Looking for the perfect Grand Canyon itinerary for 3 days?
The Grand Canyon is one of the largest and certainly one of the most popular National Parks in the USA, partly due to its proximity to Las Vegas.
The first time we saw the Grand Canyon we were seriously impressed – the depth and the width of the canyon itself is incredible and certainly one of the highlights of any trip to the USA if you are a foreigner.
Grand Canyon itinerary 3 days
Here is my 3-day Grand Canyon south rim itinerary. You can really spend as little or as much time as you are able exploring the GC National Park – there is so much to do. If you have more time, we would recommend visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon which is far less busy with tourists than the South Rim. It is a great option for a Grand Canyon honeymoon. Note the North Rim if you plan to visit is only open from May to Mid October.
This itinerary focuses on DIY style travel which we generally prefer. The alternative option is to do a tour of the Grand Canyon which a lot of people prefer as it takes the stress out of driving etc.
In our opinion the very best way to see the Grand Canyon is by having your own car. If you don’t have a car, we use this car search engine to find the cheapest cars during our stay. The cheapest place would be hiring to-from Las Vegas.
1 Day in the Grand Canyon
Let’s start Day 1 in the Grand Canyon taking a leisurely stroll to enjoy one of the most iconic views – the Rim Trail.
If you are feeling a bit lazy after a long drive, this is the perfect way to start for Grand Canyon adventure as the trail is s mostly paved and flat and does not require you to trek down into the Canyon. The trail starts from the South Kaibab Trailhead and ends at Hermits Rest.
There is parking bays all around the rim of the Grand Canyon so you can park anywhere you please and start hiking from there, You can access the Rim Trail from any viewpoint in the Village or along Hermit Road.
The Rim Trail spans approximately thirteen miles (21 km) but what I like is you can walk as little or as long as you please. If you wanted to walk the entire trail it would take a fair few days however, I would recommend 1 day or half a day as more than enough time to enjoy the view.
Day-trippers to the Grand Canyon normally only do the Rim Trail and go home to Vegas or wherever else they are staying at the end of the day.
What is really good about this National Park is that there are complimentary shuttle buses that you can use to explore the entire South Rim.
On our first day in the National Park we walked from the Visitor Centre & finishing at Yavapai Point, where there is a viewing deck. Walking at a slow pace and stopping to take pictures, this walk us a couple of hours to complete (round trip back to car parked at the Visitor Centre).
If you follow in our footsteps you will end at the Yavapai Point and Geology Museum which I really enjoyed as it not only has a great viewing platform but it also provides interesting facts about the Canyon.
Note: While we were there, we saw a lot of people leaning off the edge of the rim in order to try to get the perfect picture. This is incredibly dangerous and people have died doing this. No picture or Instagram shot is ever worth ending your life for. Please be careful!!
If you prefer to drive or if you are mobility challenged, you might alternatively like to do the Desert View Drive which spans 25-miles from the Grand Canyon Village. There are a lot of viewpoints that you can stop and admire along the way. It is always nice to pack a on-the-go lunch to enjoy as you stare out and enjoy the views.
Some of the best spots along the drive include Navajo Point, Desert View Watch Tower, Moran Point and Grandview Point.
Sunsets are some of the best parts of the Grand Canyon. I always feel a bit sorry for people who just do a day trip to the National Park because the miss the very best bit – the absolutely incredible sunset!!
We would recommend ending Day 1 watching the sunset at Yavapai Point or at Hermits Rest. You will probably be pretty buggered at this point and there is nothing better than sitting down and enjoying the sun set over the Canyon.
While you are at the Geology Museum you can find the exact time of sunset at the Yavapai Point. The sun sets at around 6.30pm in March to give you an idea. It really does vastly change during the year so it’s worthwhile checking out the sunset time for when you are there. We would always recommend getting to your sunset spot fairly early. Sunsets are a big thing in the canyon so people ‘set up camp’ about 30 mins prior to get a good spot.
To access Hermits Rest between March 1 – November 30 it is necessary to take the free shuttle bus from the Bright Angel Lodge as the Hermit Road is closed to private vehicles.
What to eat? You can bring food with you into the National Park making sure you dispose of it correctly after. Another good option for dinner is the Yavapai Tavern which has a good vibe and some yummy, interesting food to try. Don’t miss the elk burger if you are an adventurous foodie.
2 Days in the Grand Canyon
I hope you have your walking shoes on because today we are going for a hike to the South Kaibab Trail to be precise in search of the perfect view.
This trail is definitely one of the most popular in the National Park and in my opinion if you only want to tackle 1 hike while you are here, this definitely is a good choice.
The twist and turns of the hike make it a fabulous way to get a more ‘up and personal’ view of the Canyon. I will note if you aren’t somewhat fit you may struggle to complete this hike. It is quite a strenuous steep hike which requires a reasonable degree of physical ability.
What is nice about any of the hikes in the National Park is that you can do as much or as little as you want. Basically you can turn back and go have lunch at any point or alternatively, hike all day! The South Kaibab Trail hike is up to 6 miles (round trip) to Skeleton Point. You shouldn’t hike beyond Skeleton Point in a one day hike.
Despite it only being a short distance, it can take a considerable amount of time due to the steep hike into the Canyon. If you want to complete the whole hike I would allocate the better part of the day to it.
Alternatively, if you just want to complete a shorter hike in the morning or in the afternoon, you can complete a shorter 1.8 mile round trip to Ohhh Ahh Point. This doesn’t sound long, but to give you come idea of time, the trek to Ohhh Ahh Point took us approximately 2 hours to complete, stopping regularly for photo opportunities.
If you are wondering how hard the hike is, the trek to Ohhh Ahh Point was enough to make your legs burn for someone of reasonable to decent fitness level. It was definitely a worthwhile burn due to the magnificent views and a different perspective of the Canyon.
We saw a lot of families with kids completing the hike, even families with very small children. In my view, the trail was a little on the scary side (due to the sheer drop offs) and probably not advisable for very small children who have a tendency to wander off.
The South Kaibab Trail begins south of Yaki Point on Yaki Point Road. You can access the trailhead by catching the free shuttle bus (Kaibab Trail Route) or alternatively park at Pipe Creek Vista & walk the rim trail until you reach the South Kaibab Trailhead (Note: Yaki Point Road is closed to private vehicles).
The best time to complete this walk is in mid Spring. The trail may be extremely icy and dangerous due to the sheer drop offs in winter or early spring and incredibly hot in the summer (with little shade provided on the trail). There was still come ice on the trail left in March.
If you only have time or want to do only one strenuous hike in the Grand Canyon, this would be the hike to select.
Like always we would recommend ending your day with an amazing sunset. Mather Point is a great spot. There are people everywhere at all the big “sunset points” in the National Park so it’s always advisable to arrive at little before the actual sunset times.
What to eat? If you didn’t bring a lunch with you, a good choice is always pizza for dinner. Grand Canyon Pizza and Grill is a popular choice in the rim with decent options and a good atmosphere.
3 Days in the Grand Canyon Itinerary
It came around so fast! It is already your last day in the National Park – so sad! But it’s not over yet. Today you will be tackling the Bright Angel Trail.
If you find yourself an early riser, you could always go catch a sunrise before the hike. As this is a long hike, it is a good option as the earlier in the day you set off the less hot the hike is going to be. Some good options for sunrise are Hopi Point and Shoshone Point.
The trailhead is located just west of Bright Angel Lodge, left of the Grand Canyon visitor centre. Parking is available near the Bright Angel Lodge.
If you are wondering how long this hike is going to take you, you can hike all day as far as Plateau Point which is 12 miles and a very long all day venture. Alternatively, you can take a walk to the Indian Garden however, or if you want a shorter hike again you can just walk to the 2 Mile Switchback point. If your fitness is not great, the 2 Mile Switchback point is well and truly enough to leave you nackered.
If you choose to walk to the Indian Garden, there is a beautiful creek waiting.
As with any walks in the National Park, the best time to complete this walk is mid Spring. The trail may be extremely icy and dangerous due to the sheer drop offs in winter or early spring and incredibly hot in the summer (with little shade provided on the trail).
Try to make it back for sunset to really finish your time on a high note.
Where to stay in the Grand Canyon
The great part of this National Park, compared to some others, is there is quite a lot of accommodation around, whether you enjoy camping or staying somewhere a little more luxury – there is something to suit almost any time of traveler.
Camping in the park is always a great option, especially if you want to do some stargazing at night. You can check out this link
The 3 official camping spots in the National Park are as follows:
- Mather Campground (South Rim, located in Grand Canyon Village)- Open All Year
- Desert View Campground (South Rim, 23 miles (37 km) east of Grand Canyon Village) – Open mid-April through mid-October. Reservations are required.
- North Rim Campground is open May 15 through October 31 each year.
If you have an RV and need a hook up, the Trailer Village is always a good option.
Other Accommodation Options
If you aren’t a traditional camper, there are numerous other accommodation options in the National Park. Here are some that we would recommend.
If you want to get back to nature and get cozy, you will simply adore the Grand Canyon Lodge. It is located on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon which means there will be less hustle and bustle of tourists as it is the less busy rim of the Canyon. It also gives you the opportunity to explore lesser known parts and hidden gems of the rim.
This area is known for its absolute beauty as the Colorado River runs only a mile below.
Note: The North Rim is only open from mid May to mid October.
I mean seriously how cool is this place?! When we go on romantic trips, we always hunt for awesome places to stay. If you are going to splurge on honeymoon accommodation in the Grand Canyon you want it to be really memorable and unique.
Lots of places have a nice comfy bed but not many have rooms as cool as this!
When should I visit the Grand Canyon?
Like all National Parks, the Grand Canyon is absolutely beautiful year round. The South Rim of the Park is open all year and the North Rim of the Park is open from May to Mid October.
Many of the trails in the National Park are exposed to the elements. For this reason, we would recommend Mid Spring as the best time to visit.
Summer is extremely hot and it would be uncomfortable to complete some of the hikes. Similarly, winter, there is often ice still on the trails making it somewhat dangerous.
We hope you enjoy your 3 day trip to the Grand Canyon!