There’s only one way to truly grasp the scale and the beauty of the Grand Canyon, and that’s to see it with your own eyes. This list of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints collects the greatest ways to experience the canyon, some of which see few people!
As a professional outdoor writer and avid desert explorer, I’ve been all over the American Southwest. In fact, I spend 6 months out of the year finding new and exciting spots to explore. In this post about the most incredible Grand Canyon views, I’ve called upon an expert panel of bloggers to give all the insider details to finding the most Instagram-worthy spots along the Grand Canyon.
Shh…several of these spots are top-secret! Boasting extraordinary views without the crowds. We’re going beyond Horseshoe Bend to find pristine, panorama landscapes that will leave your jaw on the floor!
About this Guide to the Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints
When it comes to sweeping canyon views, this is the only guide you’ll need. In order to find the best Grand Canyon viewpoints, you’ll need to know a thing or two about visiting the Grand Canyon. In this incredible guide we’ll cover:
- The North Rim vs. the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
- When to visit the Grand Canyon
- Must-see Grand Canyon viewpoints
- Tips for visiting the Grand Canyon
The North Rim Versus the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
One important thing to remember while hunting for the best views of the Grand Canyon is to remember that the North Rim and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon are acutally different parks.
Both the North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon boast incredible viewpoints. On the south side, you’ll find warmer temperatures and lower elevations. With that comes steep, dramatic drops and epic views of the Colorado River. It’s also an easier place to access the Grand Canyon.
However, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is far more crowded than it’s North Rim cousin. In fact, the North Rim only sees 10% of the visitors that the South Rim does. This is because there is no major town nearby along the North Rim.
The North Rim sits 1,000 vertical feet higher than the South Rim. So you may not quite see the bottom of the Colorado River, but you’ll have expansive views down the canyon. You can really experience the vastness of the canyon system along the North Rim.
Each rim is separated by a minimum of a 4-and-a-half-hour drive over dirt roads, so it’s not advisable to see it all in one day. Instead, plan for at least three days (five would be best) to really experience both the North and South Rims.
When to Visit the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is an amazing site year-round. However, the best times to visit the Grand Canyon are during the spring and fall months. Summer is tremendously hot and also the most crowded time to visit.
Winters are generally less crowded, but cold and windy. However, seeing the Grand Canyon dusted in snow is a real treat. Keep in mind the North Rim is only open from May 15th through October 15th. Although you can access the park after it’s closed, you need a special winter permit and a long, tedious approach on foot is required.
The Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints You Can’t Miss
Now that you know where to visit and when to go to the Grand Canyon, let’s dive into the most amazing Grand Canyon viewpoints. Each of these Grand Canyon views offers up something different. A few take a unique perspective, while others allow you to camp right on the rim at your own private campsite. Which viewpoint is your favorite?
1. Spend the Night on North Rim At Cape Final
There’s a much-coveted secret on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Arguably the most private viewpoint along the Grand Canyon is the single camping spot at Cape Final.
You can backpack to the most secluded Grand Canyon viewpoint and spend the night at the single campsite right on the rim. Hike the easy 2 miles to Cape Final and enjoy stunning views. Keep in mind there aren’t any guardrails, so be sure to watch your step!
The trail begins in a wooded forest, giving you glimpses of the canyon about half way in. Make your way up a gentle hill until you reach Cape Final. If you’re lucky, you can snag a permit to camp at Cape Final. This lets you enjoy stunning views, without a soul in sight.
2. Watch the Sunset at Hopi Point
By Hanna of That Adventurer
Hopi Point on Grand Canyon’s south rim is one of the best places to watch the sunset in the Grand Canyon National Park. As one of the Grand Canyon’s best viewpoints, Hopi Point is easily accessible, has incredible views and plenty of space so you can walk away from most of the crowds.
Hopi Point is in the Hermit’s Rest part of the Grand Canyon’s south rim. Therefore is only accessible by bus from March 1 through November 30. You can get the bus from just outside Bright Angel Lodge in the Village and then just get off at the Hopi Point stop.
In the busier months the area closest to the bus stop gets fairly crowded so just stroll along the flat trail until you find a spot you like. You can’t go wrong really as it’s all beautiful! Heading westwards (to the left as you’re looking out at the canyon) is best as that’s where the sun will set.
Hopi Point itself has a paved viewing area but if you choose to move a bit further from the viewpoint the trail isn’t paved. It’s a great spot to head to with children to watch the sunset in the Grand Canyon too since there’s no hiking needed. However. since there aren’t any barriers between them and the edge of the canyon take care!
Pack a sweater as the temperatures drop quickly once the sun goes down and enjoy the view with some snacks for the ultimate sunset experience!
3. Let Ooh Ahh Point Take Your Breath Away
By Taylor of Travel Outlandish
The name says it all; “Ooh Aah” is exactly what you’ll say when you get out to Ooh Aah Point. As one of the best viewpoints in the Grand Canyon, Ooh Aah Point is one way to beat the crowds at the Grand Canyon.
Ooh Aah Point is a viewpoint below the Grand Canyon South Rim on the South Kaibab Trail. As one of the best Grand Canyon views, you’ll have to earn it with a hike along the most iconic hiking trail in the Grand Canyon.
From the outcrop, you’ll have views to the west of Havasupai Point and the western canyon wall and views of the eastern canyon wall that stretch on for miles.
If it’s your endpoint, Ooh Aah Point is a 1.8 mile roundtrip hike. There’s a significant descent (and ascent as you might expect hiking into a canyon) but if you’re surefooted and take breaks, the short distance makes this a pretty accessible hike for families and inexperienced hikers.
You can continue on via the South Kaibab Trail that will take you all the way out to Skeleton Point where you can get a 360-view of the canyon.
Anyone who has ever been to the Grand Canyon will tell you that it gets crowded, but you’ll be surprised how much the crowd thins out when you just dip below the rim. It’s definitely worth the hike!
4. The Best Panaroma of the Grand Canyon at Yavapai Point
by Ivan of Mind the Travel
Catch the jaw-dropping views of the striped canyon walls across the entire horizon at Yavapai Point. Although there is a small parking lot, consider parking at the additional parking at Mather Point and walking over to Yavapai Point.
The south rim of the Grand Canyon is a must-stop on any USA road trip. Yavapai Observation Station and viewpoint make an excellent spot to stop and soak in the amazing views of the Grand Canyon. At the station, you’ll find books and displays information about the history of the Grand Canyon.
Thanks to it’s position as the northern-most point on the South Rim, you’ll get unique views down the canyon at Yavapai Point.
Straight across from Yavapai Point is Bright Angel Trail, one of the most iconic hikes in the Grand Canyon. Again, don’t miss out on your best opportunity to marvel at this North Rim landmark from the South Rim.
Check out the Yavapai Museum of Geology to learn about the unique rock features in the canyon. This interactive space introduces you to an array of 3D exhibits, interpretative models, and local artwork that are sure to enhance your understanding of the region’s exposed rock layers, and the evolution of the Grand Canyon.
5. The Secluded Widforss Point
by Kristen of Yanderlust Ramblings
There are few places in the United States where viewpoints have a greater payoff than the Grand Canyon! What is truly fantastic about this iconic national landmark is that you can choose from a plethora of Grand Canyon viewpoints both easy and challenging to reach.
One of the more challenging viewpoints to witness in person is Widforss Point, found at the termination of the North Rim’s forested and secluded Widforss Trail! This 9-mile long point-to-point trail runs parallel along the North Rim within Grand Canyon National Park, teasing hikers with glimpses of the Canyon through the foliage. Once you reach the end of the trail at Widforss Point, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the entire North Rim.
From Widforss Point, visitors can see several topographic landmarks of the Grand Canyon, such as Manu Temple and Buddha Temple peaks, as well as clear across the immense expanse to the opposite South Rim! You can even pick out the trails of Bright Angel and South Kaibab as they switchback down the opposing South Rim’s slopes.
6. The View from the Bottom at the Colorado River
by James of Travel Collecting
One of the most incredible views of the Grand Canyon is also the least seen. All visitors to Grand Canyon see it from the top – but few see it from the bottom! Standing at the very bottom, by the Colorado River, and seeing its incredible walls stretching far, far up on both sides is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
There are three ways to do this. Firstly, you can hike down via one of the many Grand Canyon hiking trails. The two main trails from the south rim are Bright Angel Trail (13 miles) and South Kaibab Trail (7.3 miles). From the north rim, you can hike down the North Kaibab Trail (14 miles). All of these can be done in one direction in a day, but they are certainly challenging.
The trails are too long and steep to go back in the same day, so you will need to stay in Phantom Ranch or at a campsite. To stay in Phantom Ranch’s cabins or dorms, you need to book through a lottery system (read a full guide to Phantom Ranch here) and for the national park campsites, you need to obtain a backcountry permit from the National Park Service.
Secondly, you can ride a mule down from the South Rim, but you should be used to riding, or this will be a painful experience. Don’t forget to book your mule in advance, as reservations sell out fast.
Finally, you can ride the river rapids in a dory (small wooden boat), regular raft or a larger motorized raft. Spend several nights camping on beaches along the canyon and see the layers rise up from beside you, high into the air as you progress down the river.
No matter which option you choose, you will be glad you chose to see Grand Canyon from this unique perspective!
7. Bask in the Beauty of Bright Angel Point
You can never truly grasp the sheer size of the Grand Canyon until you see it in real life. One of the best viewpoints of this massive natural wonder is Bright Angel Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Bright Angel Point is a popular and easily accessed overlook trail inside the northern entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. The path starts directly behind the Grand Canyon Lodge. Take the half-mile, paved trail out to the point for jaw-dropping views. If you’re scared of heights, have no fear there are handrails to assist you part of the way.
There are several photo ops and viewpoints as you walk the path. At the end of the trail, you’ll get 280-degree views of the Grand Canyon. The views are impressive to say the least, fun for the whole family and a must-stop if you’re exploring this part of the park.
8. Backpack to Plateau Point
by Michelle of the Wandering Queen
One of the best views in the Grand Canyon is Plateau Point, located on the South Rim. This area is outstanding and has stunning views of the Colorado River.
The trail is around 12.2 miles round trip and is only suggested for experienced hikers. It is a long and grueling hike with an elevation gain of 3,080 feet. To get to Plateau Point, you must hike on the famous Bright Angel Trail.
Another option is to backpack to the Indian Garden campground nearby. Keep in mind, you’ll need to reserve your permit in advance. This a great option if you want to experience the sunset and even an iconic sunrise.
There are no crowds, and the picturesque views of the canyon is breathtaking. Plateau Point has some of the best views in the park. Whether you are experiencing in the middle of the day or for sunset you will fall in love with the beauty and the challenge of Plateau Point.
9. The Highest Grand Canyon Viewpoint: Point Imperial
For a sunrise you’ll never forget, head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Point Imperial is arguably the best viewpoint of the Grand Canyon and no one knows about it.
What’s more, its the tallest point at 8,803 feet above sea level. Have the view all to yourself by getting up before the sun. Watch as the sun rises over the Grand Canyon, casting dramatic shadows and light across the canyon walls. Listen to the quiet of the canyon and you may even hear an eagle screaming in the morning light.
10. Spend Time in Paradise at Havasupai
by Jenny of Limitless Hiker
Havasupai is a paradise hidden in the desert. Located on the Hopi Indian Reservation, this beautiful and sacred landscape is open to visitors. If you’re lucky enough to snag a permit, you can experience the magical beauty of this iconic Grand Canyon viewpoint.
The only way to access Havasupai is to backpack 10 miles one way through the bright orange canyon walls to Havasupai. Once you arrive, turquoise waterfalls flow against the bright orange canyon walls creating a picture-perfect view you can’t miss.
You’re only allowed to backpack Havasupai, day hiking isn’t allowed. The campground lies between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. Havasu Creek flows right by camp so you can hang out and splash in the water all evening as you’re making dinner.
In order to explore this desert paradise, you’ll need to obtain a Havasupai permit. You can explore Havasu Falls (right before the campgrounds), Mooney Falls (half a mile from the campgrounds), Beaver Falls (6 miles round trip from the campgrounds and finally the Confluence (16 miles roundtrip from the campgrounds).
The Confluence is where the brown Colorado River meets the turquoise waters of Havasu Creek. This is also officially where Havasupai meets the Grand Canyon National Park boundary.
11. The Iconic Archways of Cape Royal
Cape Royal is arguable one of the best hikes on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail is paved and well-maintained, with plenty of smaller, short trails branching out towards unique views.
The 1-mile out and back trail is easily accessible, making it a great option for beginner hikers and young children. Make your way along the canyon rim with plenty of beautiful vistas. Markers along the way explain the history and ecosystem of this iconic landscape.
At the end of the trail you can step out onto the gravity-defying Angles Window, a natural arch and land bridge built into the canyon. Take your time exploring the sweeping views of Cape Royal. Keep in mind, it gets crowded, so start early!
Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon
Before you visit the Grand Canyon, you’ll want to know a few handy tips. First, if you plan on visiting for multiple days, you’ll want to pick up an American the Beautiful National Parks Pass. This gets you into all the national parks, and is often cheaper than paying for each day.
Second, be sure to brush up on your desert hiking skills. Hiking in the desert is grueling business and you want to be prepared. Keep these things in mind when visiting the best viewpoints in the Grand Canyon:
- Follow all signage and ranger instructions. Rules are in place for a reason.
- Always practice Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your trash, including fruit peels, toilet paper, and wrappers.
- Bring sunscreen, a sunhat, and sunglasses. Always seek shade when you can. The desert can be brutally hot.
- Hike in the morning or the evening to avoid the heat (and crowds).
- Take an extra layer. Once the sun goes down, it cools off quickly, even in the summer!
- Bring plenty of water. 4 liters a day isn’t unheard of in desert environments. Even if you are just driving around, the dry air will quickly dehydrate you.
- Consider getting an America the Beautiful Annual Parks Pass. If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon for multiple days or you are planning on visiting multiple national parks within 12 months, you can save some serious cash with this pass.
Get stoked on the most iconic views of the Grand Canyon and make the most of your desert adventure. Don’t forget to charge your camera!
Additional Resources for Visiting the Grand Canyon:
- Things to Do in the Grand Canyon (coming soon)
- The Best Hikes on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (coming soon)
- Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon (coming soon)