20 Things to Do at the Grand Canyon South Rim
The South Rim of Grand Canyon is known for its epic majesty— from its stunning rim-side views to its deep and daring canyon, visitors have no shortage of hikes and viewpoints to explore. But the Grand Canyon is so much more than just its hikes and heights. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-fueled adventure, a romantic sunset getaway, or just want to make some memories with the people you love, the South Rim has something for everyone. Here’s our list of some of the best things to do in Grand Canyon’s South Rim.
1. Shaka Guide Tour
I’m sure you saw this coming, but our number one suggestion for what to do on the South Rim? Take a Shaka Guide Tour, of course! Our South Rim tour takes you to all of the best spots in the Grand Canyon, filling your day with unforgettable songs, stories, and tips to make your trip easier. You’ll be able to appreciate this natural wonder all the more knowing the geology, history, and people behind it. Plus all the in-tour advice on things like where to park!
Bright Angel Trail / Image from Unsplash
At first glance, it may seem like the South Rim doesn’t have too many hiking trails to explore. But don’t be fooled! There’s tons of hikes around and below the canyon rim, everything from short, family friendly day-hikes, to long, grueling multi-day backpacking adventures. Check out our hiking guide for all of the details, including our top ten picks!
RELATED: 16 Hikes in Grand Canyon South Rim
3. Visitor Centers
As with all national parks, it’s always a great idea to check out the visitor center. In the case of the South Rim, it actually has three. One visitor center is in Tusayan (outside the park) and the others are inside. Here’s where to find them and why you want to make them part of your tour itinerary.
The National Geographic Visitor Center in Tusayan is located about 10 minutes south of the Grand Canyon. It’s attached to the IMAX theater which plays a 34-minute film on the canyon every hour. If you have the time, consider immersing yourself in an IMAX experience on the Grand Canyon.
The two visitor centers inside the park are the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and the Verkamp Visitor Center. The Grand Canyon Visitor Center can be found just through the south entrance, at the visitor center plaza (neat Mather Point). This should be your first stop when you enter the park. NOTE: As of July 2022, this center is closed. However, an information booth is still open.
The Verkamp Visitor Center is further inside the park, at the Grand Canyon Village. This historic souvenir shop offers unique displays and artwork to enjoy.
Some of the things you can do at the visitor centers include: purchase your park pass, speak with a ranger, pick up maps, browse park exhibits, and shop at the gift shops. There are also schedules posted for ranger talks and other events.
To expand your Grand Canyon experience, a museum may be just the ticket. And, conveniently for you, you won’t even need a ticket to visit the awesome Grand Canyon museums.
The first one is the Yavapai Geology Museum, located right at Yavapai Point. Visitors to the museum can view a 3-d map of the canyon and learn more about the geology that made the Grand Canyon we see today. There are even panoramic viewing windows that offer a great view of the canyon.
The second is the Tusayan Museum, located just 3 miles west of Desert View Watchtower. The Tusayan Museum highlights the history of the ruin and its creators—the Ancestral Puebloans. NOTE: As of July 2022, this center is closed.
5. Grand Canyon Village
In the village, there's so much to see and do that exploring it could almost be a full-day event in itself. You can enjoy an a la carte village visit with Shaka Guide to learn all about its highlights. Here’s some of what you can look forward to:
El Tovar Hotel
Grand Canyon Railway
Bright Angel Lodge
Buckey O’Neill Cabin
Mary Colter’s Lookout Studio
6. Ranger Walk/Talks
Ranger talks are an amazing opportunity to learn all about the canyon from the true experts — the park rangers! To find the next ranger program, check bulletin boards at the visitor centers or ask at information tables. These talks cover everything from geology, ecology, and park operations. There are even junior ranger programs for kids!
Mather point / Image from Shutterstock
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular photography destinations in the United States— and for good reason!
While you can take spectacular canyon shots at any time of day, sunrises over the South Rim are possibly the most iconic. Here are our favorite three sites for taking picture-perfect sunrise shots.
- Mather Point: When you initially reach the Grand Canyon South Rim, this is one of the first stops you'll make. It’s only a short walk from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. It's a lovely spot for watching the sunrise and getting some terrific initial shots. One particularly nice thing about this viewpoint is the protruding rock in the middle of the promontory. If you climb on top, you may just be able to get a selfie without people in the background! Just be sure to arrive early as it’s very popular!
- Yavapai Point: Another fantastic sunrise spot, this is the most northerly viewpoint of the Grand Canyon South Rim. From here, you’ll be able to get a great view of the North Rim and the winding Colorado River. To get there, either park at the Yavapai Geology Museum or take the blue shuttle from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. My personal recommendation? In the summer, it’s a great idea to walk from Mather Point to Yavapai Point along the Rim Trail, just about a half-mile apart. That way, you can enjoy spectacular early-morning views the entire trip there.
- Yaki Point: Our final pick for sunrise photography is Yaki Point. Located down Desert View Drive, visitors need to board the orange shuttle, as it’s the only viewpoint on the South Rim that is always closed to private vehicles. Catch the shuttle at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
But don't overlook the South Rim's sunsets, which are no less spectacular. While you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad place to take sunset pictures, these are a few of our favorites:
On Hermit Road, check out Hopi Point, Mohave Point, Pima Point and Monument Creek for awesome sunset views. And on Desert View Drive at the other side of the park , Moran Point, Desert View Watchtower, and Grandview Point offer even more stunning sunset vistas.
Bicycling on the South Rim is a fun and fast way to get around. Instead of waiting around for a shuttle, why not explore all day along the South Rim’s many scenic bike-friendly roads?
Where to bike:
Biking on the South Rim is limited to the Greenway Trail and roads open to general motor vehicle traffic. Some of these roads don’t have the widest shoulders (or any shoulder), so keep your eyes peeled for cars and be sure you have plenty of room to pull over if needed.
The GreenwayTrail starts at the South Kaibab Trailhead and extends to the westernmost side of Grand Canyon Village. It then picks up again at Monument Creek Vista and continues to the junction with Hermit Road.
Need a bike while on the South Rim? Check out Bright Angel Bicycles, the only in-park bike rental shop.
If you’re hoping to do a little bike riding outside of the park as well, check out Tusayan Bike Trails. This 6.6 mile paved road connects the shuttle park and ride in Tusayan to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
9. Guided Conservancy Tours
Take an immersive group tour with the Field Institute to expand your Grand Canyon horizons — literally and figuratively! Courses range from guided walks, to guide training courses, to yoga classes! Check out their schedule for more information.
Camping at Mather Point / Grand Canyon National Park, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ahh..camping on the South Rim. After all, there really is nothing better than a room with a view. Or, you know, a tent with a view.
There are two campgrounds located on the South Rim: Mather and Desert View. Before you pitch your tent, though, you’ll need to make a reservation. Be advised that reservations fill up quickly, especially in the summer season. Reservations are accepted up to 6 months in advance, and it’s recommended that you apply as soon as possible. Outside of the park, there is Camper Village, located just 7 miles south of the South Rim.
Just imagine… Waking up to a cool, shaded morning on the canyon bottom. You unzip your tent and look out across the rushing Colorado River, just as golden rays of sunlight begin to peep over the rims. Sounds like paradise? Well, maybe. But with a little bit of planning, paradise isn’t so far away.
Any overnight hikes or camping outside of Mather and Desert View will require a backpacking permit. As is the case with most Grand Canyon activities, reservations are required in advance, and popular spots fill up fast. Check out the NPS backcountry permit page to find out what activities require a permit, as well as how to apply.
With these elevating views, it can be hard to keep our feet on the ground. For those adventurers with climbing on their mind, the Grand Canyon has a few adrenaline-fueled ascents available. Some of the most popular canyoneering spots include Garden Creek, Pipe Creek, Phantom Creek, Ribbon Fall, and the Zoroaster Temple.
As always, it’s important to be respectful and not deface the rock any more than necessary. Be sure not to add any unnecessary anchors or leave any rope behind.
13. Mule rides
Is there any activity more iconic to the Grand Canyon than a mule ride into the heart of the canyon? We don’t think so. Here’s where you can get info on that instagram-worthy ride to the famous Phantom Ranch. As always, book early! There’s only so many mules to go around!
14. Horseback Riding
Maybe you’re more into horse-riding than mule-riding. Well, head just a short distance out of the park to saddle up at Apache Stables — located just one mile north of Tusayan.
Some of the most legendary thrill rides available at the canyon happen on the raging Colorado River. Ranging from single day rafting tours to multi-week expeditions, these trips are some of the most exciting, taxing, and memorable experiences the Grand Canyon has to offer. Often, these trips are planned years in advance. To learn more about rafting in the canyon, check out the NPS website which lists all of the commercial and non-commercial rafting options. Many commercial rafting companies also offer kayaking tours. Individual and private groups require a river permit and must apply via weighted lottery.
16. Jeep/ATV Tours
While there is no off roading allowed inside the park, there are several 4WD companies offering tours around the Grand Canyon's South Rim. To get started, check out these popular tour companies on TripAdvisor.
17. Nearby Parks
Sunset Crater National Monument / National Park Service Digital Image Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Not only is there plenty to do at the Grand Canyon, but did you know that two great national monuments are only forty minutes south of the park? Sunset Crater National Monument and Wupatki National Monument are more than a stopover — they’re a destination in and of themselves. To explore both of these monuments, simply turn right onto Loop Road, if you’re heading north from Flagstaff. This loop takes you through both monuments and then reconnects you just thirty minutes south of Cameron. It may just end up being one of the highlights of your trip!
18. IMAX Theater
While exploring Tusayan don’t forget to stop by to experience the IMAX theater if you want to learn about the canyon on a six-story movies screen with surround sound. Grand Canyon: Hidden Secrets has multiple showtimes throughout the day and tickets are flexible.
19. Helicopter Tour
Sometimes, it helps to gain a little perspective. By far, one of the most popular tours in the Grand Canyon are the helicopter tours. If seeing the canyon from a birds-eye view sounds too good to miss, start by checking out Papillon Helicopters, its subsidiary Grand Canyon Helicopters, and Maverick Helicopters.
20. Bedrock Village/Raptor Ranch
This offbeat tourist attraction is located about 30 minutes south of the Grand Canyon in Valle, AZ (which these days is known as Grand Canyon City). Where is it, exactly? Don’t worry; you won’t miss it. Just look for the 20 foot tall Fred Flintstone waving to you from the side of Route 64. For just $8 at Bedrock Village, you can explore a real-life, life-sized replica of the Flintstones cartoon city. As an added bonus, Bedrock Village is also home to the Raptor Ranch, where you’ll be able to get up close and personal with rehabilitated birds of prey! The amazing staff at Raptor Ranch host daily flight demonstrations and educational programs, too. If that wasn’t enough, Bedrock Village also has an amazing ice cream parlor, coffee shop, and small grocery area. And, of course, a souvenir shop, too. If you go, say hi to Stinky the Eurasian Owl for us!
The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder of the world - and there’s so much to discover and enjoy in the park. So, don’t miss a thing!