Discover Grand Canyon’s South Rim Spectacle in a day. This will be a day return and can be added to the One-Day Highlights itinerary if you have two days to spend. After seeing the viewpoints and attractions from the Village west to Hermits Rest, it’s time to venture east. The 26-mile Desert View Drive (Hwy 64) to at the eastern entrance of the park passes through ponderosa forests with elk and deer and past five viewpoints. Grandview and Moran points face the heart of the canyon with ever-changing views as the shadows dance across the vast formations. Unlike the views from the Village looking across the canyon, the expansive vistas from Lipan, Navajo, and Desert View face down the length of the canyon, often with the river in view.
From the ancient nomadic hunter-gathers to complex pubeloan cultures, humans have lived in the canyon and on the rims for 12,000 years. About 4,000 archeological sites dating back 2,000 years have been found within the park. The best preserved, the Tusayan Pueblo is on Desert View Drive just west of Lipian Point. The excavated rooms and walls indicate that about 30 people lived in the pueblo from 1185 AD to the mid 1200s when a prolonged drought forced the subsistent farmers to migrate. A small museum with artifacts explains the Ancient Puebloan culture and how it spread throughout the Southwest.
Desert View has a campground (seasonal, no utilities), market, gas station, cafeteria and snack bar, Visitor Center, and the Desert View Watchtower, designed by Mary Colter. The tower and gift store, modeled after the stacked-stone construction of Hopi pueblos, is decorated inside with Indian symbols, motifs, and murals.
Return to the Village Visitor Center and take the short walk to see the vista at Mather Point. If you have time take the Orange Route shuttle to Yaki Point (shuttle access only), a popular sunrise viewpoint. The Canyon Vistas mule trail begins at the stables, an easy 4-mile loop hike with views of the canyon.
Don’t miss the Yavapai Point and Geology Museum. You can drive, hike along the rim from the Visitor Center (0.7 mile), or take the Orange Route shuttle. The viewpoint offers panoramic views across the canyon, and the museum tells the story of the canyon’s formation.
The 1.8 billion years of time exposed in the multicolored layers of rock reveal mysteries of the earth’s history still unexplained by geologists. On the “Trail of Time” along the rim trail west to Vercamp’s Visitor Center (1.3 miles), each step equals one million years of the earth’s history. Examples of the rocks from each strata and interpretive markers explain the earth at different eras.