, which was 1.8 miles round trip. The total walking time is about an hour total if you don’t linger, but what’s the point in that! It took us about 2.5 hours because we stopped frequently to take photos. If you are up to it, you can head farther down into the canyon to Cedar Ridge (3 miles total) or to Skeleton Point (6 miles total). Both require stamina, and if it’s a blazing hot summer day, the park service recommends going no farther than Cedar Ridge. (On any hike, make sure to take plenty of water and food, as none can be found on the trail.)
After finishing the downhill portion of our hike to Ooh Ahh Point and grabbing some great shots, we saw some of those aforementioned mules headed up the trail, so we immediately turned around and hiked back up so as to avoid being stuck behind them. (See the super cute photos of these guys below.)
Getting on the shuttle, we asked our driver for her favorite spot for sunset.
While we loved the South Kaibab Trail, there are several other trails available for day hikes at the Grand Canyon South Rim.
Grand Canyon South Rim Hiking Trails
Grand Canyon Rim Trail
Located at the South Kaibab Trailhead, the Rim Trail is the easiest one to hike and provides some great views of the inner canyon. Partially paved, you’ll find it mostly flat with some gentle inclines, with some shade available along the trail. While its entirety is 13 miles, there are shuttle bus stops located along the way, so when you run out of time or energy, you can hop on a shuttle and head back.
Bright Angel Trail
Located near Bright Angel Lodge, this steep trail loop is 12 miles in total. You’ll encounter multiple switchbacks along the way, but you may not notice given the tremendous views that this trail offers. There are rest houses located at the 1.5 and 3-mile markers, perfect places to rest and/or turn around. Water is usually available along this trail.
This trail should not be navigated by novices. It is an unmaintained trail, rocky, and very steep. Take the shuttle bus to Hermit’s Rest to access the trailhead, then descend into the canyon. Hermit Trail is 7 miles round trip, but you can turn around at Waldron Trail Junction (3 miles RT), Hermit Trail Junction (3.5 miles RT), or Santa Maria Springs (5 miles RT). No water along this trail.
I loved our first visit to the Grand Canyon South Rim and it will not be the last! We only got a glimpse of the canyon! We’re hoping to go back and stay in the park at El Tovar lodge.
I hope you like the photos! Share and pin your favorite!
PS: In case you’re wondering about the hat I’m wearing in this post it’s a Stetson Cromwell Crushable.
Absolutely stunning photographs. Very helpful tips on Southern Rim. Planning to visit in a month but just for a day. Can you suggest important points to be covered in 6-8 hours.
What wonderful photos of the Grand Canyon South Rim you have! It brings back my sense of nostalgia when I visited the Canyon twice in my lifetime – in 1978 and again in 1995. Unfortunately, I did not set foot on the South Kaibab Trail but I did manage to complete a two-day round hiking trip down to Phantom Ranch and back on the Bright Angel Trail. This included a diversion across Tonto Plateau to Plateau Point (a good detail of this you have on picture #9), adding an extra three miles to the return hike. Fantastic views, an unforgettable experience! Thank you for sharing.
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Thanks for the post. I found it while doing some “pre-trip” research. We are headed that way in a couple weeks and I’m leaning toward the South Kaibab for a day hike.
Did you find a good sunset spot? Can you share? 🙂
Absolutely beautiful! I will be doing a day trip there in two weeks and your research will serve me well on my tour. I only hope my pictures are a “breath-taking” as yours.
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