Exploring the Beautiful South Rim of the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. Anyone planning a summer road trip out West should plan for a dedicated trip, or at least a day visit, to this marvel of nature. This amazing sight is 1 mile deep, 18 miles wide, and 277 feet wide. Although the oldest rocks found at the bottom of the canyon are approximately 2000 million years old, the canyon itself formed about 5-6 million years ago.
The North vs. South Rim
The Colorado River divides the Canyon into the North and South Rim. The South Rim stands at an elevation of 7000 feet and is more popular due to the year-round access, while the 8000 foot North Rim is closed during the winter season due to snowy roads. The North Rim’s off season goes from October 15th-May 1st (may be open for day use depending on road conditions along Hwy 67, however, all food and lodging will be closed), severely limiting visits as most tourists travel during the summer season. Even though the distance across the Canyon is only 10 short miles, the driving distance between the 2 rims is 215 miles -5 hours!
Luckily, the South Rim is the more scenic of the 2, more easily accessible, and home to more attraction. Don’t worry if you can’t plan a vacation to the North Rim due to the limited season. There is more than enough to do at the scenic South Rim. Below, I have organized a handy guide of attractions, lodging, transportation options, plus other helpful tips for your visit.
South Rim Attractions
There are many attractions at the Grand Canyon South Rim, and that is why a single day visit is just not enough time to explore everything. Listed below are most of the major attractions/things to do at the South Rim. Be aware that many activities require advance planning and registration.
Grand Canyon Historic Village – Within this section of the park, you will find many historic landmarks including the Hopi House, the Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio, the Grand Canyon Train Depot, El Tovar, Bucky O’Neils cabin, and the Red Horse cabin. Many of these beautiful buildings are located on the National Register of Historic Places. Any history buff will want to check out the Bucky O’Neil cabin, built in the 1890’s, making it the oldest standing structure at the canyon.
The Rim Trail – The Rim trail is a 13 mile hike from the South Kalibab trailhead to Hermit’s Rest. You can walk as little or as much as you like as free bus shuttles are conveniently located every mile or so along the route. Whenever you tire, just take the shuttle back. There are many wonderful scenic overlooks, several museums, and an interpretative Trail of Time to keep you busy along the way.
Trail of Time – This 1 mile interpretive trail, located between the Verkamp’s Visitor Center and the Museum of Geology on the Rim Trail, gives you the opportunity to see million+ year old rocks from the canyon, and of course, take in more fantastic views of the canyon via all different viewpoints.
Mule rides – One of the most unique ways to explore the gorgeous scenery is by booking a mule ride, which will take you along the rim or down into the canyon. Trips fill up fast, so plan in advance to get your desired date. Check out the variety of mule rides available at the South Rim. Note that these rides, while scenic, are quite expensive, and hiking the canyon offers better views and a better workout!
Helicopter tours – Maverick Tours offers 45 min tours which departs from the South Rim. Although pricey at $349 per person, it’s a small price to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Whitewater Rafting – What could be more exciting than rafting down the Colorado River while taking in the breathtaking scenery of the canyon? Single-21 day adventure trips are available, many of which include hiking and camping. Learn more about the variety of canyon rafting trips available.
Lookout Studio – This gift shop, located on the edge of the rim, provides a prime location for photos. If you are severely limited on time, it’s one of the best scenic overlooks for quick views of the canyon.