Grand Canyon National Park 3-, 4- and 5-Day Itinerary

June 6, 2024

Every year, millions of people visit the Grand Canyon. While many people drive through, taking a few days to explore the park is the best way to appreciate its incredible views, invigorating hiking trails and noteworthy historic sites.

No one who visits the Grand Canyon for the first time is prepared for how massive it is. This stunning park is 277 miles long and made of sedimentary rock layers that boast a range of colors. In addition to amazing views, Grand Canyon National Park offers activities like hiking, mule rides, rafting and more.

There are several ways to approach the Grand Canyon, and each offers unique views and experiences for visitors. You can follow this Grand Canyon sample itinerary for three-day, four-day and five-day visits so you can make the most of your trip to the Grand Canyon.

Structuring Your Visit

There is so much to see at the Grand Canyon — while you want to see as much as you can, completing one major activity during the morning and another during the afternoon is a good goal for your trip. Because mornings are cooler, they are ideal for hiking, biking and being in direct sun. In the evenings, head to one of the Grand Canyon’s many viewpoints to enjoy the sun setting on the red sandstone.

Where to Enter the Park

When navigating to the Grand Canyon, decide whether you will enter the North or South Rim, and aim to leave in time to beat the traffic. Traveling to the Grand Canyon from any major city will take several hours, so it is best to give yourself ample time.

Along the South Rim, the west entrance leads straight to Grand Canyon Village, so there may be a line of traffic as early as 9 a.m. The east entrance is easier to get into, but most of the attractions at the park are on the west side. For these itineraries, you will enter on the west side.

Where to Stay Near the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is located pretty far from most towns and nearby cities. Choosing the place you will stay is important because it determines the kind of access you will have to the Grand Canyon and how much time you will get to spend there.

One of the best ways to visit the Grand Canyon is to stay at a campground. Campgrounds are adventurous and affordable and give you an immersive experience in nature. The Williams / Exit 167 / Circle Pines KOA Holiday in the nearby town of Williams — about one hour south of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim — is an excellent option.

Staying in Williams gives you proximity to the Grand Canyon and access to shops so you can stock up on groceries and other necessities you may have forgotten to pack. There are a variety of campsites, including RV Sites, Tent Sites and Camping Cabins.

Beautiful Landscape of Grand Canyon from Desert View Point with the Colorado River visible during dusk.

Grand Canyon 3-Day Itinerary

This Grand Canyon National Park three-day itinerary will focus on the South Rim. If you are interested in visiting the North Rim, check out the official map for a list of popular destinations, hiking trails and places to eat!

You can easily adjust this Grand Canyon itinerary to reflect your interests and preferences. For example, if you would rather hike than explore museums, substitute a hike whenever a museum is mentioned. There is so much to enjoy in this National Park, but the view alone will make the trip worthwhile.

Day 1

Enter the west side of the park, and head to Mather Point to enjoy your first view of the gorgeous Grand Canyon! Most people start here since Mather Point is close to Grand Canyon Village and offers a stunning panoramic view. Plus, on a clear day, you can see more than 30 miles to the east and 60 miles to the west. As you look down, you will see Phantom Ranch, part of the Colorado River and many trails. Bonus points if you get there early enough to see the sunrise!

You can also check out one of these viewpoints along the South Rim instead:

  • Desert View Watchtower
  • Grandview Point
  • Hermit’s Rest
  • Powell Point

If you want to continue your day with a hike, you are in luck! Explore some of the options below for a first-day hike.

Hiking in the Grand Canyon

No Grand Canyon itinerary is complete without a hike. However, hiking in the Grand Canyon can be dangerous because the temperature gets warmer the farther down you go. Coming back up the path can take twice as long as going down, and it is easy to overestimate your strength.

If you plan to hike down, make sure you pack plenty of water and take a trail map with you. Flashlights are also a great idea in case the sun goes down before you are back. It is also wise to turn around before you start feeling tired since the way back is much harder.

Some of the most popular trails along the South Rim include:

  • Rim Trail: This path is flat and covers 13 miles along the edge of the Grand Canyon. Of course, you do not have to explore the entire 13 miles — 1 or 2 miles should be plenty! You can take a shuttle back to the other end if you get tired along the way.
  • South Kaibab Trail: You can reach this trail by shuttle and then hike down. Most people only go about 1.5 miles before turning around.
  • Bright Angel Trail: You can access this trailhead from Grand Canyon Village, and it also goes down into the Grand Canyon. Like the South Kaibab Trail, most people only go about 1.5 miles before climbing back up.

In the morning, you can explore one of these trails before breaking for lunch at one of the restaurants in Grand Canyon Village. Once you are sufficiently refreshed, you can decide whether a more strenuous hike is a good fit for you and try out Hermit Trail. This trail is for experienced hikers, and you should only give it a shot if you have talked to a ranger for advice — it is very challenging. If you want a more easygoing experience, you can pick out one of the trails you did not explore from the list above.

After your busy afternoon, it will be time for dinner. You can eat at one of the restaurants listed below or head back to your campground to wind down for the evening.

If you stay at the Grand Canyon for dinner, make sure to head back to Mather Point and spend a quiet evening soaking up the sunset. When the sun goes down, the sandstone rocks glow and you can enjoy their golden color.

Where to Eat Near the Grand Canyon

There is plenty of food inside the Grand Canyon, in both the South Rim and North Rim areas. However, visitors on a budget may prefer to pack their breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Also, keep in mind that some of the restaurants in the South Rim require reservations.

Here are a few of the most popular places to eat at the South Rim:

  • El Tovar Dining Room
  • Arizona Steakhouse
  • Maswik Food Court and Pizza Hub
  • Desert View Market and Deli
  • Canyon Village Market “General Store”

You can also find restaurants in the nearby town of Tusayan, Arizona, or you can drive about an hour south to Williams, Arizona.

A trail winding down the Grand Canyon.

Day 2

For the second day of your adventure, follow this schedule:

  • Morning: Enter the west side of the park and head to the Bright Angel Trailhead. Hike down the trail for about 1.5 miles before turning around and climbing back up. Remember that coming back up will be much harder than hiking down!
  • Lunch: Refresh with lunch at one of the restaurants in Grand Canyon Village, or eat a packed lunch. The famous El Tovar Dining Room is an excellent spot, but you will likely need a reservation for lunch. You might have better luck without a reservation at breakfast. The restaurant is slower at this time of day, and you should be able to get in.
  • Afternoon: Spend the afternoon exploring Grand Canyon Village’s historic sites, including the Hopi House, Kolb Studio and Verkamp’s Visitor Center. At these sites, you can learn more about the history of the Grand Canyon. Many Native American tribes still live on reservations around the Grand Canyon, and these people groups have a rich history in the area.
  • Dinner: Next, eat dinner at a restaurant in Grand Canyon Village. To watch the sunset, take the red shuttle out to Hopi Point. Head back to your campsite after sunset to rest and prepare for your final day in the Grand Canyon.

Day 3

Here is how to spend your third and final day in the Grand Canyon:

  • Morning: Enter the west entrance and drive the full length of the road toward the east side, stopping to enjoy each new viewpoint. When you reach the end of the South Rim, explore the Desert View Watchtower at the east end.
  • Lunch: At lunchtime, drive back down the road to the Tusayan Museum and eat a packed lunch. Explore the museum to learn more about the indigenous people groups in this area. Please note that this museum is closed during the winter!
  • Afternoon: Head back to Grand Canyon Village and take the orange shuttle out to the Yavapai Museum of Geology. Enjoy the stunning views and learn more about the Grand Canyon’s rock formations.
  • Dinner: End the day with a packed dinner, then take the same shuttle out to Yaki Point to watch your last sunset at the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon 4-Day Itinerary

If you have a fourth day to explore the Grand Canyon, there are several additional activities you can fit in. Here are a few options for morning and afternoon activities:

  • Ride the Grand Canyon Railway: Take this historic train from Williams to Grand Canyon Village and enjoy a Wild West show and live cowboy music along the way. Once you are there, you can explore more of Grand Canyon Village or ride the shuttle back out to Hermit’s Rest before taking the train back to Williams.
  • Hike the South Kaibab Trail: Take the orange shuttle from Grand Canyon Village out to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Hike for about 1.5 miles before turning around, unless you have prepared for a more strenuous hike.
  • Add another stop: On your fourth day, you could stop at the Skyline Bridge in Grand Canyon West or make the long drive around the Canyon to explore the North Rim during the afternoon.

A Grand Canyon National Park four-day itinerary gives you more flexibility to take your time and revisit any locations you absolutely loved the first time. You will have more time to rest, adapt to the weather and enjoy each moment.

Scenic view of Horseshoe Bend at Sunset near Page, Arizona.

Grand Canyon 5-Day Itinerary

With a Grand Canyon five-day itinerary, you can do even more. Either spend more time revisiting your favorite locations at the South Rim or add a day trip to another location. Here are a few exciting options:

  • North Rim: There is plenty to see in the northern part of the Grand Canyon. You can easily spend two days here after exploring the South Rim for three days!
  • Antelope Canyon: Book a guided tour to see the iconic rock formations at Antelope Canyon in Grand Canyon East. This trip caters to photographers, not hikers. Horseshoe Bend is in this part of the park as well.
  • Meteor Crater Natural Landmark: There is an incredible meteor crater about two hours away from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. It is definitely worth a visit if you have an additional day to explore this part of Arizona.

Your Grand Canyon five-day itinerary should reflect your personal preferences and priorities. Think about the activities you find most memorable and build in plenty of time for transportation, food and rest.

What About the North Rim?

Driving from the South Rim to the North Rim will take you more than four hours, but it is a drive you will want to make if you have the time. Along this route, there are many viewpoints and hiking trails you can stop to explore.

At the North Rim, some must-see viewpoints include:

  • Bright Angel Point.
  • Point Imperial.
  • Roosevelt Point.
  • Cape Royal.

If you are interested in hiking along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, check out these hiking trails:

  • Bright Angel Point Trail
  • Widforss Trail
  • Uncle Jim Trail
  • North Kaibab Trail
  • Cape Royal Trail

The trails on the North Rim vary in difficulty, so get a trail guide from the visitor’s center before embarking on a new path. The North Rim has more hikes and a wider variety of hikes when compared to the South Rim.

Along the North Rim, visitors can find food at the Grand Canyon Lodge complex or the nearby general store. There are a few restaurants located about 20 miles north of North Rim, or you can travel 45 minutes to Jacob Lake for food. This area is a fun place to explore, partly to try and spot a rare species of squirrel!

Visiting the Grand Canyon: FAQ

Still have questions about visiting the Grand Canyon? Here are five commonly asked questions with answers so you can make the most of your trip. Grand Canyon National Park is not an experience you want to miss!

What Can You Do at the Grand Canyon?

The ideal Grand Canyon trip itinerary combines several unique activities that give a different, exciting flavor to every day. Here is a list of fun things to do at the Grand Canyon:

  • Hiking
  • Mule Rides
  • Rafting
  • Stargazing
  • Camping

If you are interested in history, there are several museums, visitor centers and signs at each viewpoint and trailhead where you can learn more about the area.

How Do You Get Inside Grand Canyon National Park?

Once you are inside the park, the main road can be covered pretty quickly in your car. There are four shuttles that operate in and around Grand Canyon Village, but you can also walk around this area. The shuttles are all color-coded:

  • Red: The red shuttle runs from Grand Canyon Village to Hermit’s Rest.
  • Blue: The blue shuttle runs inside Grand Canyon Village.
  • Orange: The orange shuttle travels from Yavapai Point to Desert View.
  • Purple: The purple shuttle travels from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to Tusayan.

You can also rent bikes near the visitor center and explore the village and shuttle roads by bike.

How Big Is the Grand Canyon?

Although the Grand Canyon is smaller than many other National Parks, it is split down the middle by its namesake — a massive canyon. Visiting both the North and South Rim of the park requires a four-hour car trip.

Because the Grand Canyon is so long and wide, it is easier to explore in four separate sections:

  • Grand Canyon East
  • Grand Canyon North Rim
  • Grand Canyon West
  • Grand Canyon South Rim

The most popular place for visitors is the South Rim. This area of the park has iconic views, lots of activities and plenty of places to stay. If you would prefer a more slow-paced visit but still want incredible views, the North Rim is a great place to visit. It offers wonderful hiking and other fun activities.

The east and west sides of the Grand Canyon are on Native American reservations and belong to several tribes, including the Hualapai and Havasupai in the west and the Navajo in the east. Grand Canyon West is well-known for its skywalk, and Grand Canyon East is frequently visited for Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

What Is the Best Time of Year to Visit the Grand Canyon?

The best times of year for a Grand Canyon National Park trip are spring and fall. During the summer, the South Rim gets crowded and hot. If you hike down into the Grand Canyon, you will notice the temperature rising the farther down you go.

The North Rim is slightly higher in elevation, so it closes during the snowy winter season. You can explore the South Rim year-round — just make sure you bring appropriate clothes and prepare for the weather.

How Long Does It Take to Visit the Grand Canyon?

It is possible to drive in and out of the park in one day. However, if you are on a Grand Canyon road trip, you should stay at least a few days. No Grand Canyon RVing trip is complete without time to go hiking and see multiple viewpoints. A Grand Canyon extended weekend trip is the best bet for an amazing experience.

With these Grand Canyon itineraries, you can plan the ideal trip for you. Whether you are aiming for a Grand Canyon camping trip, eager to hike or just visiting for the views, these itineraries have got you covered.

Experience the Grand Canyon When You Camp at KOA

There is so much to do and see at this beautiful National Park! Use these itineraries to dive deeper and make lifelong memories.

If you are looking for a place to stay, Kampgrounds of America is an excellent option. Book your stay at the Williams / Exit 167 / Circle Pines KOA Holiday in Williams, Arizona. Only a one-hour drive from the South Rim’s west entrance, you will be in the perfect position to enter the park early and enjoy a full day of taking in the view.

This KOA includes amenities like a pool, unique covered wagon camping experiences, horseback riding, miniature golf and more. You can also enjoy Wi-Fi, food at the Bear Trax Cafe and laundry facilities. Explore this campground to your heart’s content, or use it as a home base to enjoy the incredible vastness of the Grand Canyon. Book your stay today!

About the Author: Kampgrounds of America

Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting

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