Perfect 3-Day Grand Canyon Vacation Itinerary

Follow this multi-day plan for premium Grand Canyon adventure, starting with an overnight hike into the the depths of the Canyon.
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Day 1

Hike to Indian Garden

Grand Canyon Indian Garden. Photo by NPS Michael Quinn

Grand Canyon Indian Garden.

Get a dawn start for an overnight trip or long day hike to Indian Garden, a lush oasis accessible via a 4.8 mile hike (one way) on the Bright Angel Trail. The unique riparian area, with its tall cottonwood trees and a perennial stream, was once farmed by members of the Havasupai Tribe. Permits for camping must be obtained in advance. If you have the energy, take a day hike from camp on the 1.5 mile (one way) trail to Plateau Point.

Day 2

Scope out Grandview Tower

Grandview Lookout Tower

Grandview Lookout Tower

After returning from your Indian Garden hike, venture to Tusayan (for breakfast or ice cream) and climb to the top of the 80-foot tall Grandview Lookout tower in the Kaibab National Forest on the Arizona Trail (suitable for hiking or mountain biking) to get a unique view of the Grand Canyon and surrounding area. A network of forest roads make excellent biking routes. From AZ 64 just south of Tusayan, drive east on FR 302 for 15 miles, then left on FR 310 to tower.

Chill at the Imax Theater

IMAX film at the National Geographic Visitor Center in Tusayan. Photo by Joel Kramer courtesy of National Geographic

IMAX film at the National Geographic Visitor Center in Tusayan. 

Cool off on a hot afternoon at the National Geographic Grand Canyon Visitor Center in Tusayan where the 34-minute "Grand Canyon Movie" shows in a comfortable IMAX theater. Open daily.

Learn About Crazy Kolb Brothers

Kolb Photography Studio. Photo by Whit Richardson

Kolb Photography Studio.

Tour the five story, 23-room studio of pioneering Grand Canyon photographers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb perched on the South Rim at Bright Angel Trailhead. In 1911, the brothers made history by rafting the Colorado River through Grand Canyon and filming the entire journey. Their studio is restored to its original 1905 condition and the Kolb gallery features free art exhibits.

Shop at Hopi House

Grand Canyon Hopi House

Grand Canyon Hopi House

Modeled after the pueblo architecture in the Hopi village of Old Oraibi in northern Arizona, members of the Hopi tribe built Hopi House more than a century ago. Today, it is the best place in the park to learn about and purchase Native American crafts while also touring a Southwest pueblo.

Cocktails at El Tovar

The El Tovar Hotel at night on the Grand Canyon's South Rim.

The El Tovar Hotel at night on the Grand Canyon's South Rim. 

Toast the end of an amazing day on the veranda of the El Tovar where outdoor seating provides spectacular South Rim views. An indoor lounge is also available. Appetizers and a limited dinner menu are served on the veranda and in the lounge. 

Day 3

Cruise Desert View Drive

Grand Canyon Desert View Overlook. Photo by Whit Richardson

Grand Canyon Desert View Overlook. 

Soak in the scenery with a leisurely 25-mile day-long drive from Grand Canyon Village to Desert View with seven unique overlook points.

Picnic at Shoshone Point

Shoshone Point Event Area on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Shoshone Point Event Area on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Pack your lunch and make the easy 1.2 mile hike on a gated dirt road to Shoshone Point where there are picnic tables on the forested rim and quiet canyon views. If there are multiple cars in the road-side parking area it probably means the point has been rented out for a private event so picnic at Yaki Point or Buggeln Picnic Area instead.

Tour Ancient Tusayan Ruins

Ranger-led tour of the Tusayan ruins in the Grand Canyon.

Ranger-led tour of the Tusayan ruins in the Grand Canyon.

Learn about the Grand Canyon's earliest human inhabitants with a walk through ruins from an Ancestral Puebloan community that lived at the South Rim 800 years ago. The adjoining museum has interpretive displays and relics recovered from Grand Canyon that are up to 4,000 years old.

Climb Desert View Tower

Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower. Photo by Whit Richardson

Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower. 

Built in 1932 and designed by Mary Colter to look like an ancient Pueblo fortress, the 70-foot tall Desert View Tower is well worth the climb up four flights of stairs to the top. From here you can see spectacular canyon panoramas as well as the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff and the Painted Desert to the east. (Photo by Whit Richardson)

Star Watch at Lipan Point

Lipan Point. Photo by Whit Richardson

Lipan Point. 

End your day at Lipan Point where a spur road to the overlook keeps out roadside noise and light pollution. The Milky Way and constellations are brilliantly clear.