The Grand Canyon South Rim is where most visitors to Grand Canyon National Park choose to spend the bulk of their time. As a result, it is much busier than the North Rim, especially during the peak spring to early fall season. The popularity of the South Rim is related to the fact that it is easier to access than the North Rim, and you can also find more attractions and hotels in the area—there’s even an IMAX theater on this side of the canyon, and the South Rim is also home to Grand Canyon Village.
Most visits to the Grand Canyon South Rim begin in Grand Canyon Village. This is where the Grand Canyon Visitor Center can be found, not to mention such historic hotels as the Bright Angel Lodge and the El Tovar Hotel. Many tourists wander over to see these hotels, even if they aren’t guests. The lobbies are beautifully decorated, and the Bright Angel Lodge features a small museum of sorts. This museum, or the Bright Angel History Room, as it is known, offers displays on Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter and the Harvey Girls. Also, right next door to the El Tovar Hotel is an excellent shop that sells Navajo and Hopi arts and crafts.
Of course, the canyon itself is the main reason for visiting Grand Canyon National Park, and there is a gem of a viewpoint not far from the heart of Grand Canyon Village, called Mather Point, which can be reached via a paved path that leads from the Visitor Center. Also found in the village area is renowned Yavapai Point. Among the things that you can see from this wonderful viewpoint are the Colorado River and the base-dwelling Phantom Ranch.
Other satisfying viewpoints are found all along the Grand Canyon South Rim, with scenic Desert View Drive offering access to a good amount of them. This road stretches for 25 miles and links Grand Canyon Village to the Desert View area to the east. Complementing the excellent viewpoints along Desert View Drive are inviting picnic areas, and many visitors take advantage of them as a stopping point during a leisurely drive along the road.
Among the other South Rim attractions are Kolb Studio and Lookout Studio. Found to the west of Bright Angel lodge, both of these structures on the canyon’s rim are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kolb Studio is now a bookstore, and its auditorium plays host to special exhibits, while Lookout Studio, it features a souvenir shop and two lookout points. Other attractions to check out include the splendid Yavapai Geology Museum and the Tusayan Museum. The former can be found near Grand Canyon Village, while the latter is found out near Desert View.
Grand Canyon South Rim Trails
Aside from the historical and cultural attractions, no discussion about the Grand Canyon South Rim would be complete without also making mention of its hiking trails. These are some of the most beautiful and most popular in the Southwest. The Grand Canyon trails include the Rim Trail, which runs along the edge of the South Rim; one of the best portions of this trail heads west out of the village along Hermit Road. As for delving into the depths of the canyon, that is where such trails as the Bright Angel Trail, the South Kaibab Trail, the Grandview Trail, and the Hermit Trail come in—they offer various options to descend from the rim of the cabin to the river, but many are challenging, so be sure to plan ahead.
Grand Canyon South Rim Lodging
Regarding lodging, the El Tovar Hotel (pictured) is the premier option in the area. Other options for South Rim hotels that are found within Grand Canyon National Park include the Bright Angel Lodge, the Maswik Lodge, the Thunderbird Lodge, the Kachina Lodge, and the Yavapai Lodge. If you don’t mind staying outside of the park, then you might turn to Tusayan. This town near the south entrance of Grand Canyon National Park is home to several hotels. Travelers should also know that Tusayan is where you will find the Grand Canyon National Park Airport.
To get to the Grand Canyon South Rim, the majority of drivers take Route 64 to the south entrance. This road is linked to Interstate 40 at Williams. It is also connected to Highway 180, which leads down to Flagstaff. The other option involves driving to the less busy east entrance. This entrance at Desert View can be reached by taking Highway 89 north out of Flagstaff and then hopping on Route 64 in the Painted Desert area. Once in Grand Canyon National Park, it is possible to rely on free shuttles for getting around much of the South Rim area. If you want to fly to the area, no airport is closer to the South Rim than the Grand Canyon National Park Airport, but tickets here are typically expensive, so most air travelers arrive at one of Arizona’s big city airports (usually Phoenix) and rent a car to drive to the park.