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The Ultimate Grand Canyon One Day Itinerary
Grand Canyon is an unmissable destination.
Follow this Grand Canyon one day itinerary that hits all the park highlights.
Make it fun, not frustrating!
The Grand Canyon One Day Itinerary Map
Photo Credit: NPS
Outline of the Grand Canyon One Day Itinerary
You are going to start the day with a hike along South Kaibab Trail, which is the top best hike in the Grand Canyon.
Marked as # 1 on the map.
Next, you will traverse along Hermit Rest Road and stop at the best viewpoints along Hermit Rest Road.
Marked as # 2 through # 8 on the map.
You will stop at the following best viewpoints along Hermit Road:
- # 2 Maricopa Point
- # 3 Hopi Point
- # 4 Mohave Point
- # 5 The Abyss
- # 6 Pima Point
- # 7 Yavapi Point
- # 8 Mather Point
Finally, you will take Desert View Drive and hit all the best viewpoints.
Marked as # 9 through #11.
You will stop at the following best viewpoints along Desert View Drive:
- # 9 Grandview Point
- # 10 Moran Point
- # 11 Desert View Point
South Kaibab Trail
If you can only do one hike at the Grand Canyon, then South Kaibab Trail is the top best choice! it is my top choice for the Grand Canyon one day itinerary!
Be prepared to be amazed by the sweeping views as you hike along a dramatic ridgeline. Above all, you will get to see the spectacular beauty of the Grand Canyon from blow the rim.
How to Get to South Kaibab Trailhead
South Kaibab Trail is located on the South Rim. Specifically, it begins south of Yaki Point on Yaki Point Road. Access to South Kaibab trailhead is by shuttle bus only. Consequently, no private vehicles are allowed.
Orange Route/Kaibab Rim Shuttle Bus
To start with, take the Orange Route/Kaibab Rim Route Shuttle Bus and get off at South Kaibab Trailhead. I usually park at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and catch the shuttle from that location.
The Grand Canyon Visitor Center is a good place to get your bearings. There is a small cafe with food and beverages. And, there are clean restrooms as well.
If you need a map, then stop by the ranger station and get one. Above all, check if there are any weather warnings for the Canyon.
Hikers’ Express Shuttle Bus
Another option of getting to South Kaibab Trailhead is to take the Hikers’ Express Shuttle Bus. It is an early morning bus with service to South Kaibab Trailhead. I highly recommend it, since there is nothing better than watching the sunrise while descending into the canyon. It is simply a phenomenal experience.
Hiker’s Express Shuttle Bus departs from Bright Angel Lodge bus stop on the hour. The second stop is at Backcountry Information Center. The third stop is at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. Finally, the last stop at South Kaibab Trailhead.
Bus leaves Bright Angel Lodge at:
7 am, 8 am, 9 am in March
6 am, 7 am, 8 am in April
5 am, 6 am, 7 am in May
4 am, 5 am, 6 am in June, July, August
5 am, 6 am, 7 am in September
6 am, 7 am, 8 am in October
7 am, 8 am, 9 am in November
8 am, 9 am in December, January, February
Map of South Kaibab Trail
Photo Credit: NPS
How Long Is South Kaibab Trail
Majority of the hikers trek to Ooh-Aah Point or Cedar Ridge and back. Some hikers continue on to Skeleton Point. It is entirely up to you how far you want to hike. Given these points, following are the distances between each stopping point:
- South Kaibab Trailhead to Ooh-Aah Point – .9 miles – distance one-way
- Ooh-Aah Point to Cedar Ridge – .6 miles – distance one-way
How Long Does It Take to Hike South Kaibab Trail
It usually takes 2.5 to 4 hours to hike from South Kaibab Trailhead to Cedar Ridge and back.
Keep in mind, if it took you 2 hours to trek to Cedar Ridge, it might take you twice as long to cover that same ground on the way back.
Needless to say, hiking out of the canyon is tough. Furthermore, plan your hike according to your capabilities. Above all, hiking is not a race, take your time and immerse yourself in a beautiful scenery.
- For example, to hike from South Kaibab Trailhead to Ooh-Aah Point will take you about 1-2 hours round-trip
- Next, if you decide to continue to Cedar Ridge and back, it will be about 2-4 hours round-trip
What Is the Elevation Change on South Kaibab Trail
Hiking from the rim down is an opposite what a usual hike is for me.
With South Kaibab Trail, you start with a descent and finish with an ascent. I think that is why it could be so misleading and you might underestimate the time needed to get back to the rim. As a rule of thumb, if it took you about 1 hour to hike down to Ooh-Aah Point, then reserve about 2 hours to get back to the rim.
Following are elevation changes:
- First of all, South Kaibab Trailhead sits at elevation of 7,260 feet. There is a 600-foot descent from South Kaibab Trailhead to Ooh-Aah Point.
- Next, Ooh-Aah point is at the elevation of 6,660 feet and there is 540-foot descent from Ooh-Aah Point to Cedar Ridge.
Furthermore, while you are descending down the canyon, think about your physical capabilities and plan accordingly.
South Kaibab Trail – What You Need to Know
To start with, the trail begins with a series of switchbacks. Keep in mind , that the switchbacks are fairly steep in some places.
Next, after the switchbacks, the trail levels off and starts to descend at a gradual pace. After .9 miles, you will reach Ooh-Aah Point.
Ooh-Aah Point lives up to its name! As soon as you start checking out the views, I assure you that you will turn in one direction and declare “ooh” and then you will turn in the other direction and say “aah”. This spot has been very aptly named and the views are breathtaking.
By the way, it took me about 30 minutes to reach Ooh-Aah Point and about 45 minutes to ascend.
If you decide to continue, you will notice that the trail starts to run along an exposed ridgeline. In addition, the difficulty level intensifies at this point as the trail becomes a series of steps made out of logs and dirt. However, I think the views become more spectacular as you are descending. After .6 miles, you will reach the viewpoint at Cedar Ridge.
Cedar Ridge offers incredible 360-degree sweeping views. It is a great spot to re-energize and re-fuel your body. In addition, it is a good turn-a-round place for the first time canyon hikers.
As soon as you are ready start your hike back to the rim. As I said before, hiking out of the canyon is tough. Take your time, take breaks, eat your snacks and drink water.
Once you get back to the rim, take the Orange Route/Kaibab Rim Route Shuttle Bus and get off at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
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Hermit Rest Road
Next, you are going to explore the west side of the Grand Canyon South Rim by taking Hermit Rest Road. Needless to say, an absolutely breathtaking collection of some of the best Grand Canyon vistas above the rim can be found along Hermit Rest Road. Hands down, you will love this part of the Grand Canyon one day itinerary!
How to Get to Hermit Rest Road
If you are visiting between March 1 through November 30, you will need to take the Grand Canyon shuttle bus in order to get to Hermit Rest Road. Hermit Rest Road is closed to private vehicles during that time.
The best option is to park near the Bright Angel Trailhead and then catch the Red Route/Hermit Rest Route shuttle bus from Village Route Transfer stop located near the Bright Angel Trailhead.
Once you are on the shuttle bus, continue to Maricopa Point. Once you get to Maricopa Point, hop off the shuttle bus and take a short walk towards the viewpoint. The entire area is clearly marked.
Maricopa Point sits on a narrow promontory extending northeast and then dropping vertically. The vistas towards east and west of the canyon are excellent here. In addition, the views extend all the way to the North Rim. Following is the view from Maricopa Point looking towards the west side of the Grand Canyon South Rim:
Furthermore, following is the view from Maricopa Point looking towards the east side. If you look towards the bottom left side of the picture, you will be able to see an interesting rock formation aptly named the Battleship. California Condors have been known to nest on the Battleship.
Next, you have an option of jumping back on the shuttle bus and continuing to the next stop which is Hopi Point, or you can walk. I am recommending that you walk along the rim for a bit. It is .8 miles from Maricopa Point to Hopi Point.
In addition, on the way to Hopi Point, you will pass by Powell Point. If you can spare a few minutes at Powell Point, I encourage you to stop by and snap a few pictures. If you are short on time, then continue to Hopi Point.
Hopi Point is one of my personal favorites.
It is one of the best all-around viewpoints in the Grand Canyon. Jutting out farther into the Canyon than any other point on the South Rim, Hopi Point offers incredible views.
Moreover, Hopi Point offers excellent views of the stone “temples”.
Afterwards, follow the horizon to the next temple. It is Wotan Throne. It was formed by erosion which transformed the peninsula into an island, and eventually, it was separated from the rim.
Finally, let your eyes wander to the last rock formation. It is called Vishnu Temple. Vishnu Temple was formed by further erosion, where the softer rock crumbles and undercuts harder rock.
The next viewpoint is called Mohave Point. You can hop back on the shuttle bus, or you can walk. It is a short 1-mile walk from Hopi Point to Mohave Point.
If you thought that Hopi Point was good, just wait till you get to Mohave Point. Not only you will catch the dramatic vistas here, but also you will be able to see some excellent views of the river and rapids below.
In addition, stretching out below the lookout is a rocky promontory known as the Alligator, as it twists toward the river beyond. To the northwest you can see Hermit Rapid, created when the side of the canyon collapsed into the river.
Mather Point is the busiest viewpoint in the Grand Canyon South Rim. It is the highlight of the Grand Canyon one day itinerary!
All the tourists flock to this area. And justly so, it is one of the park’s most spectacular vantage points. The Colorado River is practically below your feet. To the west is Bright Angel Trail, to the east is the South Kaibab Trail, and straight ahead is the North Rim.
Desert View Drive
Next, you are going to continue heading east.
There are no shuttle buses that operate in this section of the Grand Canyon South Rim. You are going to jump into your vehicle and drive east on Desert View Drive.
The first stop is Grandview Point.
Grandview Point stands tall at 7,100 feet. It is one of the highest points on the Grand Canyon South Rim. In addition, it is the southernmost point on the canyon. The views are magnificent here.
Grandview Point overlooks the dense forests and the Horseshoe Mesa.
By the way, Grandview Point is the start of Grandview Trail which leads to Horseshoe Mesa.
Once you reach Moran Point and glance all around you, you will get a true sense of the vastness of the Grand Canyon South Rim. Furthermore, directly below Moran Point sits Red Canyon and the colors are just staggering here. The reds, oranges and rusts glow beautifully especially in the afternoon sun. To top it off, the sparkling Colorado River finally makes longer appearance.
Finally, try to find the Sinking Ship, a fascinating geological formation which appears as if it was a sinking vessel against the setting sun.
Desert View is the highest viewpoint on the Grand Canyon South Rim with elevation of 7,438 feet. Consequently, Desert View offers sweeping views of the Grand Canyon South Rim and the Colorado River.
Perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon South Rim sits Desert View Watchtower.
So, with not further delay, head to the tower.
Inside you will find a spiral stairway which winds five stories high. Head straight to the top and as you are climbing the stairs look through many windows and see mile upon mile of magnificent views.
By the way, the windows have reflectoscopes, which are viewing instruments that enhance the colors by using the black glass.
Once you get to the top, check out the observation deck, which offers great views of the eastern part of the Grand Canyon South Rim.
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Now, I want to hear from you! Did you find this useful?
What else would you add to this list?
Are you planning the Grand Canyon one day itinerary? When are you going?
Leave me a quick comment in the comment section below!
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