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Mary Colter's Watchtower / Credit: Scott Johnson

3 Perfect Days at the Grand Canyon

By: Arizona Office of Tourism

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February 17, 2019

Packed with attractions, adventures and activities, this three-day itinerary in Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim covers all the must-see stops for your first visit to this iconic destination.

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Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.

Day 1

Morning: Perk up to the welcoming aroma of freshly brewed coffee as you walk through the doors of Bright Angel Bicycles & Café at Mather Point, which uses locally roasted beans for its specialty lattes, mochas and more. Then, rent a bike and pedal 3.4 miles along paved trails to the panoramic Yaki Point, where you can watch the morning sunlight sweep across the canyon.

Afternoon: From the visitors' center, stroll west along the Rim Trail, a flat, paved trail with shuttle stops along the way. In addition to awe-inspiring views, a number of attractions dot the trail:

  • the Yavapai Museum of Geology, with its educational geology exhibits;
  • Verkamp's Visitor Center, featuring historical exhibits about the local community and early pioneers;
  • Hopi House, a gift shop built to resemble a Hopi pueblo-style structure, designed by architect Mary Colter at the turn of the century; and
  • Kolb Studio, showcasing fine artwork, photography, films and curios.

Evening: Once the sun goes down, make your way to The Grand Hotel at The Grand Canyon, located a mile from the south entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. Enjoy a steak dinner at the Canyon Star Steakhouse in the hotel and then unwind with a draft beer and some live music at the adjacent saloon.

Day 2

Morning & Afternoon: Start your day with a scenic drive along Desert View Drive—a 25-mile stretch east from Grand Canyon Village—and pull over at the many overlooks and attractions along the way.

You'll see buttes and ravines at Grandview Point, the brilliantly colored Lower Red Canyon visible from Moran Point, remnants of an American Indian village at Tusayan Ruin and an alternative view of the Colorado River's "Big Bend" area at Navajo Point. You'll end the drive with 360-degree views of the canyon and Colorado River, seen from the observation deck at the Mary Colter-designed Desert View Watchtower, built in 1932 in the style of Ancestral Puebloan towers.

For lunch, grab a bite to eat at the Desert View Trading Post, serving up "Indian tacos," hot dogs and ice cream to enjoy at one of the outdoor picnic tables.

Evening: Let someone else do the driving as you enjoy the picture-perfect views of the Grand Canyon at dusk. On a sunset interpretive bus tour, enjoy the 1.5-hour ride along the West Rim, and take in the sight of the sky transforming into a vibrant palette of color as the sun dips beyond the earth.

Day 3

Morning & Afternoon: Perhaps the best way to experience the rugged beauty of the Grand Canyon is to hike along a scenic trail.

Explore the family-friendly Bright Angel Trail, which includes numerous turn-around points, as well as water and restrooms along the way. Take in stunning views as you hike downhill into the canyon (and be mindful about how far you hike, as you'll have to trek uphill on the way back). The first switchback is an ideal spot for turning around if you have small children in tow, and the 1.5-Mile Resthouse is a popular stop for first-time canyon hikers and late starters.

But no matter how long or short your hike is, the incredible vistas and quality time with friends and family make for an unforgettable journey.

Evening: Find a spot on the outcropping at the popular Mather Point overlook, and take in one last sunset as the canyon and sky seem to meld together in a picturesque display of pinks, purples, oranges and reds.

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