How to Visit the Grand Canyon in Half a Day

Last fall I planned a long girls weekend to Sedona, but I also wanted to check out the Grand Canyon because it was on my bucket list.  Ultimately, the red rocks of Sedona won the bid for the trip, but I still had the Grand Canyon on the brain.  This is a must see in your life kind of destination, and we were only going to be a few hours drive away.

Following some on-line research and consulting with my mom, who had just visited the Grand Canyon earlier in the year, we decided to make it a day trip of it from Sedona.  Including our travel time travel time in the car, we only really had about half a day to actually explore this wonder, but we were determined to make the most of it.

I could easily spend more than a week hiking and checking out the sites around the Grand Canyon, but it is possible to take in a pretty impressive highlights reel in about half a day.  We did it, so I wanted to share our itinerary with you guys.

GCK Base Color 2


  1. Park at the Visitor’s Center and take the (complimentary) bus at the Visitor’s Center west toward Yaki Point.
  2. Leaving Yaki Point, take the bus east back to the Visitor Center.
  3. Explore the Visitor Center, then head north on the walkway toward Mather Point, checking out several views.  This itinerary includes time for stopping at each of the overlooks for some time, so don’t feel like you need to rush through things.)
  4. Leaving Mather Point, head west on the Rim Trail toward Yavapai Point, where you will find a geological museum and a great overlook area.   There are lots of great lookout spots between Mather Point and Yavapai, so be sure to stop along the way.
  5. Leave Yavapai Point and travel southwest on the Rim Trail headed toward the Village, taking time for photos along the way.  Look for the crazy craggly tree just before you get to the Village.  In the Village check out the Hopi House shopping area and the El Tovar Hotel (a/k/a, the one Clark Griswold stayed in National Lampoons Vacation).
  6. Continue west on the trail, stopping at the Lookout Studio and Kolb Studio for some shopping, to look at art, and more epic spots for photos.  (Kolb Studio has a great tiered lookout area you can explore.)
  7. Stop for a bite to eat at the Village before grabbing the bus back east, to the Visitor Center.  If time allows, you can always follow the Rim Trail back the way you came as well.
  8. Before you go home, as you exit the Visitor Center Parking lot, make a left and drive a short distance to Pipe Creek Vista for a great view and some really fun (and SAFE!) photo ops.

There is a rock wall with about 20-30 feet behind it.  If you position your camera just right and stage correctly, it  will look like you are hanging on the edge.


  •  I’ve included a link to the National Park Service pocket map HERE.  Print this out or save as a file on your phone.
  • Using the itinerary above, assuming you take the bus back from the Village to the Visitor’s Center, you will be walking less than 5 miles on a paved trail, so comfy tennis shoes are fine. The Rim Trail can be navigated easily and is stroller and wheelchair accessible, though some of the lookouts will take you down stairs and off paved pathways.
  • While some of the lookouts have railings, the Rim Trail generally does NOT.  Be careful and watch where you are stepping at all times if you go off the paved pathway.  If you have toddlers or small kiddos that are mobile, watch them closely.  (I won’t be brining my little daredevil here until he’s much older – everything looks so fun to climb on!)
  • Typical mom warnings.  Wear sunscreen, even if visiting in cool weather.  Drink plenty of water, especially in the summer. Bring snacks.
  • Photo ops are so much fun, and I have some great shots from the trip.  But no Instagram post or vacation pic is worth losing your life.  Be smart about where you go off trail, and look for opportunities for optical illusionsinstead of actually dangling off the edges.
  • You’ll check out Mather Point early in the day.  Before you leave the Visitor’s Center area to go home, pop back out at Mather Point one last time to take another look to see how the light has changed.  During our visit it was super cloudy and moody looking in the morning, and the afternoon was bright and sunny.  It was like seeing two completely different landscapes.  Check out the difference between these two shots a few hours apart from the same spot.


Still making up your mind whether to make the trip?  Below I’m sharing a few of my other favorite photos from the trip…

Just past Yavapai, on the way toward the Village area.
This is the “craggily” tree right before you reach the Village area on the Rim Trail.
Shopping in the Hopi House.
Another safe photo op at the Kolb Studio.  Don’t worry, there were was a terraced walkway with another wall in front of it just below where she is standing.
Just checking out the sites.
Love watching the light and clouds pain the rocky terraces.
This boulder is in the middle of a viewing area on all sides, so it is great (safe) photo op.
Mather Point area.
People walking down the terraced ledges at Kolb Studio.

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