It’s safe to say there’s no bad view at the Grand Canyon – it’s all breathtaking. But with multiple scenic overlooks to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. So we asked our friends at DETOURS American West and REI Co-op Experiences to give us their top picks for Grand Canyon scenic views. Here’s what they said:
Lipan Point is one of our favorite viewpoints because it offers some of the most encompassing and far-reaching views of the South Rim, reflecting the deepest and widest part of the Grand Canyon. With views of the Colorado River, this expansive vista is perched at 7,360 feet above sea level and showcases layers of the Supergroup rock strata, only visible from a few areas along the South Rim. The stunning landscapes visible from this point make it a must-see for all visitors to the Grand Canyon!
Mather Point is one of the most popular spots on the South Rim and it really highlights the depth and width of the Canyon. This viewpoint is close to the park entrance and has two railed viewing points on projecting rocks. Mather Point also connects to the Rim Trail which has several more incredible viewpoints.
Lookout Studio gives you a nice view of the historic El Tovar hotel as well as prime viewing opportunities of the California condor. The Studio is an observation station (and gift shop), making it a perfect vantage point to see the depths of the Grand Canyon. The Studio is made from local stone and wood, so it practically blends into the scenery.
Bright Angel Trail is one of only two fully maintained hiking routes into the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. This is also the most popular long-distance trail in the National Park. Visitors hike this trail to catch the rafts for white-water rafting. Another advantage of taking this particular trail is that water is available at four locations throughout the hike (two year-round, two seasonal).
Desert View Tower offers the first glimpse of the Grand Canyon for guests arriving from the east, with distant views of the Painted Desert plateaus. This location also marks where one of the biggest bends of the Colorado River is visible. The tower, built in 1932, is right on the cliff’s edge and is visible for many miles across this part of the canyon.
Known for its sweeping vistas, Cape Royal is the most popular viewpoint on the North Rim and for very good reason. Looking out from the edge, nearly 1,000 feet above the South Rim viewpoints, the view is so widespread you can see the upper reaches of the Colorado River, the Painted Desert, and all the way into the inner canyon corridor. The North Rim gets far fewer visitors each year than the South so even spectacular viewpoints like this one are less crowded.
Toroweap Overlook: Toroweap can only be accessed by dirt roads that require a four-wheel drive vehicle. There is no lodging, food, gas, or water around but if you do make the trek you will be rewarded with the only view in Grand Canyon National Park where the Colorado River rushes by directly below (3,000ft!) the rim you stand on.
Hopi Point: is a very popular spot for most South Rim visitors and if your visit is a quick one, it shouldn’t be missed. Because of its accessibility it’s rare to get Hopi point all to yourself. The popularity of Hopi is due not only to easy access – the views from this spot are quintessential Grand Canyon. The sweeping expanse of multi-hued canyon before you is hard to take in so plan to spend some time looking out at it and watching the shadows play off different rock formations as the light changes. Hopi point does have a view of the Colorado River and is one of best-known spots to watch a sunset at Grand Canyon.
Ooh Aah Point: The name really says it all here. Located just ¾ of a mile down the South Kaibab trail from the South Rim, Ooh Aah point takes a bit of commitment to get to but it’s absolutely worth it. South Kaibab trail begins in a sheltered canyon then opens up to a 180 degree expanse at Ooh Aah Point. Hiking into the Canyon a ways will give you an entirely different perspective as now the view stretches not only in front of you but up around you with the canyon walls rising in every direction.
One of the most photographed locations in the Grand Canyon, Nankoweap is a river-access only viewpoint. Guided rafting trips typically stop near the famous Indian Granaries and hike up above the river to catch sight of the muddy Colorado snaking up the canyon before them. If you are a highly accomplished hiker, there is a trail to Nankoweap. It is rated the most difficult in the Canyon, has no water access along it and requires some advanced route finding. Always consult the National Park for information about seasonal restrictions before considering this hike.