America's 50 Best Viewpoints You Can Drive to Right Now

50 highest viewpoints in the u.s. reachable by car.

Mt. Washington

Some of the best attractions to be found in this great, big world aren't manmade — although the path to them is. Whether roads were created to get from one place to another or to simply bring the masses to the doors of the world, there are roads in the United States that will take you higher than you've ever been before.

If you are ready for a road trip that leaves you awestruck, drive to these viewpoints to take in some of the best (and highest) sights America has to offer.

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

horshoe

The oft-found Instagram images of Horseshoe Bend don't do it justice. You simply have to see it in person to take in the 1,000-foot cliffs made from the winding Colorado River (which carved the Grand Canyon).

Elevation: 4,200 feet

Route: Follow Highway 89 from Page, Arizona, to milepost 544. It's A 3/4-mile walk to the rim.

Cadillac Mountain, Maine

Cadillac Mountain

The highest point on the North Atlantic Seaboard, Cadillac Mountain is within Acadia National Park in Maine, with its peak accessible by car. People head to this spot to catch the first sunrise on the East Coast.

Elevation: 1,530 feet

Route: Cadillac Summit Loop Trail, a 3.5-mile paved loop

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming

yellowstone

You can drive right up to various lookout points in Yellowstone to take in the 1,000-foot deep Grand Canyon.

At Uncle Tom's Point, just a half-mile from the parking lot, you can get views of the Upper Falls, which drop 110 feet.

Elevation: 7,784 feet

Route: Follow Grand Loop Trail near Canyon Village

Fees: $35 per vehicle

Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire

Cathedral Ledge

Found within the state park of the same name, you can only visit this peak by car in late spring through fall, as the snow can make it a treacherous drive. But the views of the Saco River Valley to the White Mountains make it worth the wait.

Elevation: 1,159 feet

Route: Cathedral Ledge Road, a 1-mile paved in-and-back trail

Fees: $4 adults, $2 children 6-11

Spruce Knob, West Virginia

Spruce Knob

West Virginia's highest peak, Spruce Knob, also features an observation tower at its peak. The viewing platform with 360-degree views of Monongahela National Forest is just a half-mile loop walk along the Whispering Spruce Trail .

Elevation: 4,863 feet

Route: Follow the paved FR 104 about 1.6 miles to the tower parking lot.

Marin Headlands, California

marin

Overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, the Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area provides the prettiest views of San Francisco, and Vista Point makes a perfect perch for sunset viewing.

Elevation: 923 feet

Route: Conzelman Road, a 5-mile paved drive

Pikes Peak, Colorado

pikes peak

Follow the winding Pikes Peak Highway first constructed in 1915 for a 38-mile, there-and-back journey with multiple stops for views of the Rocky Mountains at the Continental Divide. You'll drive from 7,400 feet to 14,115 feet to reach the summit.

Elevation: 14,115 feet

Route: 19-mile drive

Fees: $10 16+, $5 children 6-15, or $35 for up to 5 passengers

Clingsmans Dome, Tennessee

Clingmans Dome

The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be seen by car or by the observation tower known as Clingsman Dome, which provides 360-degree unobstructed views. Just plan accordingly: The road is closed from December through March.

Elevation: 6,643 feet

Route: Follow Clingsman Dome Road, a 7-mile paved road with multiple scenic pullouts. If you want to walk to the dome, it's a half-mile paved trail.

Mount Washington, New Hampshire

Mount Washington

In order to make the drive to the highest summit in the Presidential Mountain Range, you can only travel May through October, otherwise, you'll have to take a guide snowcat adventure to the peak in Mount Washington State Park, as the roads are covered in snow.

Elevation: 6,288 feet

Route: Mount Washington Auto Road

Fees: $35 car and driver, $10 adult passenger, $7 child 5-12

Yosemite's Glacier Point, California

Glacier Point

Be awed by the stunning valley of Yosemite National Park with its warm-weather drive and overlook — but hurry! — the road will close in 2022 for repairs.

Elevation: 7,214 feet

Route: Follow Wawona Road, which is Highway 41 within the park, to Glacier Point Road

Pinnacles Overlook, South Dakota

pinnacles

Throughout Badlands National Park’s 244,000 acres, visitors will see a vast landscape of geological formations that include eroded buttes and pinnacles. These mix with prairie grass where bison, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs roam free. The view from Pinnacles Overlook is one of the park’s best and is the highest elevation in its North Unit.

Elevation: 3,625 feet

Route: Follow the park’s Loop Road

Fees: $30 per vehicle

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

pictured rocks

The 15 miles of sandstone cliffs that make up Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are filled with caves, arches and glistening waterfalls. Take in the views of Lake Superior from the park’s 100 miles of hiking trails, or plan a boating adventure in the lake’s waters.

Elevation: 200 feet

Route: Alger County Road H-58 runs through the park, offering access to other roads that lead to scenic overlooks and trailheads.

Crown Point, Oregon

crown point

While there are several hikes and places to stop along the Columbia River Gorge, Crown Point is perhaps the easiest to access by car via the state’s famous I-84 highway. Plus, you can step back in time here by visiting the circa-1916 Vista House, a place where locals once used to hang out and enjoy a refreshment. This viewpoint also marks the beginning of the “Waterfall Corridor” that features eight waterfalls along the highway.

Elevation: 733 feet

Route: Take I-84/US-30 to this viewpoint, located about 30 miles from Portland

Brasstown Bald, Georgia

Brasstown Bald

Take in the views of Georgia's tallest mountain, Brasstown Bald, in the North Georgia Mountains without having to lace-up hiking boots. Brasstown Bald features a scenic overlook, accessible by car.

Elevation: 4,784 feet

Route: Georgia Spur 180, 3 miles to Visitor Center, then follow the .6-mile foot trail from the parking lot

Fees: $5 ages 16+ ($3 after hours)

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Mauna Kea

It will take you about two hours to drive to the peak of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, which actually sees snow! At the top, you can visit the Mauna Kea Observatory.

Elevation: 13,796 feet

Route: Mauna Kea Summit Road, with a stop at the Visitor Center at 9,200 feet to check in on weather conditions before continuing

Fees: Donations welcome

Big Sur, California

big sur

Renowned for being one of the prettiest drives in the world, Highway 1 in Monterey County travels to Big Sur with dramatic scenery at every twist and turn, including the Bixby Bridge (pictured). It may not be the state's highest viewpoint, but it's arguably one of the best.

Elevation: 280 feet

Route: Travel from Monterey to Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway 1

Going to the Sun Road, Montana

Glacier

Glacier National Park 's Going to the Sun Road has portions that are open all year and some that get closed in the winter. To see a glacier from the road, visit Jackson Glacier Overlook, and for the highest elevation, stop at Logan Pass.

Elevation: 6,646 feet

Route: Follow the road and find the glacier between Logan Pass and St. Mary.

Sun Point Overlook, Colorado

mesa verde

Mesa Verde National Park is made up of 12 archaeological sites that were once home to the Ancestral Pueblo people more than 700 years ago. Take the six-mile drive along Mesa Top Loop Road to access this overlook, among many others.

Elevation: 8,572 feet

Route: The park entrance is located along Highway 160, about 35 miles west of Durango, Colorado.

Fees: $20-$30 per vehicle (depending on time of year)

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina

Mt. Mitchell

Visit Mount Mitchell State Park , and you'll be in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. The park's observation deck, located on the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, is just a short walk from the parking lot.

Elevation: 6,684 feet

Route: Follow the Blue Ridge Parkway to NC 128, which leads directly to the park

Bruneau Canyon Overlook, Idaho

Bruneau Canyon Overlook

Visit what is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Southwest Idaho to see the 60-mile, river-carved canyon with far fewer crowds. The overlook is just a short walk from the parking lot.

Elevation:  800 feet

Route: Travel Hwy-51 to Hot Springs Road, and climb 18.7 miles to the overlook.

Hyner View, Pennsylvania

Hyner View

Hyner Run State Park in central Pennsylvania provides views of the Susquehanna River and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Elevation: 1,900 feet

Route: Hyner View Road, a 5-mile paved route

Sunrise Point, Utah

Bryce Canyon

Drive to the Visitor Center at Bryce Canyon National Park , and you'll find views of the hoodoos in the canyon at Sunrise Point, just a few minutes away.

Elevation: 8,073 feet

Route: Take UT-63 to Bryce Canyon National Park. The Visitor's Center is 1 mile inside.

Beartooth Highway, Montana/Wyoming

Beartooth Hwy

Not only will you see Yellowstone National Park via its northeast entrance, but you can also travel along 68 miles of Montana and Wyoming on a National Scenic Byway that dates back to 1936.

Elevation: 10,947 feet

Route: Begin south of Red Lodge, Montana to Yellowstone near Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana

Griffith Park, California

griffith

Want to take in those brilliant views of Los Angeles often captured in film? Head to Griffith Park's Observatory, where a parking lot overlooks the city and the world-famous Hollywood Sign.

The Observatory is found on Mount Hollywood's southern slope.

Elevation: 1,134 feet

Route: Head to Griffith Park via North Vermont Avenue or Ferndell Drive and connect to Western Canyon Road to Observatory Road

Fees: $10/hour for parking; otherwise, walking around the Observatory grounds is free

Mount Mansfield, Vermont

Mt. Mansfield

Vermont's highest peak is found in the State Forest of the same name. A grand hotel once stood at the location in which the visitor's center and views can be found. And if you want similar views in the winter (when the road is closed), try skiing in nearby Smugglers Notch.

Elevation: 3,850 feet

Route: The Auto Toll Road, a 4.5-mile winding road to the summit

Fees: $25 per vehicle

Skyline Drive, Virginia

Skyline Drive

The 105-mile Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park travels along the peaks of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and is one of the prettiest drives in the U.S.

Elevation: 3,680 feet

Route: There are 70 overlooks, so expect to stop a lot as you travel Skyline Drive.

Whiteface Mountain, New York

Whiteface

There are nine different scenic viewpoints on a trip up Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid. If you get out of the car, you can climb the stairs reaching the observation tower, where you can then take an elevator 276 feet down into the mountain.

Elevation: 4,610 feet

Route: Travel the 5-mile Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway

Fees: $16 car and driver, $9 additional passengers 6+

Sinnott Memorial Observation Station, Oregon

Crater Lake

A small museum with the history of Crater Lake National Park may be the attraction here, but the real reason to visit is its overlook with spectacular views of the volcanic lake.

Elevation: 7,100 feet

Route: Follow Rim Drive to the Rim Visitor Center

Trail Ridge Road, Colorado

Trail Ridge Road

Another Colorado drive within the Rocky Mountains is the national park's 48-mile road, 11 miles of which are above treeline. Weather can close the route, but when the snow isn't falling, you'll be awed — and possibly dizzy from the various climbs and switchbacks.

Elevation: 12,183 feet

Route: Follow Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park and Grand Lake

Slate Peak, Washington

Slate Peak

The highest point in Washington can be found in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in the heart of the North Cascades Mountains. Hart's Pass to Slate Peak road is not for the weak: It's rocky, unpaved and narrow along cliffs! The gate is closed at the base of Slate Peak, though, so you'll have to hike the last part to get to the peak's full 7,488 feet .

Elevation: 6,900 feet

Route: Find Mazama Junction and follow Forest Service Road 5400 to Hart's Pass

Tioga Pass, California

Tioga Pass

Within the Sierra Nevada mountains, you can find 22 paved routes that offer stunning views, one of which is from the highest pass, Tioga. You'll also get to see the highest peak of the Sierra Nevadas, Mount Whitney, which stands 14,505 feet.

Elevation: 9,943 feet

Route: The pass is actually Route 120 and connects to Yosemite Valley with Highway 395.

Mount Evans Scenic Byway, Colorado

Mount Evans

If you're looking for the highest viewpoint, you cannot miss a drive on Mount Evans Scenic Byway, which is the highest paved road in North America. You can reach the summit by car between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Elevation: 14,264 feet

Route: The byway's official name is Highway 5

Kailua, Hawaii

hawaii

One of the most scenic drives in Hawaii can be found on the island of Oahu, where driving from Honolulu to the North Shore can take longer than GPS estimates because you will be stopping to snap pictures from its many overlooks, like this one overlooking Makapu'u Beach.

Elevation: N/A

Route: Drive along 72, also known as Kalaniana'ole Highway

Eagle Peak, Texas

Eagle Peak

The highest point in West Texas' Eagle Mountains, sometimes called Devil Ridge Mountains, is located on private property. But there is a drive that can get you to the top for its views.

Elevation: 7,484 feet

Route: Take 1-10 to Radar Road, and connect to Guest Ranch Road to drive the gravel road to the top.

Fees: None, but you do need permission from Hayter Ranch

Black Mountain, Kentucky

Black Mountain

The highest point in Kentucky is Black Mountain and can be found on the border of the state with Virginia. A road will get you to the top for the summit views, even in the wintertime.

Elevation: 4,144 feet

Route: From 1-81, take Route 160 to the top.

Mount Washington, Pennsylvania

pittsburgh

Overlooking the city of Pittsburgh, Mount Washington stands above the Monogahela River and can be reached by car. While it's not nearly as tall as other mountains, it's one of the few with city views.

If you have the time to spare, ride the historic funicular to the top instead.

Elevation: 367 feet

Route: Head south of the city to Route 19 to Grandview Avenue north

Fees: Free unless you ride the funicular, which is $5 roundtrip

Alyeska Resort, Alaska

Alyeska

Most head to Alyeska Resort just outside of Alaska to hike and especially to ski, but if you're not feeling energetic, you can visit the resort and pop in for a drink or bite with the same views found from the slopes. You'll take in glaciers and mountains surrounding the sound — if the clouds don't roll in!

The resort's aerial tram provides an excellent view of Turnagain Arm as it climbs into the Chugach Mountains.

Elevation: 2,300 feet

Route: Follow the Alyeska Highway from Girdwood, Alaska, for 3 miles

Fees: None for resort; $35 for tram

Whitetop Mountain, Virginia

Whitetop Mountain

The second-highest mountain in Virginia has an observation site at its peak, accessible via a free drive. Whitetop Mountain is found within the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests.

Elevation: 5,525 feet

Route: Follow Whitetop Road, also called State Route 762, for a 6-mile paved drive

Mount Magazine, Arkansas

Mount Magazine

In the northwest corner of Arkansas, within the Ozark Mountains, you will find the state's highest peak on Mount Magazine. But you won't need to hike to take in the views, as the mountain's state park features the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway with various lookouts along the 45-minute route.

Elevation: 2,753 feet

Route: Start in Havana, Arkansas, to follow the Scenic Byway to the top of Mount Magazine

Fees: $12 per person

Brockway Mountain, Michigan

Brockway Mountain

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan features rugged state and national parks and aligns Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. Its highest peak, Brockway Mountain, features a 9-mile scenic drive with vista points over the hills and Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula. It's also the highest paved road between the Allegheny and Rocky Mountains.

Note: The Brockway Mountain Drive is seasonal and closes during the winter months.

Elevation: 735 feet

Route: Head to Copper Harbor via 41 and then along 26 for the scenic drive

Deception Pass, Washington

deception

Drive the scenic Whidbey Isle Way from Seattle to the San Juan Islands of Washington, and you'll take in some amazing water views. But nothing will stop your heart as much as when you cross over to the island via the Deception Pass Bridge.

It's not as high as a mountain, but when you are above the water for nearly 1,500 feet, it feels higher than the highest mountaintop.

Elevation: 180 feet

Route:  Follow Whidbey Scenic Isle Way

Fees: $5 toll

Mount Greylock, Massachusetts

Mount Greylock Scenic Byway

The highest point in Massachusetts, Mount Greylock can be found in the Berkshires in the northwest corner. On a clear day, you can see for 90 miles — with views of nearby Vermont, Connecticut and New York. You can drive straight to the summit where an overlook awaits.

Elevation: 3,489 feet

Route: From the town of Adams, Massachusetts, you will find the Mount Greylock Scenic Byway 1 mile north of Lanesborough on Route 7.

Mount Washburn, Wyoming

Dunraven Pass

Yellowstone National Park's highest road pass could close in the winter, but traveling during the warmer months will give you plenty of picturesque spots near Mount Washburn.

Elevation: 8,859 feet

Route: Follow Yellowstone's Dunraven Pass

Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, Nevada

wheeler

To find the highest drive in Nevada, simply head to Great Basin National Park, home to Wheeler Peak and its scenic drive. The 12-mile road is considered one of the most dangerous in the country and climbs 4,000 feet.

Elevation: 10,163 feet

Route: Start at Highway 488 at Great Basin National Park

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Arizona

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Drive to a church built into the red rocks of Sedona, which is picturesque enough. But all you have to do is step out of the car to see views like these.

Elevation: 4,491 feet

Route: Follow 179 south from Sedona about 4 miles to Chapel Road

Steens Mountain, Oregon

Steens Mountain

If you're really up for an adventure while searching out the best views, travel one of Oregon's most dangerous roads: Steens Mountain Loop Road. This 59-mile rugged route on gravel takes you by Big Indian Gorge (among others) and climbs to nearly 10,000 feet.

Elevation: 9,700 feet

Route: Head to Frenchglen, Oregon, to access the road

Ouachita National Forest, Oklahoma/Arkansas

arkansas

In Southeastern Oklahoma along the border of Arkansas, you can travel along the 54-mile Talimena Scenic Byway through the Ouachita National Forest. The route winds around Rich and Winding Stair Mountains to provide ample scenic vistas for photo-worthy moments.

Elevation: 2,681 feet

Route: From Big Cedar, Oklahoma, take 259 north to Route 1, also called Talimena Scenic Drive. In Arkansas, begin in Mena to Route 88, also called Skyline Drive.

Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina

Sassafrass Mountain

The highest peak in South Carolina, Sassafras Mountain's summit can be reached via an access road, albeit it one that's a bit tricky to maneuver. The drive will take you over Chimneytop Gap, and from the observation deck, you can look at the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, just across the border.

Elevation: 3,554 feet

Route: Take Highway 11 from US 178

Shoshone Falls, Idaho

falls

This waterfall, dubbed the “Niagara of the West,” is situated on the Snake River in southern Idaho. In fact, Shoshone Falls stands 212-feet high, about 45 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Visitors can drive to an overlook in Shoshone Falls Park as well as hike the various trails spread out along the south rim of the Snake River canyon.

Elevation: 3,255 feet

Route: From the nearest city of Twin Falls, drive northeast for about 5 miles until reaching the park entrance.

Fees: $5 per vehicle 

Independence Pass, Colorado

Independence Pass

A large scenic overlook in the Rocky Mountains will have you standing on the Continental Divide between the Eastern and Western U.S. with 360-degree views. The 32-mile, one-way drive twists and turns, offering many scenic stops along the way. It gets closed during the winter months so be sure to visit when the mountains aren't snow-covered.

Elevation: 12,095 feet

Route: Follow Independence Pass between Leadville and Aspen, Colorado

20 Incredible And Iconic Views In America That You Must See In Your Lifetime

viewpoints trip

Sarah McCosham

I write like it's my job - because it is! I have a Master's in English and love words: crossword puzzles, Scrabble games, Wordle, and, of course, good, old-fashioned books. I'm a writer and editor at OnlyInYourState, and a contributing writer at Cincinnati Magazine. I love the Great Outdoors and am endlessly awestruck by this beautiful country of ours. Coffee keeps me going, yoga keeps me sane, my kids keep me grounded, and my writing keeps me inspired.

More by this Author

There’s something about taking in a great view — whether it’s the reward after a long hike, a vista seen along a scenic byway, an acclaimed attraction folks flock to see, or a celebrated natural wonder — that stokes and satisfies even the most insatiable wanderlust. Taking in something that is objectively, irrefutably beautiful, is a soul-filling, life-affirming experience with which pictures simply cannot compete. In America, these are places like the Grand Canyon, the National Mall, Mt. Rushmore, and the Golden Gate Bridge; views that are incredible, iconic, and bucket-list worthy. Below you’ll find some of the best scenic viewpoints in the U.S., and we hope you make a point to experience them all during your lifetime.

Best Coastline Views in the US

Natural wonder observation points, best city skyline views in the us, iconic bridges & landmarks.

With over 95,000 miles of coastline in the U.S., you better believe spectacular views and scenery exist along the water. These are just a few of the most stunning coastline views in the U.S.

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Cape Elizabeth
  • Known for: Portland Head Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in the U.S. and sits along the stunning rocky coastline.
  • Where to stay nearby: Coveted Cape Cottage Home

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Bar Harbor
  • Known for: Cadillac Mountain is the Easternmost point in the Continental U.S. and experiences the first sunrise in the country.
  • Where to stay nearby: Waterfront Home with direct access to Acadia National Park

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Kauai County
  • Known for: The Nāpali Coast is comprised of dramatic cliffs, lush verdant valleys, gorgeous beaches, sea caves, and awe-inspiring waterfalls.
  • Where to stay nearby: Beachfront Tropical Dream House

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Known for: Harpers Ferry is a historically significant town that was the site of the 1859 John Brown's Raid. Today, visitors come from all over to see the well-preserved historical sites including numerous 19th-century buildings.
  • Where to stay nearby: Lavender Farm Guesthouse

The U.S. is filled with natural wonders including one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Every state has its own wondrous natural creations and these are some of the most iconic.

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Crater Lake
  • Known for: Crater Lake is a volcanic crater lake and the deepest lake in the U.S. It's also known for its pristine azure blue water.
  • Where to stay nearby: Atomic Star Cottage in Klamath Falls

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Yellowstone National Park
  • Known for: Grand Prismatic Spring is known for its gradient of colors from red and orange on the perimeter to a vibrant blue in the center, similar to a rainbow. It's also the largest hot spring in the U.S. and the third largest in the world.
  • Where to stay nearby: Montana Cabin -Sleeps 4. Just 5 Blocks from Yellowstone

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Bryce Canyon
  • Known for: Sunrise Point in Bryce Canyon National Park is an observation point with spectacular sunrise views. From here, you can view the ever-changing light and shadows over the otherworldly landscape of Bryce Canyon that can really only be experienced at sunrise.
  • Where to stay nearby: 1930 Country Charmer

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Aspen
  • Known for: Maroon Bells is among the most photographed peaks in the country and offers a wide array of outdoor recreation not limited to backpacking, hiking, and fishing.
  • Where to stay nearby: Beautiful 6BR house on Snowmass Mountain

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Grand Canyon Village
  • Known for: Mather Point offers some of the best panoramic views of the Grand Canyon in the entire park. Located close to the South Rim entrance, it's usually the first stop for those visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time. Here you will also find the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
  • Where to stay nearby: Grand Canyon Bungalow

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Niagara Falls
  • Known for: Niagara Falls is comprised of three different waterfalls and is one of the most powerful falls in the world as well as one of the most beautiful.
  • Where to stay nearby: Little Italy / Hyde Park Home in Niagara Falls

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viewpoints trip

  • Location: Horseshoe Bend
  • Known for: Horseshoe Bend is known for its horseshoe shape in the middle of the Colorado River.
  • Where to stay nearby: The Cowgirl Cabana

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Denali Park
  • Known for: Denali is the highest mountain in North America.
  • Where to stay nearby: Denali Sunset House

Sometimes you can just see a photo of a skyline and just know what city it is. Whether it’s the iconic buildings a city has to offer or the fact that it may have been featured in countless films and TV shows, certain cities are worth seeing in person. Here are some of the best city skyline views in the U.S.:

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Seattle
  • Known for: Kerry Park serves as an observation point for panoramic views of the Seattle Skyline and Mount Ranier.
  • Where to stay nearby: Water and Needle View Townhome with Rooftop Deck

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Brooklyn
  • Known for: Brooklyn sits along the East River and is a great vantage point to view the Lower Manhattan Skyline as well as the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Where to stay nearby: Amazing Dumbo 2BR with Roof & Gym

There are numerous bridges and landmarks around this country that are worth visiting. From the Golden Gate Bridge to Mount Rushmore, from the Gateway Arch to the National Mall, here are some of the most iconic bridges and landmarks in the country:

viewpoints trip

  • Location: San Francisco
  • Known for: Battery Spencer is a former and historic military battery. It also provides an optimal viewpoint to see the Golden Gate Bridge in all its glory.
  • Where to stay nearby: Charming 1-Bedroom Mill Valley Cottage

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Big Sur
  • Known for: Bixby Bridge is a man-made marvel along Highway 1 and is known best for its scenic views of the dramatic Central California coastline.
  • Where to stay nearby: Ocean View French Country Cottage

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Keystone
  • Known for: Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is a striking symbol of American history as the faces of four former American presidents are carved directly into a granite cliff in South Dakota.
  • Where to stay nearby: Text Readers Will See

viewpoints trip

  • Location: St. Louis
  • Known for: The Gateway Arch is St. Louis' most prominent feature and is known as the "Gateway to the West."
  • Where to stay nearby: Cozy, Fun, and One-Of-A-Kind Shaw Fox's Den

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Linnville
  • Known for: Linn Cove Viaduct's location along the Blue Ridge Parkway gives way to stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The viaduct itself is shaped like an "S" and was designed with the environment in mind.
  • Where to stay nearby: Little Bear Escape

viewpoints trip

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Known for: D.C.'s National Mall is home to some of the most recognized landmarks in the U.S. including the Washington Monument. It's also hosted numerous historical events including presidential inaugurations.
  • Where to stay nearby: Capitol Hill Pied-a-Terre

These iconic views across America are all jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring, sure to fill your bucket and fuel your future adventures. Have you been lucky enough to cross any of the best scenic viewpoints in the U.S. off your bucket list?

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More to Explore

Best scenic views in the u.s..

What are the best views in the U.S.? 

Some of the best views in the U.S. include the following:

  • Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend, all in Arizona
  • Mount Ranier in Washington State
  • Denali in Alaska
  • The New York City Skyline from Brooklyn or New Jersey
  • Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts (my personal favorite)
  • Mount Hood in Oregon
  • Zion National Park in Utah
  • Yosemite Valley in California

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list as incredible views can be found just about anywhere in the country.

What state has the best views?

When it comes to the state with the best views, it’s very subjective as there are stunning views in every state. However, here are a few states best known for their epic scenery and views:

What is the most beautiful region of the U.S.? 

While each region of the U.S. offers its own spectacular views and scenic beauty, many believe that the Southwest region holds the most beauty in the country. Between the Rocky Mountains, natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, White Sands, and Monument Valley, there’s so much incredible beauty to discover in the Southwest.

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Big sur road trip – includes all the best viewpoints.

Have you ever wanted to travel to a destination SO bad and hyped it up SO much in your mind that when you finally got there… it didn’t live up to your expectations? Well, I am happy to say the Big Sur is not one of those places. I have been itching to travel to this area for some time now and it was more beautiful than ever expected.

It’s hard to describe the jaw-dropping, natural beauty of this corner of the world. Few places in the world have brought tears to my eyes just by looking at it ( Gorges due Verdon & Iceland being two of them), and the Big Sur has now been added to that list. I will describe the beauty and share my photos, but it truly does not do it justice. The Big Sur is one of those places that you MUST go see for yourself!

In this guide, I will outline critical things to know before planning your Big Sur road trip, where to stay, how to get there and of course… my one day Big Sur itinerary! There are so many notable stops along this coastal route, and I will explain which ones are and are not worth going to.

Spoiler alert: Most of them are worth going to! 😉

There’s a chance that this post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you), that goes towards little Rosie’s dog treats!

Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary

Instagram @MyPerfectItinerary

Important Key Take-A-Ways

  • I recommend budgeting 4-5 hours minimum to complete the Big Sur to and from Carmel / Monterey.
  • Drive SOUTH for two reasons… First, all your view point turnouts are on the coastal side. If you drive north, you will have to make a left turn along a winding highway when you enter AND exit the turnout. This will take a lot longer and make your overall drive a lot more stressful. Second, driving along the side of the coast will make your drive a lot more enjoyable! Half the enjoyment of the Big Sur is the scenic drive, so you will want the best possible view.
  • Even though this is a one day Big Sur Itinerary, I would recommend staying a few days if possible. There are so many hiking opportunities along the coast, but if you want to see all the viewpoints, you won’t have enough time to do both. There are also a lot of beaches that you could easily spend the entire day at, especially Pfeiffer Beach !
  • Either print out the map of the stops , screen shot it on your phone! No one is kidding when they say there is ZERO service along the Big Sur! It is difficult to get lost considering it is one road, but you will want to have a general idea of all the stops.
  • Bring a car charger ! Like I mentioned above, you will have no service on the Big Sur so your phone will die extremely fast!
  • Don’t be in a rush when you are driving, because some of the best viewpoints I stopped at were ones with no name and no people at them. Take your time exploring and soaking in all those amazing views!
  • Before you leave Carmel / Monterey, make sure you have a full tank of gas . There is only one gas station in the town of Big Sur, but other than that.. you would be out of luck! Plus, there is no service so you would have a difficult time calling for a tow truck. You should have plenty of gas if you start your Big Sur road trip on a full tank of gas.
  • If you are spending two days along the Big Sur, I would recommend doing all the state parks in one day so you don’t have to pay the park fees twice. If you buy one park pass for $10/vehicle, it is good for the entire day at all the state parks!
  • Be sure to read the 10 most common mistakes everyone makes when traveling to the Big Sur!

viewpoints trip

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Big Sur Itinerary – Best View Points!

Highway 1 is a one lane highway that winds along the coast. Majority of the famous viewpoints are on the coastal side, so it would be best if you drove north to south, that way you make right turns in/out of the viewpoints. I am going to outline the best viewpoints starting from Carmel all the way until Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park , with bonus stops past that if you are feeling extra adventurous!

If you want even more ideas on things to see in California, be sure to check out my 7 day California Itinerary seeing everything from San Francisco to Los Angeles!

TIP: All the major view points are listed here, but I would HIGHLY recommend taking your time and stopping anywhere that looks inviting to you. There will be small, dirt pull-out areas along Highway 1 that you will be able to stop at. Just because it isn’t a “popular” stop doesn’t mean it isn’t worth stopping at! I took my time and was in no rush, so I stopped at almost every view point and did not regret it! Check out the photo below as an example of a random pull out spot!

viewpoints trip

This photo was edited with my one-click presets! Click here to check them out 🙂

Here we go…

1.  Carmel

There are only a few spots for food along the Big Sur drive, so I would bring snacks for the car or make sure you fuel up on a big breakfast. Start in Carmel to fuel up with breakfast at Tuckbox , which is an adorable restaurant that looks like a snow white cottage! Tuckbox is located in downtown Carmel, between Ocean Ave and 7th.

Be sure to take some time to walk around the streets of Carmel! I am not joking when I say this is the most adorable beach town I have EVER been to! This would be a great town to grab snacks and sandwiches for the road.

Tuckbox Restaurant in Carmel By The Sea

2. Point Lobos State Park 

(Carmel to Point Lobos State Park = 15 minutes) 

Point Lobos State Park is the first, big stop on your Big Sur road trip. In this state park, you will find a few hiking trails, hidden beaches and many viewpoints to keep you busy. I did not stop here on my road trip because the park was closed, but if it is open I would definitely try checking it out.

Once you buy a park pass for $10/vehicle it will be good for all the California state parks for 24 hours!

From the pictures, this area looks truly beautiful, but I think there are so many gorgeous lookout points and hikes that are completely free. My recommendation is to do the entire road trip and if you still want more sights, then stop here on the way back to Carmel / Monterey.

The Ultimate Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary!

3. Soberanes Canyon / Garrapata State Park Bluff Trails

(Point Lobos State Park to Soberanes Canyon Trail = 7 minutes)

If you want to get out of the car and stretch your legs, this is the perfect spot to do it. These walking trails will give you jaw-dropping scenery of the coast and wildflowers. You probably only need to spend 30 minutes or so here at the most, just don’t forget your camera to capture all the perfect photo opps!

Want to know what’s in my camera bag that took all of the beautiful photos on this guide? Click here to check it out !

P.S. This is where my Fiancé and I took our engagement photos because the coast line here is, WOW!

viewpoints trip

4. Calla Lilly Valley

(Soberanes Canyon Trail to Calla Lilly Valley = 3 minutes)

Next up, Calla Lilly Valley! This will be a beautiful valley of wild lillys that give you a peek-a-boo shot of the ocean. This area is only in bloom in the spring (Late February – Early May), but the views are still beautiful either way.

If you are traveling to the Big Sur in spring, this will be a spot you do not want to miss!

You can also access this valley from Stop #5, Garrapata State Beach! If you park at the beach and walk north along the beach, it will open up to this gorgeous valley! 🙂

Calla Lily Valley Big Sur

4. Garrapata Beach

(Calla Lilly Valley to Garrapata Beach = 2 minutes)

If you are stopping at Calla Lilly Valley, then you should stop at Garrapata Beach as well since they are practically in the same parking lot! This long stretch of beach is one of the few places along the Big Sur with actual beach access (since most of the coast is rugged cliffs).

There is Garrapata State Park and Garrapata Beach, which are NOT at the same location! So be sure not to get those confused! If you are crunched on time, I would definitely choose the beach since you will get to see beautiful wildflowers in the spring / summer and take the scenic trail down to the beach.

Garrapata Beach along the Big Sur in California

4. Rockey Creek Bridge

(Calla Lilly Valley to Rockey Creek Bridge = 5 minutes)

If you’ve ever seen pictures of the Big Sur, you will quickly notice Bixby Creek Bridge. Rockey Creek Bridge is a smaller version that is directly before Bixby Creek Bridge. You will see a ton of people stopping at this Rockey Creek thinking it’s Bixby Creek, but if you drive just another 2 minutes down Highway 1, you will see the even bigger and more impressive Bixby Creek Bridge!

I would recommend just driving right through this one and make your next stop point Bixby Creek Bridge instead!

5. Bixby Creek Bridge

(Rockey Creek Bridge to Bixby Bridge = 2 minutes)

Bixby Creek Bridge is one of the most photographed spots along the Big Sur and for good reason! There are two viewpoints on either side of the bridge, so I recommend stopping on the coastal side of the bridge on your way south, and then stopping on the inland side on the way back to your hotel in Carmel / Monterey. If you don’t plan on staying in Carmel / Monterey, you can easily cross the street to check out both viewpoints without having to move the car.

TIP: This very tiny parking lot can get very busy! I would highly recommend doing your entire Big Sur road trip early or during a weekday because this coastline gets PACKED!

Bixby Creek Bridge on Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary

Inland View

Bixby Creek Bridge - Located along the Big Sur, California

Coastal View

Want to know what makes a good photo GREAT?! The edits! This picture was edited with my one-click presets !

6. Lunch at Big Sur River Inn 

(Bixby Bridge to Big Sur River Inn = 20 minutes)

This was one of my favorite experiences on my Big Sur road trip! In the very tiny town of Big Sur, there is a restaurant/bar/hotel called Big Sur River Inn . I recommend ordering your food to-go from the restaurant (just tell them that you want to eat it on the river) and eat your lunch on the stream! They have chairs set up so you can sit in the river with just your feet getting wet.

If you don’t want to sit in the river, they also have large grass areas under the trees that line the river, perfect for a picnic!

Recommended Read: 10 BIG mistakes to Avoid when traveling to the Big Sur!

Big Sur River Inn Lunch

7. Pfeiffer Beach

(Big Sur River Inn to Pfeiffer Beach = 10-15 minutes)

Listen up because everyone misses this turnoff! After you pass the Lodge, there will be a turnoff on the coastal side that is hidden by trees. There are no signs that tell you what the turnoff leads to, but it will be a sharp right turn (practically a u-turn) that will take you downhill to Pfeiffer Beach .

After you drive a little ways downhill, you will be greeted by a park ranger who warns you about the winding and narrow drive down to the beach + the $10 entry fee per car. I would highly recommend going down to the beach because it was my favorite spot and well worth the $10 entry!

The beach is very large and even when it’s busy, you won’t have an issue finding a corner to enjoy for yourself. This beach is well known for the cove that is protected by large rock formations, one with a large “keyhole.” You can park yourself on the beach and watch the waves crash through the hole!

Key Hole Rock on Pfeiffer Beach on Big Sur Road Trip

8. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – McWay Falls

(Pfeiffer Beach to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park = 30 minutes)

You will see plenty of signage for this area and there will be a large parking lot. There is a self-pay station for parking at the entrance of the parking lot, but I don’t think its necessary to pay the $10 if you plan to quickly look at the viewpoint. If you want to do longer hikes in this area, you will probably need to suck it up and pay the $10 for parking. BUT, I did not see a single park ranger wandering the area, so up to you! 😉

This area is known for the scenic cove that has an 80 foot waterfall flowing out of the green cliff. When you get there, I recommend doing the popular overlook trail that will take you to the viewpoint of the beach + waterfall! This is an extremely easy, 0.6 mile hike that is well-trafficked and wheel-chair accessible.

Something I did not know before going… You can not hike down to the beach or swim in this area . It is extremely prohibited for being very dangerous and harmful to the environment. This is one of the most common mistakes people assume about the Big Sur! You can read the other 9 mistakes here!

McWay Falls on Big Sur Road Trip

9. Carmel Beach for Sunset Picnic

(Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to Carmel = 1 hour and 15 minutes)

If you start this road trip around 10am, you will have plenty of time to do everything on this guide + make it back to Carmel for a sunset picnic on the beach. I would recommend getting a box of pizza from Little Napoli , a bottle of wine (don’t forget a wine opener + cups), and a beach blanket  to watch the sunset on Carmel Beach.

Fun Fact: Did you know you can legally drink on the beach in Carmel!?

That was all the stops on my 4-5 hour Big Sur Road trip + some! I stopped at many random view points that did not have a specific name, and those ended up being my favorite pictures for the entire trip!

Beach Picnic on Carmel Beach Big Sur Road Trip

!!BONUS STOPS!!

There are more stops south of Julia Pfeiffer Burns, but then you will be veering away from the 4-5 hours I promised you! If you are feeling adventurous, OR you plan to stay in a city south of these viewpoints (like San Simeon, Santa Barbara, or LA), here are more stops south of McWay Falls:

  • These scenic hot springs are on private property, only open to the public from 1am – 3am… yes AM.. Like the middle of the night LOL!
  • Ragged Point (1 hour from McWay Falls)
  • Piedras Blancas Light House (1 hour and 20 minutes from McWay Falls)
  • Elephant Seal Vista Point (1 hour and 20 minutes from McWay Falls)
  • Hearst Castle (1 hour and 25 minutes from McWay Falls)
  • OR go all the way down the coast to Los Angeles to check out Knott’s Berry Farm or Disneyland! Be sure to stop by Santa Barbara for lunch! 🙂

TIP: If you have more time and want to see more of California, be sure to check out my 7 day California itinerary for ideas on things to do from San Francisco to Los Angeles! Or if you want to see both the mountains and the coastline, you can head inland to spend Two Days in Yosemite National Park !

What is the Big Sur?

Phew! That was already a TON of information! Are you still with me?!

The Big Sur is a stretch of coastline in California known for the ragged cliffs, green mountains and deep blue water. While the technical length of the Big Sur runs from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the well-known viewpoints are in central California, roughly 35 miles in length.

Highway 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway) bends along the edge of the coast, making not only the view points scenic, but the entire drive! As you wind down the coast, there will be plenty of viewpoints to pull over at and state parks to drive through (more on that later).

If you want to explore from San Francisco to Los Angeles, be sure to check out my 7 Day California Road Trip itinerary !

viewpoints trip

Best Time to go to the Big Sur?

Is there a bad time to go to the Big Sur? No, not really. California weather is consistent year round, and that is why it’s such a popular place to live!

I’ve gone in a few different seasons now and they definitely all have their perks! In late summer / early fall, the weather is much warmer. Which is really nice if you plan on hanging out on the beaches. In the spring months, there are wildflowers blooming everywhere!

If you want to avoid crowds, I would travel in the winter months either before or after the holidays. I traveled in early fall and had the most amazing weather and the crowds were minimal, so again… I don’t think there is a bad time to start your Big Sur road trip.

Unfortunately, The Big Sur is known for having cloudy and foggy weather year round. Consider yourself extremely lucky if you do the drive on a sunny and warm day! Either way, I think the fog gives it an extra magical feel to it, and would love to go back on a cloudy day.

Am I crazy for saying that?! OH WELL!

BIxby Creek Bridge along the Big Sur in California

Instagram: @MyPerfectItinerary

How to get to the Big Sur?

Flying: .

The two closest major airports are San Jose (1 1/2 hour drive) and San Francisco (Under 2 1/2 hour drive). If you are flying international, San Francisco will likely be your least expensive option, but driving through San Francisco is not pleasant. If you can swing it, I would highly recommend flying into San Jose instead because it will cut down your non-scenic drive time & you can avoid driving through the CROWDED traffic of San Francisco.

There is also a small airport in Monterey, which you will most likely have one or two stops! 

Driving: 

If you are driving from wherever you live (or maybe a major city like San Francisco or Los Angeles), you will want to make Carmel or Monterey your starting point. These neighboring, coastal towns are both adorable starting points on your Big Sur day trip.

Where to stay in Big Sur?

There are three areas I recommend for staying along the Big Sur: Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur.

Monterey is a relaxing, slow-paced coastal town in Northern California. Most known for the HUGE Monterey Bay Aquarium and hit TV show, Big Little Lies . Being less than 30 minutes from the start of the Big Sur, this is a great hub for someone who wants to see the Big Sur during the day, but still have a fun nightlife.

In this town, you will find plenty of touristy attractions to keep you busy, SO many wine bars (seriously.. every few stores will be a wine bar), and scenic views on every corner. Even though Uber/Lyft are easy to come by in Monetery, I would recommend staying at a hotel that is within walking distance of all the nightlife. Here are my three recommendations broken down by Budget, Average and Luxury:

Budget: HI Monterey Hostel is located in a prime location, right next to Cannery Row on the water. For less than $50/ night, the price can not be beat!

Average: Colton Inn is an adorable place to stay with clean rooms, outdoor seating for breakfast, and fresh flowers on the railings. What I noticed about my time in Monterey was the abundance of small Inns!

Luxury: Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is pure luxury! Situated near Cannery Row, it has the perfect location and perfect views to match! This is a popular spot for weddings and events because every inch of this place is absolutely gorgeous.

Airbnb: If I ever have a group bigger than 2 people, I always stay in an Airbnb! I love getting that sense of living in a place when I travel. If it’s your first time using Airbnb, click here for a $40 credit to use towards your booking !

Psssst…. I ended up staying in Monterey to do a day trip to the Big Sur. If you plan to do the same, I have a quick guide on traveling to Monterey here !

Carmel-by-the-sea is an adorable area with store-front shops, large stretches of beaches, wine bars on every corner and great shopping (not just touristy shopping, but cute boutiques!).

If I had to choose between Monterey and Carmel, I would choose Carmel because the beaches are out of this world! Regardless of where you choose, Carmel and Monterey are only a 10 minute drive away from each other, so I encourage you to see both and decide for yourself!

Budget: Carmel Oaks is located in a great spot, downtown Carmel, where the restaurants and shops are. Rooms are clean with all-white bedding… Don’t beds look 10x more inviting with white bedding!?

Average: The Colonial Terrace is a unique property only one block from the beach. It has a homey feel to it with free breakfast, coffee served all day, and freshly baked cookies in the lobby! Instead of staying in a large, chain hotel, this is an older building that has rooms in individual cottages.

Luxury: La Playa Carmel is a large property with beautiful gardens and luxurious rooms. Situated only a few blocks from Carmel Beach and walking distance from all the shops and restaurants. This hotel is so beautiful, it will be tempting to skip the Big Sur and just stay here all day!

If you plan to spend a few days exploring the Big Sur, or just want to be right in the middle of the nature, I would recommend staying in the town of Big Sur. You will be right in the middle of the Big Sur viewpoints and will save a lot of driving time to see the sights.

The only downside to the Big Sur is there is ZERO service and no nightlife. If you like to go out and explore at night, I would recommend staying either in Carmel or Monterey.

Budget: Camping grounds   are abundant in this area and will be your cheapest option by far. If you want to be completely disconnected, surrounded by nature and close to all the famous sites, this will be your best option! There are many camp grounds along Highway 1, you can read all about them here.  If you want more details on what camping is like along the Big Sur, I found this guide very informative too!

Average: Big Sur River Inn   is located along the creek, right in the middle of town. It has a restaurant, pool and full bar but book in advance because this place sells out FAST. Even if you don’t stay here, I still recommend stopping here for lunch on your Big Sur Road trip (more on that later) .

Luxury: Ventana Big Sur Resort is UNREAL. Situated on top of the mountain, you have incredible ocean views while still being in the forest. All of the rooms are luxurious and the restaurant has an outstanding deck with ocean views. Of course, this level of luxury comes with a price tag to match though!

What to Pack for the Big Sur?

Sunblock packets: Most of the viewpoints along the Big Sur will not be shaded. You will be hiking down to beaches, walking along sunny cliffs, and standing in the sun to capture the view! It’s important that you not only apply sunblock before you go, but bring sunblock packets in your purse! These babies are the size of a ketchup packet and are SO convenient for re-applying throughout the day. You can check them out here !

Camera: This is probably the most important things to bring on your Big Sur day trip! A good, reliable and lightweight camera will make the quality of your photos last for years to come. Do you ever look back on old I-Phone photos and cringe at how blurry they were?! You don’t want to do that with all these photos of this amazing location! My camera that I use is extremely affordable and one of the smallest DSLR’s that Canon makes (so, you can fit it in your bag and it won’t be too heavy). Click here to see what’s in my Camera bag!

Gopro to record the drive: I have a Gopro and I am STILL kicking myself for not thinking of this before I left! You can stick the GoPro on the front window and record the jaw-dropping drive. This is also great if you plan to hike down to the beaches because it is completely waterproof! Click here for the GoPro that I have .

Beach Blanket: This is crucial to bring if you plan to spend any time on the beaches or enjoying the viewpoints. Plus, it’s a great prop to give your photos that extra pop! Click here for a cute beach blanket .

Big Sur Q&A’s

What is the best time of year to visit the Big Sur?

Is there really a wrong time?! I don’t think you can go wrong! Early fall has historically sunny weather, but in the spring you will see all the flowers blooming. I have a full section above on what I think is best, but in all honestly.. I don’t think there is a bad time to travel to the Big Sur.

Can you drive through Big Sur?

Absolutely! Big Sur is a coastal drive along Highway 1 in California. Along this scenic drive, you will pass famous view points and state parks such as Point Lobos State Park, Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls, Hearst Castle and more! You can also stop in the town of Big Sur for gas, snacks or to eat at the few restaurants.

How long should you spend in Big Sur?

4-5 hours would give you plenty of time to stop at all the sights and soak in the extraordinary views. You could easily spend multiple days relaxing at the beaches, hiking along the many trails, and stopping at the scenic viewpoints.

Where should I stay when visiting Big Sur?

Monterey, Carmel or Big Sur will be your three best options for your Big Sur road trip! Monterey and Carmel are neighboring coastal towns at the start of the Big Sur that have more options for restaurants and nightlife. If you want to be disconnected and in the middle of nature, you can camp along Highway 1 or stay in the few hotels in the town of Big Sur.

Where do you fly into for Big Sur?

The closest airports are San Jose International (1.5 hours from Carmel) and San Francisco International (2.5 hours from Carmel). Regardless of the airport, you will still need to drive a little ways to get to the start of the Big Sur.

Where does the Big Sur Drive Start?

Most people begin their drive in Carmel, the first major viewpoint is Point Lobos State Park.

Can you swim at McWay Falls?

NO you can not swim at McWay Falls or hike down to the beach. It is strictly prohibited and extremely dangerous. The Overlook trail is a great way to see the falls – only an easy 0.6 mile hike.

That’s a wrap! Your Big Sur vacation is going to be unforgettable and I am so excited for you to experience this beautiful piece of the world. I would go as far to say my Big Sur road trip was the best road trip I have EVER done (sorry Iceland , your spot has been taken!) . I stayed in Monterey and did a day trip, but if you plan to drive only down the coast, you will still see all these same view points.

I hope this guide is borderline too informative, and just when you thought it was over… don’t forget your FREE map download of all the major viewpoints! && click here for more California travel itineraries! 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary

myperfectitinerary

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Big Sur is absolutely so dreamy. I vaguely remember visiting here as a child but would love to make my way back now being older. I for sure want to eat at Big Sur River Inn. It seems like such a nice experience to sit along the river and just enjoy your meal. A perfect mini California road trip!

Thanks for reading Mariah! The Big Sur River Inn is such a cute spot for lunch or a picnic. On my recent visit, I ended up setting up a picnic and just hanging out by the river for most of the day!

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I have always wanted to do a Cali Road Trip and Big Sur looks amazing!! I so appreciate you highlighting all the great photo spots 🙂 I love that you shared different budget level hotels/camping- this is so helpful when planning a trip. Love your photos!

Thank you so much Sara! Hope this guide inspires you to make a trip out to California! 🙂

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Big Sur has been on my bucket list for so long!! And honestly, I have never heard of Pfeiffer Beach until now. It looks insanely beautiful! Thank you for creating a comprehensive guide that provides information about everything I need to know for an epic road trip, including where to stay, when the best time to go is, and what to pack!

That beach is my absolute favorite! Just be prepared to go early to get a spot since parking fills up fast! 🙂

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This is such a great guide. Awesome that you included even the places where to stay!

Thanks for reading Nathalie! 🙂

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Heading there with my husband and son next week and came across your blog which is exactly what I need, especially since we’re staying in Carmel! Having been born and raised in So Cal, it’s been on my bucket list to visit Julia Pfieiffer park and the coastline surrounding it. Looking forward to utilizing your map and these great suggestions! Thank you!

So happy you found the guide useful! I hope you have the most amazing trip 🙂

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Great content, thanks alot for this great guide. I was willing to visit Big Sur and will definitely visit the spots you mentioned.

That’s great! So happy you enjoyed the guide, thanks for reading!

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[…] perfect place to relax and unwind! Whether you are making this your main event or staying here to visit the Big Sur, this guide will outline everything you need to know before traveling to […]

[…] you want to extend your road trip from Las Vegas into California, be sure to check out my Big Sur Road Trip, California Road Trip Itinerary 7 Days, and 4 Days in San Diego […]

[…] Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary […]

[…] Big Sur Road Trip […]

[…] Day three will consist of driving from San Francisco to Monterey or Carmel-by-the-sea. These two neighboring, coastal towns are the beginning of the Big Sur! You will want to stay the night here so you have a full day enjoying your Big Sur Road Trip.  […]

[…] TIP: If you love beautiful cliff side views, be sure to check out my guide on driving the most beautiful coast in the USA: Big Sur Road Trip! […]

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Awesome post. Thank you so much!

Thanks so much!! 🙂

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So glad I found this guide! We were coming from the south in Cayucos, so we drove straight to Big Sur River Inn – a little less than 2 hours – for lunch IN the river (awesome!), then headed south for the overlooks on the right side of the road. So clever! Unfortunately Pfeifer and Juliet Pfeifer lots were both full, so we just used the vista points along the way and made it in plenty of time to San Simeon for our 4pm wine tasting at Hearst Ranch Winery on the beach. Fantastic day. Great tips!

Wow, that sounds like an amazing day!! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your trip! I would love to make it all the way down to Hearst Ranch Winery, next time!

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Great guide! I got engaged in Big Sur just before the pandemic. It really has a dreamy romantic quality. I can see why it inspired so many writers. I recommend a stop at the Henry Miller library. Also, check out their concert and events schedule. While it’s true the little town of Big Sur doesn’t have much nightlife, The Henry Miller Library frequently holds events. A few years ago I saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs play beneath a canopy of redwoods. Last year I enjoyed the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival.

That food and wine festival sounds amazing!! Thank you for your awesome recommendations, I can’t wait to go back and try them out!

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This place looks so amazing, adding it to my bucket list. also all your photos looks so beautiful

[…] “must-have’s” for the specific itinerary. I have done SO many road trips (exhibit A, B & C), that I am confident you will regret not bringing these […]

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hello i was wondering where i can find the map for Big Sur on your page? Did you do the 17 mile drive? Your post is so helpful

Hi Mandy! Just fill out the form for the map and it will be emailed to you! 🙂 I have done it before, but definitely prefer the Big Sur if you are going to do a scenic drive. I felt the 17 mile drive was a little bit of a let down to be honest!

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Hi! I’ve never been to this area before. At which point would you turn around and head back to Carmel? (If you started in Carmel) Just trying to get my head around an itinerary if we were staying 2-3 days. Would we stop and stay somewhere (are there places to stay on the coastline?) or would you always go back to your starting point that day?

It really depends! I love Carmel / Monterey and typically just do Big Sur for the day but keep my home base as Moneterey or Carmel. If you want to road trip and pack / unpack your bag, you can drive down the coast and stay somewhere at the end of the Big Sur. For example, wine tasting in Paso Robles or see Hearst Castle in San Simeon / Cambria!

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Agree that Hearst Castle is a must see! Harbin Springs is terrific too.

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Roving Vails

The Best Road Trip Grand Canyon Viewpoints

By: Author Corinne Vail

Posted on Published: 3 Jan 2021  - Last updated: 3 Jan 2024

Dream of a road trip to the Grand Canyon? Want to know where all the best viewpoints are? Check out this full guide.

Sometimes you just don’t have enough time to do the things you really want to do. Especially when it comes to planning the stops on a whirlwind  weeklong USA cross-country road trip . We knew one thing, though, we were definitely going to stop for another visit at the Grand Canyon .

The question, however, was how much time would we need for a Grand Canyon visit? We were limited on time, obviously, but we eventually decided we needed to spend the night in the park so we could have a chance for a spectacular sunrise over the canyo n. Lodging books up quickly so we needed to start planning early; we didn’t want to end up out in the cold without a place to sleep.

In this article, you will be able to really start planning your Grand Canyon Adventure. Some things you’ll get are:

  • Planning Your Visit
  • Sunrise over the Canyon
  • When is the Best Time to Go?
  • A Suggested 2 Day Itinerary for the Grand Canyon
  • One Day in the Canyon
  • Getting to the Grand Canyon

Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints - Desert View Watchtower.

A Short Visit To Grand Canyon National Park

Nearly six million visitors come to the Grand Canyon to hike, bike, ride, or just gaze out into the canyon. This is not one of your spur of the moment vacations. It requires advance planning no matter what time of year you plan to visit.

We typically just add on the Grand Canyon as a stopping point or an add-on, like this  road trip around California . On one of our trips, long ago, we were young and foolish and thought we could just roll on up and pitch a tent.

That is not the case and we discovered all of the campsites in and near the park were full. We got lucky and found an open tipi available at the  Grand Canyon Camper Village  (unfortunately they no longer have these unique tents).

View of the Grand Canyon with dead tree to one side and the river below.

This time around, we were determined to stay in the park so we went online four months early and made our reservations to stay at the Yavapai Lodge . We should have started even earlier, as the rooms I really wanted, in the  El Tovar Lodge , were already sold out. 

After those arrangements were made we started looking at what all we could hope to see and do in an overnight visit to Grand Canyon National Park.

A park visitor enjoying the Grand Canyon view.

Planning The Visit

We put the Grand Canyon in between Albuquerque and Las Vegas on our cross country road trip . We tried to squeeze in getting to Page, Arizona , but that was just too far for this trip.

Leaving Albuquerque , even first thing in the morning meant we arrived in the park after lunch. We stopped at an excellent Mexican restaurant in Flagstaff named Tacos Los Altos, which we thought was worth the stop, and then to finish the trip on time, we had to drive out the very next day.

This itinerary allowed for less than twenty-four hours in the park. Is that enough time to visit the Grand Canyon? We researched all of the different South Rim Grand Canyon viewpoints , short hikes, and services and decided on a route that would allow us to drive through the whole park without needing to backtrack.

Yavapai Point at sunset is one of the best views of Grand Canyon.

We entered the park from the East Entrance driving the twenty-five miles along the rim on Desert View Drive (AZ route 64) stopping along the way at some of the remoter viewpoints like Desert View Watchtower and (my personal favorite) Lipan Point . There are several other spots along the road that offer spectacular views, each worth pulling off the road for a glance.

We continued on and checked into our lodge and still had time to explore the Visitor’s center at Mathers Point , check out the Geology museum at Yavapai Point, and stake out a front row seat further down the rim trail for the sunset.

Best Grand Canyon sunset viewpoints - Yavapai Point.

Sunrise Over The Canyon

The next morning we were up at O’Dark Thirty heading towards our chosen sunrise spot on this visit. The roads were nearly empty aside from the other occasional early risers and a few shaggy deer. When we pulled into the parking lot at Grandview point there were only four other cars.

Great view overlooking Grand Canyon Promontory and the Colorado River.

The crisp, cold air helped wake us up while we  sipped coffee  and waited for the sun to come up. The colors on the canyon walls shifted from blue-gray to rosy-pink and blazing oranges. It was absolutely sublime, but over before we knew it.

The Grand Canyon Camp Store has supplies for easy camping in Grand Canyon.

Back at Grand Canyon Village we grabbed a quick breakfast and picked up some snacks and water for our hike into the canyon on the Bright Angel trail . The trail was hot and steep, all the more reason to get started early in the day. Before too long it was time to head back to the car and hit the road for Las Vegas. It was another amazing Grand Canyon adventure.

A visitor on a Grand Canyon road trip enjoys breakfast on the rim.

We’ve taken all of our notes from several trips and put them together to create what we consider these perfect South Rim Grand Canyon Itineraries.

Best views of Grand Canyon at Grandview Point.

Grand Canyon in Two Days [Itinerary]

Two days is the perfect amount of time to spend in the Grand Canyon. This allows time for hiking into the canyon, attending ranger led talks, biking along the rim trail, and, of course, enjoying the jaw dropping vistas from all of the best viewpoints.

Desert View Watchtower has the best Grand Canyon Viewpoints.

South Rim visitors drive into the park from either Flagstaff, AZ if coming from the east, or Williams, AZ when coming from the west. Our recommendation is to enter the park from Flagstaff through the East Gate and start your Grand Canyon visit at the Desert View Watchtower.

The 70-foot-tall, stone Watchtower on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Before leaving Flagstaff stop at Safeway to top off the fuel tank and fill up the coolers with drinks and lunch items; then head north to the East Gate park entrance .

Climb the Watchtower , a National Historic Landmark, for 360 degree views of the canyon and the Colorado river; stamp your National Parks passport; and have a snack at the Trading Post.

Drive west along the canyon rim on Desert View Drive stopping at Lipan Point for a slightly less crowded view of the canyon and the river below.

Continue on and turn off the main road to visit the T usayan Museum (about three miles from Desert View) where you can visit Pueblo ruins and learn about the prehistoric peoples that once inhabited the area.

View from the Watchtower on the Grand Canyon south rim.

Continue along Desert View with stops at Moran Point, Grandview Point, Pipe Creek Vista ; have a picnic lunch at Grandview point perched on a rock ledge overlooking the canyon.

Park at Mather Point and visit the Grand Canyon Visitor Center ; find the current info on events, ranger led talks and walks, and watch the movie  Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder  to learn about the formation and history of the Grand Canyon (last showing at 4:30 P.M.).

If it’s early (before 2 P.M.) and not too hot, go for a walk along the rim trail to Yavapai Point and the geological museum; walk back to your car or hop on the free park shuttle and ride back to Mather Point.

Check into your lodging , and be sure to check your reservation and know your earliest check-in time; be there as close to that time as possible as the lines for visitors checking in can get very long!

Dinner time! Let’s face it, you didn’t come to the Grand Canyon for the food and there’s not much here to recommend. Still, you need to eat. There are a few options in the park and a few more in Tusayan a few miles south of the park. Watch the time, though. You need to be finished before sunset.

Start heading to your sunset spot and stake out a front row seat – if there’s time, ride the shuttle to Hopi Point on the Hermit’s Rest line. It can get very crowded here, so be sure and get there at least 30 minutes before sunset (earlier if possible).

Sunset! Stick around for at least 10 minutes after the sun is down so you don’t miss the spectacular colors on the cliff faces and buttes across the canyon; then get back on the bus before the last one goes by (about an hour after sunset).

A ttend an evening ranger led activity . There are usually quite a few to choose from, like night hikes, star gazing, cemetery tours.

Gnarled Juniper Tree on the Grand Canyon Rim.

Day 2 – Grand Canyon

Sunrise! This can be very early as there is no Daylight Savings Time here but if you don’t mind rising early it can be totally worth it! Luckily, sunrise is probably the least crowded time in the park so driving isn’t really a problem; head to Mather Point with your early morning coffee and watch the colors change in the canyon.

Breakfast is a bagel and another coffee from the  Bright Angel Bicycles and Cafe  right there at Mather point, be sure and fill up your water bottles while you’re there.

Morning activities : choose between a  mule ride , renting a bike and riding the rim to Hopi Point, or hiking the Bright Angel trail down into the canyon; either way plan for 2-4 hours and bring plenty of water and snacks.

Lunchtime . Consider a drive out of the park and into Tusayan for some decent  Mexican food at Plaza Bonita , or break out the picnic lunch at one of the viewpoints along Desert View Drive .

After lunch park the car and ride the shuttles – make your way to the Historic Grand Canyon Village area and visit the Kolb Studio and learn about the adventurous brothers Kolb who lived and worked in this historic five story structure right on the canyon rim.

Continue on the shuttles on the Hermits Rest line – this road is closed to private vehicles most of the year, and the ride is magnificent; get off the bus at Hopi and walk the trail to Mohave Point ; take the next bus and ride to the end of the line and check out the historic Hermits Rest before heading back.

Dinner and sunset! You know the routine, same as yesterday.

Moonrise over Kaibab National Forest on Grand Canyon’s southern rim.

Grand Canyon Day Trip – Is One Day Enough?

If you don’t have time to plan and make reservations early enough, don’t despair. It is possible to visit the Grand Canyon on a day trip , but there will be lots of driving, but we have a list of great road trip games to play while you’re vacationing.

A Day Trip From Las Vegas

From Las Vegas , for instance, both the South Rim and the North Rim are about 270 miles or four and a half hours driving time. That’s nine hours round trip. Yikes!

If you leave at 6:00 A.M. you could get to the park by 11. That gives you a good four or five hours to explore the canyon, even go on a short hike. Then get back in the car by 5 P.M. and be back in Vegas by 10 P.M. You might laugh, but this is totally doable.

A Day Trip from Flagstaff

The alternative, however, is to spend the night in Flagstaff where there are more hotels and even a last minute room might be available. This allows the visit to the park and even stay for sunset before leaving the Grand Canyon and driving back to Flagstaff which is only about 90 minutes from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

A child joins the Grand Canyon Junior Ranger Program.

What To See In The Grand Canyon in One Day

  • Climb the Desert View Watchtower
  • Learn about the original inhabitants at the Tusayana Museum
  • Have a picnic with a grand view at Grandview Point
  • Talk with the rangers and watch the movie at Grand Canyon Visitor Center
  • Rock out at the Yavapai Geology Museum
  • Walk through a million years on the Trail of Time

Grand Canyon Gray Squirrel.

Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon National Park

A good argument can be made for visiting the Grand Canyon at almost anytime of the year. Each season comes with its pros and cons and the changing light and weather can have striking differences on the cliff faces and buttes within the canyon.

In winter , there are significantly fewer visitors to the park, but of course, extreme cold weather, snow, ice, and morning fog can hinder outdoor activities.

Spring brings a thaw in the cold weather and rising temperatures, but it can still get very cold and snowy.

Along with the warmer weather, schools around the country are closing for spring vacations in April and this double whammy of better weather and vacation time can make for some very crowded weekends in the park.

In spring, try to plan a visit two weeks after Easter since spring break will be over and kids will be back in school. In late April, there is still the chance for a late snow storm, but the usual temperatures are mild and pleasant with high temperatures at the rim in the mid sixties.

Summer is hot, hot, hot with temperatures in the canyon dangerously high for hikers. Visitor populations are at their peak as well, so unless your Grand Canyon trip includes rafting on the Colorado river, this is the time to avoid a visit.

Fall sees the crowds beginning to lighten, and the temperatures begin to dip back down into the temperate range with possible snowfall in late fall.

In the fall, try to plan your trip in the last two weeks of October when the crowds are dropping off and the temperatures are in the high sixties.

Visit to Kaibab Forest and meadow on road trip Grand Canyon.

So when is the best time? I really like spring and fall in the Grand Canyon. Of course those are my two favorite seasons anyway, but the crowds are beginning to thin out and the chances for good weather are still high.

When is the Grand Canyon Least Crowded?

Grand Canyon is a year-round tourist attraction, however you are best going when the weather is still cool. If you can deal with winter, you are going to have the fewest people as well as perhaps some gorgeous snow in your shots. The park is open all year and services are available.

If you don’t like colder weather or you are stuck to a work or school schedule, just make sure to make your reservations as soon as you can. It gets busy in April and stays busy until the end of October, easily.

Tent camping in Grand Canyon National Park is a great lodging option.

Grand Canyon Itinerary Practical Info

As I mentioned before, it is imperative to make lodging arrangements as early as possible, even up to 13 months in advance for the most popular options or during peak travel months in the summer. That being said, there are some campgrounds in and around Grand Canyon National Park with some non-reserved spots.

Grand Canyon Camping and Lodging Services

Lucky campers arrive in mid-morning (between 10:00 and 11:30) to score a spot in the Desert View campground near the East Gate entrance or at the TEN-X campground south of the park in Kaibab National Forest. These are both excellent campgrounds and strictly first come, first served.

All hotel accommodations in or near the park, on the other hand, are highly unlikely to be available without a reservation. With the more popular park lodges located on the rim–El Tovar and Bright Angel–selling out the quickest.

Yavapai Lodge is handled through a different operator. It’s not located right on the rim of the canyon but it is in the park and the rooms are spacious and well maintained. For the best prices deal directly with the two official vendors.

Power Tip: Reservations open 13 months in advance on the first day of the month. For example, to book a hotel for any night(s) in June 2021, be sure and go to the website on 1 May 2020. Visit  Grand Canyon Lodges  or  Visit Grand Canyon  for lodging inside the park.

Lodging outside the park is limited in the near vicinity but there are some good options in Tusayan four miles down the road out of the South Gate entrance.

The better option here is the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon. About an hour further down the road there are many more hotels and some campgrounds in Flagstaff and Williams.

You see gorgeous rock formations and Juniper Trees everywhere on a Grand Canyon road trip.

Getting To and Around The Grand Canyon

The majority of sites and attractions at the Grand Canyon are found in the South Rim section of the park. There are two entrances, and both of them are open 24 hours a day so it doesn’t matter which one you use to enter the park.

Our recommendation is to use the quieter East Gate entrance near Desert View. This route, heading north on US-89 out of Flagstaff and then west on AZ-64, is less busy and more scenic. We’ve compiled some common Grand Canyon South Rim driving times below:

Help avoid traffic jams and take the free park shuttles to popular sightseeing spots.

Driving in the park can be difficult or even impossible during peak seasons. It’s better to park in one of the parking lots and ride the free shuttles. In fact, there are a few roads that are closed to private vehicles throughout most of the year. For example, you will need to ride the shuttle to get to Yaki Point or Hermits Rest, both of which are must visit spots in the Grand Canyon.

Historic Grand Canyon Railway Station.

Getting There by Train

It really is possible to get to the Grand Canyon by train. The Historic Grand Canyon Railway travels the 64-mile (103 km) route between the small town of Williams AZ and Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. I wouldn’t be the fastest way to get there, but it certainly would be interesting Source .

I love trains, and I would totally like to do this. Book lodging in Grand Canyon Village, fly to Phoenix, take the Southwest Chief Amtrak to Williams, and take the Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim. Then use the free park shuttles to visit sites around the Canyon.

Picturesque Juniper Tree overlooking Grand Canyon.

You can’t go wrong visiting the Grand Canyon! With its many things to do, gorgeous viewpoints, spectacular sunsets and so much more, you will love it! They say, you can’t really picture it until you see it for yourself and I think that’s very true. Don’t miss out on a fantastic holiday!

Author Bio – Corinne is an avid camper and traveler. She’s been to all 50 of the US states and has four more Canadian provinces to visit. However, she’s not stopping yet. There’s always more to see of this great continent! Corinne loves local foods, getting outdoors, landscape photography, and road trips.

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14 Best Grand Canyon Views at the South Rim

Don't miss views including mather point, yavapai point, desert view, grandview point, pima point, and hermit's rest..

It might be considered silly to try and determine the must-see sights for Grand Canyon National Park when in fact the whole Grand Canyon is one big must-see. After all, visitors will be overwhelmed, and possibly forever changed, when glimpsing this great natural abyss. Still, we’ve tried our best to discern what the absolute best Grand Canyon views are for you when experiencing Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim.

Viewpoints Along Desert View Drive

Sunset at Desert View Point in Grand Canyon National Park

To see the Desert View vantage of the Grand Canyon, leave Grand Canyon Village and follow the canyon rim east for 26 miles to Desert View , which is situated at the East Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. Along the way be sure to stop and take in the sights and views at the following overlooks.

Grand Canyon Mather Point View. Photo by Whit Richardson

Typically the most popular, first-time views of Grand Canyon occur at either Mather Point or Yavapai Point. Mather Point is situated at just over 7,000 feet elevation and is named after the park’s first superintendent, Stephen Mather. Visitors will be awe-struck by the view before them. Far below your view is Phantom Ranch, at the canyon’s base.

Yavapai Point in the Grand Canyon

Yavapai Point affords panoramic views of Havasupai Point to the west and Desert View to the east. If the stunning views aren’t enough, enjoy a ranger talk and/or walk beginning at this point each day. Be sure to enjoy the interpretation provided by Yavapai Observation Station , including three-dimensional geological displays, photographs, and interpretive panels which allow park visitors to see and understand the intriguing geologic story the Grand Canyon has to tell. Gain a better understanding about the canyon’s exposed rock layers, the uplift of the Colorado Plateau and the carving of the Grand Canyon.

View from Yaki Point

Yaki Point. During peak tourism season, the Yaki Point Road and Kaibab Trail Parking Lot are closed to private vehicle traffic. Access is by shuttle bus only. At Yaki Point, enjoy yet another stunning panoramic view of the Grand Canyon from the south rim.

Grandview Point in the Grand Canyon. Photo by Whit Richardson

Grandview Point. Well the name certainly says it all when it comes to this must-see sight. Situated at just below 7,500 feet, this is probably the most grand view of Grand Canyon. You’ll see prominent buttes including Rama Shrine, Krishna Shine, Vishnu Shrine and Shiva Temple, and you’ll glimpse a tiny stretch of the Colorado River far below as well.

Grand Canyon Moran Point Overlook. Photo by Whit Richardson

Moran Point . Named for famous painter Thomas Moran, the views from this overlook will not disappoint. Enjoy views of the expansion Grand Canyon, which are directly south of Cape Royal, situated on the North Rim.

First Light at Lipan Point in the Grand Canyon. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Lipan Point. This sight is accessed by taking a short spur road about a mile north of the main scenic drive along the South Rim. This vantage offers almost a 360-degree panorama.

Grand Canyon Desert View Watchtower. Photo by Whit Richardson

Constructed in 1932 as a replica of a prehistoric Indian tower, the Desert View Watchtower commands a magnificent view of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert to the east and the San Francisco Peaks to the south. Mary Colter’s goal was to build a tower that would provide the widest view possible of Grand Canyon while keeping harmony with its natural surroundings. She succeeded. The Watchtower first opened in 1933 and is at the eastern-most point of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The watchtower is made of stone, and Colter’s masonry mastery creates a visual depth that is unmatched. This seventy-foot tower is the highest point on the South Rim and its interior walls of the tower feature murals by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.

Viewpoints in Grand Canyon Village

Early morning at the Lookout Studio in Grand Canyon National Park

Lookout Studio . A small native stone structure, originally known as “the Lookout,” is built into the canyon rim and, in a sense, looks as if it grows out of it. The small structure is generally rectangular in plan and constructed of coursed rubble masonry. The observation room has a small balcony with a jigsawn-patterned railing. Lookout Studio was constructed for viewing the canyon, and therefore has a prime location.

El Tovar Hotel Panorama. Photo by NPS Michael Quinn

El Tovar Hotel is the premier lodging option on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, and given its history, it’s a sight to see. Built in 1905 and renovated a few years ago, the El Tovar is perched on the rim offering grand views and elegant charm. The historic hotel features a fine dining room (open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), lounge and curio shop with newsstand. El Tovar offers its guests Concierge, turn-down and room service, and is a Registered National Historic Landmark. Stop in to take a step back in time while marveling at this historic hotel.

Viewpoints along Hermit’s Road

Sunrise at Hopi Point on the South Rim

Visitors can choose among nine overlooks to take in the various breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon while traveling the west end of the South Rim on Hermit’s Road. Most of the Hermit’s Road experience is due to its historic significance. The road was designed in 1934-35 by the Bureau of Public Roads, and the National Park Service. (From March through November, this road can be accessed by shuttle bus only). Visitors can easily take in the stunning vistas this road affords access to. Exceptional sights to include while enjoying the shuttle along Hermit’s Road include Hopi , Maricopa and Pima points.

Grand Canyon Maricopa Point. Photo by Whit Richardson

A highlight will be taking in The Abyss , which drops some 3,000 feet. There is no better name for this vantage! From the Abyss, visitors can see the Tonto Plateau, as well as the Colorado River, far below.

Overlooking the Abyss at the Grand Canyon.

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The most spectacular views in the US, according to TripAdvisor

Book a trip just for a photo-op.

Erika Mailman

If spectacular, Instagrammable views play a major role in choosing your vacation destination, we have some handy data for you. Financial services provider  Remitly  analyzed 1.4 million TripAdvisor reviews to come up with this list of the five best viewpoints in the US.

So what’s the number one best viewpoint — not just for the US but for the world? A few hints: it involves a building that was in a long-running Tina Fey show, and at certain times of year it has a skating rink at its base. Yes, you undoubtedly guessed correctly, it’s the Top of the Rock , which sits atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Rockefeller Center. This destination in the heart of Manhattan provides 360 degrees of one of the most beloved skylines in the world—you can see the Empire State building, Central Park and even the Statue of Liberty from its heights. The Top of the Rock was mentioned on TripAdvisor 42,555 times in association with the word ‘view.’

Second place honors go to the ' High Roller ' Las Vegas Strip Observation Wheel which takes riders 550 feet into the air above the glittering lights of the Strip. You ride in an enclosed, air-conditioned cabin that holds 40 guests for this half hour ride on the largest observation wheel in North America (we Google so you don’t have to: a Ferris wheel only holds two people per car, so this is why this is an ‘observation wheel’). The High Roller was mentioned 15,535 times in association with the word ‘view,’ a significant bump down from the Top of the Rock’s rave numbers.

The third destination with the best viewpoint is the Golden Gate Bridge , with 14,462 mentions with ‘view.’ This San Francisco icon draws more than 10 million guests annually to walk, drive or bike over its beautiful expanse of the blue waters of San Francisco Bay. Its 746 foot towers with the elegantly sweeping cables, all painted ‘International Orange,’ provide a memorable photo, whether on a sunny day or when banked in fog.

Fourth is the Seattle Center and Observation Deck , more commonly called the Space Needle. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the tower which looks like a residential dorm on Jupiter has a 605 foot spire. Test your heart rate with the world’s first and only revolving glass floor, and sit in the tilting glass benches that lean out over the city of Seattle . It’s dangerously fun so long as you trust the glass...and why wouldn’t you? This destination appeared in 12,745 view mentions.

In fifth place, you’ll find Los Angeles’s Griffith Observatory with 10,157 mentions. The multi-domed building is a beauty in and of itself, plus you get views of Los Angeles below you and the famous Hollywood sign above you. It’s set in the picturesque Griffith Park, the nation’s largest urban wilderness municipal park.

Here are the top ten: 

1. Top of the Rock, New York, NY 

2. High Roller, Las Vegas, NV 

3. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA 

4. Space Needle, Seattle, WA 

5. Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA 

6. Skydeck Chicago, Chicago, IL

7. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

8. Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

9. Sandia Park Tramway, Albuquerque, NM

10. Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego, CA

For extra fun, three of the US views registered in the top 10 for worldwide destinations: The Top of the Rock at #1 (heavy clapping—in second place is the London Eye which had a paltry 34,975 compared to the Rock’s 42,552 mentions), the High Roller at #8 and Hawaii’s Diamond Head State Monument at #9. No other country had three mentions, so we are either super great or just really active on TripAdvisor. It also helps our case that the data crunching involved looking for the specific word ‘view’ in English.

So how was it all calculated? In May, Remitly looked at every country in the world, each US state and 253 cities worldwide to analyze TripAdvisor’s listings of ‘things to do’ in each place. If the word ‘view’ was used negatively, that result was disqualified. If you want to read the full report, click here . 

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

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Where Are Those Morgans

Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints: 20 Amazing South Rim Views

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by Mark and Kristen Morgan

Published: January 28, 2022

UPDATED: May 21, 2024

Where Are Those Morgans enjoying stunning views over Grand Canyon South Rim from Hopi Point viewpoint at sunset amazing landscape

Grand Canyon South Rim is overflowing with extraordinarily dramatic viewpoints and right here we’re going to show you 20 of the very best views to find when you visit the world famous national park for yourself.

The beauty of a visit to Grand Canyon South Rim is being able to see the best views without having to make any effort. You know, like climbing a mountain or driving up a steep, narrow and winding pass!

Grand Canyon National Park comes pre-loaded with postcard perfect views anyone can access at any time of the year, which is why South Rim is widely regarded as one of the best places to visit in the US .

We’re taking you on a tour of South Rim from Hermits Rest in the West, through Grand Canyon village as far as Desert View in the East. We’ll even step inside the canyon for unique views hikers can enjoy.

Are you ready to see the most amazing views around Grand Canyon South Rim?!

Map Of Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints

Before we get stuck into descriptions and photos of each viewpoint, take a quick look at the graphic we created below to familiarize yourself with each area of Grand Canyon South Rim.

We will display each viewpoint in this exact order from West at Hermits Rest, through the village and out to the East as far as Desert View.

You can refer back to this map and make a note of which viewpoints you want to prioritize during your visit to Grand Canyon.

Map of best grand canyon viewpoints by area on south rim

  • Red – Hermit Road : Starting furthest West at Hermits Rest and tracking East toward Grand Canyon village.
  • Blue – Grand Canyon village : Starting where Hermit Road ends, tracking East and ending where Desert View Drive begins.
  • Green – Desert View Drive : Starting where the village area ends and tracking East to Desert View.
  • Orange Circle – Yaki Point : The viewpoint is located on Yaki Point Road, a 1 mile spur off Desert View Drive. You cannot access this viewpoint by car. You must take the orange hiker express shuttle from the village or park your car on Desert View Drive and walk 1 mile to the viewpoint.

Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints On Hermit Road

Let’s begin to the West of Grand Canyon village. Hermit Road will get you to around half of the best viewpoints along Grand Canyon South Rim but it is very different to Desert View Drive, which we will get to later.

For starters, Hermit Road is not an access road to enter or leave Grand Canyon village. It is a dead end with a very obvious turnaround point at Hermits Rest.

Plus, there are a higher number of viewpoints packed into a much smaller area. This results in a more densely populated tourist heavy area.

  • Distance : Hermit Road is just 8 miles long, from Bright Angel Trailhead to Hermits Rest.
  • Important : This road can only be accessed by Red shuttle bus for 9 months of the year. December through February you can drive your own vehicle up Hermit Road.

One of the more appealing parts of visiting Hermit Road over Desert View Drive is that you can walk a South Rim hugging trail all the way from Hermits Rest back to the village.

Many of Grand Canyon South Rim’s best sunset locations are located along Hermit Road, including the hugely popular Hopi Point viewpoint.

Let’s get stuck into the best views starting furthest West and working back to Grand Canyon village.

1. Hermits Rest

Hermits Rest overlook on a blue sky day in arizona

Hermits Rest is the furthest viewpoint you can reach heading West along Hermit Road from Grand Canyon village. This is the last Red shuttle stop and you can park your own car here in Winter.

The view into Grand Canyon isn’t among the best on South Rim. Sunset would be the best time of day to peer into the canyon from here but there are better spots to try first.

However, if you have time we highly recommend you take the shuttle all the way to historic Hermits Rest and walk at least some of the Rim trail back toward the village.

One of the first things you will notice here is a stone arch with Hermits Rest plaque and a bell, which is a perfect photo opportunity. There are also restrooms available here.

You will find an old stone building with enormous fire place and cafe attached to the side at Hermits Rest. We each sat in chairs next to the fireplace with a hot chocolate on a cold day in October during our first visit.

If you’re looking for an extremely quiet hike down into the canyon, you might want to consider backcountry hiking down steep and winding Hermit Trail. You can reach Hermit Creek campground after around 7 miles one-way and you’ll barely see another soul.

Next stop : Pima Point – Distance 1 mile.

2. Pima Point

Dramatic views over grand canyon south rim from pima point with shadows and colorado river on a sunny day

Things become far more simple as you begin the journey back to Grand Canyon village. After leaving Hermits Rest it is all about the views, and what a place to start.

Pima Point is one of the best viewpoints along Grand Canyon South Rim. The photo above shows a Northwest view from Pima Point in late afternoon and you can already see the deep dark shadows forming.

You have some of the closest views over amazing rock formations inside the canyon here. A flat plateau, huge cracks and an awesome C shaped butte give you variation but the star of the show is the Colorado River.

If you listen closely, you can sometimes hear sound waves from Colorado River rapids bouncing against its walls when conditions are favorable.

Sunset is a great time to visit Pima Point when you can see the canyon glowing to the East, but earlier in the day will mean fewer shadows.

Next stop : Monument Creek Vista – Distance 1.8 miles.

3. Monument Creek Vista

Gorgeous colors in rock formations in northern arizona in october

The view over Monument Creek is one of the most picturesque along this section of Grand Canyon South Rim.

Although your view is very limited to the East and West by huge walls, the narrow creek is home to a stunning red multi-tiered rock formation curving out toward the Colorado River.

The photo above was taken from further around to the West side of the actual vista point at the shuttle stop. However, the best view of Monument Creek is from right where the shuttle stops as you can look North into the canyon and a keen eye might even spot Granite Rapid on the river.

It can be challenging to grab this photo without shadows due to its position relative to the sun. In Summer when the sun is higher you’ll have a better chance around midday.

Next stop : The Abyss – Distance 1 mile.

4. The Abyss

Awesome abyss like ravine viewpoint in grand canyon south rim at dusk

The Abyss is a favorite viewpoint because it features the longest sheer vertical drop (3000 ft) along Grand Canyon South Rim.

If you look closely at the angled red slopes on either side of the Abyss, you will notice pockets of white rocks. This is a sign of gravity at work, using its pulling force to tear away at the walls around The Abyss.

There are no fault lines here and very little water runs into the Colorado River from this huge cavernous gap in the earth. It is just a result of time and gravity.

The Abyss is best shot around mid-morning when the sun directs its light up through the canyon here. Otherwise its golden hours, pre sunrise or post sunset for no shadows and soft light on the rocks.

Next stop : Mohave Point – Distance 1.1 miles.

5. Mohave Point

Mohave Point in late afternoon with soft light on rock formations in arizona

Often overlooked in favor of nearby Hopi Point (which we will cover next), Mohave Point is a contender for best sunset view on the South Rim.

There’s a tiny bottle necked and railed viewing area at the peak of Mohave Point. This narrow section can only fit a few people at once but it does offer wonderful close up views of buttes and a significant portion of the Colorado River.

Away from the railed viewing area, there are a lot of trees here blocking the view but you can find a spot further along the Rim to both sides.

However, we personally prefer the view of Mohave Point, as opposed to the view from Mohave Point. Not far from the Abyss if you are walking the Rim, you will reduce the angle as you look at Mohave Point.

The towering wall illuminates at sunset but it will be in shadow all morning.

Next stop : Hopi Point – Distance 1 mile.

6. Hopi Point

Incredibly beautiful sunset views from hopi point viewpoint at grand canyon south rim

Hopi Point is widely regarded as the best viewpoint for sunset views along Grand Canyon South Rim and we find it hard to disagree.

One of the major reasons for its popularity among photographers is that you get both views of the canyon from Hopi Point. If you can’t decide whether to shoot into or away from the sun, Hopi Point is your solution.

To the East you can watch walls, buttes and cracks contrast between shadows and bright yellow light. Look West and you’ll see the sun so you can get a starburst as it rests on the flat horizon for a moment.

The railed viewing area right at the shuttle stop is OK, but we recommend you turn left and walk down the Rim a few meters until you find a gap along the edges. Just take care as the drop is significant.

in your frame you will be able to see a sliver of the Colorado River behind a thin red rock formation jutting out in the near left middle ground. It makes for an image filled with multiple elements.

The photo above is from our visit to Hopi Point in December. It was cold but clear, few people were around and we parked our own car a few feet away.

But we shared the space with hundreds of others during our visit in October, some of whom would sit right on the edges of the rocks in front of our camera set up on its tripod. Then we had to wait in line for a shuttle.

It’s hard to imagine what it would be like at sunset here between June and August, but we imagine rather busy!

Next stop : Powell Point – Distance 0.3 miles.

7. Powell Point

Extreme shadows cast in grand canyon national park south rim moments before dusk with bright yellow light illuminating Powell Point views

Powell Point is very close to Hopi Point and you can walk it in under 10 minutes. You also get to walk out a few meters into the canyon along a ridge to reach the viewing area. There are benches for sitting here but no rails.

If you’re goal is to capture a sunset directly facing the canyon formations, forget the over-crowded Hopi Point area and make your way here to Powell Point instead.

We used the photo above from Powell Point to show how you can capture canyon facing sunset views with deep dark shadows and soft golden yellows.

Notice the dark hazy clouds on the distant horizon? North Rim was shrouded in a haze from an entirely different weather system to South Rim.

Powell Point has a blocked West facing view but an expansive East facing view into Grand Canyon. If you want sun facing sunrises, Powell Point could be a quiet alternative to the busier spots in the village.

Next stop : Maricopa Point – Distance 0.5 miles.

8. Maricopa Point

Maricopa Point in late afternoon december bright but cold

Featuring extensive West and East facing views, we think Maricopa Point is a hugely underrated viewpoint along Grand Canyon South Rim.

You get to walk out quite a distance along a narrow ridge to reach the viewing area, which is completely encircled by railings with mesh in between.

Both times we have walked out to Maricopa Point we have been the only people at the viewpoint. Surprising for such a clear sighted vantage point.

The photo above is a West facing view from the overlook at Maricopa Point. We took it around 30 minutes after the photo at Powell Point, and this photo is facing Powell Point.

You can see those beautiful bright sun rays hitting the formations, but we increased the shadows to give a better idea of the view from here. In reality, those shadows were darker to the naked eye at the time.

Next stop : Trailview overlook – Distance 0.7 miles.

9. Trailview Overlook

Trailview overlook in shadows late afternoon contrasting on rocks

You might be wondering why a viewpoint overlooking a hiking trail would be considered as one of the best views along Grand Canyon South Rim. We might have thought the same too, until we day hiked to the river and out.

The final few miles of Bright Angel are pretty tough and you keep looking up to the Rim hoping you’re getting closer. You can watch hikers struggle up those last few miles of the Bright Angel trail from Trailview Overlook.

Views of canyon formations don’t compare to other viewpoints but you can see Bright Angel trail switchbacks and hiking path cutting through the canyon floor below.

It’s hard to see in our photo (the contrast between sun and shadow was intense!) but the drop off behind the railed viewing area here is significant so take care with younger kids.

Next stop : Bright Angel Trailhead – Distance 0.5 miles.

Need help planning your trip to Grand Canyon?

Our popular Grand Canyon travel guidebook helps you with planning every aspect of your visit to South Rim, including the best viewpoints and hikes, where to eat and stay, itinerary ideas and map!

Where Are Those Morgans Grand Canyon travel guidebook

Best Grand Canyon Village Viewpoints

If you’re visiting Grand Canyon South Rim for one day and don’t have time to explore further or you don’t have access to a car, you can still see some of the most famous viewpoints right around the village area.

Bright Angel trailhead is about the furthest West you can get without using the shuttle or a car. Yavapai Point is a wonderful sunrise and sunset location in addition to being very easy to access. Mather Point is an incredibly popular sunrise view and sits on the Eastern side of Grand Canyon village.

Walking distance between Bright Angel and Mather Point is just 2.6 miles. The Rim trail here is accessibility friendly and flat but it can become extremely busy because it offers some of the most dramatic canyon views. Hence the reason the village was built here.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the best views in Grand Canyon village continuing from West to East.

10. Bright Angel Trailhead

Bright Angel trailhead has wonderful views over grand canyon south rim from the lodge or nearby trail viewpoint

Bright Angel trailhead isn’t exactly a viewpoint as such, but it has one of the Grand Canyon South Rim’s most stunning views. There’s a reason they built Bright Angel Lodge right on the edge of a cliff here!

The best part of this view is that it looks straight down through an aesthetically pleasing ravine, with the very obvious Bright Angel hiking trail cutting right through the middle.

You do have to walk a few steps down the trail to get a front-on view like in the photo above but it isn’t far. We took this photo right at the end of our mammoth day hike at around 5pm just as some streaky dark clouds were drawing in.

You can easily reach Bright Angel Trailhead by parking nearby, walking the Rim trail or from anywhere else in Grand Canyon village by taking the Blue village route shuttle bus.

Next to the trailhead you can find Kolb Studio, Lookout Studio, 3 of the park’s lodges, Hopi House, the train depot and Verkamp’s visitor center.

Next stop : Yavapai Point – Distance 1.9 miles.

11. Yavapai Point

Yavapai Point is popular for both sunrise and sunset views at grand canyon national park with expansive canyon viewpoints

Yavapai Point is one of the best and most popular viewpoints on the entire South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Because it has fantastic views both West and East. Plus, it has all of the rock formations, types and layers on display, which is why they built a Geology Museum right on the edge of the canyon.

Just look at the dramatic tears in the Earth in our photo above. We took this right after sunrise in October with light beams exploding out from behind thick clouds.

The actual viewing area is railed and small, but you can explore and learn at the Geology Museum nearby, or you can walk slightly East to an amphitheater style seating area to enjoy either sunrise or sunset.

Yavapai Point will be busy at dawn, during the day and at sunset. It is very easy to access with a parking lot specifically for this viewpoint.

It is located about half way between the village and the main visitor center close to Mather Point. If you’re short on time in the park, you can’t afford to miss Yavapai Point.

Next stop : Mather Point – Distance 0.7 miles.

12. Mather Point

Extraordinary colors in the sky at sunrise Mather Point viewpoint overlooking grand canyon national park

Mather Point is the most heavily trafficked viewpoint you will find in Grand Canyon National Park. It is the easiest and first overlook you will reach when entering the park and it has the best sunrise view at South Rim.

You will find a huge parking lot and the main visitor center as arrive into South Rim. Right behind you will see a large railed viewing area which extends out slightly into the canyon, that is Mather Point.

If you plan to visit Mather Point to catch a sunrise you should expect it to be extremely busy. We highly recommend you head East along the Rim and find a small intimate space with no others around if you’re looking for a romantic or serene sunrise.

We took the photo above from one such small outcrop on a cold October morning and it was one of the best sunrises we had ever seen. In part because we were lucky with clouds and colors but mainly because it was all happening over such an iconic and spectacular landscape.

If you only have time to visit one viewpoint at the Grand Canyon, it is likely going to be Mather Point. If you can, make it sunrise!

Next stop : Yaki Point – Distance 3 miles.

Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints On Desert View Drive

Desert View Drive is one of two major roads used to access Grand Canyon village.

This road leads East from Grand Canyon South Rim’s major amenities and touristy village area, as far as the East Entrance Station and UT-89.

  • Distance : It is a total of 22 miles from Grand Canyon visitor center to Desert View furthest East.
  • Important : You can drive your own vehicle along this road to each viewpoint year round, with the exception of Yaki Point which we explain below.

Are you planning to visit Page for Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley or Grand Canyon North Rim?

You will enter or exit Grand Canyon via Desert View Drive. And that means you’ll be able to visit each of these viewpoints on your way in or out without having to drive back on yourself.

But even if you’re just visiting Grand Canyon South Rim, you should plan to see all of the awesome viewpoints East of the village. It will mean driving back on yourself for a total roundtrip of 44 miles but it is certainly worth it.

Expect parking at viewpoints to be challenging in peak season and remember, visiting Grand Canyon in Winter will give you a much more relaxing experience.

Let’s take a look at the best Grand Canyon South Rim views along Desert View Drive, as we continue heading from West to East.

13. Yaki Point

Yaki Point overlooking south kaibab trail at sunrise with hiker enjoying special views of grand canyon south rim

Yaki Point is both an excellent but also frustrating viewpoint. The important part is that views to the West and East are fantastic, which means sunrise and sunset would both be wonderful to see from here.

However, it is a pain to reach Yaki Point:

  • Good news – Yaki Point is quieter than most other points despite having amazing views.
  • Bad news – You have to take the Orange Kaibab shuttle or walk 1 mile from Desert View Drive.

We haven’t actually been to Yaki Point ourselves but we did take the orange Kaibab shuttle half way down the same road on which Yaki Point is the end. Instead we got off at South Kaibab trailhead and began our day hike.

The photo above is of us hiking South Kaibab Trail directly in line with where Yaki Point looks into the canyon, so it is a true reflection of the view, but you would be standing at a higher elevation if you were at the viewpoint.

On the way to Yaki Point, you can park your car at Pipe Creek Vista, which is another amazing viewpoint overlooking South Kaibab trail. It is similar to the view from Bright Angel Trailhead.

Hikers : If you plan to day hike South Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail , you will start here very early and end back at Bright Angel Trailhead in the village.

Next stop : Grandview Point – Distance 9 miles.

14. Grandview Point

Grand view overlook is one of the best viewpoints in grand canyon national park south rim with far reaching views both directions bokeh effect on a wall at the overlook

Grandview Point is the first viewpoint from which you will see the Colorado River snaking through Grand Canyon when heading East out of the village.

First we have to mention there are two more optional stops you can make on the way here:

  • Shoshone Point – Stunning views but you have to hike 1 mile out and 1 mile back to Desert View Road to reach it.
  • Duck on a Rock Viewpoint – Huge balancing rock shaped at the top like a duck.

Back to Grandview Point and what a grand view it is, especially to the East. Sunrise would be awesome here if you wanted the sun to create a starburst effect.

This viewpoint was jam packed when we visited around lunch time in October, so in order to get no other people in the shot we had to look West and use a wall in the foreground for a nice bokeh effect.

East is the best view but it is a popular stop and you will have to contend for selfie space!

There are more parking spaces here than at most other viewpoints along Desert View Drive. But many of those are for overnight hikers who have taken on the very steep but historic Grandview Trail.

Next stop : Moran Point – Distance 6.7 miles.

15. Moran Point

Moran Point with its unique flat topped slab of rock on a beautiful sunny day

Moran Point is another popular stop thanks to the pizza slice or Christmas Tree shaped rock you see in the foreground above.

This is a photographers favorite and wedding shoots are frequent here. Views are far reaching to the East and West as the canyon opens up more and more. Plus, the huge sandy rock serves as an excellent background for portraits.

You can see the Colorado River a little more clearly as it winds through the canyon below. Rock formations are beginning to become less sharp and dramatic as you leave the inner canyon. Notice the smoother looking domes in the canyon below?

Parking is limited but should only be a problem if you visit in peak season between mid morning and mid afternoon.

Next stop : Lipan Point – Distance 5.8 miles.

16. Lipan Point

Lipan point overlook with amazing rock formations and purple colored landscape

Lipan Point is one of our personal favorite viewpoints on the East section of Grand Canyon South Rim. It has the most extensive views looking to the West and a beautiful narrow butte protruding far out into the canyon.

Sunrise would be awesome from here if looking to the West to watch the canyon formations glow. It is such a wide open view and you can see the Colorado River. Sunset and even astrophotography are popular here too.

We took a telephoto shot here to make the North Rim and rock formations appear closer than they are in reality. The long ridge bursting in from the bottom right is exceptionally photogenic at dawn and dusk.

Parking is again limited, but you should be fine except for peak seasons and times.

Next stop : Navajo Point – Distance 1.7 miles.

17. Navajo Point

Navajo Point on a very hazy day in northern arizona with stone watchtower in distance

Navajo Point is the highest elevation viewpoint along Grand Canyon South Rim at 7,461 ft.

It may appear as a non event being sandwiched between Lipan Point and Desert View which we will cover next) but it is a wonderful spot of its own.

This is the point along South Rim where you can clearly see the canyon bend away on a Northward trajectory. So, you get great views directly up the Colorado River to the North.

Remember the awesome ridge from Lipan Point? Well you can look right down the barrel of it from Navajo Point.

But the best part of this viewpoint is the enormous canyon wall to the right, which radiates at sunset and Desert View Watchtower is your cherry on the top.

Look at how hazy the sky is in our photo above. That hazy weather system we mentioned earlier made its way across to South Rim. It can happen and it will mean views are impacted.

Parking is even more limited here and there are no spaces, you just have to park behind other cars on the roadside.

Next stop : Desert View – Distance 1 mile.

18. Desert View

Desert view watchtower is the furthest east viewpoint overlooking grand canyon national park south rim with colorado river

Desert View is the furthest viewpoint to the East of Grand Canyon South Rim. So it’s either your first or final view of Grand Canyon if entering or leaving from here.

The first thing you will notice is a much larger parking lot, including a designated area for RV parking. You will then find restrooms, a market deli, trading post, canteen style cafeteria, campground and gas station.

Next up you will see an ornate looking cylindrical stone watchtower. Hopefully it is open for your visit and you can take a winding staircase to the top.

The views are great from the top of Desert View Watchtower but the interior is far more interesting. We won’t give anything away but make sure you take your camera inside.

The best canyon view from here is to the North (right side) as you can clearly see the Colorado River snaking through the softer looking rock formations.

Best Viewpoints From Inside Grand Canyon

No list of the best views at Grand Canyon would be complete without mentioning viewpoints from inside the canyon.

Yes, the Rim views are more sweeping and jaw-dropping, but descending into the mighty canyon gives you an entirely different perspective.

We day hiked down South Kaibab trail to Phantom Ranch along the Colorado River and back up Bright Angel on a gorgeous day in December. It is one of the most insanely scenic day hikes you will ever do.

The canyon looks enormous, deep and dramatic from the Rim. But you should see it from way down inside the canyon, wow!

Hiking down and back up allows you to get up close and personal with buttes, narrow gorges, walls and even dense pockets of vegetation (who knew?!).

Looking up from the Colorado River your thoughts change to intimidating, brutal and harsh. But you will be left in awe by this remarkable and unique landscape.

19. Hiking Bright Angel or South Kaibab Trails

Hike down into the grand canyon on south kaibab for different perspectives of rock formations

Are you visiting the Grand Canyon for both viewpoints and hiking? If the answer is yes, you are going to open a whole new chapter on amazing views. Here are the best hiking trails at Grand Canyon South Rim .

We won’t cover all of our favorite viewpoints from both Bright Angel and South Kaibab. There would be too many! The beauty of hiking for views is that you will escape the crowds.

Our photo above is one from Skeleton Point, which is 3 miles down South Kaibab trail and you can already see the canyon walls towering up behind.

Hiking is the best way to really ‘see’ the Grand Canyon. We were constantly blown away when we turned a corner and saw a section of the trail zig-zagging down an enormous face.

Even if you just make it to Ooh Aah Point 1.5 miles down South Kaibab trail, this is a stunning viewpoint. If you can make it down for sunrise, you will have a completely different experience compared to the Rim views.

20. Phantom Ranch and Colorado River

Walking on a trail at phantom ranch near colorado river looking back up at grand canyon south rim is an intimidating viewpoint

For an entirely alternate perspective of Grand Canyon South Rim, why not find a magnificent viewpoint at 2,500 ft looking up at the Rim?!

If we’re talking about best viewpoints, it doesn’t get much better than this one. It is a scary sight, looking up 4,500 ft at a ledge and thinking “I have to hike up there!’.

What we never realized was how pretty it would be down at Phantom Ranch with golden leaves on trees and shallow streams trickling through the encampment.

Crossing the Colorado River by both Black Ridge and Bright Angel Trail Bridge were some of our favorite parts of the entire hike. Our photos are amazing.

The river area is extremely photogenic and you’re getting views that only a handful of visitors are being exposed to each day. Just something to consider for your visit.

Best Viewpoints For Sunrise and Sunset at Grand Canyon South Rim

Are you staying a few days and can’t wait to get out with your camera? Well, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes top sunrises and sunsets. Grand Canyon is one of the best USA national parks for photography, especially at dawn and dusk.

Before heading out we recommend you check live weather and road conditions to make sure you will be able to get out for sunrise and sunset without issue.

Every photographer will have their own preferences here, but here are our favorite Grand Canyon viewpoints for sunrise and sunset:

Best South Rim Sunrise Viewpoints at Grand Canyon

  • Mather Point – Cliche and over saturated but still an amazing spot. Move East around the Rim if you want some room.
  • Yavapai Point – Another of the most popular but for good reason, sunrise is amazing and it is easy to access.
  • Yaki Point – Much harder to get to but stunning views both East and West, far less crowded.
  • Lipan Point – We really like the canyon burning under sunrise from this far East.

Best South Rim Sunset Viewpoints at Grand Canyon

  • Hopi Point – Again it is cliche because everyone knows about it, but it is a wonderful vantage point for sunset.
  • Powell Point – Very close to Hopi, but this time you’re looking into the canyon with no direct line of view to the sun and it is much quieter.
  • Yavapai Point – Very popular at sunset and easy to access, you won’t see the sun but this is a great spot to watch the canyon glowing.
  • Navajo Point – For something completely different, why not head to the far East of South Rim and see the entire canyon ahead illuminating.

Exploring the best viewpoints at Grand Canyon South Rim is one of the best things to do in Arizona , so make sure you take home hundreds of photos to remember your experience!

viewpoints trip

Need Help Planning A Trip To Grand Canyon South Rim?

Grand Canyon is one of the most visited National Parks in the US and it’s a stunning landscape that will genuinely blow you away.

But we also know how important it is to get your trip off to the best possible start by planning in advance.

We have been lucky enough to visit Grand Canyon South Rim twice, at different times of year and with different goals:

  • First to sightsee, shoot sunrises and sunsets and see the canyon from every single viewpoint on the Rim.
  • Second to day hike Rim to River, South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch to Bright Angel in one day.

If you are planning a trip to Grand Canyon South Rim and want to know:

  • Where to stay and eat
  • How to get there and use the shuttles
  • The best hikes in the area
  • Which overlooks to visit
  • Where to watch sunrise and sunset

Our 30+ page Grand Canyon South Rim Guidebook with 4 example itineraries will tell you all this information plus more so you can plan the perfect trip to Grand Canyon South Rim National Park.

Our Popular Grand Canyon Guides

  • Itinerary –  One day itinerary for the Grand Canyon South Rim
  • Best Hikes –  Best day hikes at Grand Canyon National Park
  • Photography –  Sunrise and Sunset locations at the South Rim
  • Hotels –  Best hotels and where to stay at the Grand Canyon
  • Winter –  10 tips for visiting the Grand Canyon in winter
  • Season –  Best time to visit Grand Canyon South Rim
  • Transport –  Best airports to use for Grand Canyon National Park

More Arizona Hiking Guides

  • Day Hike –  South Kaibab to Bright Angel via Phantom Ranch
  • South Kaibab –  Essential stops along South Kaibab Trail
  • Bright Angel – Guide to hiking Bright Angel at Grand Canyon
  • Sedona –  20 best hikes in Sedona, Arizona
  • The Wave –  How to hike the famous Wave in Arizona
  • Wave Permit –  Guide to winning a permit for the Wave

Want more Arizona content? Head over to our Arizona Travel Guides to explore the best of Grand Canyon, Sedona and beyond.

We hope this guide to the best viewpoints helps you plan your visit to Grand Canyon National Park!

Please let us know if you have any questions about the Grand Canyon Viewpoints in the comments below.

Happy Travels ,

Mark and Kristen

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Discover Which Colorado Mountain Town is right for you

27 Mega-Epic Grand Canyon Viewpoints

  • November 25, 2022
  • By foxintheforest

Last Updated on March 31, 2024 by foxintheforest

There’s only one way to truly grasp the scale and the beauty of the Grand Canyon, and that’s to see it with your own eyes. This list of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints collects the greatest ways to experience the canyon, some of which see few people!

As a professional outdoor writer and avid desert explorer, I’ve been all over the American Southwest. In fact, I spend 6 months out of the year finding new and exciting spots to explore. In this post about the most incredible Grand Canyon views, I’ve called upon an expert panel of bloggers to give all the insider details to finding the most Instagram-worthy spots along the Grand Canyon.

Shh…several of these spots are top-secret! Boasting extraordinary views without the crowds. We’re going beyond Horseshoe Bend to find pristine, panorama landscapes that will leave your jaw on the floor!

About this Guide to the Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints

When it comes to sweeping canyon views, this is the only guide you’ll need. In order to find the best Grand Canyon viewpoints, you’ll need to know a thing or two about visiting the Grand Canyon. In this incredible guide we’ll cover:

  • The North Rim vs. the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
  • When to visit the Grand Canyon
  • Must-see Grand Canyon viewpoints
  • Tips for visiting the Grand Canyon

camping at cape final trail grand canyon

Which Rim is the Best View of the Grand Canyon?

Deciding on the Grand Canyon North Rim vs. the South Rim ? Well, if you’re looking for expansive, bird’s eye views of the Grand Canyon, the North Rim is the best. However, if you want dramatic drops and views of the Colorado River roaring below, head to the South Rim.

Both the North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon boasts incredible viewpoints. On the south side, you’ll find warmer temperatures and lower elevations. With that comes steep, dramatic drops and epic views of the Colorado River. It’s also an easier place to access the Grand Canyon.

However, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is far more crowded than its North Rim cousin. In fact, the North Rim only sees 10% of the visitors that the South Rim does. This is because there is no major town nearby along the North Rim.

The North Rim sits 1,000 vertical feet higher than the South Rim. So you may not quite see the bottom of the Colorado River, but you’ll have expansive views down the canyon. You can really experience the vastness of the canyon system along the North Rim.

Each rim is separated by a minimum of a 4-and-a-half-hour drive over dirt roads, so it’s not advisable to see it all in one day. Instead, plan for at least three days (five would be best) to really experience both the North and South Rims.

When to Visit the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is an amazing site year-round. However, the best times to visit the Grand Canyon are during the spring ( march ) and fall months. Summer is tremendously hot and also the most crowded time to visit.

Winters in the Grand Canyon are generally less crowded, but cold and windy. However, seeing the Grand Canyon dusted in snow is a real treat. Keep in mind the North Rim is only open from May 15th through October 15th. Although you can access the park after it’s closed, you need a special winter permit and a long, tedious approach on foot is required.

best grand canyon viewpoints

The Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints You Can’t-Miss

Now that you know where to visit and when to go to the Grand Canyon, let’s dive into the most amazing Grand Canyon viewpoints. Each of these Grand Canyon views offers up something different. A few take a unique perspective, while others allow you to camp right on the rim at your own private campsite. Which viewpoint is your favorite?

Top Grand Canyon Viewpoints on the South Rim

Known for the steep, sheer cliffs and views of the Colorado River, the popular South Rim has plenty of dramatic viewpoints. But, as a tradeoff, you’ll find more people since a lot of people visit during Grand Canyon tours from Phoenix .

1. The Best Panorama of the Grand Canyon at Yavapai Point

by Ivan of Mind the Travel

Catch the jaw-dropping views of the striped canyon walls across the entire horizon at Yavapai Point. Although there is a small parking lot, consider parking at the additional parking at Mather Point and walking over to Yavapai Point.

The south rim of the Grand Canyon is a must-stop on any USA road trip . Yavapai Observation Station and viewpoint make an excellent spot to stop and soak in the amazing views of the Grand Canyon. At the station, you’ll find books and displays of information about the history of the Grand Canyon.

Thanks to its position as the northern-most point on the South Rim, you’ll get unique views down the canyon at Yavapai Point.

Straight across from Yavapai Point is Bright Angel Trail, one of the most iconic hikes in the Grand Canyon. Again, don’t miss out on your best opportunity to marvel at this North Rim landmark from the South Rim.

Check out the Yavapai Museum of Geology to learn about the unique rock features in the canyon. This interactive space introduces you to an array of 3D exhibits, interpretative models, and local artwork that are sure to enhance your understanding of the region’s exposed rock layers, and the evolution of the Grand Canyon.

views of the grand canyon

2. Navajo Point

Just west of the Desert View watchtower you’ll find expansive views of red rock cliffs. Navajo Point offers seclusion from the road. Aside from the Desert Watchtower, this is the highest point on the south rim at 7,498 feet above sea level.

From here you’ll see Tanner Canyon, the Colorado River, and the Painted Desert. If you look closely out in the distance you can just make out the Shiva Temple too.

3. Desert Watchtower

Built in 1932, this watchtower was built by the famous southwest architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter. Taking much of her inspiration and building knowledge from the ancestral Puebloan people – found all over the Colorado Plateau – this tower emulates the structures found at Hovenweap and Colorado’s Mesa Verde.

Today you can visit the Desert View Watchtower and see the intricate designs and architecture. Not to mention, on a clear day you can see over 100 miles away, giving you breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon.

4. Watch the Sunset at Hopi Point

By Hanna of That Adventurer

Hopi Point on Grand Canyon’s south rim is one of the best places to watch the sunset in the Grand Canyon National Park . As one of the Grand Canyon’s best viewpoints, Hopi Point is easily accessible, has incredible views and plenty of space so you can walk away from most of the crowds.

Hopi Point is in the Hermit’s Rest part of the Grand Canyon’s south rim. Therefore is only accessible by bus from March 1 through November 30. You can get the bus from just outside Bright Angel Lodge in the Village and then just get off at the Hopi Point stop.

In the busier months the area closest to the bus stop gets fairly crowded so just stroll along the flat trail until you find a spot you like. You can’t go wrong really as it’s all beautiful! Heading westwards (to the left as you’re looking out at the canyon) is best as that’s where the sun will set.

Hopi Point itself has a paved viewing area but if you choose to move a bit further from the viewpoint the trail isn’t paved. It’s a great spot to head to with children to watch the sunset in the Grand Canyon too since there’s no hiking needed. However. since there aren’t any barriers between them and the edge of the canyon take care!

Pack a sweater as the temperatures drop quickly once the sun goes down and enjoy the view with some snacks for the ultimate sunset experience!

grand canyon best viewpoints

5. Grandview Point of the South Rim

For one of the best viewpoints of the Grand Canyon, the Grandview Point on the South Rim really delivers. It’s the southernmost point on the south rim, giving you views along a wide bend in the river. The Colorado River is about 4 miles away from here, but you’ll b treated to layers upon layers of canyon networks.

This is a great place to catch a sunrise on the south rim, since the cliffs illuminate with light. There’s a trail along the rim that takes you towards the Horseshoe Mesa. You’ll only need to travel down the Grandview Trail for a few minutes to leave the trees and catch a glimpse of this breathtaking sight.

6. Let Ooh Ahh Point Take Your Breath Away

By Taylor of Travel Outlandish

The name says it all; “Ooh Aah” is exactly what you’ll say when you get out to Ooh Aah Point. As one of the best viewpoints in the Grand Canyon, Ooh Aah Point is one way to beat the crowds at the Grand Canyon.

Ooh Aah Point is a viewpoint below the Grand Canyon South Rim on the South Kaibab Trail. As one of the best Grand Canyon views, you’ll have to earn it with a hike along the most iconic hiking trail in the Grand Canyon.

From the outcrop, you’ll have views to the west of Havasupai Point and the western canyon wall and views of the eastern canyon wall that stretch on for miles.

If it’s your endpoint, Ooh Aah Point is a 1.8 mile roundtrip hike. There’s a significant descent (and ascent as you might expect hiking into a canyon) but if you’re surefooted and take breaks, the short distance makes this a pretty accessible hike for families and inexperienced hikers.

You can continue on via the South Kaibab Trail that will take you all the way out to Skeleton Point where you can get a 360-view of the canyon. Anyone who has ever been to the Grand Canyon will tell you that it gets crowded, but you’ll be surprised how much the crowd thins out when you just dip below the rim. It’s definitely worth the hike!

best viewpoints grand canyon

7. Mather Point

If it’s your first time at the Grand Canyon and you’re planning to visit the South Rim then you must visit Mather Point, a famous place that is named in honor of the former director of the national parks service, Stephen Mather.

After all, it sits right near the south main entrance and serves as a great starting point since you can really appreciate the sheer size of the Grand Canyon from here.

If you can, try and visit at sunrise to avoid the crowds at one of the best viewpoints in the Grand Canyon.

8. Plateau Point

This is one of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints that cannot be accessed by car. Instead, you’ll need to hike along Bright Angel Trail to get here.

However, because this is one of the park’s most popular hikes, the trail is exceptionally well-maintained and features plenty of water stations. You’ll also enjoy stunning views of the Colorado River as you embark on this 6.2-mile hike past the Indian Garden to Plateau Point.

If you can, try and get to Plateau Point in time for sunrise. Not only are the colors amazing but you’ll avoid the crowds and won’t get trapped hiking behind a ton of mules.

9. Shoshone Point

This is one of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints that aren’t well advertised and is, therefore, not inundated with people.

So, to get here, drive for approximately a mile down East Rim Drive. Upon arrival, you’ll discover a parking area with some toilets.

You’ll then want to leave your car and go on an easy 20-minute walk to an outcropping of rocks that serves as your viewpoint where you can admire next-level awesome views of the Grand Canyon.

The Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints on the North Rim

The North Rim Grand Canyon viewpoints really let you see just how varied this landscape can be. Many people are surprised when they visit the North Rim to find pine forests and even snow. But just once you’ve felt cozy in the forest, expansive views of the Gand Canyon burst through the pines.

10. Redwall Bridge

Most people who visit the Grand Canyon fail to explore the stunning North Rim due to its inconvenient location and closure between October and May.

And that’s a real shame since this section of the canyon is home to many of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints, like Redwall Bridge.

However, to access this viewpoint you’ll have to embark on a 2.6-mile hike along the North Kaibab Trail. It’s worth it though since the area is less crowded and home to stunning sunrise views.

Just be aware that this hike is challenging and not to be undertaken likely since the terrain can be unforgiving.

11. The Iconic Archways of Cape Royal

Cape Royal is arguably one of the best hikes on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail is paved and well-maintained, with plenty of smaller, short trails branching out towards unique views.

The 1-mile out and back trail is easily accessible, making it a great option for beginner hikers and young children. Make your way along the canyon rim with plenty of beautiful vistas. Markers along the way explain the history and ecosystem of this iconic landscape.

At the end of the trail, you can step out onto the gravity-defying Angles Window, a natural arch and land bridge built into the canyon. Take your time exploring the sweeping views of Cape Royal. Keep in mind, it gets crowded, so start early!

best grand canyon views

12. Walhalla Overlook

If there’s one thing Grand Canyon viewpoints do well, it makes you feel small and the Walhalla Overlook is no exception. Below this north rim Grand Canyon view, you can spot the Unkar Delta and Colorado River. This area has several archeological sites and was important to the Native Americans that call the canyon home.

After you’re done gawking at the views, head across the street and take the trail to the Walhalla Glades Pueblo, an Ancestral Puebloan ruin that dates back over 1,000 years.

13. The Secluded Widforss Point

by Kristen of Yanderlust Ramblings

There are few places in the United States where viewpoints have a greater payoff than the Grand Canyon! What is truly fantastic about this iconic national landmark is that you can choose from a plethora of Grand Canyon viewpoints both easy and challenging to reach. 

One of the more challenging viewpoints to witness in person is Widforss Point, found at the termination of the  North Rim’s forested and secluded Widforss Trail ! This 9-mile long point-to-point trail runs parallel along the North Rim within Grand Canyon National Park, teasing hikers with glimpses of the Canyon through the foliage. Once you reach the end of the trail at Widforss Point, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the entire North Rim. 

From Widforss Point, visitors can see several topographic landmarks of the Grand Canyon, such as Manu Temple and Buddha Temple peaks, as well as clear across the immense expanse to the opposite South Rim! You can even pick out the trails of Bright Angel and South Kaibab as they switchback down the opposing South Rim’s slopes.

Grand Canyon Viewpoints

14. Toroweap Overlook and Camping

Intrepid adventurers will want to check out the ultimate North Rim Grand Canyon viewpoint – Toroweap . This stunning, dramatic canyon view features vertigo-inducing (3,000 feet to be exact) drops. This is the drama you’ve been looking for.

But reaching this iconic Grand Canyon viewpoint is no easy feat. You’ll need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle with capable tires to navigate the 2-3 hours of a rough, bumpy road. Day use is permit-free, but if you want to spend the night – and you should – you’ll need to get a permit.

15. Spend the Night on North Rim At Cape Final

There’s a much-coveted secret on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Arguably the most private viewpoint along the Grand Canyon is the single camping spot at Cape Final .

You can backpack to the most secluded Grand Canyon viewpoint and spend the night at the single campsite right on the rim. Hike the easy 2 miles to Cape Final and enjoy stunning views. Keep in mind there aren’t any guardrails, so be sure to watch your step!

The trail begins in a wooded forest, giving you glimpses of the canyon about halfway in. Make your way up a gentle hill until you reach Cape Final. If you’re lucky, you can snag a permit to camp at Cape Final. This lets you enjoy stunning views, without a soul in sight.

cape final grand canyon

16. Bask in the Beauty of Bright Angel Point

by Jess from I’m Jess Traveling

You can never truly grasp the sheer size of the Grand Canyon until you see it in real life.  One of the best viewpoints of this massive natural wonder is Bright Angel Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Bright Angel Point is a popular and easily accessed overlook trail inside the northern entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. The path starts directly behind the Grand Canyon Lodge. Take the half-mile, paved trail out to the point for jaw-dropping views. If you’re scared of heights, have no fear there are handrails to assist you part of the way.

There are several photo ops and viewpoints as you walk the path. At the end of the trail, you’ll get 280-degree views of the Grand Canyon. The views are impressive to say the least, fun for the whole family and a must-stop if you’re exploring this part of the park.

best viewpoints of the grand canyon

17. Backpack to Plateau Point

by Michelle of the Wandering Queen

One of the best views in the Grand Canyon is Plateau Point, located on the South Rim. This area is outstanding and has stunning views of the Colorado River.

The trail is around 12.2 miles round trip and is only suggested for experienced hikers. It is a long and grueling hike with an elevation gain of 3,080 feet. To get to Plateau Point, you must hike on the famous Bright Angel Trail. 

Another option is to backpack to the Indian Garden campground nearby. Keep in mind, you’ll need to reserve your permit in advance. This a great option if you want to experience the sunset and even an iconic sunrise.

There are no crowds, and the picturesque views of the canyon is breathtaking. Plateau Point has some of the best views in the park. Whether you are experiencing in the middle of the day or for sunset you will fall in love with the beauty and the challenge of Plateau Point. 

Grand Canyon Views

18. The Highest Grand Canyon Viewpoint: Point Imperial

For a sunrise you’ll never forget, head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Point Imperial is arguably the best viewpoint of the Grand Canyon and no one knows about it.

What’s more, its the tallest point at 8,803 feet above sea level. Have the view all to yourself by getting up before the sun. Watch as the sun rises over the Grand Canyon, casting dramatic shadows and light across the canyon walls. Listen to the quiet of the canyon and you may even hear an eagle screaming in the morning light.

best views of the grand canyon north rim

19. Angel’s Window

Part of Cape Royal, Angel’s Window is hidden away on the southernmost tip of the Walhalla Plateau in the Grand Canyon.

To access another one of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints you’ll need to do an easy walk along a 0.5-mile path.

After your hike, you can then marvel at the Colorado River as it is seen through a magnificent natural arch that serves as a natural window.

And if you’re really into hiking, you can enjoy a bit more adventure and continue on with the trail.

Other Amazing Views of the Grand Canyon

Looking for unique ways to catch the best Gand Canyon viewpoints? Consider these alternate ways to soak in the glory of this world landmark.

20. The View from the Bottom at the Colorado River

by James of Travel Collecting

One of the most incredible views of the Grand Canyon is also the least seen.  All visitors to Grand Canyon see it from the top – but few see it from the bottom! Standing at the very bottom, by the Colorado River, and seeing its incredible walls stretching far, far up on both sides is a truly awe-inspiring experience.  

There are three ways to do this. Firstly, you can hike down via one of the many Grand Canyon hiking trails. The two main trails from the south rim are Bright Angel Trail (13 miles) and South Kaibab Trail (7.3 miles). From the north rim, you can hike down the North Kaibab Trail (14 miles). All of these can be done in one direction in a day, but they are certainly challenging.

The trails are too long and steep to go back in the same day, so you will need to stay in Phantom Ranch or at a campsite. To stay in Phantom Ranch’s cabins or dorms, you need to book through a lottery system (read a full  guide to Phantom Ranch here ), and for the national park campsites, you need to obtain a backcountry permit from the National Park Service. 

Secondly, you can ride a mule down from the South Rim, but you should be used to riding, or this will be a painful experience. Don’t forget to book your mule in advance, as reservations sell out fast.

Finally, you can ride the river rapids in a dory (small wooden boat), regular raft or a larger motorized raft.  Spend several nights camping on beaches along the canyon and see the layers rise up from beside you, high into the air as you progress down the river.  

No matter which option you choose, you will be glad you chose to see Grand Canyon from this unique perspective!

best views of the grand canyon

21. Bright Angel Trail

Every year, hundreds of avid hikers opt to hike from one rim to the other. One popular way to do this is via the Bright Angel Trail. This 15.3-mile trail descends over 4,478 feet in elevation to the Colorado River. Start on the South Rim until you reach the southern shores of the mighty Colorado.

There are ample views along the way. Just remember, what goes down, must go up. Often times hiking uphill is far more taxing on your lungs, while the downhill grind really does a number on your knees. Water is seasonally available and it’s not recommended to hike down and back in one day.

22. Helicopter Rides in the Grand Canyon

See the Grand Canyon from the air with one of the many helicopter tours available. Lots of these tours leave from Las Vegas and Flagstaff. This unique perspective offers you the chance to really see the entire Grand Canyon in just a few minutes.

Tours tend to be pricey, and there are so many helicopters operating, the noise can detract from the experience, but it’s an easy way to enjoy the best views of the Grand Canyon if you’re short on time.

23. Desert View, East Rim

End your day at the Grand Canyon by taking in a stunning sunset view from one of the most unique Grand Canyon viewpoints of them all.

See, Dessert View is unlike many other places on this list since it offers panoramas of the open canyon at a bend in the mighty Colorado River.

Also be sure to check out the historic Desert View Watchtower that was initially constructed in 1932 and that still stands on the edge of a cliff here.

And for the best panoramas, try to arrive at least 30-minutes before sunset and secure yourself a seat on the benches that sit just past Desert View Watchtower.

24. Spend Time in Paradise at Havasupai

by Jenny of Limitless Hiker

Havasupai is a paradise hidden in the desert. Located on the Hopi Indian Reservation, this beautiful and sacred landscape is open to visitors. If you’re lucky enough to snag a permit, you can experience the magical beauty of this iconic Grand Canyon viewpoint.

The only way to access Havasupai is to backpack 10 miles one way through the bright orange canyon walls to Havasupai. Once you arrive, turquoise waterfalls flow against the bright orange canyon walls creating a picture-perfect view you can’t miss.

You’re only allowed to backpack Havasupai, day hiking isn’t allowed. The campground lies between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. Havasu Creek flows right by camp so you can hang out and splash in the water all evening as you’re making dinner. 

In order to explore this desert paradise, you’ll need to obtain a Havasupai permit. You can explore Havasu Falls (right before the campgrounds), Mooney Falls (half a mile from the campgrounds), Beaver Falls (6 miles round trip from the campgrounds and finally the Confluence (16 miles roundtrip from the campgrounds). 

The Confluence is where the brown Colorado River meets the turquoise waters of Havasu Creek. This is also officially where Havasupai meets the Grand Canyon National Park boundary.

grand canyon best viewpoints

25. Rafting the Grand Canyon

Whitewater rafting the Grand Canyon is on a lot of people’s bucket lists. Avid rafters join the lottery each year to tackle the entire river, a huge feat. While more casual visitors can choose various guided rafting trips for all timeframes and abilities.

The mighty Colorado offers some of the best views of the Grand Canyon that you just can’t find anywhere else. Trips aren’t budget-friendly, but this once-in-a-lifetime tour grants you intimate access to the stunning waterways of this desert gem.

26. Horsehoe Bend

Considered the start of the Grand Canyon, the famous Horseshoe Bend is worth a visit at least once. The simple 15-minute hike takes you to this iconic viewpoint. There’s something satisfying about the perfect shape of Horseshoe Bend.

You’ll find this landmark located just outside of Paige, Arizona – several hours from Grand Canyon National Park. It’s $15 per vehicle to visit. No drones are allowed and take care because some of the cliffs are horribly undercut (air below them) and there are no guard rails.

27. Black Bridge

Serving as a historic point where you can navigate your way across the Colorado River, Black Bridge now serves as an amazing Grand Canyon viewpoint.

So, make your way across the bridge and take in the majesty of the Colorado River and the vast canyon walls all around you.

In fact, this bridge spans upwards of 400 feet and can be accessed as part of the South Kaibab Trail.

Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon

Before you visit the Grand Canyon, you’ll want to know a few handy tips. First, if you plan on visiting for multiple days, you’ll want to pick up an American the Beautiful National Parks Pass. This gets you into all the national parks, and is often cheaper than paying for each day.

Second, be sure to brush up on your desert hiking skills . Hiking in the desert is grueling business and you want to be prepared. Keep these things in mind when visiting the best viewpoints in the Grand Canyon:

  • Follow all signage and ranger instructions. Rules are in place for a reason.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace . This means packing out all of your trash, including fruit peels, toilet paper, and wrappers.
  • Bring sunscreen, a sunhat, and sunglasses. Always seek shade when you can. The desert can be brutally hot.
  • Hike in the morning or the evening to avoid the heat (and crowds).
  • Take an extra layer. Once the sun goes down, it cools off quickly, even in the summer!
  • Bring plenty of water. 4 liters a day isn’t unheard of in desert environments. Even if you are just driving around, the dry air will quickly dehydrate you.
  • Consider getting an America the Beautiful Annual Parks Pass . If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon for multiple days or you are planning on visiting multiple national parks within 12 months, you can save some serious cash with this pass.

grand canyon viewpoints

Where to Stay in the Grand Canyon

When it comes to where to stay in the Grand Canyon, you’ve got several options for lodging, camping, and backcountry experiences.

All camping and backcountry campsites inside the canyon require advanced permits. Permits fill up quickly, so be sure to join the advanced consideration lottery and have some flexibility in mind.

Both the north and south rims offer lodging options that come with all of the creature comforts you may need. The North Rim Lodge is open from May 15th through October 15th while the south rim has several different lodges available year-round.

Pro Tip: Advanced bookings are strongly recommended. Lodging often fills up as fast as it is available during the peak summer season.

Phantom Ranch, located inside the Grand Canyon, is another popular option. Reservations are via a lottery only and are available 15 months in advance.

Other areas to look for lodging include:

  • Flagstaff, Arizona (south rim)
  • Tusayan, Arizona (south rim)
  • Kaibab Lodge (North Rim)
  • Kanab , Utah (around 2 hours away, North Rim and home to some epic Kanab hikes )

What is the Prettiest Part of the Grand Canyon?

The prettiest part of the Grand Canyon largely depends on what you’d like to see. Many people debate the prettiest parts of the Grand Canyon, but a few fan favorites include Hopi Point, Havasupai Falls, the Sky Walk Point Imperial, and Horseshoe Bend.

What Should You Not Miss in the Grand Canyon?

There are plenty of things to do in the Grand Canyon but you should absolutely not miss some of the best Grand Canyon viewpoints. Plan a trip to catch a sunrise and a sunset at a few awesome views for a really special experience.

In my honest opinion, the North Rim is far better than the South Rim, so plan to spend some time in the often-overlooked north side.

Rafting is a huge bucket list item, but if that’s not on your budget you should absolutely go for a hike! It’s free and delivers amazing views of the Grand Canyon.

Get stoked on the most iconic views of the Grand Canyon and make the most of your desert adventure. Don’t forget to charge your camera!

Additional Resources for Visiting the Grand Canyon:

  • Things to Do in the Grand Canyon
  • The Best Hikes on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (coming soon)
  • Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon (coming soon)

Wondering where to find the most epic viewpoints of the Grand Canyon? On this travel guide, I share the most scenic hikes and spots to get the best views the Grand Canyon has to offer, including the north and the south, Havasupai, and more! #Arizona #USA

Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Let’s connect!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.

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The 29 best views, scenic lookouts, and viewpoints in the Monument Valley

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1 John Ford Point

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2 Wildcat Trail

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3 N Window Dr

4 camel butte, 5 three sisters, 6 the thumb, 7 totem pole and yei bi chei, 8 the mittens and merrick butte, 10 forrest gump point, 11 monument valley tribal park visitor center, 12 artist's point, 13 totem pole, 14 goosenecks state park, 15 west and east mitten buttes, 16 monument valley tours, 17 rain god mesa, 18 the view hotel, 19 muley point, 20 oljato-monument valley, 21 three sisters, 22 north window overlook, 23 spearhead mesa, 24 monument valley tribal tours, 25 hunts mesa, 26 merrick butte, 27 the view restaurant, 28 moki dugway, 29 monument valley tipi village, popular road trips from monument valley, what's the weather like in the monument valley.

It depends on when you visit! We've compiled data from NASA on what the weather is like in the Monument Valley for each month of the year: see the links below for more information.

  • Weather in the Monument Valley in January
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All road trips from Monument Valley

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Explore nearby places

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  • Mexican Hat
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  • Montezuma Creek
  • Teec Nos Pos
  • Lake Powell
  • Tonalea Coconino County
  • Marble Canyon
  • Kykotsmovi Village
  • Pleasant View
  • Second Mesa

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10 of The Best Views in New Orleans

Updated : July 11, 2024

AAA Travel Editor, WA

Table of contents.

  •  Jackson Square
  •  The Mississippi River
  •  New Canal Lighthouse
  •  Audubon Park
  •  New Orleans City Park
  •  Lafayette Square
  •  Crescent Park
  •  Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
  •  Hot Tin Rooftop Bar
  • Honey Island Swamp

Plan Your Trip to New Orleans With AAA

New Orleans is the home of colorful, eclectic architecture along with the endless Mississippi River, murky alligator-filled swamps and sprawling city parks. That’s not to mention the bustling jazz that fills the town at all hours, the exceptional cuisine and the colorful parades that make this city a consistently popular tourist destination.

From the Creole and European architecture to the green swamplands and beyond, this guide will help you discover some of the best views in New Orleans.

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1. Jackson Square

• For a great view of: St. Louis Cathedral, city life, a central park, historical architecture

Jackson Square is within the historical heart of New Orleans and it provides an iconic view of the city’s most famous church, the St. Louis Cathedral .

Since the square rests in the center of the French Quarter , you have views of both the gorgeous trees within the park along with the historical architecture from the adjacent boulevards.

Walk around or enjoy a picnic and simply soak in the bustling city. The Mississippi River is just a block away and you can also take a horse-drawn carriage deeper into town for some more excitement. Depending on the hour of your visit, you may hear some live jazz from within the park as well.

viewpoints trip

2. The Mississippi River

• For a great view of: The Mississippi River, New Orleans' skyline, adjacent parks

The iconic Mississippi River is one of the world’s largest rivers and it’s a landmark of American nature and culture.

While you can walk along the river for great natural views in any direction, you can also take a historical paddlewheel steamboat cruise for amazing skyline views.

These tours are available day and night , making it a wonderful way to explore the area at any hour. While the daytime will provide more clarity, the New Orleans skyline at night is also incredible with its endless lights and sprawling reach. This is a great outing for all types of travelers, from families to couples and groups of all ages.

viewpoints trip

3. New Canal Lighthouse

• For a great view of: Lake Pontchartrain, a historic lighthouse, New Orleans’ skyline

Originally built in 1838, but later partially rebuilt after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the New Canal Lighthouse is a historical viewpoint and is one of the region’s most distinct lighthouses.

The unique design is more similar to a beach house than a traditional lighthouse and this makes for a great photo opportunity at any hour. With views of the massive Lake Pontchartrain along with the skyline in the opposite direction, you’ll find breathtaking views day or night in this unique location.

viewpoints trip

4. Audubon Park

For a great view of: lush trees and fauna, expansive lagoons, nearby historical mansions, the Mississippi River, New Orleans’ skyline

Audubon Park is an expansive area in central New Orleans combining lagoons, lush trees, along with adjacent historical buildings right beside the Mississippi River.

It’s a wonderful place to visit throughout the day for endless photo opportunities and you can explore the numerous walking paths or simply relax and enjoy a picnic. While the views may dim at night, make sure to stay for sunset to watch the beautiful night sky come into view.

With flowing fountains, quaint stone bridges, plus endless natural beauty, Audubon Park is a great place for all ages to enjoy.

viewpoints trip

5. New Orleans City Park

• For a great view of: historical oak trees, stone bridges, art and sculptures, lakes, forests

New Orleans City Park is another great outdoor opportunity in town that offers exciting views of towering trees, gorgeous lakes and historical bridges among unique art and sculptures. The New Orleans Botanical Gardens is onsite, making this place one of the most beautiful natural areas in town.

viewpoints trip

6. Lafayette Square

• For a great view of: historical architecture, the downtown skyline

Lafayette Square is one of New Orleans' oldest squares and it houses the historical City Hall along with great views of classical buildings nearby. The square is often bustling with entertainment, from live music to BBQs and other exciting cultural events, making it a great place for a photo at any hour.

viewpoints trip

7. Crescent Park

• For a great view of: the Mississippi River, skyline, lush greenery

Crescent Park is a small but gorgeous park along the Mississippi River and it features a unique curved pedestrian bridge that goes over the historical railway. Due to the fact that the park's walking trail is only 1.4 miles long, this is a great place to quickly unwind and get away from the more hectic city life while enjoying great views of the skyline and river at any hour.

viewpoints trip

8. Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

• For great views of: modern art, Spanish moss, oak trees

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is a small but beautiful garden featuring modern sculptures among iconic oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. It makes for a great quick daytime excursion, and if you’re lucky the colorful magnolias may be in full bloom for an extra special photo opportunity.

viewpoints trip

9. Hot Tin Rooftop Bar

• For a great view of: the New Orleans skyline

Hot Tin is a popular 1920's-inspired rooftop bar that features craft cocktails, tasty meals and a sweeping view of the New Orleans' skyline. This restaurant is great for adult groups and couples looking for the best rooftop views in New Orleans today.

Whether you arrive day or night, the views here are breathtaking and allow you to see both the skyscrapers and smaller historical buildings nearby with perfect clarity.

viewpoints trip

10.Honey Island Swamp

• For a great view of: natural swampland, wildlife, alligators

Honey Island Swamp is one of the best preserved swamplands in America and it’s a staple of Louisiana culture and landscape. Enjoy a boat tour and ride along the green, murky water and take notice of the countless alligators along the way. The hanging moss is extremely atmospheric and along with alligators, you may also spot wild boars, turtles, otters and other local creatures.

Join the over a million people who are AAA members and start planning your trip to New Orleans today. Dream up the perfect trip and use your membership to get the best discounts on hotels , rental cars and entertainment tickets.

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TripAdvisor.com Reviews

  • Average: 4.1

TripAdvisor.com

Read 402 Reviews

Fraud listings.

My recent encounter with Viator, TripAdvisor, FlipKey, and Holiday Lettings proved to be a dreadful experience. Despite making a reservation for one of their listed homes months in advance, I fell victim to fraud. A month before our scheduled travel, the supposed "owner" made an unusual request for money via Zelle payment, raising suspicions. Upon contacting TripAdvisor's fraud department, an investigation revealed that the listing was fraudulent. This unfortunate situation left our group without accommodation just as our trip was approaching. The destination was in high demand, causing prices to soar since our original booking. Despite the inconvenience, TripAdvisor offered no compensation to bridge the price gap and displayed minimal effort in helping us find an alternative accommodation that matched the original one. This incident has shed light on the inadequate vetting and verification processes of TripAdvisor and its affiliated companies when it comes to the listings on their platform. The lack of oversight creates opportunities for criminals to exploit customers, and it appears that TripAdvisor is indifferent to this issue. Based on my experience, I strongly advise considering other, more reliable and reputable travel booking services for future trips to prevent similar distressing situations. I cannot recommend TripAdvisor's services based on my negative encounter.

District of Columbia

I would go back to Savannah Historic District/Riverfront.

view from the room, the breakfast...Pat, Tashell and Kaleigh in the dining room

Somerset, Ky.

Disappointed with Trip Advisor

I booked what i thought was a hotel in FL through Trip Advisor. I received a text giving me a confirmation number and a Trip Advisor web address to check on the booking. When I put the info into Trip Advisor it told me booking not found. I researched for a couple of weeks and finally figure out that it was handled by a 3rd or 4th party, and truly had nothing to do with Trip Advisor! I was charged the full amount (for the entire vacation that is 7 months away) on my credit card, the name on the statement was nothing recognizable. I panicked, made a bunch of phone calls and was finally able to find the actual company that booked the vacation. I called 3 companies (that i was directed to) before I found the one that actually was involved. They told me they'd refund me everything but $170. After much arguing, i got them to refund the entire amount. I will never again use Trip Advisor website for anything. I don't think it's a good way to do business. I don't want my credit card info floating around in cyberspace. I feel it seemed very shady.

Great hotel

The staff was great..Barb was sweet and very polite..we will stay again because we were treated so good.

Sheraton Grand

The front desk lady was great her name is Lynda she great. I

Los Angeles

Done with TripAdvisor

I have used TripAdvisor for years and with good results. I also used to watch and enjoy a lot of NFL football. Now that they have gone political, I have dropped both.

entirely enjoyable stay

My wife and I spent four weeks at Staybridge Sea Harbor and were enamoured by the extremely warm and genuinely friendly atmosphere we encountered from all the employees we dealt with.From the comfort of the suite, the decor and cleanliness of the public areas and the good variety and great taste of the free breakfast offered,we felt very much at home. The Front Office staff and Kitchen personnel were all amazing! Nothing short of Five Stars!

montreal,Quebec.

Sleep Inn Wesley Chapel

We stayed at Sleep Inn Wesley Chapel when my son was in the hospital and found it a wonderful inviting experience. The bed was very comfortable and inviting and I loved the large shower, The breakfast had everything you would ever want. We would stay there again if ever in the area and encourage anyone to experience the visit.

Ocala, Florida

I stayed 8 days, it was wonderful

Hutchinson Ks. Super8

Austin Panic Room

We visited the Austin Panic room over the Holiday Break. What a great time for myself and the Family. This was great bonding experience, and Jeremy the host was sensational.

Scotter1964

Boca Raton, Florida

TripAdvisor.com

Best travel websites overall.

OneTravel.com

Power Rankings: Genesis Scottish Open

Power Rankings

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It’s Christmas in July for golf fans.

Across the next two weeks, you will be able to consume more action than in which the golfers themselves can participate. The fortnight begins with this week’s Genesis Scottish Open played concurrently with the ISCO Championship in Kentucky. The doubleheader will be followed by The Open Championship, also in Scotland, and the Barracuda Championship in California. All four are official PGA TOUR events hosting 156 golfers apiece, and each will be treated to a Power Rankings.

The Renaissance Club hosts for the sixth consecutive year, the last three of which as a PGA TOUR-sanctioned site. Details of the course, what not to expect and more are below.

This jaunt to Scotland is more than a buddies trip, although no doubt the feels for the opportunity to give it a go as a job on tracks like The Renaissance Club and Royal Troon still will feel like it on one level. There’s pure, and then there’s immersion. This is both.

Keeping it real, The Renaissance Club doesn’t deserve an analytical viewpoint. Links courses should be groomed with a broad brush instead of a fine-tooth comb. It’s not like anyone uses (or cares about) Stimpmeter reading of lies on fairways within, say, 75 yards of the greens, but those who care so deeply about data would be overlooking the value of imagination on links-style layouts where the outcome can be determined on the ground. This isn’t to say that there’s not something to be learned from the measurable. There always is.

At first glance, The Renaissance Club doesn’t present as challenging. It’s a par 70 with five par 3s and three par 5s, and it tips at 7,237 yards. That’s more than enough for private excursions among friends, but it’s just another setup on the surface for the play-for-pay contingent. Yet, in its first edition with ShotLink utilized last year, it’s crystal clear that The Renaissance Club is a second-, third-, fourth- and, at times, fifth-shot test.

The course yielded the longest distance in proximity to the hole last season at 44 feet, four inches. In direct relationship with that, it also led the PGA TOUR in shortest average distance of putts converted at just 61 feet, one inch. It was the stingiest in all ranges from six feet and in, as well as from 4-8 feet. Yet, and somewhat amusingly in a devious way, the field average was 69.68, so it beat par. Rory McIlroy prevailed at 15-under 265.

Similarly as humorous, albeit disappointing at the same time, is the fact that for what you might expect in this corner of the planet, wind is not expected to be a significant factor. That will change. It has to! But if it somehow doesn’t, hole locations will serve as the primary defense for par. Putting surfaces blanketed with fescue are governed to just 11 1/2 feet in the event that the invisible force gets any ideas, but entrants may see more green lights than they expected when they committed.

Speaking of which, for the 83 in the field as of midday Monday who are exempt into next week’s Open Championship and bracing for golf in quintessential Open elements at Royal Troon, this week’s intended primer in similar conditions could present mostly as but a tune-up. That’s not nothing, but in the context of muscle memory, it means that Royal Troon will present more as a neutral playing field than it already is.

Of course, three guys at The Renaissance Club will be happy just to be making last-minute arrangements for The Open. The top three at the Scottish not currently exempt into The Open will complete the field for the final major.

ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE

MONDAY: Power Rankings (Genesis Scottish Open) TUESDAY*: Power Rankings (ISCO Championship); Sleepers (Genesis Scottish Open) WEDNESDAY: Golfbet Insider SUNDAY: Points and Payouts (Genesis Scottish Open); Points and Payouts (ISCO Championship); Medical Extensions; Qualifiers; Reshuffle

* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.

Rob Bolton is a Golfbet columnist for the PGA TOUR. The Chicagoland native has been playing fantasy golf since 1994, so he was just waiting for the Internet to catch up with him. Follow Rob Bolton on Twitter .

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In Case You Missed It: June 2024 Recap

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Tool for equity or perpetrator of inequity? 6 viewpoints on MCAS grad requirement

  • Updated: Jul. 14, 2024, 5:57 a.m.
  • | Published: Jul. 14, 2024, 5:50 a.m.

A pencil is seen on top of a fill-in-the-bubble test sheet

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), which is now conducted via computer, is the subject of a ballot question coming this November spxChrome via Getty Images

This November, Massachusetts voters will cast judgment on whether a decades-old standardized test will remain a gatekeeper to a high school diploma in the state.

A hotly debated ballot question backed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association , the largest teachers union in the state, will reveal whether passing the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System , known as MCAS, will continue to be a graduation requirement for public school students.

More on education

  • Holyoke superintendent explains why city’s schools can’t overcome segregation on their own
  • English learners have some of the state’s lowest MCAS scores. But that’s not the whole story.
  • A needed push to restore the primacy of this classroom ‘R’ (Editorial)
  • Healey program gets thousands of Bay Staters 25 years and older into college
  • Schools address skills of youngest readers hampered by pandemic learning

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Conspiracy Theories Swirled after the Assassination Attempt on Donald Trump—Here’s Why

It’s natural to want to fill in gaps in information, says bu political communications expert chris wells, but the wild theories aren’t likely swaying voters.

Photo: A crowd of Trump supporters wearing red hats and white and blue clothing at a recent rally in Butler PA

Almost immediately after the attempted assassination of Donald Trump, conspiracy theories, memes, and misinformation swirled online—but it’s driven by a small group of highly active political news consumers, creating an echochamber that likely won’t reverberate much further into the general voting public, says a BU political communications expert. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Molly Callahan

Within minutes of the attempted assassination of former president Donald Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania last Saturday, the internet was alight with jokey memes, convoluted conspiracy theories, and a swirl of misinformation.

But we’ve seen this before, says Chris Wells , an associate professor of emerging media studies at Boston University’s College of Communications. 

The stakes may seem higher—this was the first assassination attempt to happen in this real-time information era—but the immediate reaction online was not unlike other mass shootings or crises of similar scale. 

“In these kinds of crisis moments, you see this eruption of a whole bunch of conspiracy theories,” says Wells, who studies political communication and how citizens learn about politics. “We saw this with the Boston Marathon bombing [in 2014], where online sleuths were hopped up with these theories and ultimately misidentified three people that they said were responsible for it before police actually sorted it out.” 

It’s natural to want to fill in gaps in information, especially after a shocking event where little is immediately known or verifiable, Wells says. Such was the case with the chaotic events at Saturday’s rally. Several days later, we know that federal law officials have identified 20-year-old Thomas Crooks as the shooter. Secret Service agents have said that Crooks fired multiple shots with an AR-15-style rifle, killing one rally-goer and critically injuring two others before being killed by a Secret Service agent. 

But, big questions remain unanswered: Why did Crooks fire at Trump? What security lapses allowed him to gain access to a clear vantage point? An investigation of this size, with the stakes this high, will take months—maybe years. In the meantime, people may speculate wildly online, or assign blame in a politically convenient way. 

Almost immediately after the attempted assassination, some right-wing hardliners took to social media to falsely blame President Joe Biden for the attack. Others claimed the whole scene was staged, also false. By and large, Wells says, it’s a handful of highly active people online making these claims—and it’s not clear whether their message is reaching a particularly large audience or convincing anyone with their theories. 

“Most of this happens within a very small, but very active group of people who follow political news all the time, and are already very committed, politically,” he says, adding that most people likely have a broad awareness of the political climate, but aren’t following every breathless update the way journalists have to, or that highly politically active citizens do. 

Most of this happens within a very small, but very active group of people who follow political news all the time, and are already very committed, politically. Chris Wells

“One of our challenges in political communication is trying to measure what sort of refraction of political events are actually making it to people,” Wells says. “And in that sense, what we do know is that it’s a relatively small number of people who are actually going to go out and make a new conspiracy theory about something. This is a vanishingly small proportion of the electorate. I mean, the proportion of the electorate that would ever even go to a political rally is less than 1 percent or something. So we’re talking about a very small group of people.” 

But in those small communities, memes and conspiracy theories can spread like wildfire, circulating on people’s newsfeeds, but not making it much further afield, such that it creates a sort of echo chamber. 

For Wells and other political communications researchers, the bigger question is: how much will an event such as this shape the broader public view of the presidential race? 

“The event itself I think is likely to have some effect,” he says. “I suspect it might be very small, in terms of making Trump more relatable as somebody who has been the victim of violence. We’ve seen that the image of him with his fist raised has already circulated widely, and I suspect that that will be more influential on people who are predisposed to Trump, whereas others will see it as sort of a crazy image. But I’m not sure that the conspiracy theories will have any greater impact than they do with a lot of these cases in terms of shaping public opinion.” 

After all, in a contest between two known entities in a highly polarized political climate, most voters have already made up their mind about who they’ll choose on November 3. 

“I think that most people who are anywhere near the political system have an established viewpoint already,” Wells says, “and they’re likely to accept conspiracy theories that are in line with that viewpoint, rather than having the viewpoint changed by exposure to conspiracy theories. 

“Everything that I’m seeing in this election suggests that it’s people who are very marginally attuned to what’s going on politically who will likely make up the difference in the key states. And so the key question is: what sort of impression of the event are they getting?” 

Wells says he’ll be paying close attention to how the topic of political violence is discussed in the coming days and weeks, especially by “political elites” at the top of their respective parties. Already, Biden has asked Americans to reject political violence and “cool down” the temperature in a heated race. And Republicans at this week’s Republican National Convention have largely framed Trump’s survival as a sign of divine intervention .

In the meantime, it’s unlikely that the real-time speculation by online observers is doing much to help matters. 

“The primary characteristic of crisis [communications] is the level of uncertainty. And in this case, there’s uncertainty for the people who really have all the available information—the FBI is dealing with a lot of uncertainty that they’re trying to sort out,” Wells says. 

So for online commenters, who are multiple steps removed from that information, he says, “I’m not sure what the value is, from a democratic standpoint, of people being able to wildly speculate publicly about what might or might not have happened.”

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Photo: Headshot of Molly Callahan. A white woman with short, curly brown hair, wearing glasses and a blue sweater, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

Molly Callahan began her career at a small, family-owned newspaper where the newsroom housed computers that used floppy disks. Since then, her work has been picked up by the Associated Press and recognized by the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2016, she moved into a communications role at Northeastern University as part of its News@Northeastern reporting team. When she's not writing, Molly can be found rock climbing, biking around the city, or hanging out with her fiancée, Morgan, and their cat, Junie B. Jones. Profile

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In this latest CooperVision podcast, Dr. Steve Rosinski talks with 2024 Best Practices Student Honorees who share their impressions and inspirations from the recent Austin Summit. Their conversation includes the students' key takeaways of maintaining creativity in optometry and the importance of cultivating strong patient connections to help propel them into their fourth-year studies and as future ODs. 

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Five Key Challenges for Food Retailers

  • July 17, 2024 at 8:38 AM EDT
  • By Richard Leurig, Accruent

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The last few years have included incredible highs and the deepest of lows for food retailers, from finding workers during the pandemic to tackling widespread supply chain disruptions and rising costs. Organizations have been forced to navigate increased competition, accelerate digital transformation initiatives and adapt to changes in consumer preferences and behaviors.

What lies ahead? Accruent recently commissioned a study of the food retailer sector to understand what challenges await, from continued margin and cost pressures to being held back by legacy technology to the increased risk of cyber threats.

Continued Margin and Cost Pressure

While revenues are increasing, food retailers are still experiencing inflationary pressure, attributed to strong demand, higher-than-average wage growth in the industry and ongoing labor shortages. Challenges stemming from labor shortages will likely have the longest-term impact.

According to a McKinsey report , over one million roles remain open in the U.S. retail industry. Competition for workers is fierce, meaning workers can demand higher wages. Moreover, more and more retailers are offering upgraded incentives and benefits such as bonuses and tuition assistance to make positions attractive. These benefits add costs on top of already significant wage growth.

Technology will play an integral role in helping retailers to overcome labor challenges. Automating manual processes can increase productivity, reduce costs and improve the customer experience.

Digital Transformation Brings Cybersecurity Risks

The retail sector has long been an attractive target for cyberattacks, as operators hold a significant amount of sensitive customer data. The frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks continue to increase.

This is partly due to the acceleration of digital transformation and online shopping, which have led to more vulnerabilities and inroads for cybercriminals. Retailers do not need to be directly targeted for sensitive data to be at risk. As they rely on software solutions from multiple vendors, they depend on the vendors’ ability to mitigate evolving threats. Complex supply chains with multiple moving parts can lead to additional security vulnerabilities.

Retailers must tackle these threats, as well potential disruptions to operations, regulatory penalties, lost revenue, and reputational damage.

Legacy Technology Hinders the Customer Experience

Retailers that have invested heavily in new technology need help to integrate their new solutions with existing platforms. While they understand the importance of providing superior, end-to-end customer experiences, the challenge is getting there, with older systems impacting their ability to deliver. Only a few retailers have built truly seamless omnichannel offerings, harnessed data at scale and implemented agile ways of working throughout their organizations.

Food retailers that fail to further digital transformation initiatives risk losing market share, particularly to tech-savvy e-tailers and convenient, user-friendly online marketplaces. Technologies like generative AI will help shape the future of the industry, and large retailers already are experimenting with AI solutions. However, it’s important to carefully evaluate how each solution fits into the organization’s processes and overall tech stack.

Inflation is Driving New Buying Behaviors

Rising food prices have caused a shift in spending and shopping habits. Consumers are turning to warehouse clubs and supercenters to buy in bulk and save money, as well as spending more on food delivery services.

This could have a long-tail effect on margins, as premium and mid-market retailers see customers flee for cheaper and more convenient rivals. To remain competitive, retailers need to offer affordable, convenient options while delivering an exemplary all-round customer experience.

Shoplifting and Theft are a Problem

Increases in food prices and the impact of inflation on budgets have coincided with new patterns in shoplifting and theft. According to the Council on Criminal Justice , there was a 16% increase in shoplifting during the first half of 2023, with shoplifters targeting higher-value items.

Safeway mentioned theft as a reason for cutting back hours of a San Francisco store, while Walmart has stated that a spike in shoplifting may result in store closures.

Retailers are turning to technology to reduce theft, such as smart shopping carts and self- servicing locking cabinets. While these measures can be costly upfront, the hope is that they will more than cover the expenses by reducing the frequency and dollar value of thefts. Yet the potential impact on the customer experience is not easy to overcome.

What’s the Solution?

Challenges like inflation are tied to factors out of the control of any single organization, so there is no silver bullet to fix them. Retailers must look to their operations to optimize existing resources and minimize risk exposure.

For instance, monitoring energy consumption can help mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, with one estimate suggesting that reducing energy costs by 10% could increase the profit margin of the average supermarket by 16%.

Another area is managing complex real estate, fleet and equipment leases effectively. Workflow solutions can enhance the transparency of agreements, highlighting potential savings opportunities throughout asset lifecycles and ensuring that what can be a significant cost center is controlled.

Finally, smart IoT devices can help retailers mitigate several challenges, from theft prevention to improving in-store experiences and increasing supply chain visibility. These solutions can help companies optimize their operations, drive down costs, and improve overall profitability – as well as helping them better align with evolving consumer preferences.

As Chief Product and Technology Officer, Richard Leurig is responsible for the Accruent global engineering, product and information security teams. He is an accomplished executive with nearly 30 years of experience driving customer-focused and commercially successful innovation in complex product and technology portfolios for several major organizations. Prior to joining Accruent, Leurig served as CTO and SVP, Products and Partnerships, at ResMan Property Management Software, SVP of Innovation and Technology at CoreLogic Real Estate Data & Analytics, CIO at MoneyGram International and Co-founder of Route7 Solutions, a real estate and mortgage software and digital workflow consulting and product startup.

  • Posted In: AI & Machine Learning , Consumer Trends , Customer Experience , Data & Analytics , Data Security , Digital Commerce , Executive ViewPoints , Omnichannel Alignment , Payment Security , Pricing , Security , Store Operations , Supply Chain & Sourcing , Sustainability , Workforce & Scheduling
  • Tagged With: accruent , Council on Criminal Justice , generative AI , iot , mckinsey , Richard Leurig , Safeway , Walmart

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