Best Place to Watch Sunrise on Grand Canyon's Southern Rim

When you find yourself close to a National Park, you should always take advantage of viewing sunrise and/or sunset. Many of the National Parks we visited on our Ultimate Southwest Road Trip™ are doing their best to work towards the International Dark Sky status. This just means that a park is doing its best to improve the night sky visibility in order to protect and preserve the nighttime environment. Sunrise is a different story! One of my first questions to any and all of the park rangers and volunteers was "where is the best place to watch the sunrise?" I got a lot of different answers and with only one morning sunrise to test it out, I think we found the winner! Read on!

sunrise at grand canyon best place

Best Place to Watch Sunrise on Grand Canyon's Southern Rim

sunrise at grand canyon

This trip was part of the 7-Day Ultimate Southwest Road Trip. Find the itinerary here

Everyone has their own opinion, but I think we actually found the best place to watch the sunrise on the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Every park ranger and local had a different opinion when asked, but I think we found the sweet spot. Most will say there are good places and better places and that you really can't go wrong, and that is true. But, we think this spot is the BEST place to watch the sunrise.

We only had one morning in the Grand Canyon, so we had to get this right. Sunrise typically has fewer people making the attempt because it's often colder and it's obviously very early. Here are a few good places that were suggested to us. 

Tip: You'll want to find a point that has views towards the east. {duh}

Good Places to Watch the Sunrise on Grand Canyon's Southern Rim

Mather Point

This is probably your easiest point to get to, which also makes it the most crowded. Mather Point is a short walk from the visitor's center, close to restrooms and parking. It's a wide viewpoint that has railing all around and people come early to stake out their spot to watch the sunrise.

Rim Trail

The Rim Trail is about 12.8 miles, so it's not hard to start getting some distance between you and the rest of the visitors. However, it is a paved trail that goes around the rim of the canyon and some areas are more popular than others. You'll also find fewer railings and long drop-offs so take caution when viewing, especially in the dark.

Yaki Point

This scenic viewpoint isn't accessible with a private car, and it has to be reached by the free orange shuttle {Kaibab/Rim Route} that starts at the visitor's center. Because you can only access it by shuttle, there are fewer people making the trek. See also, my tips for riding the shuttle below.

Desert View Watchtower

Coming into the park when we arrived, this was the very first stop we made. However, if you are coming from the Village, it's about a half an hour drive, making it a little bit off the beaten path. There is a large parking lot with easy-to-access restrooms. The walk to the Desert View Watchtower is paved and will take you about a ten-minute walk to get to the viewing area. There are railings all around the viewing area, making it very accessible.

The BEST Place to Watch Sunrise on Grand Canyon's Southern Rim


Ooh Aah Point

After consulting with a park volunteer, we decided to take his recommendation to hike the South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point. Ooh Aah Point is a 1.8-mile down and back hike with 600 feet of elevation gain. It's a well-maintained trail with plenty of mule droppings along the path to keep you on your toes.

This is the very first shuttle stop on the orange shuttle route and is one of the best places to start the hike into the canyon. You'll find yourself getting off the shuttle with hikers who are headed out on a LONG hike for the day, many of whom will run down the trail to break away from the pack.

ooh aah point garnd canyon

There is no parking at the trailhead, though there is a parking lot. The parking lot requires a special pass for parking, so don't attempt to sneak by. You can park on Desert View Drive, but it will require a bit more than a half a mile walk on the road, in the dark. We opted to take the shuttle bus.

The hike into the canyon is fairly easy to get to Ooh Aah Point. There are a few switchbacks and it's generally fairly easy. It is about a mile to the point, but because it's downhill, it will only take you 15-20 minutes.

There are two large rocks that provide the perfect perch to view the sunrise. Word of caution: the best viewing boulder {on the right}, has a drop-off below, so use caution if you are going to sit on the rock. The boulder on the left juts out a bit more and does have a few layers that will break your fall instead of a sheer cliff, so keep that in mind. 

sunrise rock ooh aah point

Give yourself some time hiking back up. It will take twice as long as it did coming down.

best sunrise hike grand canyon

Some Things to Know About the {free} Park Shuttle

You get what you pay for! 

The shuttle is free, and well, you get what you pay for. The hours of operation are clearly stated in the maps, however, our experience was very different. 

The Hours are Flexible

The hours of operation for the shuttle state that they run approximately every 30 minutes beginning the hour before sunrise and ending the hour after sunset. Approximately is the key word here.

The Buses Fill up Fast

In an attempt to ride the bus the evening before, we realized we were probably going to have to wait for three buses to come by before we'd be loaded on. Sunrise is a popular time to get started for those hikers who want to complete a hike down into the canyon and back up again before sunset, so the buses fill up quickly in the morning. Be prepared!

Some Tips for Watching Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

sunrise at the grand canyon

Dress in layers!

The weather is often cold in the morning but heats up fast. In the hour we were hiking before and after sunrise, we saw a 20-degree temperature change.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Plan to be in your desired location about 30 minutes prior to sunrise. Make sure you take into account the time it takes on the shuttle or for driving and for the hike/walk in.


Check the weather to make sure there aren't any major storms a brewing, lay your clothes out the night before so you don't have any excuse not to get up, pack water, and some high-energy snacks. We did not have a head lamp, though it would have been helpful had we not taken the shuttle to our location, so consider making sure one is packed with you before you go.

Want more planning tips?

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