Most people around the world carry a distinct mental image of the Grand Canyon, the image seen on TV, in movies, magazines, and more. But the Grand Canyon isn't just a big hole in the ground - it actually stretches an incredible 277 miles across Arizona's changing landscape. From desert hills to ancient volcanoes to lush pines in the Kaibab National Forest, there are many regions offering different canyon perspectives and surrounding nature.
If you're planning your first trip to the Grand Canyon, you may feel overwhelmed at the number of sights and activities available and may be concerned about "missing out" on some aspects by travelling to a certain region over another. The bottom line is this: you can't see the entire Grand Canyon in a day. However, no matter how much time you have or which region you choose to visit, life-changing sightseeing opportunities await you.
So whether you're travelling to the Grand Canyon National Park, the West Rim, North Canyon, or even beyond to Page and Lake Powell, our must-see list will help you plan your sightseeing journey each step of the way.
The Grand Canyon National Park, despite common misconception, does not cover the entire Grand Canyon. About a 4-hour drive or 2-hour flight from Las Vegas, the national park is located in the southern region of the canyon, more popularly known as the South Rim. This region is the most developed - and subsequently the most visited and consistently busy. The weather here tends to be mild but winter visitors will often find a gorgeous sprinkling of snow with the massive canyon gorges.
Grand Canyon Village
If you wander down the paved walkway of the South Rim, you'll see the magnificent Grand Canyon to one side and to the other you'll find the Grand Canyon Village. Grand Canyon Village is a small and thriving district nestled along the edge of the canyon. Here you'll find a plethora of historic buildings - several of which were designed by early 1900s-architect Mary Colter. From quaint gift shops and legendary art galleries to restaurants and bars, as well as some educational exhibits, the Grand Canyon Village is the perfect place to rest during a long day of sightseeing.
There are several hotels located within the Grand Canyon Village, each offering a different theme through their decor and architecture. Several of these hotels even offer rooms with canyon views. More information about Grand Canyon National Park hotels is available in our hotel and lodging post here.
Desert View Watchtower
This 70-ft-tall cylindrical structure was designed nearly 90 years ago by renowned American architect Mary Colter. Inspired by the earthy constructions of Native Americans, Colter's work very frequently incorporated their styles and materials to create modern buildings in the early to mid-1900s. Desert View Watchtower even includes wall decor and a ceiling mural inspired by Native American artwork. Climb to the top and discover 360-degree views of the South Rim from the windows of this pueblo-inspired building.
This is the viewpoint nearest the national park entrance, making it typically the first stop for sightseers upon arrival. The large railed-off viewing area allows visitors to stand right at the edge of the rim and take in fantastic sights of the striped canyon walls. This is a great area to start your sightseeing because the Rim Trail leads both left and right of Mather Point across the canyon's edge.
Not far from Mather Point heading westward is Yavapai point, offering an incredible view of the canyon walls across the entire horizon and down to the Colorado River below. Also at Yavapai is an observatory featuring a geology museum. You can learn about the many varieties of stone that layered atop one another for millions of years to form the striped canyon walls you see right from the observatory windows.