Is one day enough to cover the great Grand Canyon scenic beauty? I am sure everyone who plans to visit the Grand Canyon National Park must be wondering about this question. The answer is yes, you can! Here is the ideal one-day itinerary one can plan with a group of friends, family, or even a solo trip. I personally do not recommend any hikes for a one-day trip to the Grand Canyon National Park.
The Grand Canyon National Park is located 2 hrs drive from Flagstaff and 4 hrs drive from Phoenix, AZ. The drive from Flagstaff to the park is breathtaking which offers widespread views of red rocks (via Cameron, AZ).
There are two entrances for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
- South Entrance: this is the main entrance of the national park and is usually crowded during peak season and weekends. It may take up to 30–60 minutes just for the entry. A few miles before the entrance, the route offers some major food chain outlets like McDonald's, Wendy’s, Starbucks, and so on in the town of Tusayan. (Route)
- East Entrance: this is the secondary entrance (considerably small entrance) but it attracts less crowd. (Route)
The roads will vary depending on the entry point you choose. I would recommend choosing the East Entrance. There are added benefits of choosing this option.
Grand Canyon East Entrance:
Reach Flagstaff early in the morning for heavy breakfast. There are several options in Flagstaff, but my personal favorite is Mike & Ronda’s The Place Restaurant East which offers a lot of healthy breakfast options. The restaurant is on the way to the Grand Canyon National Park East Entrance via Cameron. This route does not offer any good restaurants until you reach Grand Canyon National Park.
The road from Cameron (a small historic town in Arizona) to East Entrance offers good scenic views of red rocks, flatlands, and lonely roads. Tourists do not tend to enter the park through this entrance which makes it an ideal entry point without wasting your valuable time.
Tip: Please make sure you have offline maps available on your mobile device. It will help you to commute better inside the park.
Desert View Watchtower Point
As soon as you enter the park, after 500m you will witness the first canyon overlook point: Desert View Watchtower point. This is the only point from where you get the side view of the canyon. The watchtower is a 7 story tower that offers a great panoramic view of the Canyon and the Colorado River. But unfortunately, it is closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic (last updated: 25th April 2021). Please check their website for the latest information.
Mather and Yavapai Point
Driving west from the Desert Viewpoint, the Mather point is around 30 mins drive by car. This is the most popular canyon overlook point in the Grand Canyon National Park. There is plenty of room for parking. Park your vehicle, grab some snacks, water, tripod, camera….. and head to the Mather point overlook for some breathtaking views.
The Canyon Trail connects Mather point to Yavapai point. Take this trail to explore slight variations of the canyon view. It will hardly take 15 mins to reach Yavapai point by walk. Walk back to the Mather point and explore Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Close to the visitor center, Mather Point Cafe is a good option to buy some packed lunch and coffee. Utilize this opportunity to regain your energy for rest of the day.
After a short lunch break, head towards Hermit Road. Park your vehicle in the nearby available parking space. Hermit Road is closed for private vehicles from March — November. The park runs a Red-line bus service for tourists to access the West Rim of the canyon. The frequency of the buses is pretty good (10–15 mins). Board the bus from Hermit road bus stop bound towards Hermit Rest.
Hopi Point is the 4th stop on this route. Fewer tourists tend to take this route due to forbidden access to private vehicles during peak times. This makes the route less crowded and one can enjoy the west rim canyon views in peace. Sit back, relax, and watch how the shadows make the canyon more beautiful. It is an amazing spot to witness the beauty of the sunset. The last bus operates after one hour of sunset. If you have time, you can explore Pima Point and Hermit Rest Point.
The village-bound bus does not stop at every point. Walk 5 minutes to Powell point from Hopi Point to board the return bus.
This pretty much covers everything the Grand Canyon National Park has to offer. While returning, take the South Entrance to exit the park. If interested, stop at the Grand Canyon National Park Sign to click some good pictures.
Just a couple of miles from the sign, you can enjoy some snacks or dinner along with good coffee in the town of Tusayan.
Here is the route guide of the itinerary: (Complete Route)
This is my recommended route to explore the Grand Canyon National Park. However, if you are traveling from Los Angeles or Las Vegas, probably it will be better to enter the park from the South Entrance. In this case, just reverse the itinerary and you will still enjoy the great Grand Canyon National Park.
I tried to cover all the things I can. Let me know if I missed anything or if you need some more information in the comments below.