Explore the Grand Canyon at Night

During the glorious summer months that mark Grand Canyon National Park’s high season, the sun sets around 7 or 7:30pm followed by a wild darkness, a riot of starshine, and the rise of a desert moon.

Viewing this celestial changing of the guard is the park’s most popular evening activity. But what do you do after you’ve returned from Hopi Point or one of the other sunset-viewing perches? Does Grand Canyon National Park have a nightlife?

The Grand Canyon, at the south rim with the Milky Way. ©Tony Bosse, Dreamstime.

South Rim

The South Rim’s most happening night spot during the summer is the McKee Amphitheater, a charming, rough-hewn outdoor theater surrounded by pine trees near the park’s headquarters. Here, knowledgeable rangers pass on the lore of canyon country in nightly lectures, films, and talks. Subjects include the night skies over the canyon, the history of the gorge and its people, and the plants, animals, and natural history of the region. Rangers also offer a few guided night walks including a spooky but informative tour of Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery, with tales of the colorful characters that settled the rim-and-canyon lands in the 19th Century.

The night programs at the South Rim are very popular, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead if you want to attend. During the summer the programs start at 8:30pm, but to secure a place you must pick up a free ticket at the Shrine of Ages starting at 7:30pm. If you’re planning ahead, check out the list of upcoming talks on the park’s website before you travel and make sure to pack a flashlight, a sweater or light jacket, and a sturdy water bottle.

Desert View

On the eastern reaches of the South Rim, the Desert View section of the park is about 25 miles from the central Grand Canyon Village and offers a quieter, less crowded experience and wonderful views of the canyon. During the summer, rangers in this area offer nightly sunset talks starting at 6:30pm at the Desert View Amphitheater.

Full moon night at the Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. ©Vitaliy Pozdeev, Dreamstime.

North Rim

Across the canyon on the park’s lesser-known North Rim, rangers offer fascinating evening programs including lectures and talks every night from 8pm to 9pm in the Grand Canyon Lodge auditorium. The subject of each night’s program is posted every day in the lodge, campground, and visitor center, and visitors are invited to arrive 15 minutes early for a Q&A with a ranger.

Tim Hull

About the Author

A resident of Arizona for more than 40 years, Tim Hull has hiked its trails and driven its backroads from the deserts to the mountains to the wondrous depths of the Grand Canyon. As a news reporter and freelance writer for the past 20 years, Hull has written about the history, politics, environment and culture of Arizona and the Southwest for newspapers, magazines and websites. His family's roots in the state run deep, beginning in the 1870s when his maternal great-great-grandfather opened a doctor's office in Prescott, a mountain town in the state's central pinelands. In his spare time Hull travels the world with his wife and writes fiction. He is also the author of Moon Grand CanyonMoon Tucson, and Moon Southwest Road Trip.

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