A Local’s Guide to Grand Canyon South Rim (GCSR)
The Grand Canyon is quite the beast to conquer. Not just in the sense of backpacking the gnarly trails or rafting the biggest rapids, but also in the sense that the South Rim can be quite confusing for people first arriving. I worked in the park for about a year, working the front desk at the historic El Tovar and then slinging coffee and bike tires at Bright Angel Bicycles. Here are some tricks and tips regarding the best things to do in one day (or more) on the South Rim of Grand Canyon, from a local’s perspective.
South Rim Food
Let’s start with the most important meal of the day: Breakfast at the El Tovar. By far, this is the best breakfast in the park. Their Southwest avocado toast, with a side of Arizona Gunslinger hotsauce, is my personal favorite, but you cannot go wrong with their breakfast quesadilla or Soran style eggs and beef chorizo. Also, you will see their pastry table on your walk inside, drink that tea, take a bite of that cake, and fall down the rabbit hole because the cream horn is a GCSR (Grand Canyon South Rim) classic.
Next up is your lunch adventure. One of my favorite things to do is to head to the General Store, and have a picnic. They have excellent and authentic tortillas, cheeses, including some raw options, a selection of kombucha, fruits and vegetables, and other snacks. I love doing this for lunch to save a little money and to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful canyon air.
Snacks and Drinks
Of course, you’ll need a mid day snack, in which case, head back to the El Tovar and grab a seat on the Lounge deck. I suggest ordering a nice glass of Arizona wine (their red blends are delicious) or a Tower Station (a local IPA which has built up a cult following). To suit, if there is one thing you should eat while visiting the South Rim, this is it: the parmesan sidewinder fries. These thick cut fries are covered in parmesan and accompanied with an aoli and ketchup. Simple as they may seem, they are delicious!
GCSR Dinner Options
If you are still hungry after everything else, which let’s face it, I would be, you have a few options for dinner. If you’re staying at the campground and have access to a fire or grill, I suggest grabbing some burgers from the General Store or planning ahead and stopping at Poper Meats on your way in from Flagstaff. Proper is a local butcher shop that has extraordinary meats and fish, as well as the best veggie burger of your life, for those vegetarians out there. Either way, bring some goodies to your campsite and grill it up yourself. However, if you would like a more relaxed and convenient option, head to the Arizona Steakhouse. They have salads, steak, and a vegetarian option.
Best Grand Canyon South Rim Views
Your main purpose for visiting the South Rim is most likely, to see the grandest of all canyons! It seems as though there are extraordinary views everywhere you turn. Here are a few of my favorites: Shoshone Point, Lipan Point, Moran Point, and Yaki Point. Shoshone Point is a magical viewpoint; it is wonderful both in the daylight, but also for a peaceful stargazing spot. It is very steep, so please use caution. Shoshone Point is a popular place for permitted weddings, so you may accidentally stumble upon one!
Desert View Watchtower
Yaki Point, Moran Point, and Lipan Point are all on Arizona Highway 64 heading to the Desert View Watchtower. Yaki Point is not accessible by private vehicle, so be prepared to hop on the Orange Shuttle to take in its glory. Moran Point highlights several different rock groups, which is pretty spectacular to see. Lipan Point is a personal favorite, as it is also home to the Tanner Trailhead. Finally, I recommend checking out the Desert View Watchtower. The views from this location are amazing and the architecture of the building is fascinating.
Activities along the South Rim
“What is there to do here” was one of the most popular questions I got while working at the South Rim. Here are some of my favorites.
Grand Canyon Bicycling
I recommend bringing your bike, or renting one from Bright Angel Bicycles and riding up to Hermits Rest. This ride will definitely challenge you, but it is so worth breathing in the fresh air and the beautiful views of the canyon.
Hiking into the Canyon
As a canyon enthusiast, I also encourage people to responsibly hike into the canyon. Simply getting on a trail and immersing yourself below those canyon walls is a once in a lifetime experience. There are many wonderful trails that I recommend to cautious and thoughtful hikers. The South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails are excellent options for beginners. The Hermit trail is a little tougher, but features some beautiful viewpoints. The Waldron Trail is another excellent choice. These hikes can grueling affairs if you try to get to the bottom of the canyon, however, a 10 minute walk off the rim gives perspective to just how grand the canyon is. I always recommend researching trails before hiking them and being prepared with salty snacks and water.
Native American Art at the South Rim
I also recommend checking out the beautifully curated items in the Hopi House. Located right next to the El Tovar, the Hopi House has some of the most beautiful Native American jewelry and pottery in the park. They have a wide range of items at different price points, so there is something for everyone.
If you choose one of these things to do in the Grand Canyon South Rim, the experience will be memorable. Even just sunset or sunrise stroll has been the best part of many of my days on the rim. Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy yourself in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. If you have more time check out attraction just outside the park.