Nothing is more spectacular than ending your day witnessing fantastic Grand Canyon sunset. Visited by millions of visitors each year, Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most visited landmarks in Arizona and the United States.
Known for its magnificent canyons and stunning geological rock formations, gorges, hiking trails and waterfalls, there are plenty of amazing things to do in this park, but watching the sunset in Grand Canyon National Park is one of the top things that should be on your bucket list.
Add at least a few of these best Grand Canyon sunset spots to your itinerary. In this post, we cover all the best places to watch a sunset in Grand Canyon, how to get there, and valuable tips to help you have a splendid experience.
WHAT IS BETTER? SUNSET OR SUNRISE?
To be honest, both sunrise and sunset in Grand Canyon are spectacular, and if it is possible, make sure to watch both spectacles.
However, the significant advantage of Grand Canyon sunset is that you will be one of the few people at the viewpoints, so if you want to avoid the crowds, sunrise it is.
Admiring the beautiful sunset in the Grand Canyon also means the skies are better and more transparent, and you can also enjoy driving around the national park.
If you are not an early riser, watching a sunset in the Grand Canyon is better for you. Grand Canyon sunsets are also more colourful, and you have better options to capture the vivid colours if you can patiently wait for your turn amidst the crowds.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO WATCH GRAND CANYON SUNSET?
Grand Canyon National Park is magnificent throughout the year, sweeping you with its spectacular landscapes. For the best sunset views in Grand Canyon, head there during the spring and fall months.
Because the weather is pleasant, with tolerable temperatures ideal for hiking and driving. Also, during these months, the sun sets directly in line with the canyon, forming a stunning special effect.
Alternatively, winter is also a great time to see the sunset in the Grand Canyon National Park, especially at the North Rim.
HOW TO GET AROUND GRAND CANYON SUNSET SPOTS?
The easiest way to travel around the national park to reach the sunrise and sunset spots in the Grand Canyon is on the free shuttle buses that frequently run throughout the day, beginning about one hour before sunrise and ending about one hour after sunset, approximately every 30 minutes.
Apart from quickly getting around, these shuttle buses save you from the hassle of finding parking spots in the busy summer months.
But note that since there are plenty of visitors, the buses get filled up quickly, especially if you arrive to watch the sunset in Grand Canyon, as it is the best way to reach the trailheads right on time before sunrise and come back conveniently.
Take the orange route or the Kaibab Rim shuttle from the visitor to access Yaki Point, Yavapai Point, Mather Point, and Pipe Creek Vista.
If you are here between March and November, take the red line or the Hermit Road shuttle accessible between March 1 and November 30 to reach Pima, Powell, Mohave, Maricopa, and Hopi Points, all of which are not reachable by private vehicles if the roads are blocked by snow.
Note that there is no shuttle service offered along Desert View Drive, home to Grandview, Lipan, Navajo, and Desert View Points.
BEST GRAND CANYON SUNSET SPOTS – SOUTH RIM
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most popular destination for watching epic Grand Canyon sunsets since it has better and easy accessibility, better amenities, and plenty of spots to admire the views.
Here are some of the best places to watch the sunset at Grand Canyon South Rim.
Among the most famous places to watch stunning Grand Canyon sunset is Mather Point in the South Rim, thanks to its perfect location at the South Rim overlooking many gorgeous viewpoints on a peninsula into the Canyon, offering the views of almost the entire Canyon.
Expect crowds at Mather Point no matter when you visit. It is best to arrive at least an hour before and stay back after sunset to watch the beautiful colours cast in the skies.
Located close to Grand Canyon village, you can easily access this spot by walking for about 5 minutes from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, which begins above the rim and ends in front of the Bright Angel Lodge.
Soak in the blissful Mather Point Grand Canyon sunrise views from the one-mile drop, casting their glow over the Canyon, the beautiful views of the Colorado River, Phantom Ranch from here.
Known for its fantastic Grand Canyon sunset views, Yavapai Point is unsurprisingly among the most crowded spots, no matter the time of the year.
Due to its excellent location and easy accessibility via the orange route of the free shuttle, Yavapai Point is extremely busy at sunset. You can also drive to Yavapai Point with a parking lot available nearby(although it is almost always filled).
The other alternative option to save the parking hassle is to walk along the Rim from Mather Point and the main visitor centre. You will be treated to the dance of purple, bright red, orange, yellow and pink colours across the skies creating perfect silhouettes of the gorges at sunset.
Another busy place to watch beautiful Grand Canyon sunset views is Hopi Point, which offers spectacular views of the sunset that casts its colours making the cliffs glow.
Unlike other places, you can see the complete sunset over the canyon rim with wide views. Also, despite packed buses and crowds, you can still manage to secure a spot to enjoy these blissful views at Hopi Point. Head further east of Hopi Point or move Southwest for better panoramic views.
One of the popular stops along Hermits Drive is Pima Point, which offers fantastic views of the sunset in Grand Canyon National Park.
If you want to avoid the busy crowds of Hopi or Mohave, Pima Point is the best place to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon. You can take the shuttle to Hermit’s Rest and it is the second last stop along the West Rim Drive after Hermit’s Rest.
An hour away from Grand Canyon village, one of the less-crowded places to watch a beautiful sunrise in Grand Canyon park is Lipan Point, which can also be accessed along Desert View Drive.
Unlike the other Grand Canyon sunset spots, you can see unique shadows on the walls of the canyon here during sunset, creating special visual effects.
On the best day, you can see the colourful skies dominating the horizon, including the views of the San Francisco peaks and the Painted Desert all the way over in Petrified Forest National Park.
One of the popular Grand Canyon sunset spots on the south Rim is Mohave Point located further along the Rim after Pima Point also located along Hermits Drive.
You can walk between these two points and it is a beautiful trail offering splendid views of the gorge, Monument Creek Vista and The Abyss.
Mohave Point also has better views compared to Hopi Point since the canyon opens wider to the west offering full-length panoramic views comprising purple, pink, and red hues.
BEST GRAND CANYON SUNSET SPOTS – NORTH RIM
The more remote and mystic North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which only opens between May and October each year also offers some fantastic Grand Canyon sunset views.
The North Rim closes in winter, when the weather here becomes extremely cold with roads blocked from snow, approximately between December 1 and May 14.
Here are some of the best sunset spots in Grand Canyon North Rim.
BRIGHT ANGEL POINT
If you are looking for the best hiking trails for watching epic Grand Canyon sunset views along the North Rim, Bright Angel Point trail is only 0.5 miles round trip and offers spectacular views along its narrow, paved path with landscapes transitioning from green forest of the Kaibab Plateau to a little forest of pinyon and juniper.
The trail to Bright Angel Point begins behind the Visitor Center, or from the Grand Canyon Lodge veranda.
Although a short trail, it drops off considerably at a few places and is steep, but you can complete it within an hour.
One of the top spots to watch an epic sunset in Grand Canyon North Rim is Cape Royal, known for its magnificent views encompassing Marble Canyon to the Palisades of the Desert, offering some of the widest panoramic views to experience a fabulous sunset overlooking the Colorado River.
THE GRAND CANYON LODGE & ITS PATIO
One of the historical landmarks in the national park, it may be very tough to get your room due to its immense popularity at the Grand Canyon Lodge, but you can enjoy gorgeous sunset views from their patio thanks to its excellent location overlooking many points of interest across the canyon.
You cannot expect anything less splendid when you are at the highest point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at 8,803 feet, Point Imperial.
This northern-most boundary of the park offers beautiful Grand Canyon sunset views across the deserted landscapes and the eastern end of Grand Canyon as you can see the narrow walls of Marble Canyon widening to form a bigger gorge made of red and black Precambrian rocks.
BEST GRAND CANYON SUNSET SPOTS ALONG THE DESERT VIEW DRIVE
Desert View Drive is a 22-mile route that takes you through the heart of the national park featuring spectacular views at many viewpoints, hiking trails, and stopovers beside the Colorado River.
As the name suggests, you can only access this route by private vehicles, and there is no shuttle service.
To get on Desert View Drive, go east of the Visitor centre, parallel to the river. Below are some stops worth making for splendid Grand Canyon sunrise views.
DESERT VIEW WATCH TOWER
If you’re entering Grand Canyon National Park from the east entrance, Desert View Watchtower is the first stop you can make on Desert View Drive. It is the last stop if you start from Grand Canyon village.
There is a parking lot available, and it is a short walk to the fenced observation deck, from where you can admire beautiful views of the Canyon and the flowing Colorado River.
This is the second stop east of the beginning of Desert View Drive, offering unique and beautiful, far-reaching views along a wide section of the Grand Canyon and recommended for enjoying a quiet sunset in the Grand Canyon.
If you are up for a moderately challenging hike to witness some of the most spectacular Grand Canyon sunset views, head to Grandview Point, one of the highest Grand Canyon South Rim lookouts featuring expansive views of the canyons and many important landmark attractions.
It is one of the offbeat trails involving a steep descent, which is more of a vertical drop on an unmaintained trail, so it is best only for experienced and fit hikers.
Although it is most famous for sunset, Navajo Point also offers some fantastic views of the Grand Canyon sunset, including the panoramic views of the Colorado River and its white rapids.
It is another viewpoint with a wide angle, and is one of the best locations for capturing incredible wide angle sunset views of Grand Canyon.
USEFUL TIPS TO WATCH SUNSET IN GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
- Check the weather – Although not frequent, storms are expected at Grand Canyon National Park during late summer, between July to September. So check the weather before you leave.
- Stay safe – The roads become more fragile, slippery and dangerous. It is best not to get exposed during lighting and thunder, especially at the edge of rocky mountains. If storms occur, head to the nearest designated shelter points immediately. Avoid standing under tall or stand-alone trees.
- Do not go off the trail while hiking to the Grand Canyon sunset spots. While the splendid trails may entice you, stay within the trail within the fences.
- Winter drive on Hermit Road – One of the advantages of visiting Grand Canyon in the winter months is that between December 1 and February 28, you can drive your vehicle along Hermit Road to reach the sunset viewpoints.
- Extend your stay – Did you know? The Grand Canyon National Park is a designated destinations for stargazing. So spend sometime after soaking in the magnificent sunset views to watch incredible views of star-studded night skies, the perfect way to end your day in this gorgeous park.
- Check the timings – Look for Grand Canyon sunset time before planning your sunrise hike, as the time varies depending on the season you visit the national park. Note that the sunset and sunrise times in Arizona are in Mountain Standard Time. Daylight savings time is not observed here.
- Start early – It is best to take the commute time if using the shuttle or driving to the sunset spots in Grand Canyon. If you don’t stay in the campground or a nearby hotel, you may need around 30 minutes or an hour to reach the points or trails.
- Calculate time for hiking – Depending on your fitness levels and speed, and you may take more time than the average estimates provided if you are going to hike. It is best to know how long you may need, allowing you to time your sunset hike in Grand Canyon correctly.
- Parking options – If you are late, one of the best ways to make the most of your time is to park at the main visitor centre parking lot, from where it is easy to access some of the sunrise spots in the Grand Canyon.
- Carry essentials – Wear layers for your trip as the weather frequently changes. Great hiking shoes with a good grip, headlamps, jackets, water, and snacks are a must, irrespective of the hike.
- Watch out for snakes and other wildlife – Although the rattlesnake season runs from May through October, you may run into snakes at any time of year.
- Stay hydrated – Although temperatures can be low if you’re heading out before sunrise, once the sun is up, it quickly gets hot no matter which time of the year. Drink sufficient water to stay hydrated.
- Protecting from the sun – Going back, you will likely be exposed to the heat, as most trails have minimal or no shaded areas. Carry sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
- Points to fill water – You can fill your water bottles at Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Hermit’s Rest, Bright Angel Trailhead, Verkamp’s Visitor Center, Yavapai Point, and the South Kaibab Trailhead.
- Restrooms – Well-maintained restrooms are located at Yavapai and Desert View Points and the Visitor Center. Mobile toilets(Portapoty) are available at Hopi, Yaki, and Grandview Points.
MAP OF THE GRAND CANYON SUNSET SPOTS
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