Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hotels.com to bring forth some of the stunning wanderlust destinations in the USA. As always the opinions and ideas are my own.
Need one day in Grand Canyon itinerary ideas? You are at the right spot. In this post, we will uncover the best things to do in Grand Canyon for a day, including hiking trails, historical centres and museums.
Grand Canyon National Park is located in the USA, in the state of Arizona. It is one of the bucket list items that you must visit once in your lifetime! The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the greatest on-going geological gems.
Its history can be traced back to 2 billion years, and the landscape covers four major geologic eras and many historical and cultural remnants.
One Day in Grand Canyon Itinerary: Planning Tips
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Note: As travel today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. If you are planning to travel this time, remember to wear a face mask, and wash your hands often. Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures, and status of local businesses.
Is one day in Grand Canyon enough?
If your goal is to check off a USA bucket list item, a day in Grand Canyon is enough. Both the South and West Rim of the Grand Canyon are designed to help visitors soak in the views of this natural wonder very easily (Mather Point, Visitor Center, SkyWalk to name a few). No full day hikes are necessary, as all the viewing platforms are quite accessible to all.
Just ensure you stay in a hotel which is near the south or west rim so that you have a FULL day of sightseeing.
It’s important to know that the entire National Park is huge, and a day at the Grand Canyon is NOT enough to explore all of it. But IT IS enough to get a taste of the park’s highlights and some key scenic viewpoints.
As you go through this itinerary, we will share easy hikes, drives, and attractions options to choose from so that you can make the most of your day trip to Grand Canyon.
Planning for your trip to Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon National Park can be accessed from many entrances. Out of them all, south, north and west rim are the most popular. Depending on your length of stay and interests you can choose the side that works best for you.
For a quick one day itinerary to the Grand Canyon with short hiking, history, and nature adventure opt for the south rim. It is one of our favorites too. You can reach Grand Canyon south rim from Las Vegas, Flagstaff, and Sedona by road. Ensure you start your trip early to utilize the entire day.
For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the south rim, which is filled with over 22 – 24 scenic viewpoints. And is one of the most easily accessible as well as recognizable/iconic part of the Canyons. Many of the popular hiking trails including the Bright Angel’s Landing Trail, Hermit trail are located on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
One of the great things about Grand Canyon South Rim is that it is also accessible at all times of the year. Yes, in the winter too! We visited the park in November and the weather was great for exploring.
Summers can get too hot and crowded here. Note that as South rim is popular, it is also very crowded during peak seasons.
Still not convinced, check out our detailed guide on Grand Canyon rims on which side to visit
Many tour operators offer day tours to the Grand Canyon South Rim, with time to explore the Route 66 and the Hoover Dam (for a photo stop), before exploring the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Whether it’s a guided tour or you are embarking on your own, here are some important items to pack and carry with you
Packing Tips for Grand Canyon
- Hiking shoes/boots – To enjoy the National Park’s walkways and hiking trails, it is recommended that you use hiking shoes. Buy hiking shoes from REI here
- Hiking socks – Hiking socks are equally important to protect your feet. Choose one that has breathable and moisture licking fabric. Buy your hiking socks here.
- Hiking Poles – Certain areas of the trail pathway are uneven to hike, use hiking poles. Buy hiking poles here.
- Compass – For directions. Buy compass here
- First Aid Kit – Carry a standard first aid kit for minor bruises or cuts. Buy a first aid kit for your trip here
- Day-pack – We recommend carrying a day-pack to store your gear and clothes in a handy day-pack. Buy this hiking day-pack that is trusted by many
- Light waterproof jacket – Evenings could get a little chilly and if you are enjoying an evening hike back or a sunset tour, do carry a waterproof jacket. Here are our favorites
- Water bottle – There are many streams from where you can fill water for a day hike at the Grand Canyon National Park. We recommend using something with an in-built filter. Buy a water bottle with filter here
- Sunscreen – Sunscreens are a must. Buy my favorite Vichy sunscreen with SPF
- Bug spray – Click here to buy bug sprays for your trip
- Camera – We love to carry our Sony alpha mirrorless camera. Buy your mirrorless camera here
Arrive at Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
The nearest airport to the Grand Canyon south rim is Flagstaff/Pulliam (FLG), about 90 minutes from the park entrance. If exploring Grand Canyon is the only agenda then fly to this airport, stay nearby for the night and then start exploring the next day.
Las Vegas Airport is a popular entry point for many travelers. However it takes about 4.25 hours (one way) to reach the Grand Canyon south rim from Vegas. We recommend taking a full day tour if you are starting from Las Vegas; that way you don’t have to drive all the way. Plus you can see the Canyons, learn about its history, drive Route 66, and even check out the Hoover Dam.
This full-day bus tour is a good value package with a full-day tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. It includes pick up and return service from most Las Vegas Hotels, and gives you 3 hours of self-exploration at Grand Canyon south rim (you can go on a light hike here).
Also included are views of the Canyon from the South Rim at Mather Point and Bright Angel Visitors Center. Plus light breakfast and lunch are part of the package!
|Tour Type||What is included|
|Bus Tour||✔ Hoover Dam, Mather Point, Bright Angel, Route 66|
✔ 14-15 hrs
|Bus & Heli Tour||✔Mather Point, Bright Angel|
✔ Boxed lunch
✔ 8 hrs
|Helicopter Tour||✔ Hoover Dam, Lake Mead |
✔ Fortification Hill, Hualapai, Black Canyon, Colorado River
✔ 4.5 hrs
✔ Quick & easy
|Private Tour||✔ Perfect for groups|
✔ Route can be customized
✔ 10-14 hrs
|Jeep Tour||✔ South Rim, Desert View Watchtower, Indian Ruin Site|
✔ 3 hrs
(pick up/drop off not included)
Grand Canyon west rim is closer than its southern counterpart from Las Vegas. The popular Skywalk tourist attraction is also on the west rim. You can drive down here, or opt for a full day tour.
If you are driving to Grand Canyon south rim yourself, follow this itinerary below. We have included some add-on tour options below so that you make the most of your visit – a short hike, lovely sunrise or sunset, history and natural wonders on your Grand Canyon 1 day itinerary.
Admission or entrance fees for Grand Canyon National Park is as follows
- Grand Canyon National Park Vehicle Permit – $35 USD (for one single, private, non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers, up to a 15 person passenger van).
- Grand Canyon National Park Individual Permit – $20/person USD (valid for an individual when entering by foot, bicycle, park shuttle bus, Grand Canyon Railway and private rafting trip).
- Individuals 15 years old and younger are admitted free of charge.
- National Park is open for 7 days, and the South Entrance is open 24 hours/day.
- If you visit National Parks often, consider purchasing the National Parks Pass – America the Beautiful Pass
Once in, you can park at any of the lots 1,2,3,4 at the Visitor Parking Center.
Scenic Desert View Drive – Grand Canyon Itinerary One day – Option 1
This is a great option to kick start your itinerary if you love scenic drives. The Desert View Drive is a 25-mile drive that runs east from Grand Canyon Village and ends near the entrance at Desert View Watchtower (or Indian Watchtower at Desert View). It takes about 4 – 4.50 hours to explore the stunning route.
Make time to stop by these highlights,
- Grandview Point – One of the most picturesque points, where you can see how the Colorado River bends and cuts through the canyons
- Moran Point – At the Moran Point, you can take in views of major rock formations at the canyon’s depth
- Lipan Point – This is another point to see the rare Grand Canyon Supergroup rock strata, as well as Hance Rapid on the Colorado River
- Navajo Point – Navajo Point is the highest point on the South Rim, and this is perfect spot to see the marvellous wonder of the Canyons and photograph it
- Desert View Watchtower (endpoint) – Check out the Desert View Watchtower, a 70-foot-high stone tower here. This is the end point of the drive. You can stop here for a snack, before you drive back to the Grand Canyon Village.
- Tusayan Ruin – Tusayan Ruin is the remains of a small Ancestral Puebloan village (west of Desert View Watchtower)
As mentioned, this is perfect for those who love to enjoy scenic drives, soak in amazing views and take it slow.
Hermit Road Route via Shuttle Bus
If you do not wish to drive, hop on a free Hermit Road Shuttle bus. This bus route stops at 9 scenic viewpoints between Grand Canyon Village and Hermits Rest, a 7 mile road. Note that you cannot drive on this route, but you can only access it on foot, bicycle, or commercial bus tours. You can learn more about the Red Route here – National Park Service
Spend time at the Grand Canyon Village
Once you are back at the Canyon Village from the Desert View drive or the Hermit Road, you should spend time at the visitor center, buy souvenirs, and learn about the national park’s history.
Grand Canyon Village is a historic site where you shop for hiking and camping gear, and also take guided tours.
Sunset Tour of the Hermit Trail
End your one day itinerary with a 3 hour sunset tour of the Hermit Trail, from the Grand Canyon south rim entrance. In this tour, you can see the sun go down on the walls of the Grand Canyon on a memorable Jeep tour. You drove in the morning, so in the evening you can enjoy some hiking.
You will be guided along the Hermits Trail to see fossil beds, and also learn about the history of El Tovar Hotel and Hopi House in the Grand Canyon Village.
Sunrise at Mather Point – Grand Canyon One day Itinerary – Option 2
Here is an alternative option for one day in Grand Canyon itinerary. This one focuses on active/hiking activities.
Once you arrive at the south rim, wait for the sun to go up. Wait for the sun rays to paint the Canyons in wonderful hues. The Mather Point provides one of the MOST scenic views of the Grand Canyon, and it is one which is easily accessible too (without a strenuous hike).
I was awestruck when I saw the mighty Canyons from the viewing platform.
Located near the Mather Point is the Visitor center, and there is also a new rim-side amphitheater for informal ranger programs.
Learn, shop at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center
The visitor center is a nice little area for getting parks related information, including self guided tour maps, bike rentals, souvenir and gift shop. You can also buy a drink/coffee from there, whilst you enjoy the views.
From the Main Visitor Center you can start exploring the Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel Buckey O’Neill Cabin, Hopi House, Lookout Studio, and the Kolb Studio.
Use this opportunity to learn about the Grand Canyon Village and the rustic Grand Canyon Railway Depot.
Explore at the Yavapai Geology Museum
Located at Yavapai Point, between Grand Canyon Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Village is this geology museum. Known for amazing views from its expansive glass windows, this is worth a stop on your one day Grand Canyon itinerary. You can learn about how the Grand Canyon was formed. If interested you can attend a ranger program to learn more about geology.
The Trail of Time
If you have additional time, head to the Trail of Time that runs from the Yavapai Geology Museum to Verkamps Visitor Center. It is an easy trail of 1.7 miles or 2.9 km in length, and is doable in one hour.
Note: You can add this to your list if you have 1 to 3 hour free time on a guided tour to the south rim from Vegas. Do check with the tour guide before you embark on long trails though, so that you don’t miss your bus!
Hike: South Kaibab Trail/Bright Angel Trail
So now we go hiking! We will highlight the top hikes that you can do on the south rim. All of the trails have different turnaround points so you can choose based on the time on your hands (after you have explored Visitor center/Village Museums)
The South Kaibab Trail offers the opportunity to go down into the depths of the Grand Canyon and take in its beauty from the inside out! This is an out-and-back trail, so you can turn around at any time.
It is important to note that passenger vehicles are not allowed at the Kaibab trailhead. You can use a free shuttle which is available from the nearby Visitor Center (and it runs until one hour after sunset).
If you prefer to walk from the Visitor Center, it’s just two miles along the Rim Trail to the Kaibab Trailhead.
- Ooh Aah Point – Hike the trail to Ooh Aah Point and back at 1.8 miles round trip. It has an elevation change of 600 feet. The beauty of this trail are great views of the canyon – both ways. Hiking down you can see the geology of the canyon walls up close, and they are mesmerizing!
- South Kaibab to Cedar Ridge – About one and a half miles from the South Kaibab trailhead, you can enjoy an incredible 360-degree view of the canyon at Cedar Ridge. Distance is 3 miles round-trip.
- Skeleton Point – From Cedar Ridge, continue hiking on to Skeleton Point. This is about three miles from the trailhead (6 miles round trip).
The South Kaibab trail is great for escaping the crowds and taking in the views of this world wonder. Depending on your hiking experience and time, you will definitely feel accomplished after hiking the South Kaibab!
Another well-known hike in the Grand Canyon is the Bright Angel Trail. You can use the two rest stops on the trail, and manage your itinerary accordingly. The first stop is located 1.5 miles into the trail where water is available, only seasonally, and it is a good turn-around point.
And the next rest stop is located 3 miles into the trail (so about1.5 miles after the first stop). Here too water is available seasonally, and it is another great turn around point.
Sunset Views over the Canyons
After a hike, as you make your way back to the Visitor center, relax by the Mather Point and take in sunset views this time!
You can also book a helicopter ride tour in the evening to take those views from up there, and relax!
Top Picks – Grand Canyon Tours
- Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour – This helicopter tour is great as you can soak in the depths of the Grand Canyon in style and comfort from a helicopter. Helicopter flight includes views over Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and the extinct volcano Fortification Hill!
- Las Vegas to South Rim – This Grand Canyon South Rim tour is also popular because you get to make the MOST of your trip by visiting a few other attractions on the way like Hoover Dam, driving through Route 66
- Las Vegas to West Rim Grand Canyon – With stops at Hoover Dam, Eagle Point, SkyWalk, Guano Point. This is a 10 hour Grand Canyon West Rim Tour from Las Vegas, it is the MOST cost-effective way to see the west rim wonders with lunch and breakfast included.
FAQ – More tips for Visiting Grand Canyon in one day itinerary
Question: Is Grand Canyon south rim for all travelers?
Answer: Yes, South Rim Grand Canyon is suitable for all travelers – from experienced hikers to novices, or family traveling with kids.
Question: Which is better – south or north rim?
Answer: It really depends on your sightseeing agenda. The South Rim is widely visited, can be explored at all times of the year and is possible to see the canyons without a strenuous hike. The North Rim is less visited than its southern counterpart, so it is nice for experienced adventurers and photographers. It is, however, not accessible during winters. Again if you are looking to spend only a day in Grand Canyon, head to the south rim.
Question: Which is better – south or west rim?
Answer: We have to say it’s South Rim. And here’s why. The South Rim gives you spectacular views for less money. Whether you join as part of a day tour from Las Vegas or on your own; you can check out the canyons with less effort, and money. The West Rim is less visited, and although stunning the SkyWalk is an expensive affair for those wanting to travel on a budget.
- Admission for Grand Canyon West and Skywalk Starting at $56 USD
- Skywalk only Starting at $26 USD
Question: What to see at the Grand Canyon west rim?
Answer: The showstopper of the West Rim is the Grand Canyon Skywalk, it is a glass bridge that extends into the Canyon, giving you an up close experience. Other attractions include – Eagle Point, Guano Point, fun Jeep Tours, Ziplining, Hualapai Village and River Runners, and of course Helicopter and Aerial View Tours.
We hope you enjoyed our action packed Grand Canyon itinerary. If you need more USA resources, you can check them out below!
More USA Travel Resources:
- Best Airbnbs near Grand Canyon – Stay at one of these Top Airbnb near Grand Canyon
- Las Vegas Guide – 3-day itinerary to Las Vegas and couples guide plus LV Hotels Guide
- USA Winter Guide – Top winter places to visit in the USA including Grand Canyon
- USA Romantic Cities – Perfect couples destinations in the USA
- East Coast – Getaways in the East Coast of the USA
- West Coast – Getaways in the West Coast of the USA
- San Francisco Guide – Read our San Francisco Trip Itinerary
- SF Road Trip Ideas – Embark on these SF Road trips
- Beach Towns in California – Coastal cities & towns in California