The first time Grand Canyon took my breath away was when I saw this on Google Maps while I was researching our trip to the place. In what was otherwise a massively flat landscape, there was this sudden explosion of geography, like a massive fractal generator gone rogue. The scale of the natural wonder does not sink in, until I realized that the loop of road, from mid bottom to the bottom right corner, is about 20 miles long and takes half an hour.
Our trip to the Grand Canyon, was a day trip with no time to hike. That meant we were mostly interested in lookout points that provided great views. Curiously enough, for all the information there is about this natural wonder, we couldn't find many sites that definitely talked about key details of lookout points. Hence this post. In no way is this complete, but hopefully some of you may find it useful.
There are two rims to viewing the Grand Canyon, the quieter (and difficult to reach) North Rim and the more touristy (but equally grand) South Rim. If this is your first trip, go to the South Rim and keep it simple. The main route to the park is Arizona highway 64, that goes into the park itself through a checkpoint (where you can buy entry tickets). Continuing on the highway gets you to the visitor center and the first view point called Mather Point. As you can imagine, this is one of the most visited points. Off the highway to the left is the Grand Canyon Village, where you can find lodging and boarding if you so desire. Continuing on AZ-64 takes you onto East Rim Dr., that goes along the South Rim, passing a number of view points ending at the Desert View about 20 miles away.
All the points below are between the Mather Point and Desert View. There are a number of other points along the south rim that you could take a shot at, but these were the ones that worked best for us.
Mather Point: This is the first view point that comes up while driving north on AZ-64, and is linked to the visitor and learning centers. There are three parking lots, each of which connects to the main visitor area. The overlook with guardrails is located about a five to seven minute walk from the visitor center. The patch is mostly flat, well paved and accessible. The place is always busy, but the overlook is big enough to accommodate.
Yaki Point: This is the next viewpoint to the east of Mather Point. There are two ways to get to it - take the free shuttle from Mather Point, or park by the highway and walk the 1.2 mile connector road to the overlook. The connector road is not open to the public, only to the shuttle. There is also no parking by the road - there is a picnic spot by the connector where you can leave your vehicle instead. The shuttle starts early in the day, so this is a good alternative to Mather point for a sunrise experience.
Grandview Point: Grandview Point has a lot of historical significance, being among the first overlooks to be discovered. The views from here are spectacular with the Hance rapids visible from here. The view is accessible after a short drive through a connecting road ending in a loop that has some parking. The overlook is just beyond the parking.
Lipan Point: This overlook is accessible after a short connector road, just like Grandview point, with a loop at the end having some parking available. A pretty good view, but nothing you would not see from the next location.
Desert view: The Desert View is the eastern most point on East Rim drive, and it is a treat. There is a large parking just off the AZ-64, and walking about 5 minutes from the parking brings you to the historic watchtower. Not only are the views fantastic, but the watchtower itself is a treat. The river is visible from here and will probably be a great place to watch the sunrise from.
If you go to the Grand Canyon, you should probably spend some time and hike around the place. If you are unwilling or unable, and want to just want some views the places above may be a good place to start.
Update: Here is a photo-gallery of our trip to the Grand Canyon.
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