The best way to see the Grand Canyon without punishing yourself on a heart-bursting in-and-out hike of the canyon is to hike the Rim Trail. The hike consists of a mostly paved and level trail, with nearby shuttle stops along the way. Start at either Hermit’s Rest to the west or South Kaibab Trailhead to the east. If you get to either location before dawn, you’ll be greeted by a vivid display of colors as the sun rises over the rim and hits the canyon walls. My suggestion is to head east from Hermit’s Rest for the least amount of crowds and if you enjoy the morning sun.
If you don’t have all day to hike the Rim Trail or wish to sightsee at a leisurely pace, then see what the trail has to offer in sections. Here’s my suggested itinerary for the laid-back hiker on Day 1.
Grand Canyon Rim Trail: Hermit’s Rest to Bright Angel Trailhead, 7 miles
Be sure to go inside Hermit’s Rest, which stands a few feet from the rim of the Grand Canyon and is partly buried in an earth mound. The exposed portions of the structure are designed to look like a natural rock formation while the rubble stone chimney is displayed prominently. Take a selfie at the Entry Arch outside or the by the formidable fireplace.
At Pima Point, and one mile from Hermit’s Rest, be sure to gawk at the red canyon walls of Hermit Creek. Look west for Hermit Trail as it zigzags down to Cope Butte, across Hermit Creek, then around to Travertine Canyon. To the east, look for Monument Creek, the Granite Rapids, and The Alligator. Look north for Ninetyfour Mile Creek.
The walk from Pima Point toe Monument Creek Vista is almost two miles. Much of the trail to Vista follows the 1912 alignment of Hermit Road. When you reach Vista, look down to see the Monument Creek drainage from Monument Creek Vista.
Walk another mile to The Abyss, which a nearly vertical view down into the canyon. You can still see Monument Creek drainage area and with binoculars, you may spot backpackers camping next to Monument Creek or on a small beach along the Colorado River at Granite Rapids.
From The Abyss to Mojave Point, the hike is a little over one mile. Mojave point is one of the best places to watch the sunrise or sunset. From here you can see another angle of The Abyss and the 3,000 high cliffs that encircle it. Below the huge cliffs, about half a mile of the river is visible, including Boucher Rapids and Granite Rapids. Directly below is a red sandstone mesa with jagged edges, known as The Alligator.
Mojave Point 360
One mile from Mohave point is Hopi Point, with its hide angled vista of the Grand Canyon. And another hotspot for sunrise and sunset photography. Hopi Point commands a great vista of the canyon and is centered on Dana Butte, a flat mesa 2,000 feet below the overlook. Salt Creek runs to one side, meeting the Colorado at a series of rapids, while Monument Creek is on the other side, joining the river at Granite Rapids.
Less than a half a mile from Hopi Point is Powell Point, which is another narrow spur along the West Rim. Here, they built a granite memorial to John Wesley Powell in honor of his explorations of the Colorado River in 1869 and 1872. Looking down and east is a curious ridge called The Battle Ship.
Only a 10-minute walk from Powell Point is Maricopa, which is a narrow promontory, extending northeast for 100 feet before dropping away vertically. Maricopa provides an 180° view of the Grand Canyon, with no obstructions between here and the river. With binoculars, you can see backpackers on Tonto Trail, which leads to Horn Creek and Dana Butte. Looking west at Maricopa Point, are the remains of the now-closed 1893 Orphan Mine, where they found copper, silver, vanadium and uranium. The mine was once the richest source in the whole US.
From Maricopa Point to Trailview Overlook, it’s another mile to where there are great views Bright Angel Trail switchbacking through the canyon below. Above the trail, you can see the Historic District of the village, including the prominent El Tovar Hotel.
At the final half mile is Bright Angel Trailhead and Hermits Rest Transfer Station. Here you can take a well-deserved rest and take the shuttle back to your car. Or nearby within the Village, you can have a nice beer at either El Tovar Dining Room or Bright Angel Restaurant.