The Best of the Grand Canyon in One Week

A busy five days in Grand Canyon country may seem like ten when it’s all said and done, and you’ll have at least a month’s worth of photographs and memories. There’s a lot to do but no need to rush—it’s easy to extend this itinerary to a week. Always choose a view or a hike over your time table!

Note that high-season reservations for in-park lodging and dinner at El Tovar are required far in advance.

canyon landscape at dusk
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo © Chee-Onn Leong/123rf.

Day 1: South Rim

Start your visit on the South Rim at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, where you can watch a short movie about the park and check out displays on the natural and human history of the region. Walk the short path to Mather Point and join the crowds seeing Grand Canyon for the first time. Walk west on the Rim Trail to Yavapai Point and Yavapai Geology Museum and Observation Station and check out all the fascinating displays on Grand Canyon geology.

Continue on the Rim Trail west to Grand Canyon Village and explore the historic lodges, gift shops, lookouts, and galleries. Have lunch at one of the many park eateries.

After lunch catch the free shuttle bus at Hermit Road and continue west all the way to Hermit’s Rest, stopping at the viewpoints along the way. You can also walk to the viewpoints along the Rim Trail or ride a bike along the Hermit Road. The trip to Hermit’s Rest and back will take the rest of the day. Have dinner at El Tovar (reservations required) and then watch the sunset from the rim nearby.

Day 2: Bright Angel Trail

Rise early and watch the sunrise before having a big breakfast at Harvey Burger, just off the Bright Angel Lodge’s lobby. Then set off hiking into Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail as far as you feel comfortable going–try to go at least to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse (3 mi/4.8 km round-trip). Seasoned hikers may want to go as far as Indian Garden (9.6 mi/15.4 km round-trip).

After your hike, cool off and rest with a local beer or a few cocktails at the Bright Angel Cocktail Lounge. About an hour before sunset, catch the Hermit’s Rest Route (Red) shuttle bus to Hopi Point and watch the sunset with tourists from all over the globe.

hiker walkinga long the bright angel trail in grand canyon national park
Bright Angel Trail. Photo © Tim Hull.

Day 3: Desert View

Rise early and explore the eastern Desert View section of the park, driving to the viewpoints and stopping at the Tusayan Ruin & Museum and Desert View Watchtower before leaving the park through the Desert View gate.

Continue heading east on AZ 64, passing the Little Colorado River Gorge, and turn north onto U.S. 89, stopping for lunch at Historic Cameron Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation, just north of the junction with AZ 64. Continue north on U.S. 89 and pick up U.S. 89A going west. Stop and watch the Colorado River rolling along beneath the Navajo Bridge, then cross the Arizona Strip to the forested Kaibab Plateau and the North Rim. Altogether, the drive from the South Rim to the North Rim takes about 4.5 hours.

Day 4: North Rim Scenic Drive

Spend the morning checking out the North Rim Visitor Center, Grand Canyon Lodge, and nearby Bright Angel Point before heading out on the scenic drive to Cape Royal and Point Imperial, stopping at viewpoints, trails, and ruins along the way.

After dinner at the lodge (reservations highly recommended), sink into one of the chairs on the lodge’s veranda and watch the sunset.

aerial shot of north rim of the grand canyon
Sunset at the North Rim. Photo © SumikoPhoto/iStock.

Day 5: Hiking the North Rim

Take an early-morning walk on the Bright Angel Point Trail (0.5 mi/0.8 km round-trip) or along the rimside Transept Trail (3 mi/4.8 km round-trip) near the lodge, or head out on one last proper hike into the canyon along the North Kaibab Trail to Coconino Overlook (1.5 mi/2.4 km round-trip) or Supai Tunnel (4 mi/6.4 km round-trip). When you climb out, sadly, it will be time to pack up, check out, and start the long drive to the airport in Phoenix, or wherever else you’re headed to next….

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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