If you’re planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, it’s a good idea to carve out enough time to fully experience this stunning natural wonder. However, sometimes circumstances only allow for a brief visit, and you may find yourself with just one day to take in the majesty of the canyon. In such a scenario, it’s important to have a plan of action so that you can make the most of your limited time. Fortunately, with a little bit of careful planning, it’s possible to see many of the highlights of the Grand Canyon in just one day. To help you make the most of your time, here is our guide on what we recommend you to do to get the most out of your day.
Arriving early at the Grand Canyon can make a significant difference in the quality of your experience, particularly if you only have one day to spend there. One of the primary reasons to arrive early is to beat the crowds. The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, and during peak season, it can get very crowded. By arriving early, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the canyon in relative peace and quiet, without having to jostle for position at the popular viewpoints or wait in long lines for the shuttle buses. Additionally, the early morning light can be particularly beautiful, casting a soft glow over the canyon and illuminating its stunning features. Finally, arriving early can also give you the opportunity to take advantage of cooler temperatures, as the canyon can get quite hot during the midday sun. Overall, arriving early at the Grand Canyon is a simple way to enhance your experience and ensure that you make the most of your limited time at this magnificent natural wonder.
Our recommendation is to arrive way before 9 am. The park’s south entrance is open 24/7, 365 days a year. Please not that the Visitor Center and other facilities are open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the peak months of May-September and off-peak of October-April from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunrise at the Grand Canyon
Since the south entrance is open 24/7, you can arrive early enough to be a the top viewpoint to experience the sunset at the Grand Canyon. Two of our top picks for the best sunrise viewpoints at the South Rim are Mohave Point, situated on Hermit Road, and Mather Point, located next to the Visitors Center. By beginning your day with this breathtaking sight, you’ll set the tone for a memorable and awe-inspiring day at one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders.
Take a helicopter tour to make this day perfect
If you only have one day to visit the Grand Canyon, taking a helicopter tour can be a fantastic way to make the most of your time. A helicopter tour offers a unique perspective on the canyon’s immense size and beauty, allowing you to appreciate it in a way that you simply can’t from the ground.
Not only is it an unforgettable experience, but it also offers great photography opportunities, giving you a chance to capture stunning aerial views of the canyon and surrounding landscape. Although it may be more expensive than other activities, a helicopter tour can be a worthwhile investment to see the Grand Canyon in a way that few others ever will.
Operator: Maverick Helicopters
Duration: Approx. 25 minutes
- 25 minute helicopter tour - easy to plan into an already busy day
- Stunning views of the Grand Canyon South Rim
- Flight over the Colorado River
- State of the art luxury tour helicopter
- Views of the Tower of Ra and Kaibab National Forest
Operator: Maverick Helicopters
Duration: Approx. 45 minutes
- Longest and most comprehensive route
- Top Operator
- Departs from Grand Canyon Airport
Shuttle buses to get from point to point
The Grand Canyon’s South Rim offers shuttle bus services to help visitors get around and see the sights.
You can use this to your advantage during your one-day visit to the Grand Canyon. Simply park your car and hop on and off the shuttle buses wherever you want.
During the winter months, there are two shuttle bus routes in service: the Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route and the Village (Blue) Route. The Orange Route takes visitors to the S. Kaibab Trailhead and offers incredible views at Yaki Point. The Blue Route, on the other hand, connects the Visitor Center with various lodges, campgrounds, the Backcountry Information Center, and Market Plaza, where you can find a market, outdoor ATM, and US Post Office.
During the winter months, private vehicles are not permitted on Hermit Road. However, the Blue Route shuttle buses run frequently, with the first bus departing at 6 am and buses departing every 10-15 minutes from 8 am to 5:30 pm. After 5:30 pm, buses run every 30 minutes until 9 pm, with the last bus departing at 8:30 pm. Visitors who plan to dine in Grand Canyon Village should be at a bus stop no later than 8:30 pm.
The shuttle bus stops at a number of important landmarks and attractions, including the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Market Plaza, Shrine of the Ages/Park Headquarters, El Tovar/Hopi House/Train Depot, Village Amphitheater, Verkamp’s Visitor Center, Bright Angel and Maswik lodges, Lookout Studio, Kolb Studio, Bright Angel Trail, Backcountry Information Center, and Mather Campground/Trailer Village. By utilizing the shuttle bus service, visitors can explore the Grand Canyon with ease and convenience, without having to worry about navigating the park’s winding roads and limited parking options.
Points of interest on the blue route
- Grand Canyon Visitor Center
- Market Plaza
- Shrine of the Ages/Park Headquarters
- El Tovar/Hopi House/Train Depot
- Village Amphitheater
- Verkamp’s Visitor Center
- Bright Angel and Maswik lodges
- Lookout Studio
- Kolb Studio
- Bright Angel Trail
- Backcountry Information Center
- Mather Campground/Trailer Village
This route is a figure 8 loop that connects the Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal with several popular stops, including South Kaibab Trailhead, Yaki Point, Pipe Creek Overlook, Mather Point, and Yavapai Geology Museum.
It’s important to note that the road to South Kaibab Trailhead and Yaki Point is closed to private vehicles, so shuttle bus, walking, or biking are the only ways to access these areas. Riding the shuttle bus is a convenient and efficient way to see the sights without the hassle of navigating unfamiliar roads and parking areas.
The Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route takes approximately 50 minutes to complete a full loop, without getting off the bus. During the winter months, the first bus departs at 6 am, with buses running every 30 minutes from 6 to 8 am, and every 15 minutes from 8 am to 1 hour after sunset. The last bus departs 30 minutes after sunset, so if you plan to catch the last bus, be sure to be at a bus stop no later than 30 minutes after sunset. By utilizing the Kaibab Rim (Orange) Route shuttle bus, visitors can easily explore some of the most iconic and scenic locations on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Points of interest on the orange route
- Visitor Center Shuttle Bus Terminal
- South Kaibab Trailhead
- Yaki Point
- Pipe Creek Vista
- Mather Point
- Yavapai Geology Museum
Sunset at the Grand Canyon
For a peaceful sunset experience at the Grand Canyon, consider visiting Yaki Point. While it’s a bit less accessible than other viewpoints on the South Rim, with no car access and a walk or shuttle bus ride required, the stunning colors and distant views of the Desert View Watchtower make it well worth the effort.
For a wider, unobstructed view, check out Hopi Point, another popular spot for sunset viewing. And if you’re short on time or prefer a more convenient option, the nearby Mather Point, located right next to the Visitors Center, is always a crowd-pleaser.