Best Place to See the Grand Canyon Sunrise at South Rim

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If you’re wondering where the best place to see the Grand Canyon sunrise at South Rim is, you’re not alone. With more than six million visitors to the national park each year, there are plenty of people trying to find the best place to see the show.

And what a show it is! Mother Nature does not disappoint. It was easily one of the most memorable sunrises we’ve ever seen! There are some things you should know before you go, though, and we’ll do our best to answer all your questions for you.

Where Is the Best Place to See the Grand Canyon at Sunrise?

There are many viewing areas at the Grand Canyon, but some of them are not as accessible as others. Since you’ll be getting up before the crack of dawn, you’re probably going to want one that’s easy enough to drive to. Other viewing points open up in the wrong direction and aren’t great for watching the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. You’ll want to be at one that opens up east to west and even better if it juts out into the canyon.

If you’re not familiar with Grand Canyon South Rim, the National Park website has a map of all the viewing areas for you to reference.

Where to Watch the Sunrise at Grand Canyon

Some of the most popular places to see the sunrise in the Grand Canyon are along the South Rim. Mather Point, in particular, is a great option and arguably has the best view of the Grand Canyon you’ll find. It’s near the visitor center and also has a large parking area, restrooms, a coffee shop, and easy access to the rim trail. After you’ve seen the sunrise over the canyon, you can even rent a bike to ride the trail.

Plan to get to the viewing point at least 30 minutes before sunrise at the Grand Canyon
Sunrise over Mather Point in the Grand Canyon

We went to Mather Point one of the two mornings we were at the Grand Canyon and were surprised how many people had already claimed their spot when we got there. The good thing about watching the sunrise here is that there are quite a few places along the rim that are great viewing areas.

You could also drive to Yaki, Navajo, or Lipan Points. During the winter months, you can drive all of the South Rim in your own vehicle. However, for the rest of the year you will have to take the free shuttle bus to get to viewing areas along Hermit Road. Hopi Point is a very popular place to see the Grand Canyon sunrise, although it can get pretty crowded, too.

Mather Point view point is a great place to watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon
Mather Point at Grand Canyon South Rim

If you decide to drive further down Desert View Drive along the South Rim, you’ll find more Grand Canyon sunrise spots that are worth mentioning. After spending time exploring the first day, we ended up at Desert View Watchtower. We decided that would be the most amazing place to see the sunrise along Grand Canyon South Rim. We were right!

The sun coming up over Dessert View Watchtower in the Grand Canyon is stunning.
Dessert View Watchtower at Grand Canyon South Rim is an amazing location to see the sunrise!

If you’re entering Grand Canyon National Park from the east entrance, Desert View Watchtower is the first stop you can make. However, if you’re coming from Grand Canyon Village, it’s the last stop and takes about half an hour from the entrance.

We were there over spring break when it was fairly crowded at the park and were quite surprised to find we were the only people at this location. We had one of the best places to watch the sunrise in the Grand Canyon all to ourselves. Watching this stunning show all by ourselves is a memory I hope to never forget!

Desert View Watchtower is the best place to watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon.
The sunrise at Desert View Watchtower viewpoint.

What Time Is Sunrise at Grand Canyon

As the saying goes “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and it’s true here, too. If you aren’t already at the viewing area you planned to get to by sunrise time, you’re going to completely miss the show.

Start by checking your phone’s weather app to find out exactly when’s sunrise time at Grand Canyon National Park. You can also check here. Don’t just take into account travel time, but also include the time it takes to walk to the viewing area. Some viewpoints are further from the parking lot than others. If you’re planning on a Mather Point sunrise, add about 10 minutes to your plan so that you don’t miss sunrise time.

How Long Does a Sunrise Take?

Good question. Even before the sun starts to actually peak above the horizon, you’ll start getting a glimpse of the show. For that reason, you’re going to want to get there 30 minutes before sunrise time. The actual time it takes the sun to rise is only a few minutes. However, you won’t want to leave immediately after that. As the sun continues to rise it shines on the walls of the canyons, lighting up the red rock and chasing away the shadows. Oftentimes, the best view of the Grand Canyon is shortly after sunrise. The air is crisp and cleaner than it tends to be in the afternoon, making it less hazy. This is great for taking pictures!

Is Sunrise or Sunset Better at Grand Canyon?

Great question!

We spent two nights at Grand Canyon Village so we were able to see two sunsets and two sunrises there. They were both beautiful and if your schedule only allows for one or the other, don’t even worry about it. Just go and enjoy.

What we noticed is that it was a bit hazier both evenings. This makes the pictures not as clear as in the mornings. Also, our second evening there was incredibly windy. It definitely kicked up a few notches during the day and made it pretty chilly watching the sunset over the Grand Canyon.

We ended up parking where we could see the van close by and let the kids who didn’t want to get out stay in it. The rest of us bundled up the best we could, used the trees (and each other) to block the wind a bit, and stayed to enjoy the show. It was worth it!

Sunset at the Grand Canyon from one of the viewing points at the South Rim
Watching the sun bring out different colors on the Grand Canyon walls during a sunset.

How Many Days Should You Spend at the Grand Canyon?

Most people spend one to three nights at the Grand Canyon. Since we were there for two nights, we had time to explore the area around South Rim before heading out to see some of the other amazing vacation spots in Arizona. We felt like two days was plenty of time to get to hit the highlights with the kids. We also felt like we’d stayed long enough without rushing it.

There’s so much you can plan to do at the Grand Canyon! You can easily spend more time there, but one to three days is plenty for the average vacationer. Most people spend their time driving from view point to view point, spending about 17-20 minutes at each stop.

If you’re traveling on a budget, Andrew at Max My Money has great tips for making your money go further on vacation.

Have you seen the sunrise over the Grand Canyon? What do you think is the best place to see the Grand Canyon sunrise at South Rim?

Till next time,

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Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.

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