It might be considered silly to try and determine the must-see sights for Grand Canyon National Park when in fact the whole Grand Canyon is one big must-see. After all, visitors will be overwhelmed, and possibly forever changed, when glimpsing this great natural abyss.
Still, we've tried our best to discern what the absolute must-see sights are for you when experiencing Grand Canyon National Park.
Viewpoints Along Desert View Drive
To see the Desert View vantage of the Grand Canyon, leave Grand Canyon Village and follow the canyon rim east for 26 miles to Desert View, which is situated at the East Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. Along the way be sure to stop and take in the sights and views at the following overlooks.
Typically the most popular, first-time views of Grand Canyon occur at either Mather Point or Yavapai Point. Mather Point is situated at just over 7,000 feet elevation and is named after the park's first superintendent, Stephen Mather. Visitors will be awe-struck by the view before them. Far below your view is Phantom Ranch, at the canyon's base.
Yavapai Point affords panoramic views of Havasupai Point to the west and Desert View to the east. If the stunning views aren't enough, enjoy a ranger talk and/or walk beginning at this point each day. Be sure to enjoy the interpretation provided by Yavapai Observation Station, including three-dimensional geological displays, photographs, and interpretive panels which allow park visitors to see and understand the intriguing geologic story the Grand Canyon has to tell. Gain a better understanding about the canyon's exposed rock layers, the uplift of the Colorado Plateau and the carving of the Grand Canyon.
Yaki Point. During peak tourism season, the Yaki Point Road and Kaibab Trail Parking Lot are closed to private vehicle traffic. Access is by shuttle bus only. At Yaki Point, enjoy yet another stunning panoramic view of the Grand Canyon from the south rim.
Grandview Point. Well the name certainly says it all when it comes to this must-see sight. Situated at just below 7,500 feet, this is probably the most grand view of Grand Canyon. You'll see prominent buttes including Rama Shrine, Krishna Shine, Vishnu Shrine and Shiva Temple, and you'll glimpse a tiny stretch of the Colorado River far below as well.
Moran Point. Named for famous painter Thomas Moran, the views from this overlook will not disappoint. Enjoy views of the expansion Grand Canyon, which are directly south of Cape Royal, situated on the North Rim.
Lipan Point. This sight is accessed by taking a short spur road about a mile north of the main scenic drive along the South Rim. This vantage offers almost a 360-degree panorama.
Desert View Watchtower. Constructed in 1932 as a replica of a prehistoric Indian tower, the Desert View Watchtower commands a magnificent view of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert to the east and the San Francisco Peaks to the south. Mary Colter's goal was to build a tower that would provide the widest view possible of Grand Canyon while keeping harmony with its natural surroundings. She succeeded. The Watchtower first opened in 1933 and is at the eastern-most point of the Grand Canyon's South Rim. The watchtower is made of stone, and Colter's masonry mastery creates a visual depth that is unmatched. This seventy-foot tower is the highest point on the South Rim and its interior walls of the tower feature murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.
Viewpoints in Grand Canyon Village
Lookout Studio. A small native stone structure, originally known as "the Lookout," is built into the canyon rim and, in a sense, looks as if it grows out of it. The small structure is generally rectangular in plan and constructed of coursed rubble masonry. The observation room has a small balcony with a jigsawn-patterned railing. Lookout Studio was constructed for viewing the canyon, and therefore has a prime location.
El Tovar Hotel. This is the premier lodging option on the Grand Canyon's South Rim, and given its history, it's a sight to see. Built in 1905 and renovated a few years ago, the El Tovar is perched on the rim offering grand views and elegant charm. The historic hotel features a fine dining room (open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), lounge and curio shop with newsstand. El Tovar offers its guests Concierge, turn-down and room service, and is a Registered National Historic Landmark. Stop in to take a step back in time while marveling at this historic hotel.
Viewpoints along Hermit's Road
Visitors can choose among nine overlooks to take in the various breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon while traveling the west end of the South Rim on Hermit's Road. Most of the Hermit's Road experience is due to its historic significance. The road was designed in 1934-35 by the Bureau of Public Roads, and the National Park Service. (From March through November, this road can be accessed by shuttle bus only). Visitors can easily take in the stunning vistas this road affords access to. Exceptional sights to include while enjoying the shuttle along Hermit's Road include Hopi, Maricopa and Pima points.
A highlight will be taking in The Abyss, which drops some 3,000 feet. There is no better name for this vantage! From the Abyss, visitors can see the Tonto Plateau, as well as the Colorado River, far below.