The Ultimate Grand Canyon South Rim Travel Guide
Welcome to the Grand Canyon South Rim! People have been fascinated by the beauty and majesty of this natural wonder since the Ancient Puebloans settled here in 1100 AD.
There are four Rims of the Grand Canyon: East, West, North and South, and each is a destination unto itself. The East Rim starts around Cameron, Arizona and spans all the way to Page, Arizona. The majority of it belongs to the Navajo Nation, and although it’s not all sweeping views of the Colorado River, Shaka Guide offers a separate East Rim tour that will take you to some pretty unique and spectacular places. Grand Canyon’s West Rim is only about 2 hours east of Las Vegas, and its most famous feature is the Grand Canyon West Skywalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that extends 70 feet out over the rim and gives you a clear view straight down into the Canyon below!
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is the South Rim’s lesser-visited–but no less awe-inspiring–little sister. The North Rim sees only about 10% of the visitors on the South Rim. That could be because it’s only open May-October and closes in the winter. Even though it’s only a day’s hike across the canyon from South Rim to North Rim, only experienced hikers should ever attempt it. The rest of us can drive to the North Rim, but it will take about 5 hours to get there. (There is also a Rim-to-Rim shuttle that runs on a limited basis during peak season. Check out Shaka Guide’s Shuttle Routes guide for more information). If you have the time and you’re here during the North Rim season, you should definitely check it out!
The Grand Canyon’s most popular–and populated– Rim is the South Rim. At 1.2 million acres, it’s actually larger than the entire state of Rhode Island! It sees nearly six million visitors each year, so as you can imagine, things get pretty busy. There’s so much to see and do, in fact, that it’s hard to know where to start! Not to worry; Shaka Guide has you covered. We’ve created a handy guide to make your bucket-list trip the best it can be. And, when you’re ready to explore the South Rim, check out our Grand Canyon South Rim Tour. With over 25 unique stops you won’t miss a thing!
Here’s what you’ll find in this guide:
- Getting to the Park
- Getting Around
- Where to Stay
- When to Visit
- Things to Do
- Where to Eat
RELATED: Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim Tour Itinerary
Getting to Grand Canyon South Rim by Car:
These are the most common driving routes to get to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.
- From Las Vegas: Highway 93 S to Kingman, Arizona, then follow I-40 E to Williams, Arizona. Take exit 161 to Old Route 66
- From Denver, CO: Take I-25 S to Albuquerque, NM, then follow I-40 W to Williams, AZ. Take exit 165 to Old Route 66
- From Salt Lake City: UT: I-15 South to Cedar City, then take Highway 14 E to Highway 89 S. Follow 89 S to Kanab, then continue on 89 S through Page, AZ.
Closest Airports to Grand Canyon South Rim:
Flagstaff Pulliam Airport: about 40 minutes away, this is the closest airport to the Grand Canyon.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: about 4 hours away from the South Rim.
Las Vegas McCarran International Airport: about 5 hours away from the South Rim.
Salt Lake City International Airport: about 8 hours away from the South Rim.
There are also two regional airports that don’t offer direct flights, but if you’re planning on visiting a few national parks – particularly Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, these two might be good options.
- Cedar City Regional Airport, Cedar City, UT: about 4 hours and 45 minutes away from the South Rim
- St. George Regional Airport, St. George, UT: about 4 and a half hours
With Shaka Guide:
If you’re taking Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim tour it has four convenient starting points:
- Old Route 66 in Williams, AZ
- Highway 180 W in Flagstaff, AZ
- Highway 89 N in Flagstaff, AZ
- Highway 89 S in Page, AZ
We’ll guide you to the park’s entrance with stories and directions along the way!
The biggest question most people have is: if I drive to the Grand Canyon, will I find parking?
The answer is maybe.
Let us level with you: the South Rim of the Canyon can get pretty busy, and finding a place to park the car can be quite the undertaking. While our app gives you lots of helpful tips for parking en route, here’s what to expect
- ARRIVE EARLY. Parking tends to be scarce from about 9 A.M. to 6 P.M.
- There are two main parking areas on the South Rim:
- The first is over by Mather Point and the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. There, you’ll find several parking lots. If you want to leave the car there and explore the rest of the rim, either walk along the Rim Trail or catch the shuttle to Grand Canyon Village.
- Alternatively, you may choose to park in the village and explore from there. Parking can be found along the Village Loop drive or in parking lots around the village itself.
Here at Shaka Guide, these are our two biggest tips for getting around the South Rim:
- If you find a spot, hang onto it!
- Use the shuttle system when possible
Check out our Grand Canyon Shuttle Guide for more information.
- If you’re able to, walking the Rim Trail is probably the best, stress-free way to see the Canyon. The Rim trail stretches across 12 miles of the Grand Canyon; from the South Kaibab Trailhead on Desert View Drive to Hermit’s Rest. Of course, there is always the possibility of walking the rim until you get tired, then hopping on the shuttles to bring you back to your car.
RELATED: Top 16 Grand Canyon South Rim Hikes
Where to Stay
There are a variety of accommodation options in and around the south rim of the Grand Canyon, depending on your budget and preference. Let’s break them down:
Lodging Inside the Park:
- El Tovar Hotel
The historic El Tovar is the oldest hotel still in operation at the South Rim. Naturally, it’s the most popular. El Tovar is home to luxury accommodations, fine dining, and front-door access to the Canyon! If you’re interested in staying in the same hotel as the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and Oprah Winfrey, call (888) 297-2757
- Bright Angel Lodge
- Maswik Lodge
- Thunderbird Lodge
- Kachina Lodge
Built in the 1960s, the Kachina Lodge is the “newest” lodging option on the South Rim. The lodge is right on the rim at the Grand Canyon Village, so you’ll be within walking distance to over 100 years of history!
Lodging Inside the Canyon
- Phantom Ranch
Yes, it’s possible to stay at the bottom of the Grand Canyon! Phantom Ranch was designed by the famed Mary Colter as one of the original lodging buildings at the park and was once a favorite of President Teddy Roosevelt! Because of its remote location, Phantom Ranch is only accessible by mule trip or hike and takes nearly a half day to get to. Be sure to check the website for further details and booking information.
Lodging in Tusayan
Three-diamond luxury hotel that’s described as “rustic elegance.” The Grand Hotel offers an indoor pool, hot tub, in house dining and more.
A budget-friendly lodging option with a very highly recommended breakfast buffet!
Lodging in Williams, AZ
Williams is right in the heart of Old Route 66, and there are plenty of lodging options to fit every budget. Check out the Williams town website: https://experiencewilliams.com/lodging-in-williams/
Of course, we here at Shaka Guide do tend to play favorites, and we highly recommend The Motel 6 West.If you’re looking for just the basics: clean, comfortable rooms, morning coffee, friendly staff, and an indoor pool for under $100 per night, the Motel 6 is your place! It’s also one of the only pet-friendly lodging options in the area.
Lodging in Flagstaff, AZ
Flagstaff is chock-full of chain hotels and motels to fit every budget. Check out https://www.flagstaff.com/where-to-stay for more information.
If you’re looking for a more unique lodging experience, though, here are three popular options:
Situated among the Ponderosa pines of the Coconino National Forest, Little America offers luxury rooms, conference space, fine dining, pool and fitness center and seasonal events.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to stay in a yurt? Have you ever wondered what a yurt was? Arizona Nordic Village sits at the base of the San Francisco Peaks just off of Highway 180 (and just about at the start of Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim tour!). It offers cabins and yurts year-round for a unique lodging experience.
There are some amazing AirBnB options in the Flagstaff area, but we’re partial to this one. Why? Besides the fact that it’s cute, comfortable, pet-friendly and just minutes from Old Route 66, hosts Danika and David are just about the friendliest hosts you’ll ever meet, and they’ll be as available (or unavailable, if you’re not a fan of interacting with strangers) as you’d like.
Lodging in Page, AZ
See Shaka Guide’s East Rim tour (coming soon!)
Camping is another great option when you’re visiting the Grand Canyon. Here are the options inside the park:
49 campsites at the East end of the park. The campsites can accommodate tents, small RVs, or vehicles with smaller trailers attached. There are no dump sites or hookups, and reservations are required (you can make them here: www.recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777). The National Park service encourages campers to make reservations in advance, especially during the peak season of April through October.
Located in the heart of the Grand Canyon Village, Mather Campground has 327 sites that include a campfire ring/cooking grate, picnic table and parking space. There are no RV hookups here, but a free dump site is available. There are also flush toilets, showers and drinking water. Reservations can be made here: https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/232490
Trailer Village is the only RV campground in the park. There are 123 hookup sites, dump station, flush toilets, showers and laundry access. The site is open year-round, and reservations can be made here: https://www.visitgrandcanyon.com/trailer-village-rv-park
At the Grand Canyon, “backcountry” generally means “at the bottom of the canyon.” That means unless you’re an experienced hiker with wilderness training, you may want to stick to campsites above the rim. There are several campsites along the trails leading into the canyon:
- Bright Angel Campground: located along Bright Angel Creek
- Indian Garden Campground: located 4.4 miles down the Bright Angel Trail
Permits are required for backcountry camping at the Grand Canyon. Please visit the National Park Service website for more information on permits and familiarization on the rules and regulations: https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm
When to Visit
The Grand Canyon’s South Rim is the second most visited national park in America, so the plain truth is that it is going to be busy pretty much year-round. However, there are some times of year that are better than others to visit.
March through May is the spring season at Grand Canyon, and many visitors say that this is the best time to visit the South Rim. The weather is cool in the mornings and after sunset, but it generally stays in the mid-60s to 70s during daylight hours. The viewpoints will be slightly crowded, but this is ideal weather for hiking. If you plan on venturing onto the more difficult trails below the Rim, spring is the right time to visit the Grand Canyon.
Plan your trip carefully, though, because the South Rim is a popular destination during Spring Break season (mid-March through mid-April) and can get extremely busy during those times. Check for updates here: https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/sr-tips.htm
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon sees the majority of its visitors during June, July and August. The downside of visiting during the summer is that the park will be extremely crowded, and wait times for parking, shuttles, and even scenic viewpoints can be frustratingly long. The best thing to do if you’re visiting during the summer is to decide what you want to see and do in advance and take advantage of the shuttle system. The plus side is that, in the summer, the days are longer and the park rangers provide a large variety of guided activities and events like the Grand Canyon Star Party every June.
Just like in springtime, the fall temperatures at the South Rim are ideal for longer hikes down into the canyon. After September, the crowds start to thin, and you’ll have more opportunities to enjoy the scenic views and historical buildings without feeling like a sardine in a can. An added bonus to visiting in the fall months is the abundance of wildlife that comes out to play! With fewer crowds, you’re most likely to see pronghorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and more. You’ll also be able to experience some Grand Canyon traditions like the Grand Canyon Music Festival and the Grand Canyon Celebration of the Arts September, and Native American Heritage Days in November.
Some people call December through the end of February “The Secret Season” at the Grand Canyon, because the crowds disperse but the beauty of the Canyon does not. Wildlife is abundant, and the sunrises, sunsets and stargazing are stunning. Weather during the day is a bit chilly–expect highs in the mid-40s– and can dip below zero after the sun goes down. Snow is a possibility, too, so if you’re hiking during these times, remember to check the ranger station for trail conditions and pack accordingly. Another plus? Hermit Road is open to private vehicles from November to March, so you can take Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim tour at your own pace! Of course, there are two shuttles that run through the village loop, if you prefer to travel that way.
What to Do
When talking about the Grand Canyon, it might be easier to answer the question What ISN’T there to do? Below is a list of activities to keep you occupied for days on end, but it’s only the beginning! If you’d like to learn more, check out Shaka Guide’s Things to Do article.
- Shaka Guide Tour
Our Grand Canyon South Rim Tour takes you to all of the best spots in the Grand Canyon, filling your day with unforgettable songs, stories, and tips to make your trip easier. You’ll be able to appreciate this natural wonder all the more knowing the geology, history, and people behind it.
Check out our hiking guide for all of the details, including our top ten picks!
- Visitor Centers - Vercamps and Mather Point
- Grand Canyon Village
- Ranger Walk/Talks
- Mule rides
- Horseback Riding
Ranging from single day rafting tours to multi-week expeditions, these trips are some of the most exciting, taxing, and memorable experiences the Grand Canyon has to offer. Often, these trips are planned years in advance. To learn more about rafting in the canyon, check out the NPS website
- Jeep/ATV Tours
- Helicopter Tours
check out Papillon Helicopters, its subsidiary Grand Canyon Helicopters, and Maverick Helicopters.
- Nearby Parks
Sunset Crater National Monument and Wupatki National Monument are about 40 minutes south of the park, and they’re a destination in and of themselves. It may just end up being one of the highlights of your trip! Additionally, check out Bedrock Village/Raptor Ranch for a unique museum experience!
RELATED: 20 Things to Do at Grand Canyon South Rim
What to Eat
Fun fact! The Fred Harvey Company – the original concessioners on the South Rim – sold their company to Xanterra Corporation in 1968, and Xanterra has been running the hotels and restaurants ever since. When they took over, Xanterra vowed to keep the Fred Harvey legacy of quality food and great hospitality alive, and they maintain that principle to this day. That means there are plenty of options when it comes to a good meal.
Inside the park
- Bright Angel Bicycles & Café at Mather Point
Prepackaged sandwiches, breakfast burritos, coffee drinks and assorted pastries
- Bright Angel Lodge
- Fred Harvey Burger: open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers casual, diner-style fare
- Arizona Steakhouse: hours vary based on season; serves a variety of salads and entrees. Also has a tavern that serves alcoholic beverages and specialty drinks
- Canyon Village Market & General Store
Breakfast sandwiches and burritos, sandwiches, salads, pizza, full deli and grocery items
- El Tovar Hotel
Gourmet fine dining serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. This menu is pricey with entrees ranging from $15 to $50. They also offer an extensive wine and beer list and mixed drinks
- Hermits Rest Snack Bar
“Grab and go”-style breakfast and lunch fare.Prepackaged sandwiches, cookies, ice cream, trail mix
- Maswik Lodge Food Court
“Grab and go”-style breakfast, lunch and dinner. Prepackaged sandwiches, bagels, fruit and granola bars. They also have a pizza pub that serves pizza, beer and desserts NOTE: CLOSED BETWEEN OF APRIL-JUNE 2022
- Desert View Trading Post
Ice cream parlor and coffee bar! Open daily 9 AM to 5 PM
- Desert View Market
Grocery items and deli. Open daily 9 AM to 5 PM
Outside the Park
There are so many great places to eat in the areas surrounding the Grand Canyon that it would be impossible to compile them all into one list. Here are some of our favorites here at Shaka Guide.
- Grand Canyon Chocolate Factory
469 AZ-64 Suite F, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023
Located in Tusayan just across from the IMAX theater and about 10 minutes from the South Rim entrance gate, the Chocolate Factory offers homemade fudge, candy, specialty coffee drinks and ice cream.
- Tusayan General Store
577 AZ-64, Tusayan, AZ 86023
Part grocery store, part gift shop, and conveniently located right next to the Grand Canyon Chocolate Factory. There is also a Starbucks inside.
- Pine Country Restaurant
107 N. Grand Canyon Blvd Williams, AZ 86046
Pine Country is a little gem nestled deep in the heart of Old Route 66. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but they’re known for their baked goods. Try the giant cinnamon rolls and thank us later!
- Frontier Barbeque and Beer Garden
730 W Rte 66, Williams, AZ 86046
Great food, big portions, delightfully themed cocktails, and an arcade shooting gallery. What more could you want?
- Diablo Burger
120 N. Leroux St Flagstaff, AZ 86001
A burger joint with a twist: organic, free-range beef and locally sourced ingredients. They also happen to officially have the Best Fries in Arizona!
- Macy’s European Coffee House and Bakery
14 S. Beaver St. Flagstaff, AZ 86001
A morning favorite of locals and famous politicians alike!
- Cameron’s Trading Post
466 Hwy 89, Cameron, AZ 86020
Enjoy some tasty traditional american and authentic Navajo dishes! When you’re done, check out all of the local artisanal goods and craftworks in the connected store.
- El Corral on 66
320 W Rte 66, Williams, AZ 86046
Don’t be fooled by its affordable prices! This is some of the highest-quality Mexican food you can have in the area. Be sure to swing by to try their flavorful, fresh entrees!
- Brewed Awakenings Coffee Co
326 W Route 66, Williams, AZ 86046
Brewed Awakenings serves delicious lattes and breakfast and lunch fare in a cozy atmosphere. If you want to enjoy a local roast in a hurry, you can always use their drive-through!
Yes, it is possible to see the Grand Canyon in one day. If you come during the off-season (late autumn to early spring) and decide which viewpoints, hikes and historical landmarks you’d like to see in advance, you will probably be able to see and do everything with minimal wait times and crowds. However, if you visit the South Rim in the middle of the summer season, you might spend a majority of your time waiting in line for shuttles and hunting for parking.
If possible, you should give yourself at least two days to explore everything that the South Rim has to offer, especially if you plan to come in the summer months. Check out Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim itinerary for more information on how to do the Canyon in one, two, or three days.
As my father used to say, “What is it, and how much is it going to cost me?” Here’s a handy breakdown of the estimated costs of visiting the Grand Canyon (not including the cost of travel)
Car rental: $75-$150/day (prices fluctuate based on availability)
Lodging: $65-$300/night (prices vary based on season/availability/hotel rating
Food: $10-$30 per meal
Park Fees: $35 per car for up to 7 days (if you’re visiting multiple parks, you may want to consider purchasing a yearly America the Beautiful pass. Visit https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm for more information)
Parking: Free inside the park
Park Shuttle: Free
Souvenirs: $50-$150 per visit
Bike rentals: $20-$40 per ½ day
Mule tours: $100-200 (gratuity encouraged) per tour
Other specialty tours: $50-300 per tour
RELATED: Know Before You Go, Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon South Rim Tour
Will I have cell service at Grand Canyon?
At some points, yes. It obviously depends on your carrier, but there are some viewpoints at the Grand Canyon that receive a cell signal. The National Park Service does provide free WiFi at most of the visitor centers and public areas of the lodges.
What is the elevation at Grand Canyon?
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is 6,804 feet above sea level
Does it get cold at Grand Canyon?
Yes! Even in the summer months, temperatures can change drastically as the sun goes down. It’s best to dress in layers, especially when hiking.
Are pets allowed on the South Rim?
Leashed pets are allowed on the rim trails. Only service dogs are permitted below the rim. If you need to bring your service dog below the rim, check the Backcountry Information Center first.
How can I reach the Colorado River?
There are a few trails that lead from the South Rim down to the river. Check our hiking guide to get the full scoop.
Are there bathrooms at Grand Canyon?
Yes! There are plenty of facilities in the Grand Canyon Village, the Plaza, Hermit’s Rest and Desert View Watchtower. There are vault toilets at some of the viewpoints along Desert View Drive as well.
Should I use the shuttle at Grand Canyon?
Yes! Check out Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon Shuttle Guide for more information
What is the difference in the South and North Rims of the Grand Canyon?
Of course, each rim of the Grand Canyon offers different hikes, views, and experiences. Expect the South Rim to be much more developed (and crowded) than its northern counterpart.
Can I visit the South and North Rim of the Grand Canyon in one day?
No, not really. The South and North Rims are separated by either a multi-day hike, or a half-day car or shuttle ride.
Get Ready to Explore
Author George Will once wrote: “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.”
Getting to see one of the most iconic, wondrous places in the world is an experience unlike anything else. We here at Shaka Guide hope that your trip is filled with magic and memories! Have a great time, and happy trails!
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