Crowd Factor: 10/10
A trip to Disney World might better prepare first-time visitors for navigating the developed parts of Grand Canyon National Park than 10 years in Scouts.
Photo Credit: NPS
Peak Hours: 10a-5p
While hikers and shuttles start as early as 5am, sitting through a reasonable entrance line and finding parking is easy until at least 9am. Sometime between 930a-10a an overwhelming tsunami of visitors flood the park.
Navigating the South Rim
The South Entrance & the Purple Line
If you’re visiting for the day or staying in one of Tusayan’s hotels, do your best to enter the park's South Entrance by 9am. Otherwise, just park and ride the Purple Shuttle Line to the Visitor Center.
Photo Credit: NPS
Best Parking: The Main Visitor Center
While there are alternative lots, parking at the main Visitor Center is the simplest way to navigate the South Rim. Arrive before 830am for a stress-free experience.
Mather Point & Vista Crowds
This is a typical scene at Mather Point, the view point just behind the Visitor Center. Crowds will often grow far beyond this at most Grand Canyon Village vistas.
Photo Credit: NPS
Things to Do
Which is better: Bright Angel or South Kaibab Trail?
The South Rim offers two main trails into the canyon that start near Grand Canyon Village: South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trail. If you only have time to hike one of them, there is a clear cut winner: South Kaibab Trail.
Best Sunset Vista Points
Peak Alternative - Easy: Hermit’s Rest Rim Trail - 6.0 mi
It’s not the most exciting sounding, but the Rim Trail between Bright Angel Trailhead and Hermit’s Rest is a wonderful way to spend a few hours.
Peak Alternative - Extremely Difficult: Grandview Trail - 6.0+mi
Filled with phenomenal views, a rich history, and old mining ruins, Grandview offers great rewards to those who brave its treacherous path.
Best Day Hike: Sunrise Hike - South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point (6mi RT)
For those who are prepared and willing to start early, South Kaibab to Skeleton Point is the best reasonable day hike on the South Rim. No other trail can capture the romance, spectacle, or wonder of the Grand Canyon like a sunrise trek along this beautiful footpath.
5 Hikes That Mather
#1 South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point
The best maintained day hike on the South Rim. Better views than Bright Angel and slightly less crowded.
Distance: 6.0 Miles
Peak Alternative: No, but to do this hike in the summer you'll need to early enough that you won't really see many other people until you're heading back up.
Best Start Time: Before 630AM during the summer. Park at The Main Visitor Center and take the Orange line to the trailhead.
Summer Hiking Hours: 5a-12p, 5p-9p
It doesn’t matter how much water you have, our bodies are not built for hours of strenuous activity in 100+ degree heat. You have to start early.
Mather's One-Day Itinerary
These times are based on summer daylight hours, typical temperatures, and crowd sizes. And remember: Early to bed, early to rise. A quality summer day at the Grand Canyon starts before dawn.
430am: Wake Up
520am: Park at Grand Canyon VC
530am: Kaibab Eastbound Shuttle to Kaibab Trailhead (this shuttle leaves precisely at 530a)
545am-10am: South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point. (6.0 mi)
10am-1130am: Return to Car, Rest, Recover, Eat a Full Lunch.
1130am-1230pm: Shuttle to Bright Angel Trailhead
1230pm-430pm: Casual Rim Trail Hike to Hermit’s Rest (7.9 mi)
430p-530pm: Explore Hermit’s Rest. Eat Dinner at Hermit’s Rest Picnic Area
530-6pm: Return to Grand Canyon Village via Shuttle.
6-7pm: Explore Grand Canyon Village buildings.
7-9pm: Travel to an overlook of your choice and stake out a spot for sunset.
9pm: Pass out because you’re exhausted.