All my life, I thought the Grand Canyon was a place to stop in the middle of the desert and take a picture. Sitcoms, movies, and even travel articles I’d read mentioned pulling the station wagon over for the requisite photo opp and then almost leaving a child or two behind as everyone made a mad dash for the real vacation destination.
It wasn’t until my own recent visit to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim that I realized that the canyon is itself a worthy destination.
So what do you do when you’re at the Grand Canyon after you’ve taken that “look, Ma! The Grand Canyon!” photo?
What to Do at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim
1. Hike the Timeline Trail
Start at the Yavapai Geology Museum and listen to a park ranger explain why the Grand Canyon exists in the northern Arizona desert and nowhere else. Once you’ve gotten a quick geological history lesson, you can walk just over a mile along the South Rim, stopping at rock samples from different canyon layers. Along with the educational experience, the trail has numerous spots to stop for a stunning view of the canyon. And, yes, you’ll want to take pictures.
2. Hike below the rim
There are trails to fit all skill levels and schedules. Spend an afternoon hiking just below the surface, or plan to hike to the bottom and spend the night before hiking back up. Even if you can only make it a mile or two down, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas and a rare perspective of the Grand Canyon.
3. Climb the Desert Watchtower
At the east edge of the South Rim, at the end of Desert View Road¸ is an old watchtower created by Mary Colter. You can climb 85 steps to get a 360 view of the canyon and step outside onto the roof of the first floor for a rare glimpse at the Colorado River. This is a perfect spot to enjoy a sunrise or sunset.