How to Spend 3 Days in Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s great wonders. With mesas extending to the horizon and beyond and its layers of orange, gold and red, this is a natural spectacle unlike anything else on the planet. It’s a true bucket list destination, deserving of at least a few days of your time. In this post, I’ll lay out an itinerary for the perfect visit. Below, you’ll find out how to spend three days in Grand Canyon National Park.

Comprising more than 1,900 square miles, Grand Canyon National Park is vast, offering more sights than anyone could see in a lifetime. Its measurements are astonishing, almost impossible to grasp. The Grand Canyon is a mile deep, eighteen miles wide and no less than 277 miles long. Drawing a massive scar across Arizona’s landscape, it’s visible from space. This is one of the greatest national parks in the United States.


Grand Canyon National Park Long Weekend

Grand Canyon National Park’s enormousness results in a wide variety of landscapes and activities. You can go rafting on the Colorado River, hiking along the rims and down into the canyon, riding on mules,… Arguably the most popular thing to do, though, is watching the sunset over this awe-inspiring landscape from the many lookout points.

There are two different areas in the national park, the North Rim and the South Rim. This post about how to spend 3 days in Grand Canyon National Park focuses on the South Rim, by far the most popular and accessible area. The center of all the action— hotels, eateries, shops and campgrounds— is Grand Canyon Village. This should be your base during your 3 days in the park.

Grand Canyon sunset
Grand Canyon sunset

Day 1

Arriving in the park in the morning, set up camp at Mather Campground. Camping is always the best option if you’re looking for an adventurous visit to any national park. Centrally located, this 300-site campground is large and has all necessary facilities.

The first thing you should do after pitching your tent is exploring the area. You can do this conveniently on the superb Rim Trail. This 12-mile hiking trail runs along the South Rim and passes several jaw-dropping vistas. It’s also one of the park’s very few flat trails.

Make sure to stop at the Pipe Creek Vista for views you’ve never seen in your entire life. Then, continue onward to Yavapai Geology Museum and Observation Station. This plate glass-windowed building houses a fascinating topographic relief of the Grand Canyon and offers stunning panoramic views from its platform.

Take your time wandering on the Rim Trail. There’s much to see. From Yavapai Geology Museum and Observation Point, the next points of interest you might want to stop at are Hopi Point and Mohave Point. Both are phenomenal spots to watch a golden sunset paint the canyon in all possible hues of red.

Retrace your steps to the campground (or hop on the shuttle bus), cook up a nice camp dinner and crawl into your cozy sleeping bag. This has only been your first day in Grand Canyon National Park, but you can’t wait to see more of it tomorrow.

Hiking trail in Grand Canyon National Park
Hiking trail in Grand Canyon National Park

Day 2

On the morning of the second of your three days in Grand Canyon National Park, rise early to enjoy a sunrise over the canyon. Take a moment to notice the sweet scents of pine and piñon that fill the air at your campsite.

After a hearty breakfast, hit the Bright Angel Trail. Be sure to pack plenty of snacks and sufficient water, especially if you’re hiking on a hot day. The Grand Canyon environment can be unforgiving and sometimes deadly. Be prepared and follow the advice of park rangers.

One of the most popular trails in the park, the Bright Angel Trail is wide, scenic, well-trodden and super-easy to follow. It leads all the way down to the Colorado River, a 7.8-mile one-way descent of superior beauty. It’s impossible, however, to get down to the river and back to the rim in one day— that requires an overnight by the river. The trail is lined with four turn-around points and two resthouses. One of those is located 1.5 miles down, the other 3 miles down. Depending on your ability and hiking experience, you should turn back at one of them. The Three-Mile Resthouse is your turn-around point if you want to make it a challenging day hike.

After reaching the rim again, several sweaty and thigh-crunching hours later, spend the rest of the day relaxing at your campsite. Consider grabbing some dinner at El Tovar, without a doubt the park’s greatest eatery. Enjoy another sunset from a porch swing.

Milky Way in the Grand Canyon
Milky Way in the Grand Canyon

Day 3

On day 3 of your 3 days in Grand Canyon National Park, hop back into your rental car and go for a breathtaking drive on Desert View Drive. This winding 25-mile drive along the Grand Canyon’s South Rim— in the opposite direction from the Rim Trail that you hiked on your first day— is lined with epic viewpoints.

A few scenic, short hiking trails start off of Desert View Drive. Suggestions include Yaki Point and Shoshone Point. Another great trail along the road is the Grandview Trail, one of the park’s steepest trails. Diving into the canyon, 1,600 feet in just one mile, this is not a hike for the faint of heart. While it does run all the way to the bottom of the canyon, many people choose to turn back at Coconino Saddle, a 1.5-mile roundtrip.

Again, take your time to enjoy the sheer beauty offered by Grand Canyon National Park. Stick around to watch the sunset— yes, again! Two of the best sunset spots in the entire national park lie near the end of Desert View Drive. Lipan Point and the 70-foot Watchtower are both absolutely phenomenal.

Leisurely drive back to Mather Campground. It’s okay to hang out for a bit at your chosen lookout point, as the road tends to clog with traffic after sunset, particularly in the high season. Finish off your three days in Grand Canyon National Park with a campfire and some s’mores!

See What You Can Expect in These Stunning Photos

About Bram


Bram is a Belgian guy who's currently living in the USA. For over four years now, he has been wandering the globe, with jobs here and there in between. So far, his travels have taken him to four continents and twenty-two countries. Bram likes to try different styles of travelling: from backpacker and adventurer to tourist and local, he has been all those stereotypes and probably will be many more in the future. You can follow his adventures on his travel blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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