After decades of lesser designations, Grand Canyon National Park was finally established in 1919 and it was designed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. The vast park covers 1,902 square miles (4,926 square km) and its centerpiece is a winding, dramatic canyon that’s 1 mile (1.6 km) deep and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide. The Colorado River, which carved the canyon, travels 277 miles (446 km) through the park. In 2017, more than 6 million people visited Grand Canyon National Park. Ninety percent of them visited the South Rim, a fraction visited the North Rim, and less than 10,000 people visited the Toroweap area. We’ve explored all areas of the park during three separate visits, including hikes to the bottom of the canyon from the South Rim and from the North Rim. We celebrate the 100th birthday of Grand Canyon National Park with our very best shots of her beauty, and some Grand Canyon National Park travel tips to help you see it all too.

Maricopa Point Grand Canyon National Park

Maricopa Point in Grand Canyon National Park.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon

There’s a reason most people visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon: accessibility. The South Rim is less than an hour off the Interstate and 80 miles (128 km) from Flagstaff, Arizona. You can even take the Grand Canyon Railway tourist train right to the South Rim. Located at 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), the South Rim is also open year-round (the North Rim closes seasonally) and there are a number of hotels and restaurants on offer as well.

South Rim Grand Canyon National Park travel tips

Even if you are only visiting the South Rim, make sure you get beyond the busy viewpoints between The Village and the Visitor Center. For example, Desert View Drive covers 32 miles (51 km) between Hermits Rest (located 7 miles / 11 km west of The Village) and Desert View (located 25 miles / 41 km east of The Village) and includes more than 20 developed viewpoints and other sites that deliver canyon views that exceed those you get near The Village. Here are some of the best views of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Kolb Studio Grand Canyon National Park

Kolb Studio and viewpoint in the heart of Grand Canyon Village.

Sunset Grand Canyon National Park

Sunset in Grand Canyon National Park.

Grand Canyon view across bright angel

This view, from the South Rim near Grand Canyon Village, shows the North Rim in the distance and Bright Angel Trail below.

Desert view watchtower Grand Canyon

The Desert View Watchtower.

Pima Point colorado river grand canyon

Pima Point is one of the few places where you can see the Colorado River from the rim of the canyon.

Maricopa point grand canyon national park

The view from Maricopa Point across to the North Rim of the canyon.

Abyss viewpoint Grand Canyon National Park

The Abyss drops 3,000 feet (914 meters) to the Tonto Plateau in the middle of the canyon.

South Kaibab trail Grand Canyon

That’s the South Kaibab Trail snaking down into the Grand Canyon.

Yaki Point Grand Canyon National Park

The view from Yaki Point near the beginning of the South Kaibab Trail.

Grand Canyon Snow

A dusting of snow transforms the Grand Canyon, but the sun soon melts it away.

North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Even though the South Rim Visitor’s Center and North Rim Visitor’s Center are separated by exactly 10 miles (16 km), the North Rim is a shocking 210 miles (338 km) and 4 hour drive by car, or 21 miles (34 km) by foot across the canyon by way of the North and South Kaibab Trails. The North Rim is at an average of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters)  and, due to its remote location and greater snowfall, the North Rim is only open about five months per year, usually from mid-May to mid-October.

North Rim Grand Canyon National Park travel tips

Unlike the South Rim, the North Rim doesn’t have one easy and convenient drive that covers all of the viewpoints. Bright Angel View is near the Visitor Center, but the other North Rim viewpoints are off side roads. Some, like our favorites Cape Royal and Angels Window, are an hour’s drive away. As you can see, it’s all worth it.

Angels Window Grand Canyon National Park

We think this view through Angels Window, above, and the view from Cape Royal are two of the best viewpoints in Grand Canyon National Park.

Cape Royal view Canyon National Park

The canyon view from Cape Royal is stunning.

Sunset on Brahma Temple Grand Canyon

Sunset on Brahma Temple in the Grand Canyon.

Point Imperial North Rim Canyon

Point Imperial on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Bright Angel View Grand Canyon North Rim

You get this view from Bright Angel Point near the North Rim Visitor Center.

Freya Castle Grand Canyon

Freya Castle in the Grand Canyon.

Inside the Grand Canyon

To truly see the beauty of the Grand Canyon you need to dip below the rim and that means hitting the trail, bouncing on the back of a mule, or spending 12-18 days rafting the Colorado River.

Grand Canyon hiking tips

We’ve hiked to Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the canyon at 2,480 feet (756 meters), from the South Rim via the South Kaibab Trail down and the Bright Angel Trail back up, and from the North Rim via the North Kaibab Trail down and back up. These hikes are not easy since the elevation change from the South Rim to the bottom is 4,460 feet (1,360 meters), and 5,850 feet (1,780 meters) from the North Rim. However, the effort is worth it.

Hike South Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon

Karen on the South Kaibab Trail into the Grand Canyon.

Zoroaster Temple Grand Canyon

Zoroaster Temple rising above the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Tonto Platform Grand Canyon

Descending to the Tonto Platform from the South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park.

mule train grand canyon

Mule trains bring supplies and even people down to Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor.

Plateau Point Grand Canyon

Plateau Point near Indian Garden Campground on the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Colorado River Grand Canyon

The Colorado River from the Bright Angel Trail with Zoroaster Temple towering above.

Grand Canyon river rafting

Rafters pass under the Kaibab Suspension Bridge which crosses the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Phantom Ranch Grand Canyon

Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.


You likely will see fewer than a dozen people if you visit the Toroweap (sometimes called Tuweep) area of Grand Canyon National Park. When we visited Toroweap we saw just four other people there.

Toroweap Grand Canyon National Park travel tips

This remote and little-visited corner of the park is a 5-hour drive from the North Rim Visitor Center and more than 7 hours from the South Rim. That is, of course, if you don’t get a flat along the terrible 60 miles (96 km) of dirt road into the Toroweap area. There are no services, no ranger station, and no water in the peaceful but basic campground. There are a few short trails in this area, but the real attraction is Toroweap Overlook which sits 3,000 sheer vertical feet (880 meters) above the Colorado River. Take a look.

Toroweap Overlook Grand Canyon

Sunset from Toroweap Overlook.

Here’s more about travel to US National Parks & Monuments

Here’s more about travel in the USA

See all of our Photo Essays


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